Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Mallary Hope – Blossom in the Dust

Wee entrée to today’s main course…


Chuck Eddy: Girl named Rose in tattered dress born in weed-strewn trailer park to teen Mom with presumably drug-related “habit”, winds up with “real nice” and presumably higher class couple “across the county line” who haven’t had much luck coming up with offspring of their own; blossoms like a rose growing through concrete in Spanish Harlem except this is the white trash version, not to mention a do-gooder pro-adoption (hence implicitly anti-abortion) P.S.A. Still, as inspiring an upswoop as Trisha Yearwood ever managed in the ’90s — best country single I’ve heard so far this year.

Katherine St Asaph: On paper it looks like just another inspirational bit, destined for play in contemporary churches and Idol Gives Back. Thankfully, it cuts the glurge (instant adoption as cure-all for broken home, token drug use and prostitution, given name second only to Hope for obvious symbolism) with enough specific details, mainly in the first verse, and Martina-like likability for the song not to cloy. Much.

Martin Skidmore: I like the fairly trad country arrangement, and she has a pleasant voice, though I like it less in the higher register. I’m not sure the vague and rather sentimental song amounts to much, but it’s very listenable.

Michaelangelo Matos: I might enjoy this as kitsch if it weren’t so totally wrongheaded. No, singer-person, you do not make a very convincing social worker. Who else would precede “Between the habit and the job that her mama had” with “Fragile little Rose had to grow up fast.” Who the hell refers to a child as “fragile” at the beginning of the sentence? Anyway, this is a feel-good soap opera about a 16-year-old mom whose kid is taken away and put into nice middle-class home (presumably where nothing ever goes wrong). As in, “We rescued that child in the nick of time/Found a real nice couple ‘cross the county line/Who’d been trying to have a little girl of their own/And would give anything to give a little Rose a home.” Rose, of course, has “tangled curls,” because the social workers took the kid right from her mother to the real nice couple without bathing her or combing her hair.

Iain Mew: This is oh so pretty, with pedal steel on overdrive, but there’s something missing from the tale. The distance between “I’ve never seen a situation half that bad” and salvation seems so small, everything so breezy, that there’s never any tension at all. What’s surely meant to be hard-won success feels inevitable from the start and it’s a bit too fluffy as a result.

Jonathan Bogart: Before I decide whether I love or hate this song, I need to know who Mallary means by “we.” Who is the mysterious entity that rescues that child in the nick of time, finds a real nice couple across the county line, and hectors us to give her rain, sun, and all our love? Child Protective Services? The courts? The local do-gooder’s union at the church on the right side of the tracks? And what’s the mama with the habit and the job have to say about any of this? (Interesting that the double-wide with the old car in front is a condemnatory image here, where it’s a nostalgic one in much modern country.) It’s not that I’m against adoption — quite the opposite — but I’m suffocated by what I can only call the self-congratulatory whiteness of the song, the sense that the Real Nice Couple (and, by extension, the upstanding, community-pillar country audience) is necessary for Rose to blossom; she herself (not to mention her mother) is entirely free of agency in this little parable. Plus the metaphor’s mixed — she’s not blossoming in the dust, you’ve plucked her up and replanted her in a walled garden. What I really want to hear is the song Rose would sing about it all.

Ian Mathers: I am fully willing to accept that my uneasiness with the lyrics here has more to do with cynical ol’ me than with any actual fault on Hope’s part. Some small part of it is Hope’s extremely generic female country singer voice (I can’t tell them apart any more than I can death metal singers), which causes the knee-jerk part of my brain to watch warily for the moment when the song turns into some sort of Tea Party polemic. Which, whatever her actual political sympathies, is pretty damn unfair to the singer; “Blossom in the Dust” is nothing more complicated than a straightforwardly decent paean to, essentially, rescuing a child, and Hope sings the hell out of the chorus. It’s disturbing that positive sentiment presented so directly bothers some part of me, and that might be the most valuable thing (for me, at least) about the song.

Anthony Easton: I really don’t like the voice here. Plus, it has a coyness which I think is against the spirit of country music.

12 Responses to “Mallary Hope – Blossom in the Dust”

  1. reading through Mallary’s information on this song, she stated she wrote this song about a girl she went to school with and basically this is her story that Hope drew her information from. The girl’s name is Rose that she went to school with and lived through this situation. I don’t take the song as a Political view, Preachy I find it Song about a Situation .. Personally I like the upbeat up-tempo song. I also checked out Mallary’s other song Love Lives On which she wrote about her sister’s situation. I love the fact that she writes this type of songs. I love the fact that it reminds us “Sometimes the only way to overcome a circumstance is someone giving someone else a fighting chance”.

  2. I love Jonathan Bogart’s blurb and wish the song had been willing to stir up some of the issues he does. But sometimes kids really do need to be taken away from their parents, and sometimes they take themselves away (i.e., run away), and in either event they can end up homeless, in jail, shunted from foster home to foster home, or a ward of the state in some other way. Or neighbors and friends and local churches try to step in unofficially and under the radar and do what they can. I like Kim’s point that this is just a particular story, a song about a situation. But somewhat different takes on the same situation, without a nice family ready to take up the load 24/7, are less likely to get on country radio. And I doubt that this particular “solution” to the “problem” is ready at hand, usually – I wouldn’t know, but I wouldn’t bet on there being such families generally available, so there’s false reassurance here. And some such good families might be as abusive in their way as families with a mom with a habit and – horrors! – a job. None of which makes me downgrade the song, which I’d give a 7. I’m erratic as to when attitudes I disagree with cause me to downgrade a song, upgrade a song, whatever. Often depends on how much the attitudes shut down the music. I’m touched by the feeling in the song. But when Mallary sings “I never seen a situation half that bad,” I did say to myself, “Well, fuck you then, you ignoramus; you haven’t seen a lot, have you.”

  3. I don’t know if what I just wrote is completely clear (but then my ideas aren’t). But all the song says about the mother is that she’s a teen and has a habit and a job, and that in itself is supposed to indicate that the kid is being subjected to intolerable neglect and abuse. And that the response should be to take the kid away (as opposed to giving the mother help and support). That’s what strikes me wrong about this story. Which doesn’t mean that sometimes irl (or in a song, for that matter) kids don’t have to get away/be taken away. Just that this song hasn’t given us such a situation, or anyway hasn’t given us enough of the situation, and it thinks it has.

  4. And speaking of a teenage Rose in a difficult situation, there’s Martina McBride’s “Wild Rebel Rose,” the girl in a genuinely abusive situation, a country “Janie’s Got A Gun.” Good song, one that doesn’t leave us with the situation all wrapped up nicely and happily.

  5. Huh. I took the bit about the “job” to be an indirect, bless-your-heartish reference to prostitution — what other jobs would create a broken home in songworld? Or maybe I’m just playing fill-in-the-cliche.

  6. i’m gonna cop this as one of my favorite songs of the year ok? ok

  7. Perhaps this is my own unenlightened upbringing showing through, but I took “job” literally and read it as bad because Mothers Should Be At Home Raising Their Children.

  8. Katherine, you may be right.

  9. Pleased and surprised that my nominating this song for the Jukebox generated so much smart and passionate response, especially overnight. Still absorbing what people have written, and I agree with a lot of it — the song is without a doubt wrong-headed and simplistic, and maybe ethically reprehensible, and to a great extent utter bullshit. All of which I tried to suggest in my own blurb obviously (which was really just a slightly revamped version of what I’d written on ILM’s Rolling Country thread.) Just not convinced, in this case, that any of that should make me like the record less, or that more specifics and explantation about the situation at hand would’ve necessarily improved the record. In fact, part of what I like is that the song raises uncomfortable issues and draws a line — a class line, a geographical county line — even if it’s not a line I can buy into. (Or can I? Hate to say it, but part of me honestly believes, that, all things being equal, the kid might not be better off being raised by a teenage mom on drugs, whether she’s also a prostitute or not. Of course, thousands of other factors figure in, and Mallary Hope leaves lots of questions unanswered. And that said — and it’s worth mentioning that I’m technically adopted myself, by my stepmom after my parents died, and I’m also a parent who still isn’t quite perfect at it — most of the moral reservations that people mention above ring true to me.)

    And yeah, Martina McBride’s “Wild Rebel Rose” is also a great song, my favorite track on her last album — in fact, I mentioned it myself and compared it to “Janie’s Got A Gun” in my review of “Wrong Baby Wrong” here a couple months ago. Just not as sure as Frank I prefer it this one.

  10. “…prefer it to this one.”

  11. By the way, I forget where all I’ve linked this, but here are Mallary Hope and Taylor Swift doing a Christmas-party karaoke “Gunpowder And Lead.” Think Taylor comes across much stronger, as if she’s been waiting her whole life to sing it, while Mallary seems like she’s trying to figure out which chops to apply. I like how Taylor acts out the song with her left hand.

  12. i also took job to mean whoring, and it reminds me of Fancy, which reminds me of how antiseptic this is; i don’t think all modern country is, of course it isn’t…but for all of the issues that it adresses, it lacks feeling.