I’m not a big fan of country music.  That said, when done well, it captures our human condition better than most contemporary musical genres.  I think Dwight Yoakum and, more recently, Miranda Lambert and Zac Brown write some poignant, moving songs that don’t sink into melodrama.  
     Unfortunately, they seem to be the exceptions.  I live in a house of country music fans.  Sadly for me, I regularly hear all the rest of the formulaic crap.  Apparently someone in Nashville issued a memo on how to write a country song.

     First, your song has to be about “here.”  Here is the mythical southern place you claim to be from.  Here is far better than all other “theres.”  In here, people do honest work unlike in all those big city theres.  Here doesn’t happen to be rife with meth labs, racism or rampant poverty.  Everyone has a good time on the weekend in here, but they all go to church on Sunday morning.

     Next, your song must be sung with a ridiculous southern twang regardless of where you’re from.  A current chart topper is from North Dakota.  There is no hint of a Fargo tinged “Oh, hey dere” in his singing. And then there is Keith Urban.  He also sings with a southern accent.  He’s from fucking

     Your song must reference cold beer or sweet tea. If it does not, it isn’t a country song. You’re assured of a megahit if you reference both in the same song.

     There must be a pickup truck and a girl in cutoff jeans in your song.  A tractor may be substituted
for the truck.  There is no negotiating the girl in the cutoff jeans.

     A lot of writing, particularly genre fiction, is also formulaic.  (See what I did there?) 
Fantasy novels are practically required to adhere to the greek heroic myth.  Hero crosses threshold, reaches anagnorisis, etc, etc.  YA novels must deal with a dystopian future or a young girl coming of age through abuse, bullying, a fractured family, illness, death, and whatever other shit you can pile on the poor protagonist.  
     Yes, I understand free market economics.  What sells gets done…over and over.  Going back to the music analogy, we need more punks in all facets of our lives.  Punk rock was born because people looked around at disco, “If you like pina coladas,” or “Sky rockets in flight, afternoon delight,” puked in their mouths a little and said, “Fuck that.”  We need more grunge and not just because I like flannel shirts.  Grunge happened because the hair bands had made a parody of rock music.

     I may not sell a lot of books, but I will never be an Australian singing with a southern accent.

07/12/2013 11:45am

That's why you live in a van down by the river.

D.R. Leo
07/12/2013 7:23pm

Thank you, dear.

07/12/2013 11:57am

Hey, that Australian is bangin' Nicole Kidman.

D.R. Leo
07/12/2013 7:24pm

Even Tom Cruise did that, and he didn't have to fake an accent.

07/15/2013 7:14am

After spending a weekend in Nashville, I'm happy to say real country is not dead. It's just not on the radio. Instead it hangs out in windowless honky-tonk bars lit only by neon beer signs.


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