Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

Eric Church – Stick That in Your Country Song

To recap: today we’ve featured songs about pop stardom and country music… perhaps a bit of foreshadowing for later this week?


Alex Clifton: “Stick That In Your Country Song,” as a title, could go one of two ways: it’s either going to be a “good old days” look at older country music (i.e. not Luke Bryan), or it’s going to try to tackle social issues. I was surprised that Church went for the latter, and was definitely not expecting a bridge about how teachers are underpaid. I appreciate the fact that he is grappling with these kinds of issues within the country scene, seeing as how a lot of modern country music reflects a very specific, unrealistic, and skewed version of what America currently is. It gets a bit vague after a while to the point where “stick THAT in your country song” sounds meaningless, but I appreciate the effort in trying. Is this a low bar? Yeah, probably, but one worth noting anyway.

Will Adams: Stick what in my country song, exactly? Vague lip service to strife in the States? Acknowledging that war kinda sucks, man? Beleaguered schoolteachers whose biggest problem is apparently “kids climbing off the walls” (hint: it’s not)? Blowing out my speakers in my car??? It’s hard to say, and that’s the point. The admittedly decent arrangement tells us this is daring, but Church displays nothing but toothlessness.

Thomas Inskeep: I love that Church uses “Stick That” to call out country artists/radio for endless hits that are puerile and anodyne (hi, Luke Bryan!), specifically citing conditions in Detroit and Baltimore, and the plight of the American teacher. I wish he were even more pointed, though. As is, I expect this to top out in the teens of the Country Airplay chart at best; country radio doesn’t like being scolded, even though they couldn’t fucking deserve it more. Church talk/sings this with a passion that you don’t hear enough of in commercial country these days; his vocal gains steam as the song progresses, till he sounds like he’s about to spontaneously combust. The arrangement backs him up nicely.

Katherine St Asaph: The rock is hard, the gospel is stirred, the anger is fiery. The bravery is nonexistent. It’s telling how the most sincere fury comes from the verse with no Message whatsoever (“Light the arrow…”), not the listicle of topics that have been regularly stuck into country songs for quite some time. Even restricting oneself to the 2000s, and leaving out minor acts or critical darlings like Angaleena Presley, John Rich had a single not that long ago called “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” — which was more specific, and at least pretended to be about Rich’s own community, rather than gawking at problems over there, happening to them. “Stick That in Your Country Song” is yet another entry in the tiresome, intellectually dishonest, but ever-lucrative genre of bemoaning the state of the world — here, the world of country airplay — without saying anything that’d endanger one’s own place in it. Remember how Church criticized the NRA? Are there perhaps ways that the ubiquity of guns might affect the lives of teachers, or veterans, or people in North Carolina as well as Baltimore? Stick that in your country song. You wouldn’t even be the first.

Alfred Soto: His genuine talent and occasional greatness contingent upon the tug of war between reactionary tendencies and his contempt for those who relish them, Eric Church is by far the most interesting of the last fifteen years of male country stars. He can write “Kill a Word.” He can articulate white male rage on the rather terrible, unconvincing “Dark Side.” So he writes a song about what country songwriters leave out of country songs but leaves in the reactionary tendencies, which he mitigates with a passionately sung verse about underpaid teachers and churning guitar parts. 

Steacy Easton: Look, good instincts here, and some solid guitar playing, but some of it is kinda racist and some of it is silly, and a lot of it doesn’t earn its gravitas, sliding into bathos and a kind of self-conscious failed art. 

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3 Responses to “Eric Church – Stick That in Your Country Song”

  1. lmao I love the fact that Thomas and I both reference Luke Bryan as everything wrong with country

  2. I couldn’t quite figure out how to work with the queasy feeling I get that, as protest song, this is “American carnage” disguised as anti-Nashville and anti-establishment truth-telling; Baltimore does have dysfunction, but Church’s commentary doesn’t sound too dissimilar to Trump’s invective aimed at Elijah Cummings. But I hate simplifying country music to the partisan politics that belong to many of its listeners; as music, it’s always more complicated than that, as Church has shown elsewhere in his career. Katherine does a good job, I think, of talking about this, and the John Rich invocation is apposite; he has been vocally supportive of the Republican Party, but “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” found a way to tell believable stories that couldn’t be resolved easily into ideology. And, you know, “here is why country music is bad now” is a very well-worn country music songwriting mode. Maybe I would like this better if Church did something with what it is that makes me queasy; I think of Hank Jr.’s “A Country Boy Can Survive,” which is suffused with the ugliness of Reagan-era resentment, but is harder to love and harder to look away from because of it.

  3. Then again there’s also the fact — which I left out, mostly because I just assumed otherwise — that Church didn’t write this. But presumably he did choose it.