In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Paisley said about his newest single: “It’s really rare that you feel musically that something you do is more important than just entertainment. And I feel like this song is maybe more important than just entertainment.”
This statement will be met with many a raised eyebrow, and understandably so, as it comes from the artist who previously breathed musical life into ticks, alcohol and MySpace. But interestingly, it’s the same intuitive, sharply clever perspective behind Paisley’s novelty songs that allows him to so tastefully tackle the socially-conscious “Welcome to the Future” – a solid, moving track that is both musically and, as Paisley said, thematically relevant.
“Welcome to the Future” tells three simple yet poignant stories of progress through Paisley’s eyes, building from awe at the advancements of technology to a wistful look back at his grandfather’s World War II service to marvel at the social revolution the nation has witnessed in the decades past. As the song unfolds, the tone smoothly intensifies, allowing the last verse to pack the punch:
I had a friend in school
Running back on a football team
They burned a cross in his front yard
For asking out the homecoming queen.
I thought about him today
And everybody who’s seen what he’s seen
From a woman on a bus
To a man with a dream.
Paisley has been open about the roots of “Welcome to the Future,” citing his experience in Times Square on the 2008 election night, but it’s clear he didn’t intend for the song to fit the quintessential political country song mold. In fact, the song hardly fits any mold, as it seems to be two-fold in almost all regards.
It’s bold, yet lighthearted. It offers fitting, unexpected sonic splashes against steel guitar and fiddle. It defies country music stereotypes, but resonates with the same authenticity from which the best country songs are born. And most fascinatingly, “Welcome to the Future” is loaded with a heavy message, but it doesn’t preach – because ultimately, the song isn’t about race or politics or taking a stance. It’s about hope, and Paisley spreads hope the way it should be spread, woven through real stories, from the smallest to the largest.
Written by Chris DuBois and Brad Paisley
Listen: Welcome to the Future