1994 was a big year for Tim McGraw. With his first single, “Indian Outlaw,” he deftly revealed just how far we have to go with our relations with and conceptions of Native American people. Not that he meant to; he just released a terrible song, filled with awful clichés that reached Number One on the US charts because white people, right?
If you were to ask me what the worst song I’ve ever heard in my entire life is (go ahead; ask me, quietly, just whisper it in your mind), I would tell you without hesitation that Tim McGraw’s “Indian Outlaw” is the Abomination that Causes Desolation, the Thing That Should Not Be, the Final Solution of Country Music.
As I’ve said before, country music is a train wreck, a big one, where you can’t identify the body parts because they’ve been replaced by twisted steel and tiny fragments of seats and gears. Everything is all jumbled together and, unless you’ve happened to luck onto some old stuff, you can’t tell the country from the can’t-ry.
So why do I still listen?
This is the South, damn it, and we are nothing if not polite. When attempting to obtain female companionship, we may leer at a girl from a distance for a while, but really, that’s the same thing women do while shoe shopping. Look at the shoes, imagine what the shoes would look like on, think about taking them out for a night, and then return them to the store the next day because they just don’t fit.
Is that wrong?
Country music is all fucked up right now, a hat-wearing mass of contradictions, suffering from multiple personalities, trying to please all the people, all the time, and straying so far from its roots that hearing traditional country on the air anymore is a miracle. Country rap is on the rise, as are guitar riffs and bass lines that would have been giant hits as hair metal songs during the Eighties. It’s hard to even define country anymore, and if you think it is all sad trains and dogs and singlewide trailers and Mama in the rain, you haven’t listened to country in a long time. There are still novelty songs floating around, catchy like West Nile virus, the equivalent of waiting until the rest of the family is in bed before eating that box of donuts on the counter. Now the genre is showing a disturbing amount of culture appropriation, including all the misandry and misogyny found in some rap and R&B music. There’s a lot of shit out there, and finding a jewel among the turds is not an easy task.
And I’m saying this as a fan.
As much as there are terrible things in country music right now that need to be called out, the good songs also need to be recognized and praised. That’s about as close to a mission statement as you’ll get from me, and that’s what this new column is going to strive to do: separate the horrendous stinking crap from the finely crafted good songs and sparkling production Nashville has been known for since . . . well, since Buck Owens started recording in Bakersfield.
I told you country music was full of contradictions.