I’m going to take a break from the rough world of sexual violence and revenge politics to give a quick run down on the Hot Country Charts you may have been wondering about. Here are 1 and 2.
“What is hot in country right now,” I heard you asking.
Should I be driving my ragtop, or a motorcycle?
Should I be throwing empty beer cans at my ex-girlfriend’s window, or would that now seem inappropriate due to the waxing, waning nature of the times?
What shall I do on my Friday night –should I be wearing cut-offs, or should I be with a girl who is wearing daisy dukes, or should she be naked and in a muddy river? Are we still all pretending to live in Alabama even though we have homogenized our country accent across the western United States?
To that last question, I cannot supply an answer, as not only have I, nor anyone I know, never jumped into an Oregon creek at 2 AM, the appeal of the constantly described “muddiness” of these swimming spots is hilariously lost on me* (ed. to say that okay, yeah, yeah, I’m sure lots of people have, including many people I know, so I recant and say that no one has REASONABLY jumped into an Oregon creek at 2am). Anyway, to peer into the dark twisting caverns of hot hot country radio these days, let’s take a stroll down the billboard!
- Drink a Beer, by Luke Bryan
As much as I adore the hysterics inspired in my belly as I try and probe the impenetrable thorn-forest of Luke Bryan lyrics, I can’t tear him apart for this insufferable, ceaselessly roaring, droning song, because his brother died and he’s sad, and he gets to grieve with a really shitty song if he wants to. Sorry Luke Bryan.
2. Whatever She’s Got, by some hoser who’s name I forget every five seconds.
. . .
It’s David Nail, I had to go look it up again. I really should remember this because the last name of my fifth grade and high school band director was also Nail, and he was from Texas and was famous for throwing music stands, slamming doors in rages and admonishing us for having our Figurative Top Buttons Figuratively Buttoned when trying to play the kind of cool, cool “jazz” that pasty teenagers play at 6 AM on school days.
This song has both charming attributes and horrific drawbacks. The first twenty seconds contain one of my top two favorite rhymes you can hear on the radio these days, which is bending vowel sounds to match up “bright red” and “lip stick.” (My very favorite is from another song and opens with this phrase: “Hammer and a nail / stacking them bales / I’m tired as a dog by the 5:00 hour / but I’m ready to raise hell” and while “nail” and “bales” are indeed a full and not slant rhymes, the fact that he is talking about work makes you maybe think that he’s “stacking them bills” i.e. making money and is slant rhyming, but then you realize that his work is literally stacking bales, and this is a very funny intentional or unintentional double meaning to me).
The reason Nail is talking about “bright red [toenails]” and “lipstick” is because of this darn girl and this intangible and elusive quality she “has got” which he cannot pin down, nor can he resist.
Actually, I’ve managed to weasel out the magnetic force at the center of this allure for him pretty easily in the first verse, because it’s the same intangible and stupidly limiting quality that is applied to the unspeaking heroine in every single contemporary country song. Let me illustrate with these ornate lyrics, and perhaps the poetry will lay itself apparent before you, too:
She’s a little complicated
She’ll make her mind up just to change it
The kind of girl that keeps you waitin’, waitin’ around
She likes to get her toes done bright red
She’s always reapplying her lipstick
The muddy river bank she’s the first in and last out
She’s got something I can’t figure out
That everybody’s talking about
Oh you fickle, fickle minx! This ever so complex and intricate maiden – she seems to be rather high maintenance and demanding, indulging in such feminine frivolities as “lipstick” and painting her toenails, and forcing a wooing gentleman to “wait…around” while she preens. But wait – oh what surprises! Upon arriving at a muddy bank (presumably on a Friday night) this ever-mysterious filly will not only be the first to exhibit fine masculine qualities of gumption, bravery and impulsiveness, jumping in “first”, but will also display endurance and a seeming pleasure in her actions by remaining in the river until all other participants have exited, once again, to the shore. Everyone must be talking about her, indeed!
Let’s see what happens next:
She’s got the blue jeans painted on tight
That everybody wants on a Saturday night
She got the mood ring, she’s never the same
She’s sunny one minute then she’s pouring down rain.
Do you see yet what makes this fair creature irresistible? Well, she apparently is wearing her “blue jeans” so “tight[ly]” that they give the appearance of being “painted” onto her very skin, and also, everyone seems to want her. Both of these factors make a desirable lady.
Next, she apparently is wearing a mood ring – no – wait – it’s a metaphor! See that was surprising, because no one on earth has actually thought about a mood ring for over ten years. Not even 9 year olds having a pizza party at the end of their soccer season in a restaurant that has quarter-vending machines with temporary tattoos inside. Those kids have like, digital stickers or something now.
So, I thought if someone mentioned a “mood ring” in a song, they would be speaking literally and mentioning an honestly weird and unique habit of a girl – “She wears a fucking mood ring! No one does that at all, that’s kind of weird right?? But I like that girl. I mean, she knows that it just depends on how sweaty your hands are, right, and they always just end up being that weird brown/green color?”
I didn’t expect an attempted literary construct meant to invoke a sense of mutual understanding in the common populace. But that’s what Nail has done, and I’d like to point out that, in one of the very few non-literal moments of this song, Nail tried to metaphorically describe how this girl’s mood changes often by describing an object that is (unsuccessfully, but) literally supposed to reflect mood changes.
We’ve established attractiveness based on:
- How fickle be this maiden – she is like the sea! Oh, oh, womanly
nature- how changest thou! How can I resist your witching torments.
2. DAT ASS
3. Everybody wants (see 2)
4. She fronts proper femininity by conforming to ideals based on physical management and confinement and by cleaving to notions of coyness to avoid presenting her desires honestly, but also indulges in actual moments of being a decisive, living human and enjoying herself, which, to David Nail, suggests a certain “wildness” as it is “wild” for her to emulate active human traits.
Congratulations David Nail! You have managed to cram every asshole poet of all time’s dickpet fantasy into about two stanzas – oh wait you are not done!
She also constantly spends “every penny” that you earn, let’s just leave that one alone! 😀
And she demands you change your plans to circumscribe to her evening wishes. Which apparently were to drink a six pack of beer on the hood of the truck and then swim in a river, and I’m having a really hard time believing that anyone of your friends had a different scenario than that in mind. Ye men beware, this witching vixen shall lampoon thy heart’s errands on her pointed horn of cloying deception! Beware ye, on thou muddy river bank! Hexes, hexes, hexes!
One final note – Nail concedes in the final lines that while she may be “a little bit complicated” that’s “alright.”
Alright! THX THX THX DAVID
Stay tuned for the rest of the top 10 songs, coming soon!
* David Nail is from Missouri, and I’m struggling to not say a goddamn thing about Missouri right now because it’s true, I only spent one night in that godforsaken place in the depths of the Mark Twain National Forest, and there might be some really nice other places in Missouri, but as far as I can tell, if I had dipped one toe into one of those haunted hell swamps, full of black trees rotting from the inside and next to a screaming stone bridge, I would have gotten cholera and my soul would have fallen through my eye sockets, bled dry by wasps.