Monday, May 28, 2012

This Is Country Music by Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley’s title track from his latest album This Is Country Music is a statement of pride and tradition. It’s not meant to put down genres of music or argue why country is better; it simply defines what makes country music great.

Growing up in Seattle, country music was the least popular genre of music and if you liked country music in my high school that was the least cool thing you could do. I carried this with me until college when I discovered Johnny Cash and then an entire world opened up to me and I became connected to one of the most important American traditions.  While some argue that Jazz is the only true original American genre of music, I argue that country music should hold that honor as well.

So what is country music to Brad Paisley? Well, from the first line it’s talking about cancer, religion, it’s representing and reflecting a culture in America that isn’t living in Manhattan and L.A.  It’s not abad thing to have a show set in New York but sometimes we forget that there’s a lot of people in this country who are more familiar with a seeing a tractor on the drive to work than a Mercedes.

The second verse starts with the simple joys in life and goes into the power that music has to speak when words fail. Whether it’s love or frustration music can be that expression, that vent, and that connection that lets you know that your feelings are shared with others.

Patriotism is often present in country music and it’s not always handled well or respectfully. Paisley gets to the heart of it in the third verse, holding the connection close to home and it’s this genuine sense of pride that is a powerful part of what country music is about.

The last section of this song is made up of quotes from famous country singers. It’s this respect and connection to tradition that breeds the greatest artists and reminds fans that music really is a conversation. Art is not created in a vacuum and like how meeting someone’s parents make her make more sense, understanding the history of a genre makes the appreciation of a song that much deeper.

Most people I encounter who don’t like a genre of music express a level of ignorance. Whether it’s rap, rock or country, people who dislike genres as a whole, rarely can even name a song they don’t like. They just decided one day they don’t like it for one reason or another.

So when people tell me they don’t like country music, I don’t get offended, I just try to explain what makes it special. It’s not that country does things or says things that other types of music don’t.  In the same way a disco song can get your beat moving better than a Beethoven symphony, the best country songs tells stories a whole lot better than most pop singles.

Paisley is one of the greatest ambassadors for country music because he elevates the music he loves without putting other music down.  There's no superiority complex in this song.  It's pride without prejudice and good feelings without cynicism and insecurity.

"So turn it on, turn it up, and sing a long.  This is real; this is your life in a song."

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