Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Jason Aldean – Fly Over States

He’s from Georgia, don’t you know?


Anthony Easton: Since country is about storytelling, let’s get the narrative correct before we note anything else. Aldean is sitting next to two wealthy passengers in first class. They are all flying from New York to Los Angeles, and somewhere in the air, over what may be Oklahoma, the two men do not understand how anyone can live there. Aldean responds with a litany of what is great about America. In that narrative, let us think about the contradictions. a) Aldean refuses to acknowledge the class components that allow him to sit in first class. b) Aldean thinks that he is closer to the ground than the air, though he is actually sitting in first class. Those are the two big ones, and the ones that I can say without editorializing. It seems to mean something that the farther away that he gets from the land — and I mean this physically, not metaphorically — the farther he gets away from the narrative details that enlivened his early work. But this is not only an Aldean problem. One of the things that I have been worried about is the idea that the land has no connection whatsoever to ideas of class — that the observation of cliches so generic that they cannot be disagreed with is enough of a political statement that country music can no longer juxtapose the implications of small, detailed studies of people with small detailed studies of the psycho-geographic spaces they occupy. This juxtaposition is one of the gifts of the genre, and to lose it, for the refusal of self, and to think that refusal of safe will make you both rich and common, is an act of such naiveté that its deliberateness seems political. Aldean had this potential, this working class boy made good who never forgot where he came from, but his ideas become more general, and the work becomes more banal — and the diminishing returns of his singles output is clearly visible. It has become a way for him to play cowboy and get access to those first-class seats. The 3 is because I still very much like his voice.

Alfred Soto: The rote chord progression reflect Aldean’s ambivalent relation to his wheat-filled terrain and flatbed cowboys; he’s not sure whether they’re worth eulogizing and the song ain’t good enough to sell the ambivalence on its own. Part of the problem is Aldean himself: he sounds mealy-mouthed and tentative. Toby Keith would have known exactly what was needed, not to mention Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert on the other side.

Iain Mew: I’m not from New York or Los Angeles, but as a matter of fact I have been through Indiana. It was boring, too hot and I couldn’t get a decent vegetarian meal anywhere! That’s a dickish response, I know. I don’t genuinely think that I can dismiss somewhere on such little experience, but it’s the response that the song leads me to from its own trading in black and white certainties. It makes a surface show of being a persuasive piece but it doesn’t actually make any real attempts to reach out. If it did, it wouldn’t be so presumptuous about the ignorance of the people it’s addressed to, and would trade in something more than the unexpanded idea that glimpses of fields and meeting a country girl will change your life. The planes/plains pun and the bloated guitar bits both grate too, though I may have been predisposed against it by that point.

Jonathan Bogart: I’m so torn. On the one hand, I’m a resident — if not a very enthusiastic one — of one of those flyover states, and I do experience murderous rage when I read people dismissing the middle of the country, no matter how much they protest that they’re joking. On the other hand, well, I’m in the middle of trying to move out to a coast, to a city with media and culture and infrastructure. I do want to leave it all behind. But it’s like family: I can talk shit about Arizona all day, but you? You shut your goddamn mouth.

Katherine St Asaph: Kristeen Young has one track, “Under a Landlocked Moon,” about this near-exact premise: “Kansas City’s where the problem is, right? / But you don’t even know what state it’s in! Right?” There are two differences between that great song and this mediocre one, neither having jack to do with genre or politics. One, I grew up in a flyover state — well, drive-through, but still — and its population probably contains more of Young’s rebels than Aldean’s stock characters like badass train engineers, throwback cowboys or girls from Amarillo whose personalities consist entirely of being hot and channeling God like scenery in the chorus. Two: Young’s song seethes and snaps where this keens and plods, and Jason’s voice is one round of processing away from Adam Levine.

Edward Okulicz: I don’t know what this song is about, or trying to do. Is it a sincere defense of the merits of fly-over country and those that live it and love it, or is it sarcastic and cynical? Is Aldean singing characters, or just using them as a fig-leaf for his own prejudices? Is the song nothing but an excuse to celebrate how damned euphonious U.S. place names are when sung just right (whole genres have been built on less, after all)? Is the mish-mash of ideas — big pastoral anthem meets enormo-ballad for a film meets unstoppable country-pop crossver, I mean you could tell me the guitar bit in the middle is off a Taylor Swift B-side and I’d believe you — the makings of a curate’s egg or a potluck of a pop song where everyone comes away with something? Since I don’t know, all I can do is applaud its gross (in more than one sense of the word) populism and determination to either please or troll everyone in existence, even if I can’t fully appreciate it. He’s got a great voice, though, and all but the last part of the song (“take a riiiiiide,” that bit just doesn’t work) has something going for it. It need not mean anything as long as it sounds nice.

Brad Shoup: Dolly Parton standing in front of the Gateway Arch: “People think life in the flyover states is a lot of work. But it’s really one big vacation.” Dierks Bentley’s scalp peeking above a shit-ton of corn: “We’re tops in our field!” Matt Holliday pulling a child out of a well: “We really know how to get down.” Lee Ann Womack laying a coyote snare: “There are some real animals out here.” Nelly wrapping tarps over hay bales: “You know how we roll.” Willie Nelson driving a semi, popping greenies in a desperate effort to stay awake: “We love the nightlife!” Ron White fleeing a meth lab on a tip from his uncle: “We’re always cranking it up!” The Westboro Baptist church picketing the Kansas City Royals rebuilding a park playground: “You’ll always find a welcoming committee.” Jason Aldean putting a foreclosure sign on a sixth-generation farmhouse: “We’re always shutting it down. So check out the flyover states. We desperately need the revenue.”

One Response to “Jason Aldean – Fly Over States”

  1. Congratulations, guys — the year’s best blurbs.