Brad Paisley Tells Country Audiences There's Nothing Wrong With White Folks Becoming the Minority
Editor's note: Every couple weeks, Alan Scherstuhl, the film editor at our sister publication The Village Voice, will be taking a hard listen to the music in which millions of Americans soak. We're happy to share his findings.
By Alan Scherstuhl
Brad Paisley, Southern Comfort Zone
Current Billboard Country Singles Chart Position: 10
The Verdict: Holy shit, songs on the radio can still be important!
So, here, in a shimmering single whose title buzz markets a godawful no-whiskey whiskey liqueur, we have a black gospel choir belting "Dixie" while a Nashville star shreds his guitar and sings "I know what it's like to be in the minority." This is the future, people, and it's beautiful.
This one takes a little backstory.
The last time a black man got elected president of these United States, Brad Paisley pissed off some of the country-music constituency by offering something of an endorsement. Paisley's eager puppy of a hit "Welcome to the Future," penned on election night 2008, was so upbeat an appraisal of where we're all headed that it could have been crafted by the fungineers at Epcot.
As he marveled at Skype and iOS games, Paisley also celebrated Obama, sneakily, the way that one Seinfeld celebrated masturbation: by doing everything except coming right out and saying it. Almost as daring was Paisley's "American Saturday Night," a great Trojan horse of a single: Here, in the guise of yet another Nashville cuttin'-loose-on-the-weekend jam, Paisley called upon his listeners to toast their margaritas and Coronas for the history of immigration that brought those margaritas and Coronas here.
Paisley got a little misty performing "Welcome to the Future" at the White House in 2009. At 8:27 or so in the remarkable video below, he has to wipe his eye, mid-solo; earlier, moved while addressing Obama directly, he says "My own children -- you are the first president they will remember."
But being a country star is like being a network news anchor: You're never allowed to have opinions about anything except truths your audience already holds. Paisley told CNN that none of this has anything to do with his own politics, and he next released This Is Country Music, a tradition-minded album/state-of-the-genre address that paid tribute to Clint Eastwood, wearing camo, and the dumb fun of drinking, tanning, and singing along to Alabama. Still, for the apostasy of being so patriotic he'll even wish well to a Democrat, Paisley gets called a commie in YouTube comments.
Paisley's always tacked between the Target and the Walmart, a whip-smart songwriter and guitar virtuoso upscale enough for the former but sufficiently down-home for the latter, where the majority of country CDs get sold. (Many country fans still buy physical media.) Recently, he's tacked back again toward Target, if not Trader Joe's. But he still honors each of his target demographics, even when once again performing at the Obama's pleasure. He wrapped a set at an inaugural ball with a "God bless our president!" And a shout-out to the troops. And a joke about a drunk Joe Biden hitting the beach and doffing his trunks.