I’m not a fan of Brad Paisley’s or Carrie Underwood’s music. In my opinion, the best country music is made by artists who most people have never heard of, artists who are already dead and artists who should already be dead. Oh, and Dwight Yoakam too. So needless to say, on Wednesday night I didn’t watch the CMAs.
But a lot of people did. And right at the beginning of the show they were treated to a parody of Obamacare from the aforementioned Paisley and Underwood, the hosts of the show. As you can see below, the crowd went nuts. That is to say, there was a lot of laughing and cheering.
And as you might expect, the rest of the watching world went nuts too. That is to say, a lot of people didn’t like it. One Twitter user compared it to a lynch mob. Also, I’m guessing that within the next ten minutes the video will be yanked from YouTube and Paisley and Underwood will be sent to a reeducation camp hosted by the fine people from the Federal Organization Overseeing Lyrical Subjects (FOOLS).
A while back, country music quit being good because it lost it’s soul. Instead of making music for working families, artists started to write songs about mud and something that bordered on date rape. Instead of voicing concern over a particular issue, we got songs about some guy’s truck and Daisy Duke.
The same thing has happened to hip-hop. In the 80s and 90s, Public Enemy and X Clan stirred the pot by addressing what they were seeing in the world. Over time, that devolved into Drake complaining about how hard it is to be rich and Jay Z being buddies with the president and rapping about French art.
To a certain extent, musicians are supposed to make us dance. But the good ones have a way of also making us think, even if we don’t agree with their conclusion.
In the early 1970s Neil Young’s Southern Man critiqued what he saw as a southern culture where Civil War era racism still lingered. Not everyone agreed with his conclusions but the message was from the heart. The band Lynyrd Skynyrd were among those who disagreed so they wrote a classic response to Mr. Young’s song. Even Neil Young liked their Sweet Home Alabama, saying, “They play it like they mean it” and, “I’m proud to have my name in a song like theirs.”
During the Bush administration The Dixie Chicks made headlines when they expressed their opposition to the war in Iraq, even going so far as to say, “we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
The world erupted. Some folks agreed and some did not. There were boycotts, record burnings and, no doubt, awkwardly long conversations at dinner tables about whether or not those three ladies have any right expressing an opinion about a sitting president during a time of war.
But for the last several years, there has been none of that. No rap songs telling us to fight the power. No modern day Rage Against the Machine screaming against the injustices that come from high places. No albums like Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief.
And that should concern us. Not because mainstream music is losing its soul, which it is. We should be concerned for more important reasons. Reasons that run to the very core of what our nation was founded on.
If artists no longer question their government, whether it be through parody or music, it’s likely because fear has trumped freedom and comfort has replaced awareness.
So you may not agree with what Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood did Wednesday night. Or maybe you hated what the Dixie Chicks said all of those years ago. That’s fine. But you should still want them to publicly say those things.
Because when artists no longer question their government it results in something a whole lot worse than bad music.