“Welcome to New York,” the first track on Taylor Swift’s new album 1989, is not about New York. If you’ve heard the song, you already know why. It’s about a magical place filled with wonder and delight. That place does not exist. But Taylor Swift does, and the song is about her.
“It’s been waiting for you,” she chants. She’s projecting, of course. We’ve been waiting for her.
Much has written about the rise of bro-country, a subsection of country music that consists almost entirely of young white men singing about trucks, beer, Friday nights and their beautiful, anonymous female love interests. Last December, Grady Smith posted an illuminating video tracing these cliches through the lyrics of last year’s popular hits. I’m zooming in a little closer to look at one particular cliche – the prominence of “the night” and other night-related vocabulary in the lyrics of recent country hits. A few caveats before we begin our journey into the night:
1. I’m not necessarily attacking any of these songs for being lazy. I’m pointing a trend into which these songs fit. The merits of each song is another matter entirely.
2. I’m not suggesting that this phenomenon is entirely new, or inherently a symptom of lazy writing. After all, the night is often a time of drama and excitement, and music thrives on drama and excitement. If you looked back at country hits from previous years, you might find a similar pattern. But this trend is worth noting nonetheless.
Without further ado, let the night begin.
I tell you a story. Then I tell it again. And again. And again. Never mind that it wasn’t a very exciting story to begin with. Now I’ve told it twelve times, and you’re getting sick of it.
I’m not just talking about my lackluster social skills. This is the story of country radio in 2014. Entertainment Weekly reporter Grady Smith documented as much in his convincing supercut of mainstream country’s laziest clichés, and Vulture critic Jody Rosen illuminated the phenomenon in two pieces questioning the relative obscurity of female voices on country radio.
This isn’t the only story of modern country music. But it’s become the dominant one.
What’s the point of sitting through countless awards show every year if not to celebrate the few moments on those shows that actually justify our investment? As much as I like to complain that most awards shows are poorly structured, improperly paced and ineptly directed, I watch too many of them to argue that they shouldn’t exist at all. I watch them because I’m hoping to see something that will make the time go by more quickly, be it a spontaneous reaction or an exceptional performance. In chronological order, here are five moments from this year’s awards shows that had that effect.
I’ll be updating this blog all night long with thoughts and grades on this year’s celebration of country music, the CMA Awards on ABC. Read on for the good, the bad and the ugly.