So that wacky country music has been getting under my skin again. I’m still hearing “Red Solo Cup” about three times too many during my work-day, but that’s not what I’m going to complain about today. Today I’m picking on Taylor Swift. I don’t know why I like picking on country music, it’s like kicking a puppy–it’s easy to do but only psychopaths really get any pleasure out of it.
I guess I’m a psychopath.
I’ve heard “Mean” a few times (and seen the video) but it wasn’t until last week that I’d figured out why I loath this song. You see, this song is pretty much the epitome of everything that is wrong with modern country music. The song is Swift’s response to her critics (uh, like…who is that? Who is picking on Taylor Swift so much that she needs to write a song about it? Other than fat, nerdy bloggers, I mean). Does she call them heartless bastards? Does she use an elaborate metaphor to cut them like a knife, while at the same time show them what a class act she is?
No. She calls them “mean.” And even though that’s really stupid and childish, that’s not the problem that I have with this song*. No, my problem with this song is the line that says: “Someday I’ll be living in a big old city/And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.” I cringe every single time she says that. I sit, hunched over my desk at work and GRIND my teeth to dust with rage. What a moron. Does she understand what the hell she’s doing? This song is a complete and utter slap to the face of all that is country.
Country music isn’t about how great the fucking city is. It’s about horses, beer, wide-open spaces, and outlaws. It’s about lovin’ your woman and standing by your man. People from the city are lost souls, lonely and out of touch with themselves and each other. The city is not a shining oasis, it’s a place to be despised. At best, city dwellers should be pitied. This, my friends, is what is wrong with country music today. Country music today is being made by city people. For Taylor Swift, the city represents a way to escape some unnamed bully (who can’t “hit” her anymore) but that’s not how I see it. I see it as yet another chapter in the war for the very soul of America.
It’s the Federalists vs. the Jeffersonians. It’s agrarian vs. industrial. It’s trees vs. paper money. Country music used to be about THE country, it used to present an idealized version of rural America that appealed to people in both the city and the country**. But today country music is nothing more than shitty rock with a twang. It doesn’t speak to anyone or have anything unique to say. Good country music, like good rap music, should seem to only speak to both a very specific segment of the population WHILE at the same time appeal to a wider audience because of it’s universal themes.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think all country musicians should stay neatly packed into a box or preconceptions and cliches. I think it’s fine to rebel and say “screw the country I’m gonna hit it big and move to the city,” but that’s not what Swift’s song is saying. If you really listen, the message of “Mean” is “you are a mean asshole so all you’re ever going to do is live out in the country.”
But I ask you: what the hell is wrong with living in the country? It pisses me off that a popular country audience has had so much success with a song that’s essential a big middle finger to a large portion of her audience. I’m not really mad at Taylor Swift, I’m mad at her fans who are too stupid to see what a sham this song is. It bums me out to think of little kids–living the country AND the city–listening to rich phonies like Taylor Swift. What about the people being abused (or whatever the song is a bit vague) in the city? Is there a special ghetto in the cities for urban meanies? The message is confusing.
Ultimately when I hear this song at work it’s the words of the late, great poet Freddie Mercury that I turn to: “Now they say your folks are telling you/Be a super star/But I tell you just be satisfied/To stay right where you are.”
*Though I can’t imagine a 60 year-old Taylor Swift singing this song, it’s barely appropriate for a 20-something woman.
**which is actually a really dirty, bleak place with just as many problems as the cities.