Monday, February 25th, 2019

Rodney Atkins ft. The Fisk Jubilee Singers – Caught Up in the Country

Going along for the ride…


Thomas Inskeep: Because this is Rodney Atkins, he of “If You’re Going Through Hell” fame, I expected this to be fairly trad country, especially with a title like “Caught Up in the Country” and lyrics that back up its conceit. But this is instead more like Kane Brown on coke and steroids, fast as hell and amped up even more. And then add into the mix a pickin’ contest kinda banjo, a “We Will Rock You” footstomp backbeat, and — because it wasn’t already enough of a mélange — the Fisk Jubilee Singers, an HBCU choir dating back to the late 19th century. Which is all to say, this record is kind of insane. And even more insane is that against all odds, it works. And works. And is in and out in 2:41! This isn’t lightning in a bottle, it’s a Mason jar full of fireflies, and I think I’ll hold onto it for a while.

Iris Xie: Katherine St Asaph: “Bro-country is the closest thing pop music has to power ballads anymore.” I need to start off with that, thanks Katherine, because that holds super true for this song. Also, I’m impressed that songs still dare to start out with lists of descriptors, considering “The Fox” exists. Those crunchy synths with the claps and stomps at 1:50 are disorienting, and honestly exactly like another pop song bridge I can’t pinpoint at the moment, but I do think if Max Martin made country music, he’d make a bridge like that. But this sounds like one of those pop-country hybrids that are meant to be nonthreatening to those who are unfamiliar with country music, but ends up watering down hard-won tropes for meaningless mass appeal. I know country can be so much better than this, but this is about as inoffensive as the vanilla ice cream cups you receive at school twice a year — it’s not quite real ice cream, but it’ll work if you are looking for the flavor of the fake approximation.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Those are some thin “whoa-oh” chants and cheap-sounding stomps for a song this overproduced. Even then, wow — this song so confidently traverses double-time, half-time, and spoken word sequences all under three minutes that it actually makes the countryside feel like more than a list of cheap signifiers. It’s in the little details too; Atkins employs different instruments sparingly — rapidfire banjo, serene lap steel, a quaint four-note piano melody — to evocative effect. You feel how vast the countryside is in the song structure, but it’s in the instrumentation that you sense its richness.

Alfred Soto: Some tunes don’t even deserve the moniker “advertisements for themselves.” John Deere prefers sycophancy less fulsome.

David Sheffieck: All the character of encyclopedia entry’s worth of signifiers — lyrical, instrumental, and vocal — crushed together and piled up into a twisted mass, finally bursting into flames somewhere around the pseudo-EDM breakdown. Impressively cheap and breathtakingly cynical, an algorithm’s idea of country music.

Jonathan Bradley: There are no people in Rodney Atkins’s “Caught Up in the Country.” He reels off his list of rural Americana signifiers like he’s cribbing the Kanye flow on “Two Words,” but though he finds artifacts of humanity — tractor paint, domesticity, agriculture — not a single human being enters the lyric. It’s just him and the almighty; when he says he’s caught up in the country, it’s like he actually means nature. The depopulated landscape is a bit eerie — where have all the people gone? — and a bit unusual, because when country usually talks about country, it doesn’t usually mean country, it means a culture: one that’s implicitly but not definitely Southern, implicitly but not definitely rural, and implicitly but not definitely white. Take Brad Paisley’s “Southern Comfort Zone,” which overflowed with lived experience in its attempt to capture the duality of the Southern thing. Or take Jake Owen’s “American Country Love Song,” which imagined that the soul of a land could be trapped inside a single heterosexual romance. The man on “Caught Up in the Country,” however, sounds like he wants to get away from everyone — to where there’s only creek and sky and stars. But then there’s that feature credit, and no white country singer puts the Fisk Jubilee Singers on his track if he has no interest in people. The group doesn’t overwhelm with its presence, which makes it seem an adjunct; a stomping coda awkwardly acknowledges their contribution. Maybe Atkins wanted to pare country back to something that he thought could be universal. Paisley’s effort was more deft, but, on the other hand, his had “Dixie,” not an HBCU ensemble.

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3 Responses to “Rodney Atkins ft. The Fisk Jubilee Singers – Caught Up in the Country”

    That last sentence, especially, kills.

  2. Also, I LOVE the controversy index on this one: 1,2,4,7,7,9.

  3. Sadly, the controversy got knocked down a bit by number of contributors — but it’s still good enough for #3, behind Kacey M at #2, dethroned by CupcakKe, her first appearance on our controversy charts.