Thursday, May 25, 2006

Keeping It Real?

An essay in the NYT today about tension between the Dixie Chicks and some country-music fans includes this observation: "The contract between country stars and their fans involves more than a little make-believe. Globe-trotting millionaires often pander to suburban middle-class listeners by evoking a mythical rural life." A lyric from a group called Little Big Town is cited: "I feel no shame/I'm proud of where I came from/I was born and raised in the boondocks."

I don't know. Is this "contract" really specific to country music? Couldn't you change a few words and say basically the same thing about fans of globe-trotting millionaires from Metallica to Pink? How many major stars in any musical genre live and write songs about a life that really is just like the life of their audience? Are country stars "pandering" any more than rap stars who -- having long since left the projects for a mansion in a gated community -- deliver to their suburban, middle-class audiences a vision of inner-city life that, at the very least, dabbles in the mythical? What's the difference between Little Big Town's pride about where they're from, and 50 Cent's pride in where he's from? I was about to say maybe they're both keeping it real. But I think you could just as easily they're both playing make-believe -- which is probably closer to what popular music is really about in the first place.


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