I don’t think there’s ever been a song that I’ve wished remained an instrumental as much as this one, as the gorgeous instrumentation, especially the fiddle, is the very best example of what the title claims.
But alas, our reigning Entertainer of the Year insists on tackling the title with lyrics, and it doesn’t end well. It doesn’t even begin well, with the ridiculous notion that country music is where you need to go to hear that Jesus is the answer, as it’s not afraid of rubbing folks the wrong way by saying so in a song. Michael W. Smith and countless Winans have made a career out of doing so without ever recording a country song.
Has Paisley managed to live an entire life in the south without ever stumbling upon Contemporary Christian or Gospel Music? Of course he hasn’t. He’s just decided to do another tired country music spin on American exceptionalism.
We’re not the only country in the world that has freedom. By some measures, we might not even have the most of it. But it makes us feel good to sing along to a song that pretends we’re the only home of the brave and the only land of the free.
This at least accomplishes national solidarity, so it can serve a meaningful purpose. What purpose does it serve to convince people that country music is the only place – the only place! – where we can find songs about cancer and Jesus? And Mama? Don’t forget Mama! Given that Kanye West wrote a better Mama song than any country composition this side of “No Charge”, Paisley best not perform “This is Country Music” on the MTV Awards.
Given that the song quickly devolves into drinking on the weekend and hating on your boss by the second verse, it’s probably a waste of time to over-think this, even if it was Paisley’s insistence that has us going all meta in the first place. By the time he gets all serious again, this time via a soldier not coming home from war, Paisley has weighed down his impassioned defense of country music with so many genre stereotypes that he ends up being a witness for the prosecution.
If you happen to be curious about country music and want a song that also demonstrates “this is country music” without eliciting the knee-jerk response, “Why should I care?”, then I suggest you check out Sugarland’s “Very Last Country Song” instead. It captures the same sentiment attempted here more effectively, and without the nonsensical “My genre can beat up your genre” undercurrent.
Listen: This is Country Music