By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
Comes a time in every man's life when he must reckon with the fact that he's become old and crotchety. For me, that day actually came at about age 22 — and while I've not been averse to shaking my fist at many a nonsensical aspect of our dumb culture since, there are other proverbial kids on my lawn that I've managed to come to terms with. Like how "music television" is no longer about music. Observations related to driving on parkways and parking on driveways notwithstanding, you can't even watch music videos on MTV2 anymore; you have to go all the way down to, like, MTV17 — and even then, for every 45 minutes of music video programming, there's a fifteen-minute shot of Bill Bellamy quietly weeping into a giant daiquiri.
Hey, guys, remember Bill Bellamy? Those were the days, amiright?
Still, there's something that just sticks in my craw about one of Country Music Television's upcoming programs, which is basically the Survivor formula...with rednecks! Also, it's called Redneck Island. Also, the host is "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. (Hey, guys, remember "Stone Cold" Steve Austin?) According to CMT, the show "takes twelve red, white and blue-collared Americans out of the South, far away from cold beer, and drops them in a tropical paradise where they will compete for $100,000." Presumably, the show then documents the surprising and hilarious ways in which they squander that $100,000 and ruin their lives. Actually, that would be a way better show.
Now, let's be clear: Like everything on "music television" in this crazy day and age, this show has nothing to do with the music. And yet, on another level, it does, and what it has to say about the music is depressing. Or at least indicative of the insular, weirdly aggressive set of tropes that country has become. I mean, just that twenty-word synopsis of the show manages to cram in about half of them (blue-collar, Southern, redneck, likes cold beer), the ones not mentioned being "owns pickup truck/tractor" and "loves Jesus/freedom."
To some extent, of course, all genres create their own boilerplates and then traffic in them, like how in hip-hop everybody has to have spinning-ass rims, or whatever those rap guys and their girlfriends are doing these days. (Hey, guys, remember Sir Mix-a-Lot?) Or how in rock and roll everybody has to do heroin. But there's acknowledging genre conventions and then there's reducing to them, and, man, does country music ever harp on its own shit. It's worth noting here that CMT also airs shows called My Big Redneck Vacation and My Big Redneck Wedding.
The reason is clear enough: Like me, country music has become old and crotchety, and its clinging to the familiar clichés of its presumed listening audience is about the mounting fear — one that's shared, for the most part, by its constituency — that its views and values are losing relevance. But that's too bad, because there's plenty great about country music; more than any other genre, at least, if there's something to say, country just comes right out and says it. It's just a shame that all it has to say anymore is the same old shit.