Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Country ain't country no more

Terri Clark is ruined for me.
I like a lot of the Canadian country star's singles, so naturally I downloaded many of them ... err, you know, just so I can see if I like them and go out and actually BUY the CDs. Well, I got to "I Wanna Do It All" and discovered it was a little different from the version I'd originally heard on the radio here. The lyric to which I'd grown accustomed went, "I wanna do it all/visit Paris in the fall/watch the Packers play ball/I wanna take it all in ..."
I thought, "How cool. She chose this small, semi-rural city from the Midwest and attached herself to its football team and its Southern quarterback, Brett Favre." I thought perhaps it was a type of self-branding, like hip-hop artists who talk about Islam or gold Caddies in Compton.
But the version I'd downloaded had "Yankees" where my "Packers" should've been.
So I looked around online and felt betrayed when I stumbled across this guy's list:

1) Watch the Gators play ball,
2) Watch the O's play ball,
3) Watch the Ravens play ball,
4) Watch the Packers play ball,
5) Watch the Browns play ball,
6) Watch the Rams play ball, and
7) Watch the Yankees play ball. (These are the lyrics listed on Clark's Web site.)

That's not including the "Start a NASCAR tradition y'all" lyric he said he'd heard while in Virginia. That's when it hit me:
My girl had betrayed me.
Her mention of the Packers wasn't an homage to this smalltown team at all; rather it was part of a large scheme to artificially cozy up to various parts of the country. While one could make the argument that she's just trying to cater to the hometown crowd, like when they say "Thank you Wichita, you're our favorite place to play in the whole world!"
I disagree. It's as much false advertising as fake boobs. I don't buy concert tickets just to hear the band suck up to my town. I know they say it wherever they go (I've never been to a concert where the band said "Thank you Milwaukee! You rock almost as much as Wichita!"), but when I buy a CD, I expect the lyrics to be the same as the ones that drew me to the song in the first place.
This lyric-swap is a cheap way for Clark to whore herself to the machine that has consumed REAL country music. Travis Tritt called it when, back in the early '90s, he said Billy Ray Cyrus had turned country music into an "ass-shaking contest." Cyrus' popularity, along with Garth Brooks', have done just that by leading us to the Shania Twains and Faith Hills, who are country because ... why exactly? Because they say they are?
The thing is, Clark isn't the only one who's done it. Buddy Jewell had a song out about a year or so ago called, "Sweet Southern Comfort". It's a beautiful little memoir of his (alleged) childhood in the Deep South. It conjures up images of misty mornings over cotton fields, old men playing checkers at a general store, and even young love on a front porch. And in one line of the chorus, near the end, he says "All the way/to Green Bay/go Pack go!"
I swear I heard this, numerous times in fact. But I can't find any mention of that version online anywhere, and the version of his song that I downloaded ... errr, Beta-tested, as well as the lyrics as listed at official sites, make no mention of Green Bay.
I wonder how long this practice has been in existence, and how far it will go. With today's advances in digital media, will artists eventually invite listeners to insert their own names into their songs?
This disingenuous pandering has sucked the last portions of soul from the cadaver of country music and could do the same with all forms of entertainment; at least the ones that haven't already been stained by "American Idol".

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