Monday, August 14, 2006
these old country boys ain't just playin'; they coachin'
Let's stop all the fussin' and a-feudin', guys

Julie Roberts - Break Down Here

One of my favorite things about country music is the economy of the lyrical structure. Every single line is placed to build up to the one or two lines in the chorus that provide the thematic center of the track. It's even like they've worked backwards, which in actuality, I'm sure they do. The killer phrase in the chorus comes first, and the entire track gets built round that.

It's different to the way things work in other genres. Rock tracks tend to be built in linear fashion, usually an outpouring of the artist's feelings or thoughts. The hook exists to reaffirm the already introduced ideas. It's the idea of the artist as unique genius, some specially-gifted individual with insight into thoughts and feelings the rest of us could not hope to understand. This style of writing assumes that the goal is to plug a hose into the writer's heart and extract pure emotion out through the mouth, with things like words and structure necessary evils. Of course, the end result isn't quite like that.

In hip hop, meanwhile, the hook is usually just the catchy bit to grab your attention - there's a reason why in rap it gets referred to as hook rather than a chorus. Often it doesn't even need to have anything to do with the verses; it can be a thematic re-affirmation, but that's not necessary.

Julie Roberts' "Break Down Here" is one of the best country songs from the past few years, and of course, it has a great idea at its center. Julie's just left her guy and is driving down a road in the middle of nowhere and her car is making those bad sounds that no one likes to hear their car make. And in the chorus she tells us that she sure hopes she don't break down here, but, of course, she's not referring solely to car trouble.

I'd sure hate to break down here/ Nothing up ahead or in the rearview mirror/ Out in the middle of nowhere, knowing/I'm in trouble if these wheels stop rolling/ So god help me, keep me moving somehow/ Don't let me start wishing I was with him now/ I made it this far without crying a single tear/I'd sure hate to break down here.

Dierks Bentley - Settle For A Slowdown

I like to imagine that the guy Julie is driving away from is Dierks Bentley, and that this song is his response. The two tracks, so far as I know, have nothing to do with each other, but if we pretend that they're related it adds another level of meaning that makes each a little bit more enjoyable.

Dierks Bentley (his name is the country equivalent of Juelz Santana) has just been left by his woman and he's got a cute lyric to describe it, too:

I know there's nothing stopping you now/But I'd settle for a slowdown.

Ah yes, emotional pragmatism is a quality so sorely lacking in pop music. Or rather, it's a nice idea; Bentley knows he's fucked up way too much to even entertain hopes that his girl will come back to him, but he hopes she'll at least slow down a little bit as she drives away from him. If that woman actually is Julie Roberts, we know she's feeling just as bad as he is. So, come on Julie... give Dierks a slow down, and maybe you'll realize he's not that awful after all.

Buy Julie Roberts' self titled album from Insound

Buy Dierks Bentley's Modern Day Drifter from Insound

Posted by Jonathan on Monday, August 14, 2006 at 10:13 PM |

Good post, but what really caught my attention: God, I love "Get On Dis Motorcycle". What ever happened to Petey Pablo?

It's kind of frightening to actually be born and raised in the dirty dirty (I learned how to talk while living in East Texas, even!), and not be able to completely understand every word in a country song because the accent is SO DAMN THICK.

Word on Petey Pablo, he was pretty great. My theory is that when he stumbled into the studio to do his verse on Ciara's "Goodies," she consumed him whole, and she's been using his talent as the source for her own ungodly stretch of great singles.

And Katie, me and my fondness for southern accents (and the like) hopes you get yourself a podcast real quick.

Oh, honey, Katie outgrew her accent by the time she was 8 years old. Most people are shocked at my lack of accent, actually. Some would even go as far as to say I sound as though I'm from the northern part of the country. It's fairly bizarre.

I may attempt a podcast or 2 at some point though. Currently, I can't get my mic to work with my pc. But once Mallory moves down, we could might get things rolling.

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A group of kids with WAY too much time on their hands.