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Saturday, October 22, 2016

There are many things to say about Brad Paisley’s new song.

The country music giant is under fire for “Accidental Racist,” about a Starbucks employee who objects to Paisley’s Confederate battle flag shirt. The song, Paisley’s attempt to metabolize his conflicted feelings as “a white man comin’ to you from the southland” trying to pick his way through the minefield of race, has generated, well … feedback.

Rolling Stone dubbed it “questionable.” Gawker called it “horrible.” CMT News said it was “clumsily written” and singled out guest performer LL Cool J for an “inept” rap.

They are being kind. As several observers have noted, “Accidental Racist” brings to this difficult subject all the emotional and intellectual depth of a fifth-grader’s social studies essay. And let’s not even get started on LL’s rap, which inexplicably finds moral equivalence between a do-rag and that American swastika, the Confederate battle flag, an act of stupendous stupidity for which somebody ought to pull his black card.

But the song also fails in a more subtle, yet substantive way. Twice, Paisley speaks of the impossibility of imagining life from the African-American perspective: “I try to put myself in your shoes,” he sings, “and that’s a good place to begin, but it ain’t like I can walk a mile in someone else’s skin.” As if African-American life is so mysterious and exotic, so alien to all other streams of American life, that unless you were born to it, you cannot hope to comprehend it.

That’s a copout — and a disappointment. Say what you will about his song, but also say this: Paisley is in earnest. His heart — this is neither boilerplate nor faint praise — is in the right place. Credit him for the courage, rare in music, almost unheard of in country music, to confront this most thankless of topics. But courage and earnestness will net him nothing without honesty.

  • charleo1

    For the first 40 years of it’s existence, so called, “Country,” music, which has
    it’s roots in Traditional Gospel, and Folk Music, originating in the White, Appalachian
    enclaves of Virginia, West Virginia. and along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northern Tennessee. Had not had, a major African American artist to, “break through,” and gain
    admittance into the, heretofore all White stable of entertainers, until as late as 1966.
    And even though, Charley Pride was signed with a major recording label. And was being received very well at live, concerts around the Country. Many of the radio stations refused to play his records to their mostly rural, and decidedly blue collar, audiences.

    Today, the music being sold under the Country brand, is more urban, and it’s material,
    and artists, are targeting a much younger, and trend driven, audience. Cross over
    super stars like Beyonce, and Taylor Swift dominate, Not only the airwaves, but the
    sound, beat, and the production, that speaks to the, 12 to 23 year old females, who
    are buying the bulk of the tickets, clothes, jewelry, and downloads of music today.
    So, I don’t believe we should read too much into this piece of fluff. Other than a
    collaboration of two established, acts, that are getting a little long in the tooth for
    the current market. In the hope, some of L.L.’s fans like Paisley, and vice versa.
    Otherwise they risk getting bumped off the short list of songs, and artists being played
    in a radio rating business. that cares not how many copies your last effort sold.
    But, what have you got for that 12-23 year old demographic?

    • CPAinNewYork


      You really must watch your grammar, because if you don’t people won’t read your posts. Your first sentence isn’t a sentence. The second doesn’t make any sense to me and others are difficult to figure out.

      • charleo1

        Thanks for the good advise. And, I will try. My problem is,
        sometimes by the time I figure out the best way to communicate my
        brilliant, observation, or insightful bit of wisdom, I forget what it was!

  • rustacus21

    “… it’s not like U & me can re-write history…” This is probably the most profound line of the song, which I think, is where alot of us are in America, not knowing where to talk about ‘it’ or who to talk to, about ‘it’. The it being ‘racism’ & how touchy a subject it remains. If only those of us who ‘aren’t’ could get thru to those who are… Unfortunately, there are many who have way more cultural ‘filters’ (income, class, geography, cultural entitlement, supremacist attitudes, etc) that make allows some of ‘us’ to actually build confederacy’s that suppress those they feel are too far beneath them to allow any chance for equality to have a fair chance in even OUR Democracy. This was a very courageous attempt at reconciling 1’s own experiences (which are far longer than this tune allows for discovery), but I for 1 commend the authors ‘all’…

  • Yet another simple-minded boot-scoot through the mental void of a West Virginian who unabashedly identifies with all things ‘Southern’. Paisley isn’t pandering to the weak-minded and paranoiac though–he’s being honest with his feelings. It’s always been an ‘us and them’ thing with people like him.

    As for LL Cool J–he obviously couldn’t pass up the money.

    That said, the music is cut & paste and the lyrics are hideously shallow and stupid–about the only thing they could possibly inspire would be a ho-down full of redneck throwbacks. This isn’t really ‘music’ that enlightens or soothes the soul–it’s an anthem written to comfort the willingly ignorant and fearful–something that helps keep them a step or two away from a pill-swallowing, booze-snorting identity crises.



    • CPAinNewYork

      As the saying goes, they’re still fighting the Civil War.