I have pretty eclectic tastes in music, as demonstrated by the list of my favorite albums. Rock, punk, new wave, country, bluegrass, classical – I like to listen to them all. That having been said, over the past dozen years or so I have listened to a disproportionate amount of country music.
Given the genre and its history, there have been more than enough songs over the years that have generated controversy due to their portrayals of violence. In the years that I’ve been listening, for example:
- Garth Brooks was criticized for “The Thunder Rolls“, the third verse of which depicts a battered wife shooting her abusive and cheating husband, supposedly to prevent him from sexually abusing their daughter. The label wouldn’t release the song either on the album or as a single with that verse included, although he still always sings it in concert.
- The Dixie Chicks were taken to task for “Goodbye, Earl“, which tells the story of two women poisoning and killing an abusive husband who “walked right through that restraining order and put her in intensive care.”. Despite the subject matter, it’s actually a very upbeat and funny song. And a great video.
- Toby Keith got a bit of grief from some folks about “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue” because of its gung-ho patriotic values post-9/11, particularly the line about how “we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the Amercian way”.
- Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” was quite controversial, telling the story of a mother who burns down the house with herself and her drunken, abusive husband inside, thereby gaining “independence” for her daughter.
- Carrie Underwood took heat over her “Before He Cheats“, where she gets revenge on her cheating boyfriend by trashing his prized pickup truck, slashing the tires, ripping up the seats, taking out all of the glass and lights with a baseball bat, and so on.
For the record, I had no problems at all with any of these songs. All five are in my “Favorites” playlist. None of the depictions of violence, revenge, suicide, or vigilantism bothered me at all.
On the other hand, there are a couple of new songs that have gotten the hairs on the back of my neck standing up a bit, and it’s their portrayal of domestic situations that are doing it.
“Redneck Crazy” by Tyler Farr came out about five months ago. I distinctly remember hearing it for the first time and immediately wondering how it ever got on the air. Now, it’s a Top 20 hit and I’m still wondering every time they play it, about every other hour.
Check out the lyrics and the video. The guy has lost his girlfriend and she’s now got a new boyfriend. Our singer is parking his truck on her lawn at night, getting drunk, shining the truck lights into her bedroom window. He’s throwing empty beer cans at the shadows in the bedroom windows. He’s TPing her house and yard with all of his buddies, who are in camouflage, blacked out faces, and surrounding the house in ATVs. He’s blaring the music at full volume and waking up her and her family. He didn’t come here to start a fight, but he’s up for anything tonight. “You know you broke the wrong heart, baby. You drove me Redneck Crazy.”
Her offense? She broke up with him. His response? Stalking, threatening and aggressive behavior, and vandalism.
Country music has a long history of songs about broken hearts, loves lost, and relationships tested and torn by drinking and infidelity. Friends, this isn’t one of those. In my opinion, our “hero” in this song is in need of a call to 9-1-1 and a restraining order, not a reconciliation.
This morning, after the video for “Redneck Crazy” was played on CMT (I muted it), a new premier video came on for “Stay” by the group Florida Georgia Line. It was the first time I had seen the video or heard the song. Again, my first and immediate impression is that it’s way over the line into inappropriate.
She’s leaving and taking the dog with her. He’s done her wrong and is begging forgiveness, sending one text after another asking her to come back and give him another chance. She keeps driving. He realizes that it’s over.
So what does he do? Be patient and hope she changes her mind? Make changes to his life and demonstrate to her that he can re-earn her trust and love? If nothing else, learn from the experience and be a better man for the next relationship that comes along?
Yeah, that would be one way to go.
Instead our “hero” throws all of her furniture, clothes, and stuff into a pile out in the yard and torches it. After putting his guitar in his truck (you gotta have your priorities) as the belongs bonfire burns, he then blows up the trailer that they lived in, leaving it a flaming pile of scattered debris.
For a genre that strives to balance its wholesome, All-American side against its drunken, rowdy, good ol’ boy side, these two songs are woefully misguided.
They’re not about mourning heartbreak, they’re about celebrating domestic violence.
Take a look at the news, people. Somewhere in the whole music chain of command between the song writers, the artists, their managers, the record labels, the radio stations, the guys making the videos, SOMEONE needed to take a step back and say, “Um, maybe we should think about this just a bit more. Maybe this isn’t OK.”
I don’t know why the first five songs mentioned didn’t bother me at all and these two new ones do. Maybe it’s just me.
But I don’t think so.
2 responses to “Yeah, It’s Country Music, But…”
I’m of the opinion that there’s a little bit of acceptable revenge to a break-up, especially if the offending party cheats or does something else atrocious. That line is straddled by “Before he Cheats.” I think a lot of this is a double-edged sword with sexism, though. Think about if “Before He Cheats” was a man destroying his ex-girlfriend’s car and suddenly it becomes slightly less acceptable. Personally I think that destroying a person’s property, asshole or not, just makes you as bad as that person… but that’s just me.
Excellent points. There is a bit of “he had it coming” in the first five songs mentioned. It’s justice being served even if it is vigilante justice or justice being served up from a place of desperation. That’s lacking in the two recent songs. To me they have an attitude of bullying and abuse.