23. After having listened to a country music station this afternoon, it's clear that contemporary country is the worst popular music in the world. Nothing compares. '70s Eurovision contest music, anti-Hussein Psy-ops rap, bombastic save-the-world pop circa 1990: all come up looking good next to those performers of Rural Drag. Even Adult Contemporary has more style than this thief of bargain music bins. First I heard three Shania Twain songs in a row, each one sounding more or less like the processed technopop of the mid-eighties, with fake pedal steel standing in for fake Stax horns. After a commercial break I found out that none of the songs were sung by Shania Twain. Just a bunch of pitch-shifted girls aping the Twain formula. Next came a weird parade of musical styles, some soulful, some poppy, some folky, but none of them what I would call country. Not even that arena rock Garth Brooks style of country, which is bastardized enough.*
24. Record companies and artists have replaced the style and tradition of country with gestures: a little twang to the vocals, a few familiar chord progressions, out-of-love wailing from the dudes and so-in-love devotional chirps from the ladies. And of course, songs about good times in the non-existent country. Has no one noticed that the places celebrated by country music - the family farm and the good old small town - have rotted from the inside out? Even in Canada, which has taken slightly better care of its rural areas, towns have funnelled into cities and left their skeleton behind. In the States I've been to countless towns with centres so long dead that even the buildings seem dried out and tissue-thin, like dead seed pods dangling from the stem. What life is left in these places has sprouted up along the highway, where the predictable franchises and hotels service people from elsewhere on their way to somewhere else. Life arranged around a strip of limited-access highway doesn't provide much inspiration for an authentic pop vernacular, but it's got to be better than the asinine fantasy that country music records are pushing on us.
25. At one point a song came on that I actually liked. The melody was strong but subtle, the twang didn't sound put on, and the lyrics had a real note of wistfulness and longing, that plaintive cry for things departing that marks the best of country music. It sounded a bit like early Jackson Browne. Then I realized it was Jackson Browne. You know country music's got problems when it's borrowing songs from 1970s folk rock for its playlist.
*26. Garth Brooks fans I've met commonly defend him (without any prompting) by talking about his live show, saying "It's all for his fans that he puts on such a great show. He doesn't have to do that, you know". I never understood that: an entertainer that doesn't have to entertain? He just does it 'cause? I mean, I don't have to shit in the toilet. I could just do it on the floor. But I like to go that extra mile and aim for the bowl.
27. What is Garth Brooks doing these days anyway? Oh never mind.