Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Country Rap?

"Save a horse, ride a cowboy" is one of the most annoying country songs ever recorded. Not only are the lyrics insipid and the melody, if you can call it that, weak, but it advocates a completely self-centered, hedonist lifestyle. One person (who liked it) said it was country's venture into rap music, which is an insult to country and rap at the same time. I don't like rap (chiefly for the content), but one thing I am certain of is that this is not country's first rap-like song. In fact, on reflection, country has a long history of "rapping" its lyrics, although it is obviously not the primary mode of expression. Johnny Cash, for example, spoke the verses to "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," singing only the chorus. I would describe it as a failed attempt -- certainly one of his worst songs, in a musical sense. He used the same speaking voice in "One Piece at a Time," which is at least a far more interesting song.

Country rap (if I may describe it like that) hit the big time with "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by the Charlie Daniel's Band. It was not only a #1 country hit, but reached #3 overall. Even though I generally don't like songs that are spoken, I love this song; it was popular when I was growing up, so maybe I wouldn't care for it so much if I heard it for the first time now. I also like Jerry Reid's "She Got the Goldmine, I Got the Shaft," which I can't attribute to youthful exuberance, since I didn't even hear it until about a year ago. Obviously the chief interest in this song is the humour; musically, it is more like Johnny Cash's rap songs, and is not nearly as interesting as "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."

Then there is Shania Twain's "Honey, I'm Home," which is not just a spoken song, but more like a hip-hop song in feel: supporting music, especially in between verses, and a heavy emphsis on the rhythm of the spoken words. She also makes a lot of use of spoken words in her other songs, such as "Man, I Feel Like a Woman" and "That Don't Impress Me Much" -- and in a way that works, unlike Taylor Swift, who seems to lapse frequently into speaking in her songs but only in a way that detracts from them.

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