I wrote this bloggy-type thing in 2004 and sent it to DJ, who found it in his email inbox again today. Blogs hardly existed then, so I’m not sure what I meant to do with it.
When I wrote it, I was still emerging from a highly restrictive teenagerhood. Everything, including the music I listened to, was dictated by a fundamentalist preacher who confused his own warped ideas with God’s revelation. By 2004, I’d learned to distinguish between Gothard and God, but in the meatime I’d missed out on pop culture for the entire 1990s. I was catching up, starting with the radio.
Starting with country music.
Just when I think I’m doing something different, doing it just because I want to, I look around and notice that I’m surrounded by a herd going the same direction. Take my music, for example. I’m a fairly recent convert to country music. I should have figured out that I wasn’t exactly ahead of the crowd when I moved here — there are two country radio stations to every other genre. (Another warning sign should have been the minivan with the “Dale Earnhardt Jr.” stickers on it).
Then DJ read somewhere that the biggest group of country-music fans is, guess what, young moms. So, here I am, kerplunk, right in fashion.
Yes, yes, for all you fans of Real Country, I know very well that today’s “kickin’ country” is just recycled pop music from the 80s. Sometimes they use bad grammar and throw in a steel guitar, but it’s basically what my brothers and sister were listening to when they were cool. (Cool teenagers, I mean, not to say that they’re not cool now, with their minivans and generic-brand jeans.) But I have to admit I like the general tone of country songs.
People in Country Music Land still drink, party, get in fights, cheat, steal, lie, and drive trucks. But they also get married, have kids, go to church, and sit in their rocking chairs on the porches and observe life. In other words, they’re ordinary people. They’re the people who aren’t out to change the world, but try to keep the world going in the middle of all the changing.
I guess because of this deep philosophical attraction, I failed to notice another aspect of my music: it all sounds alike. It was a bit galling to have it pointed out by a committed non-admirer. I’d bought a Sara Evans album, and DJ (the aforementioned infidel) couldn’t help but hear it. He even decided he liked it. I was triumphant. Then I brought home another CD, thinking I’d stretch his horizons a bit further. After a couple of songs, he asked, “Is this Sara Evans?”
“No. It’s Shania Twain. Completely different.”
Except, as I listened to it, I realized… it wasn’t. To the undiscerning ear (DJ’s), this album sounded a whole lot like my other one. Not long afterward, I had the radio on while cooking. DJ strolled through and asked conversationally, “Do you have this song on one of your CDs?”
“No. This is Martina McBride.”
“Oh. Well, you’d better go out and buy hers, then, because she sounds just like Sara Evans.”
So the music isn’t exactly avant garde and revolutionary. That’s okay. Honest. And if my disillusionment turns out to be too hard to take, I’ll just go to a bar, order a beer, and write a song about it.
End note: I don’t listen to country much anymore. I’ve moved on to music that’s not quite so mass-produced. And I bet if you checked the demographics for angsty indie rock, you’d discover that it’s really popular among late-thirties moms.
Just doing my own thing… right along with the herd. I’ll drink to that. These days, though, I order martinis.