I married a Southerner. Happily. This has meant many things, all positive, including an expansion of my perspective on the American experience that I’m grateful for. But it also means that my wife has a genetic predisposition to enjoying country music. True, this has mostly faded in the years since college and since we’ve moved to Chicago. But ocassionally she needs a fix and because our music is all part of one server and played through an app that sends all songs played to a server that I excerpt on this blog you’ll sometimes see my queue tainted with twang. And normally this twang comes from The Dixie Chicks.
Now, I have no specific aversion to country music. I just don’t care for it. I went to college in Nashville where I experienced a broad range of the genre, from near-folk to “new” country and everything in between. Never cared for any of it.* But whatever. The thing is, I really respect The Dixie Chicks. You might recall that they proclaimed embarrassment being from the same state as Bush a few years ago. At the time, America was preparing for war. This didn’t sit well with the bedrock mainstream radio audience of country music. Death threats were hurled, stations were boycotted, everything you’d expect from a demographic trying their best to affirm stereotypes of gun-toting, chest-beating, and a profound confusion of the difference between loving America and loving America’s leadership. The Dixie Chicks took it in stride, apologized, kept touring to sold-out crowds and that was that.
The Dixie Chicks have a new album. Country stations by and large still cave to the vocal few who find it unpatriotic to play their music. And yet, the Dixie Chicks are one of the most frequently downloaded acts on the Internet. Mainstream radio, running scared as it is from downloadable music, streaming music, and satellite radio, needs to do everything they can not to lose more listeners, but this is really quite pathetic. They are digging their own grave by not playing what people want to hear. Truth is, most people don’t really care what the Dixie Chicks or any other band stand for. They just like the music. If stations keep listening to an extreme minority they’ll end up playing only for them and fulfilling the feared outcome of not having a market that can support their ad-based model.
Not all heavy metal is about eating babies and Satan worshipping, so why should all country music be about ramming an American flag up a terrorist’s ass? Please people. The market will bear this out. If enough people are truly upset about the Dixie Chick’s stance then they will make no money, their label will drop them, and they will cease to be viable as a commercial music act. But for now, this isn’t happening. Accept it and relish the fact that most of the places that country music listeners most fear don’t embrace that kind of freedom of speech or free-market mechanism. It is as thoroughly American as a pickup truck.
[*] OK, I will admit that I do find bluegrass somewhat interesting. When I was a DJ on our college station the slot before mine was a long-running and award-winning bluegrass show. As I queued up my records and CD’s in the second studio I came to appreciate the genre in the brief slice I got over the monitors. But just you try to make a smooth segue from banjo to Front 242. Not possible.