Living in Texas, I grew up listening to Country & Western music. At one point, Garth Brooks was my model for all this was cool and awesome in the world. That was over fifteen years ago, with at least one hardcore punk rock phase in between now and then, so my views have somewhat changed.
For a few years, I made fun of anything even remotely involved with country music. I was fond of calling it “music to bang your sister to”, and other colorful phrases usually involving incest or bestiality, or some combination of the two. I still have a tendency to make fun of country music, but now it’s not alone, and the reasons are different.
As a writer–specifically, as a poet–I hate idiotic lyrics. Clumsy rhythms and metres, insipid cheese in word choice, and lazy rhyming schemes are the bane of my muscial existence. My opinion, as far as rhyming is concerned, is if you can’t rhyme a word, don’t slant-rhyme it, for the love of God. That’s cheap and unnecessary, not to mention stupid. And if you can’t squeeze a certain word in to fit with the rhythm of a verse, pick a different word. There are a bunch to choose from, and many of them are pretty good.
But those are just pet peeves, more or less. The thing that really gets me, that makes me sad to speak and understand the English language, is that faux-poetic simile that pops up in the sappiest of country ballads. I get it that the people singing the songs probably didn’t write them, but it’s not so damned hard to recognize something that’s just so… Well, silly.
Here’s an example, from a song by a person whose name I don’t know, and the title of which I’ve forgotten:
“…Tryin’ to make somebody care for you, the way I do, is like tryin’ to catch the rain.“
Did you get that last part? “...tryin’ to catch the rain.” At first, it seems like it means something. Like maybe it means that catching the rain is difficult, or takes a lot of energy, or something. But, if you think about it for a second, it might occur to you that catching the rain is about as difficult as knowing how to operate one of these:
Maybe I’m just being mean and unfair. That’s certainly realistic. On the other hand, maybe when you compare trying to love someone with being about as difficult as something a turkey can do with its tiny little face, you’re just being lazy. Really, if rain is easy enough to catch that a turkey can drown itself by looking up at the sky, maybe it’s about time to learn how to cup your hands when it rains.
I don’t willingly listen to most country music, just so we’re clear. I don’t suffer through it just so I can make fun of it later on. It gets piped into the department where I work, and I have to hear it for about five hours a day, not counting the two-hour polka show before lunch, and the one-hour 80s rock program later in the afternoon. I hear the Safety Dance, about four times a day, along with a ridiculous amount of Duran Duran. That’s a whole other article, though.
The Girlfriend just reminded me of a song with lyrics even worse than the one above. It’s called “Stealing Cinderella”, and the end of the chorus goes like this:
“In her eyes I’m Prince Charming, but to him I’m just some fella, ridin’ in, and stealin’ Cinderella.“
That single line contains two of the irritating features I mentioned–the clumsy rhyme, and the stupid metaphor. I don’t know what the guy is trying to imply here, but apparently the girl’s father doesn’t like him because he’s stealing their indentured servant.