Monday, August 18, 2003

So I’ve heard the new Lynyrd Skynrd song, "Red White and Blue," several times now, while driving up and down the East coast on several trips. I intensely disliked the song pretty much from the git-go, bit it wasn’t until a friend expressed his enthusiastic love of the song that I felt compelled to really examine why I disliked it so. The fruits of those "labors," or my lyric-by-lyric examination of what about the song bugs me so:

We don’t have no plastic L.A. friends, ain’t on the edge of no popular trends
Ain’t never seen the inside of that magazine GQ

"That magazine GQ?" "Plastic LA friends?" And what does being on the "edge" of a popular trend mean? Who are they comparing themselves to; who are they mocking? These are, presumably, relatively rich people.

We don’t care if your a lawyer, or a texas oilman,
or some waitress bustin’ ass in some liquor stand
if you got soul we hang out with people just like you

The implication that Bush has soul is pretty terrifying; it basically negates any meaning the word has, had or will ever have. Not to mention that "if you got soul we hang out with people just like you" is just a clumsy, awkward-as-hell lyric.

OK, and now that god-awful chorus:

My hair’s turning white, my neck’s always been red, my collar’s still blue

These are rock singers and musicians, rich rock singers and musicians; by no reasonable definition are their collars "blue." What offends me the most about the song is that it so blatantly panders; they’re sucking up to a blue-collar base they know will lap up this reverse-elitist drivel and pretending they're just the same as them – just the same as the miner, or the truck driver, or the farmer. It’s an out and out lie designed to sell a record, not any kind of genuine statement.

We've always been here just tryin’ to sing the truth to you
Guess you could say we’ve always been red white and blue

The implication here is that they're patriotic, they're American and always have been. They’re positing themselves against some unnamed "other" who is by implication NOT "red, white and blue." Just who exactly is the implied other who's been singing "lies?"

We ride our own bikes to Sturgis pay own own dues smoking camels’
and drinking domestic brews

What dues? "Drinking domestic brews?" Why is that a mark of honor?

If you want to know where I've been just look at my hands

To see the guitar-playing blisters?

Yeah I’ve driven by the White House spent some time in jail
mamma cried but she still wouldn’t pay my bail
I ain’t been no angel but even God he understands

What does God understand? That down-to-earth blue collar types are good people even if they did stupid things? And that "even" in "even God understands" makes no sense; it’s a clear placeholder, a word that means nothing (actually, worse, a word that means something they don’t want it to mean) just to fill out the meter. Rock lyrics are, as a rule, sloppy, but still.

Yeah that’s right

My daddy's worked hard and so have I, we’ve paid our taxes and gave our lives

"Gave our lives?" The singer is dead? The song is clearly about the band themselves; this is no character, so who exactly "gave their life?" Didn’t some Skynrd members die in a plane crash? That’s not "giving" your life; to "give" a life implies sacrifice, not tragic accident.

To serve this great country so what are they complaining about

Who served the country, and who is "complaining?"

Yeah we love our families, we love our kids
You know it’s love that makes us all so rich

As opposed to the millions of dollars? Again, they’re implying that the unnamed "other" doesn’t love their kids. ?

That’s where we’re at and if they don’t like they can just get the hell out

Who should "get out?" The song is an unspecified attack by "the blue-collared, red-necked" on no one in particular, and is designed to appeal to the Proud to be an American crowd’s worst instincts – that they are "real" Americans and "others" aren’t.

That’s why the song is bad.

Until whenever.

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