February 20, 2009
What can you say when the song title tells you upfront how generic the song itself is going to be? I mean, the thing practically reviews itself, doesn’t it?
Seriously, though, the problem here isn’t that the song is about why living in a small town is (as you might guess) awesome. The problem is that it doesn’t really give anyone who doesn’t feel the same way any reason to feel otherwise. It was clearly written solely to appeal to a demographic of people who also live in small towns and can relate to surface-level ideas like “everybody knows me and I know them” and “give me a Sunday morning that’s full of grace” (or in Moore’s case, “grA-a-A-a-A-ace”) without any further development of those ideas.
But that’s the thing: without further development, the ideas just sound really, really clichéd. Simply pointing out that you enjoy a “six-pack of Lite” doesn’t really tell me much about you, because guess what? Lots of people from lots of different living environments like lite beer. You have to give your ideas a little context for them to mean anything to anyone but you.
The problem reminds me of “Redneck Woman,” which also glorified a particular rural lifestyle but felt a lot more accessible in how it did so. I think what made the difference was that Gretchen Wilson explained why she liked being a redneck instead of just saying, “hey, I like being a redneck.” For instance, when she mentioned that she liked to drink beer, she set it up as a contrast to being a “Barbie Doll-type” who “swig[s] that sweet champagne,” so that even if we couldn’t relate to that particular preference ourselves, we could see where she was coming from and apply the greater principle in play to ourselves. If her life was a party, she let us in on it.
Moore, on the other hand, is like that guy who calls you from inside the party to let you know how awesome it is without actually explaining what’s going on. It’s not that you don’t believe him; it’s just that he never explains why you should happen to care.
Listen: Small Town USA