“Anything but rap or country”: On all of those stupid e-mail surveys that proliferated in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s (What’s your middle name? What color socks are you wearing? What’s on your mouse pad? Chocolate or vanilla?) , that was the default answer for “What kind of music do you listen to?”
I never quite got it. There’s plenty of music in all categories that I don’t like, but I don’t get the animus toward those particular two genres as a whole. I don’t like rap with bad meter anymore than I like children’s books with bad meter, but when done well, it can be amazing and powerful and catchy. Rap plays with words; how can I not appreciate it?
And country? If rap plays with words, country tells stories, and I love that, too.
I don’t care very much for the violent xenophobic rhetoric in such songs as Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” –– I tend not to support the putting of boots in asses, and yet I still consider myself a patriotic American –– but contrary to popular stereotypes, for every song about “Lady Liberty shaking her fist,” there are songs like Brad Paisley’s “Welcome to the Future,” celebrating how far we’ve come since the days of Ruby Bridges. For every song like Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” that suggests petty revenge against a cheating partner (“I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive, carved my name into his leather seats/I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights, slashed a hole in all four tires”), there is a song like Sugarland’s “Stay,” a measured, moving, thought-provoking, sympathetic look at the point-of-view of the other woman.
Of all the country music artists out there, I think my favorite –– just based on the sheer diversity of his songs and the impact of the lyrics –– is Brad Paisley. His songs range from funny (“So Much Cooler Online” and “Ticks”) to tender (“Then” and “Waitin’ on a Woman”) to just-plain-fun (“Alcohol” and “Water”). He celebrates diversity in “Welcome to the Future” and “American Saturday Night.”
And he’s right in step with the It Gets Better project, a YouTube channel launched in response to the recent rash of gay teen suicides. The project aims to tell gay teenagers that it gets better, that they won’t be harassed for the rest of their lives, that they can find love and commitment and become parents. It’s a great message –– and one that I think that probably all teenagers could stand to hear, regardless of their sexual orientation. Brad Paisley nails it with “Letter to Me,” a letter from his adult self to himself at 17, fresh from a teenage heartbreak and failing algebra, reassuring him that it’s all going to be OK.
Surely I can’t be the only one this obsessed with Brad Paisley –– so if you’d like to win tickets to his show next weekend in Gulf Shores, Ala., please click here and tell us your favorite song.