Thursday, June 02, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 2: Your Least Favorite Song

Day 2 of the 30 Day Song Challenge asks for "your least favorite song" and I really thought this one was going to be harder to choose than it actually was. I mean, there are whole genres of music that I don't like-- speed metal, experimental jazz, anything Celtic, the endless musical masturbation of jam bands-- but if I picked a selection from one of those, it really would be more an indictment of the genre than of any particular song. The song I ended up selecting was the first one that came to mind, and even after trying to think of something that I liked less, this one just wouldn't be dislodged from its spot as especially disfavored. For the record, the other contenders were formidable: "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin, "Who Let The Dogs Out" by the Baha Men, "With Arms Wide Open" by Creed (actually, anything by Creed), "You Raise Me Up" by Josh Groban and, with some reluctance, also "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison (will cover bands all over the country JUST STOP with this one, please?). But, in the end, most of the other contenders were merely annoying and didn't inspire in me enough distaste to put them at the top-- or in this case bottom-- of a list.

On the other hand, this song did. Here it is, my least favorite song, Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (Angry American)" from his 2002 album Unleashed:



Let me just start off by saying that, even though I don't like Toby Keith's politics, I do like a lot of his music. He really is a master craftsman when it comes to songwriting. And I mean master craftsman. Just check out the lyrical dexterity of "As Good As I Once Was" or "I Wanna Talk About Me." Or the pure, raucous, honky-tonk fun of "Get Drunk And Be Somebody" or "I Love This Bar" or "You Ain't Much Fun (Since I Quit Drinking)." And anyone who can write a song called "Whiskey For My Men, Beer For My Horses" is by definition a great country songwriter. Let me also say for the record that my dislike of the "Angry American" song is not about hating America, or America's troops, or not being hurt and angered by what happened on 9/11.

Those caveats aside, I really do hate this song. And I can locate the exact line in the song at which my hatred for it reaches a white-hot peak. Toby sings:

"We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way."

No, Toby, it's not. It's not the American way. The fact that you and so many other people came to believe that terrible, terrible lie about our country in the last decade is a good part of what's wrong with the world today. When you say "we lit up your world like the 4th of July" knowing full well that those skies were lit with BOMBS (that KILL PEOPLE) and not fireworks... well, that's not clever or funny or even cathartic. It's just "angry." And that anger is, regrettably, aggressive and prideful and violent. It depicts Justice and Freedom as the weapons of vengeance, not the tools of liberation. And in 2002, when this song was released, it confirmed all of the rest of the world's worst fears and suspicions about America. Power corrupts, Toby, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Oh, and one more thing. This is the kind of song that makes people think that country music is ignorant. Natalie Maines (of the Dixie Chicks) said as much after the song was released, resulting in a maelstrom of backwater vitriol from Toby Keith, his fans, and country music radio DJ's all over the country, who burned Dixie Chicks' albums in public. (Because what's a more effective way to demonstrate one's "Americanness" than engaging in Nazi-like mass hysteria?) In response, Maines decided to perform at the Country Music Awards in 2003 wearing the t-shirt you see to the left, which reads "F.U.T.K." Maines explained that she and a lot of other Americans weren't interested in putting a boot in anyone's ass. She claimed, tongue firmly in cheek, that the letters on her t-shirt were not a thinly-veiled insult directed at Toby Keith, but rather stood for "Freedom United Together in Kindness."

That's right, F.U.T.K.

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