I try not to dismiss things broadly. Most of the time when I think I don’t like something, it’s just because I haven’t experienced it in the right format yet. I didn’t learn to eat raw tomatoes until I had a farmer’s market slice on a proper deli sandwich. I didn’t really enjoy Asian martial arts movies until I saw Tony Jaa make an art of spectacle in Ong Bak. I thought I hated opera until I heard a modern recording of Lakme. So, I try to be an open-minded guy when it comes to things I think I don’t like.
But God help me, I still freaking hate pop country music.
I have to put that “pop” qualifier in there because I can’t, in good conscience, lump the likes of Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash in with Reba “I’m The Female Jeff Foxworthy” McEntire. They’re not just from different eras, they’re from entirely different planes of existence. As with every abysmal Nu-Metal band that cited Nirvana as an influence, the music a band likes to listen to does not necessarily improve their own ability to write and play music.
When the viral video of the current 15 minutes, Lisa Gail Allred’s music video for “3 Second Rule”, came across my desk I took it as an opportunity to make my case for why I can’t find any merit in pop country. “3 Second Rule” and its singer embody everything I find abhorrent about the genre. Let’s start with the face value. Allred herself is one fanny pack shy of the modern Ugly American stereotype. She looks like an alternate universe version of Paula Deen who fell in love with a cheap drum machine instead of butter, it appears that she applies her daily face with Homer’s patent-pending makeup shotgun and she adorns herself with garish jewelry, the centerpiece of which is a gigantic turquoise chain. An artist’s image, like it or not, is part of the performance and all the artifice and shamelessness of Lisa Allred and her ilk tell a story of artistically bankrupt materialism and a lack of originality.
I also can’t help but notice that the one non-white person in the video for “3 Second Rule”, the black cowboy, is literally put in the back of the majority of the shots in which he appears. He’s at the back of the line of cowboys, he has to sit in the back of the class and he’s in the darkest, farthest corner of the silly line dancing scene. This tendency toward casual racism is sadly endemic to the pop country world, not because everyone in the scene is a bigot but because everything about the scene is so, so devoid of anything beyond white bread that folks don’t seem to notice how they’re cleansing their shots.
But let’s get to the core of it: The music itself. Though most major label pop country acts won’t trot out the Free Music Maker 2000 drum loops and bass lines that sound like they come from an instructional video circa 1991, those elements hint at the inherent simplicity of pop country songwriting. The stuff is supposed to have broad appeal and a lack of pretension, but it seems to achieve this by leaning on childishly basic orchestration. And oh, that singing. This is what gets me more than anything. Pop country vocals are the most cynical, calculated garbage in all of modern music. The singers adopt an exaggerated twang they apply to beyond-asinine lyrics in an attempt to connect with an audience they assume is composed entirely of bumpkins with pitifully empty lives. Half the lyrics are cliches and common phrases, so afraid of saying anything new that they end up doing little more than parroting things the listener has almost certainly said him or her self.
When I remember that music like “3 Second Rule”, if not that particular song itself, sells better than just about any kind of music in this nation, I have less faith in the progress of society. Ultimately, I think I hate pop country not just because it’s the sonic equivalent of a greasy appetizer from a chain restaurant but because it’s a genre that revels in stupidity and pandering. Its success drove Lisa Gail Allred to wake up one day believing she could contribute to the genre at or near the level of the multimillionaires she listens to. And ya know what? She did.