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“A Bit on the Ham-Handed, Tyrannical Beauty of Carrie Underwood”

I live in Indiana and so as a result, come across a pretty pungent amount of country music. Growing up, I definitely held country as just about my least-favorite genre and really, it would be still, today, if not for the scourge of maniacally self-centered new rap music that’s come out in the last 10 years. Truth be told, some of the country songs are kind of funny, like that one with the guy rejoicing that he doesn’t have to see his ex-future-mother-in-law anymore, and that Little Big Town romp “Boondocks” is actually fairly catchy and groovin’.

Obviously, some of it is pretty cringe-worthy, but there are a couple other country songs I find pretty listenable, like “Cowboys and Angels” by Dustin Lynch. Carrie Underwood’s “Blown away” is another track I’d slot within this latter category, a tune I’d hear concurrent with “Cowboys and Angels” in 2012 when I worked in this one bar. It’s a dark song, taking on the topic of a deadly tornado ripping through Oklahoma and a girl whose lugubriousness and heartache drive her to welcoming the destruction it causes. Without question, Underwood sings it emphatically, and with a beautiful voice, generally making it a memorable experience.

But this last aspect brings me to what materializes as part of my problem with the song, epidemic, no question, in our mainstream popular culture, at large [1]. She sings with such a gravity and the subject matter is so serious and gloomy that the overall endeavor approaches the realm of oppressive.

Now, no doubt, there are some people who get off on this noxious element of the adversarial, likely the same people obsessed with horror movies. It becomes a debate of whether or not the individual thinks we need another reminder of all the atrocity in the world. Personally, I think the news stands as a pretty reliable lens into catastrophe and disaster, and sometimes wish our popular music would veer more toward the constructive or positive. Along these lines, the art form of hip-hop is a fine illustration of how the most vital music being transmitted in our culture should represent a positive, nurturing force, as in the references to dancing and “friends” in The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and the instrumental slang words coined within the genre, typically emanating from New York City, the birthplace of the art form.  

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[1] For this reason, I’d like to offer the possibility that I’m actually coming down too hard on Underwood, making her a “lightning rod,” so to speak, for a problem that’s really pervasive among copious parties.