Backstage view: I don’t think Hank done it this way
A major NRA tell will be how country artists are allowed to respond commercially to the Las Vegas machine-gun massacre.
I would normally say artistically, but the closed Nashville system — from songwriters, to media, to radio programming, to corporate sponsors — is one of our republic’s great and most reliable propaganda machines. It is owned by the Right Wing.
Modern country is the processed and pitch-corrected voice of the right; wrapped in tart and twang and illuminated by fireworks and LED American flags. It’s Spring Break forever for a vanishing segment of the middle class that can’t make the connection that they are voting against their own best interests.
In addition to the country music industry, the Right Wing also owns White Jesus and a huge swath of the media that it has brilliantly branded like a sacred cow, as Liberal. Our media is, in fact, like the archaic term Country and Western, a genre unto itself I would call Corporate and Conglomerate.
Our America media can be best classified politically as a gigolo named Sal that will turn any trick for anybody, as long nobody is looking and the checks don’t bounce. I know that’s a lot to swallow. Sal is a gard damn work horse.
Some plutocratic indicators
Few things indicate the true vastness of the conservative media and how much that country music has sold out White America more than the seemingly anodyne lyrics themselves and their insistent mission to sell you what is going to probably kill you.
The songs sell you trucks a true fan can’t afford, tequila that is destroying a family and Walmarts that are keeping the people so damn poor, which the industry disturbingly associates with Jesus Christ and love of country; all a New Testament to the sheer domination and brand messaging of mainstream country music today.
Hank Williams sure could sell a lot of flour and soap, but country music 2017 sells bankruptcy, DUIs, divorces and war. The alcohol killed his ass at 29. They found him in the back of his car.
Lord it’s the same old tune, fiddle and guitar; Where do we take it from here? Rhinestone suits and new shiny cars; It’s been the same way for years We need a change.” — Waylon Jennings, “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?”
[/pullquote]They have been playing Weekend at Bernie’s with his corpse ever since and he’s still banned from The Opry.
It’s all a ruse. The singers that sing about drinking don’t even drink anymore, but that’s the only way they can hit the charts. Great abs and a mediocre voice only gets a University Oklasippy alum so far.
Imagine how good country would be if they signed 50 percent fewer frat boys and brought in just a little bit of color, my brother. They are ripping off “urban” music all the time now to keep the girls on the dance floor. Have a closer listen. Those are beats.
But on the charts it’s a white party. They only let in one male black star at a time. And Darius Rucker sold more albums with The Blowfish than all of these stiffs, and he barely got in the front door.
The fact we have to call this genre country, as if country just means America — as if America is the only country that can produce country music — is a feedback chamber packed with horse shit. Especially since the country music industry focuses nearly all of its resources today on churning out bad rock.
Many months often pass before you can even hear a single country tune on the country charts and it’s usually an accident.
When you hear a Toby Keith song about weed, that’s not country music loosening its mores and being real rock ‘n’ roll. That’s conservatives getting ready to make it safe for them to buy in, after locking up poor whites and people of color for generations.
For dime bags. For dirt weed. For being too poor to pay the real bag man. For violating the non compete with Big Pharma.
I listen to mainstream country and Fox News because I want to see which way the wind is blowing. But I also listen hoping I will like it. But mainstream country music is like my relationship with Guinness. I have a can every time I forget that I don’t like Guinness, and the pattern continues. I did like Guinness in Ireland. Like country, I like the real thing.
When I listen to an hour of country pop radio, I never cease to marvel at the format’s obsession with normalization of hard drug use. That hard drug is alcohol for now and the industry writes Escobar-esque checks to kill country fans. Sometimes I wonder if they should just sing about OxyContin and have Purdue Pharmaceutical flip the bill for the next tour.
How can we spin this thing?
I can hear the songwriting teams in Nashville strumming away at how to spin this thing toward something pure and genuine they can package and sell down the river, like the heroism of first responders. And I can hear the executives pondering aloud the optics of it all; if they should just let it fade away like the attempted assassination at a softball game that made conservatives pass on the chance to attack the Left, because to attack is just punching themselves in the face. Such lightning may never strike twice, until it does for another community.
Because it all comes back to gun control. Will this be a watershed moment or another pivot that will be forgotten in the American fishbowl of memory? I wonder how Hank woulda’ done it? Rosanne Cash was pretty clear about how Johnny would have dug into this one. Johnny sure would not have signed on to that shameful grab-the-pussy-type shit.
For the record, I love country music. I just feel gross inside seeing what these billionaires have done to a quintessential folk tradition that we once fondly called, The White Man’s Blues.
Mainstream country gives me the blues. I wish they would just let some real artists do it, too. They may have something profound to say. But therein lies the danger. It won’t sell new trucks.
-Davin Michael Stedman
ABOUT Davin Michael Stedman
Davin Michael Stedman is a songwriter, author and part time TV host from Seattle. He is best known for his work fronting The Staxx Brothers and for his incredible un-choreographed dance moves. He currently is traveling between New Orleans and Kingston, Jamaica, recording his first solo album, "Creoles," with artists and producers including Sly & Robbie and Anthony Redrose.
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