Had enough of Janet Jackson? Try country music. Don’t give me excuses. OK, if you don’t like any American pop, forget about it. But if you’re conservative, and sometimes enjoy pop music, you can and should learn to love country music. Genre switching can be difficult, but it’s doable. Country music is by no means consistently “conservative,” in any simple political sense. Just think of Willie Nelson (who endorsed Dennis Kucinich, by the way) and Johnny Cash, whose recent tribute special on CMT played a bit like a sixties anti-war rally. On balance, though, country music is remarkable for being both conservative and popular.
Country music’s conservatism comes through, even when there’s nothing overtly political or religious about the music. Right now, though, there are some strikingly “conservative” hits at the top of the country charts. Jimmy Wayne’s “I Love You This Much” and Josh Turner’s “Long Black Train” are deservedly popular hits, each of which is deeply and overtly Christian. (Turner’s conservatism comes though very strongly in the video.) It is not at all uncommon to hear passing references to God or religion in country songs. Yet it is relatively rare to have such overtly religious songs on the top of the country pop charts. Then there’s Toby Keith’s “American Soldier.” The message and sentiment of this song and video are powerful and important. A generation ago, they would have been entirely unremarkable. Today, a song like “American Soldier” is difficult to imagine anywhere but in country music. So stop complaining about Janet and do something about her. Switch to country music.
Oh, and let’s end with a word about the Dixie Chicks. I can’t deny that I like their music. But the Vhicks handling of the controversy over their remarks about the president has been odious. There’s all the difference in the world between Willie Nelson endorsing Dennis Kucinich-or even Tim Robbins’ political posturing during the Johnny Cash tribute special-and what the Chicks did. There’s a difference between taking a political stand, and egregiously insulting the president in front of a foreign audience. Of course the Chicks are free to speak as they please. But others are free to object to their conduct. For more on what I think is wrong with the Chicks, go here and scroll up.