Strum and Twang: A Look At This Week’s Top Five Country Singles

Rap and rock are about rappers and rockers, about virtuosity or bad-assedness or some other salable trait specific to an individual performer. Country hates all that. Instead, it takes as its subject its own listeners. The only boasting you’ll hear from the hatted pros concerns their audience: that they’re decent, humble, and everything that’s right with America. It’s no coincidence that the audience in turn reflects these salable traits back on the flatterers. Whether it’s talk radio or CMT, the surest route to greatness is to reassure the audience that they’re already great. As for virtuosity, oversinging afflicts country, but the closest Nashville radio comes to instrumental showboating is some session player’s polite little lick just before the verse starts.

This week’s top five is led by two godawful flatterers, one jingoistic and one exploiting region and class. There’s also a pair of weepy show tunes and, bless me, “It Happens,” a New Wave number worth any rock fan’s download.

5. Sugarland, “It Happens”

Verdict: A keeper

I am incapable of playing this just once. All riff and bounce, with a wake-up couplet out of 9 to 5 and a clap-along final chorus out of Cheap Trick At Budokan, this throw-away pleasure takes on weight from its very offhandedness. That’s a rock-and-roll trick, and this is a rock-and-roll song, one classified as country only because of Jennifer Nettles‘ twang, some cloying regular folks signifiers (“goin’ down to Wally World”) and the fact that rock radio rocks but never, ever rolls. The chorus goes, Ain’t no rhyme or reason/no complicated meaning, which is both an expression of and a kick against relativism. Choice Detail Guaranteed to Connect to Listener’s Lives In A Way Rock and Pop Don’t: the narrator drags into work an hour late, “a walk of shame with two different shoes on.”

Categories: Music