I was watching the broadcast of “Freedom over Texas” when I realized I was actually loving and hating the music I was hearing. I began listening to country music over six years ago when I was preparing to play the role of Noleta in Sordid Lives. I wanted to immerse myself in the Texas twang … Hoping my New York accent wouldn’t show too much during the production. The music, dialect, and culture of country music was perfect for Noleta … and I got to like it.
But at the same time I loathed it. I would dance to the music in my car, sing and shout with the radio … but only when I was alone … Enjoying the songs of Carrie Underwood or Phil McGraw was a vice for me … Something I kept in the closet (or, in this case, the car) or the privacy of my iPod.
Here are the five reasons I love and hate country music:
1) I can sing along and harmonize to just about every song, even songs I don’t know or are hearing for the first time. I love singing along in the car, letting the music take me away … But … It also means the words and chord progressions are predictable and repetitive. They lack imagination and are formulaic.
2) The men are macho. I love watching and hearing the men sing. I admit, there’s a real turn-on here. The ruggedness, the stoic emotions, the passion, the humor of the men are appealing, no doubt … But … Truth be told it’s only a fleeting thing for me … Frankly I don’t think your tractor’s sexy or want to go for a ride in your pick-up no matter how high it is.
3) and the women are hot. There’s a part of me, too, that, loves the passion of the women … Carrie Underwood’s “Next Time He Cheats” can really get me fired up .. In a good way (well, Dwayne might not think so). But … The misogyny in many of these songs can be very disturbing … Not in the violent ways of some rap songs, but in the ways they patronize, objectify, or romanticize women. “I don’t know what she said, but I sure liked the way that she said it.”
4) They sing about having fun. Who doesn’t want to have fun, go on vacation, be out with friends, dance, sing, and let your hair down. And they sing about being real. No pretending to be something you’re not, no secrets, no pretensions … And I’m there! No hoity-toity living for me. I’m a real woman … But, let’s admit it … No matter how I might secretly crave it, I’m no redneck girl! tequila doesn’t make my clothes fall off. And I don’t want to save water and drink beer. In fact, the glorification of tequila, beer, etc. is problematic … Seeing a young girl sitting on (presumably) her father’s shoulders at the concert in Eleanor Tinsley Park shouting, “drink more beer” was disturbing.
5) They make the world simple. There seems to be a bunch of songs now with the longing or yearning for simplicity … We got too complicated … I like the old and out-dated way of life. We know, don’t we, that God is great, Beer is good, and people are crazy. It’s an okay escape, but the world is certainly not as stereotypical or black and white or right and wrong as country music suggests. Real life is gray, complicated, intricate, intelligent, and worth living …
Real life and real people are paradoxical. Maybe that’s why the very music and lyrics that make me belt in my car, and touch my “baser” sensibilities, are the same that make my feminist, culturally sensitive, spiritual self cringe … And as much as I want to deny it, there is a part if me that will turn the radio dial to Country even long after we move out of Texas.