A few words about Brad Paisley’s video, Welcome to the Future, which I continue to see in rotation on CMT, though it’s been more than six months since its release. How about “Yuck”? Or “Ugh”?
Paisley, well-respected as a country artist, has finally jumped the shark. About as "country" as a shopping mall in Minnesota, Paisley unselfconsciously strives to use his considerable podium as a way to “transform” country music, to truly expand its influence to a broader popular market—$$$!—while also attempting to hold on to the things that make the country market “country.”
Paisley wants to have his cake and eat it too: Pretend that he’s the scion of the music of Hank Williams, but also a cool, contemporary (and sexy!) rockin’ cat not too far removed from the teenage concerns of his supposed audience, redneck or otherwise.
But popular music—never mind “country”—is in the shitter, methinks, when we have a song with lyrics like, “I’d have given anything to have my own Pac-Man game at home...” or “I was on a video chat this morning with a company in Tokyo...” Now that’s poetry, man...
All of this is in tribute to the technical age we live in: “Hey, glory, glory, hallelujah / Welcome to the future...” Wow. Brad Paisley meets George Orwell. Or at least hints that he might know who George Orwell is. Or what the future is. Pretty rad for C&W, right?
Of course, this is the good future. Squeaky-clean and upbeat. Where classic country music never necessarily went.
In Paisley’s world, kids with artificial limbs and in wheelchairs smile and look forward to competing in athletic events, the video style of director Jim Shea limning the candy-coated drek of public service announcements ad nauseam. It’s all blessedly One World. Apolitical. Unrealistic. Video crystal meth for ostriches.
Paisley's also got one de rigueur early verse about “My grandpa was in World War II...” Yah, let’s not forget to play the war card, Brad—it’s a country song, remember?—and war SUCKS, but it’s okay to celebrate it if Gramps “fought against the Japanese / He wrote a hundred letters to my grandma / Mailed ‘em from his base in the Philippines...” Those words are devoid of rhyme or inspiration but gol-dang if it doesn’t connect pretty-boy Brad to blood and guts (which he’ll never have to spill, for anyone). In case you didn’t know, this is called MANIPULATION.
Then Paisley throws in two verses about racism—”They burned a cross in his front yard / For asking out the homecoming queen...” plus “From a woman on a bus [Rosa Parks, in case you didn’t guess] / To a man with a dream...” (Doh!) Were those lines written by the “Family Guy” manatees on “South Park”?
Yeah, let’s head racism off at the pass with that one. It’s ALL good, now, folks, ’cause Everyman Brad says it’s so.
Now, I have no problem with our world becoming ever more Paisley Perfect. What I resent is crappy, uninspired, formulaic, warmed-over music with vile lyrics that have no heart and are designed to get the sheeple out to buy CDs and attend concerts. ‘Cause, you know, like, everything’s fantastic!!
Only in your world, Brad. Only in your world.
P.S. According to Wikipedia, "Paisley played the song at the White House for President Barack Obama." That may help explain a lot of things.