I have to admit that this AM I'm suffering from a brutal hangover, sadly not from drinking single and seeing double, but from watching most of the Country Music Association awards from New York City last night. I've never seen country trying so hard to be country — Jesus was evoked so many times I thought he'd be popping onto stage to take a bow with Garth Brooks — and failing so miserably. Yeah, the songs had all the right licks, including appropriate use steel guitars, words about whiskey, cheatin' and the aforementioned Big Guy Upstairs, tributes to dead people, and tears, but surrounded by a smug, self-congratulatory miasma — "See, we're really just like everyone else, except we sing country music instead of paublum pop or that hippy hoppy...nudge nudge wink wink say no more!"
Speaking as the one-time editor of Country Music magazine, primary author of the Random House Encyclopedia of Country Music, biographer of Hank Williams Jr., Travis Tritt and Willie Nelson, and friend to the likes of Randy Travis, the late Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, etc., all I can say is snore nod.
It's not that country became pop; It's that country became self-conscious. Modern country music takes the elements of country and mixes them together as cynically as a fat old guy with a bad rug putting together a new boy band. You got your liquor and you got your Jesus and you got your first ex-wife, delivered by a guy with a hat and no shirt or a woman with big hair, a navel ring and Manolo Blahnik slingback f&%k-me shoes.
I would argue that the most heartfelt song of the evening was when the Fruit of the Loom underwear fruits did a number about loose cotton whities...at least it lacked post-modern irony!
I understand it's about money, and heaven knows I don't begrudge Lee Ann Womack or Keith Urban the bucks — I am certainly not without sin myself. I guess it's that I miss the old days...great art comes out of turmoil, not irony.
That said, I like country music. I just don't believe it anymore.
BTW, loved Alison Kraus' see-thru dress, which even drew a surprised comment from my Sweetie, and, no, I couldn't find a picture on the internet! Alison's come a long way from the nerd girl with a fiddle...I think Elvis Costello's been good for her!