Monday, October 19, 2009

Never Thought I'd Write This But

I have a relatively lengthy commute these days—an hour and change each way—so I spend a fair amount of the day on the road, and recently the trend has been car more often than bike. On account of being out here in the sticks, my radio options are constrained; a couple of NPR affiliates, a couple of formulaic stations that would have been called 'Top 40' in the day, and Country.

Lots of Country.

I hate Country.

It's right up there with opera, at the top of my list of "Things To Which I Will Not Listen Unless Forced." In fact, if I'm not mistaken, those are the only two genres of music that I reflexively steer clear of in general.

The current state of the art, country music-wise, sets my teeth on edge; its ritualistic formulaic constructions make haiku seem like free association in contrast. It's a Nashville-dictated and tightly constrained stringing together of maudlin, utterly predictable hackneyed cliches and trite imagery, punctuated with product placements and appeals to base emotions, following weary standards of instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement and production—a tedious, paint-by-numbers mass production of white boys in white tee-shirts and black cowboy hats.

So imagine my surprise when, flipping restlessly through the channels, I paused on a song I've been flippng past for a few months, "Welcome To The Future" by Brad Paisley. Now, Mr. Paisley seems to fit squarely into the mold, albeit black tee-shirt and white cowboy hat. But here's the difference: In "Welcome to the Future," he talks about a mixed bag of "change" issues: Having TV in the car; Pac-Man on his phone. He skates along the edge of cliche, singing about:

"My Grandpa was in World War Two, He fought against the Japanese..."
...but instead of turning this into some predictable jingoistic rant against some (insert right-wing blather here) he says:
"...I wish they could see this now...I was on a video chat this morning with a company in Tokyo..."
The best part, and the part that totally caught me off-guard, was that Brad Paisley, stereotypical young white male American Country music icon, seems to think its a big deal the America has a black President, and that it's a GOOD thing:

I had a friend in school, running-back on a football team, they burned a cross
in his front yard for asking out the home-coming queen. I thought about him
today, everybody who's seen what he's seen, from a woman on a bus to a man with
a dream.
Wake up Martin Luther*.
Welcome to the future.
Glory glory hallelujah.
Welcome to the future.

I'm sorry, but listening to that (the performance is pretty top-notch)brings a tear to my eye, in part because the sentiment is so unexpected in the context.

Also. While I'm in a confessional mode, I might as well come clean. At my advanced years, I've suddenly decided I like Rush—a band I wouldn't have been caught dead listening to in high school. I picked up used copy of "Chronicles" (A greatest hits from 1990)and have been indulging in a good bit of making up for lost time, enjoying the guilty pleasures of unalloyed power chords and helium-fueled vocals. Also: Neil Peart (Drummer) and Alex Lifeson (Guitarist)—motorcyclists! (Peart: R1150GS/R1200GS; Lifeson, I dunno...)

Aah, good times.

*I'm making the assumption, based on the prior reference to "...burned a cross in his front lawn..." and the reference to "...a man with a dream..." that this refers to Dr. Martin Luther King, and not to the author of the Protestant Reformation. But I could be wrong.

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