Showing posts with label Worst of. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Worst of. Show all posts

Apr 5, 2022

Still More Worst Country Songs of the Last 4 Decades

By Bobby Peacock

I really didn't want to do this, because I feel that I've let negativity get the best of me lately. But I just found too many songs not to do a part three. This is the last one, I swear.


"Arab, Alabama" by Pinkard & Bowden

The only thing keeping me from also including "Libyan on a Jet Plane" is that I can only find a live version. This one's dated "jokes" about the PLO, Cubans hijacking planes, South Americans smuggling drugs, and Fidel Castro marrying "one of Loretta's sisters" read like a couple of racist hillbillies thumbing through the newspaper and riffing on everything they see. And that's before we get to them referring to Middle Easterners as "sheet heads"; a list of offensive stereotypes is just that. But what do you expect  from a couple buffoons who think that shoving the word "cock-sucking" into a song called "Censor Us" is a punchline? (And more importantly, how did one of these guys also write "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma?”)

"Everybody's Sweetheart" by Vince Gill

I hate to do this to Vince Gill. But that one line, "shoulda kept her barefoot / Barefoot and pregnant all the time"... yeah, that's some really ugly sexism. There is no way to deliver that line correctly, and I'm surprised it wasn't more controversial even in 1988. And it's a shame that I'm letting it come down to that, because the central idea on its own -- the conflict one feels in a relationship where both people are touring musicians (in this case, Janis Oliver of Sweethearts of the Rodeo) is a great idea for a song. But to actively wish disdain on your own spouse's career, and in such a crass, misogynstic fashion to boot? Thankfully he treated the same topic more tactfully with "The Radio". And I really can't see him saying anything like this about Amy Grant.

"I Loved 'em Every One" by T. G. Sheppard

After the "worst of the '80s" list dropped, I had a DJ e-mail me and thank me for including "War Is Hell (On the Homefront Too)". He stated that he also dislikes how most T. G. Sheppard songs are "about getting laid" and I realized just how true this is. (His '70s songs, like "Devil in the Bottle", sound like a completely different artist.) Plowing through women like an allergy sufferer through Kleenex is bad enough when you're not even trying to assign any personality or emotion to them; outright admitting that not one, but several of them were prostitutes is just the added layer of squick. He may be hoping they had some fun, but I'm just hoping that everyone got tested for STIs.

"Red Neckin' Love Makin' Night" by Conway Twitty

Among an otherwise decent run of singles in the 80s, hampered only by some dubious cover songs ("The Rose"), we get him setting the stage for the chest-thumping boogie-country of Hank Jr. and the sleazy "drink beer with a hot girl in a truck" of bro-country. The only difference is since this is 1981, the music's on an 8-track instead. Conway's attempts at asides and breaking from meter only make the song sound more forced and drawn out than it needs to be -- not that the horribly-scanning lyrics ("I got a six-pack of longnecks in the trunk on ice / Ooh, but you sure look nice") do him any favors on this front. What a waste of the usually reliable Max D. Barnes and Troy Seals. Even "Tight Fittin' Jeans" manages to be a million times less sleazy.


"Better Than a Biscuit" by John Berry

For a long time, the three tracks off John Berry's two unreleased Capitol albums seemed to exist nowhere on the Internet. "The Stone" and "Over My Shoulder" are both good songs, but this one... oof. I'm not opposed to food songs -- hell, "Weird Al" Yankovic built a career on them -- but there has to be some thought put into them. While the production is looser than usual for him, it's wasted on some of the worst lyrics I've ever heard. "Somebody call the Colonel, she's finger-lickin' good" (dude, I don't want to know what she was doing to your fingers), "She'd make any turkey breast look like a can of Spam,” and let's not forget the hook: "she tasted better than a biscuit double-dunked in red eye gravy.” It reminds me of "Fancy Like" in just how blatantly un-dignified it is -- even if, unlike that song, it actually bothers to sound country.

"Don't Take the Girl" by Tim McGraw

As my disdain for "Humble and Kind" showed, I'm not afraid to go after some of Tim's more beloved songs. Even when I was 7, I thought this was hackneyed. From the forced name-drops in the first verse (Jimmy Johnson and Tommy Thompson? Really?) to the robber at the movie theater to the now-grown woman dying in childbirth, the melodrama just gets thicker and more contrived as it strains to match the hook. "Same chorus, three meanings" is such a common country music trope that can be done well or badly like anything else, but the lengths to which this one stretches are far beyond my suspension of disbelief. His whiny vocal does nothing but prove how much more nuanced he'd get in the coming years. It's not hard to see why I can only find one other charted single for either writer...

"Genuine Rednecks" by David Lee Murphy

How is this is the same David Lee Murphy behind such thoughtful songs as "The Road You Leave Behind" and "Dust on the Bottle"? Even worse is how blatantly he's ripping off his own "Party Crowd"; while that one had the setup of a likable everyman just wanting to ease his broken heart, this one lacks any semblance of setup other than "I want to party". There's an annoyingly judgmental tone to lines like "if you don't like them, you won't like me" and "where I do belong, it don't come with a crystal chandelier", combining with an overdone fake twang. It's not hard to see why this brought his singing career to a screeching halt, and it's only worse in hindsight when you follow the trail from this to his worst co-write by far, Josh Thompson's "Way Out Here.”

"The Man Song" by Sean Morey

My dad used to listen to The Bob & Tom Show when I was young. This was my first exposure to awkward foul-mouthed male comedian-singers whose work has mostly aged poorly, such as Tim Wilson (who, incidentally, co-wrote the aforementioned "Arab, Alabama"). From that same mold comes Sean Morey, who doesn't even really bother with the whole "singing" part. Instead, he recites rote non-jokes about a henpecked husband ("I wear the pants around here... when I'm finished with your laundry") that, even by 1998, seem extremely outdated, sexist, and not funny. But what do you expect from a man whose idea of a Christmas song is racist stereotypes, and whose apparent comedic pinnacle is called "The Hairy Ass Song?”


"Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey's Song)" by Buddy Jewell

While the curiosity of a child is only natural, this song goes off the rails fast. No kid that isn't in the comic strip The Family Circus is going to think that the Milky Way Galaxy is literally a candy bar, or that angels "pour out the rain". (What you believe about Heaven is ultimately up to you, but I think most people -- even kids -- know that it's not just a visit.) And of course, this doe-eyed naïveté moves the narrator to pull over, cry, and pray about meeting Jesus, all while recounting the situation in a schmaltzy "la da dee" croon. Again, you can believe whatever you want as long as it's not harmful, because it's turtles all the way down the line. But this is the kind of over-the-top contrived schmaltz that doesn't even belong in a PureFlix movie.

"I Don't Know What She Said" by Blaine Larsen

I admit that I never cared for Blaine Larsen. Most of his songs (I'll give him "How Do You Get That Lonely") felt as if others were forcing this suave Southern gentleman style onto him against his will. But the only one that actively annoyed me was this one. Thankfully it isn't overtly racist like "Illegals" or "This Ain't Mexico,” and it at least bothers to get the Spanish mostly correct (outside a couple jokey lines like "señor blah blah blah blah"). But it still has a smug, condescending, and borderline creepy tone toward the attractive Mexican woman. It's hard not to read this as a horny 20-year-old trying to get laid. And cringeworthy "no one actually says that" lines like "J.Lo had nothing on her" don't help, either.

"I Got My Game On" by Trace Adkins

Most of Trace Adkins' novelties didn't bother me much. I'm not gonna say that "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” "Swing,” or "Ladies Love Country Boys" are good, but they at least seem like plausible everyman scenarios. This is just a rich cocky asshole bragging about his Cadillac, platinum credit card, Armani suit, and alligator boots, not to mention all the tail he's getting. Exactly what part of this is supposed to be entertaining or even relatable to anyone not among the elite? Maybe it catered to the people who would later watch him on The Apprentice. But for those of us who want no part of testosterone-fueled power fantasies, I'm just left wondering why he was so anxious to withdraw "I Wanna Feel Something" for new music if this is what he had to offer.

"I'll Walk" by Bucky Covington

This one almost feels like a parody of the old "use the chorus in three scenarios" trick. How do they go from having a fight on prom night, to her getting hit by a drunk driver, to him suddenly turning around any marrying her? The setup is so contrived, not to mention downright manipulative by dismissively framing the woman in the song as the vehicle for a horribly predictable outcome. There's no other emotion -- no guilt on his part, no anger on either of theirs. "The Walk" by Sawyer Brown was a million times better at recontextualizing different "walks" between two people, and "The Impossible" by Joe Nichols a million times better at handling someone overcoming a handicap.

"Lost" by Faith Hill

Faith's bombastic country pop diva shtick was never my cup of tea outside "Cry,” and it was pretty passé by 2003. While Fireflies relegated the bombast to the deep cuts and went with an okay-to-great batch of singles, I guess she just had to get one last awful power ballad out of her. (I would expect no less out of a "hit factory" style songwriter such as Kara DioGuardi.) There's no semblance of originality to be found in this already outdated and sterile approach: "if it's a dream, don't wake me up,” "with me everywhere I am,” "can't believe we've come this far" are all belted to the rafters as if they're the most important truisms in the world when they're barely good enough to even put in a Hallmark card. At least "Red Umbrella", love it or hate it, had flavor.

"Maybe She'll Get Lonely" by Jack Ingram

This one came out at the same time as Lee Brice's "Happy Endings,” another song in which the narrator hopes that his ex will have a change of heart. A lot of songs have done it, and maybe if there weren't a much better take on the same premise out at almost exactly the same time... nah, this one would still be just about the least amount of imagination given to this premise. Screen door, kicking up dust, praying, turn that wheel around, love her/need her/can't live without her, too far gone -- there isn't a single original or interesting line that has even the tiniest bit of personality. There's barely even setup, and the hook is just weak-willed at best. This was around the same time that Pat Green was getting all of his edges sanded off in a failed attempt at going more "mainstream,” and for both him and Ingram, the results were just pitiful pandering that pleased nobody.

"Nothing Catches Jesus by Surprise" by John Michael Montgomery

What... is this song? One of the last credits for Waylon Jennings before his death, the first major misfire for Tom Douglas, and the first song that inspired me to write a part three to this list. Each couplet is just baffling in how random it is:"Catching Babe Ruth, catching Roger Maris / The way you caught my eye in Paris, Tennessee.” Every line afterward seems to be at least trying to aim at a parallel between worldly contradictions and an unlikely marriage working out, but misses its mark by a country mile. And what does Jesus have to do with any of it? How is any of this mishmash suggesting that anyone is trying to catch Jesus by surprise?

"The Obscenity Prayer (Give It to Me)" by Rodney Crowell

What a step down from his best song "Earthbound.” The "satire,” if you can call it that, is of a rich right-wing douchebag who wants a hot wife, a good body, booze, etc. -- but doesn't want to work for it. And it's delivered with no sense of subtlety, irony, or humor. Line after line is on-the-nose to the point of cringe: "I despise all bleeding hearts / I don't patronize the arts.” "You're tryin' to get me to show some compassion / Man, that's so outta fashion.” "The Dixie Chicks can kiss my ass / But I still need that backstage pass.” The song just drones on and on, long after it's made its thuddingly obvious point. I really hated to do this to the usually very talented and smart Rodney, but thankfully this and the equally navel-gazing "Sex and Gasoline" were the only missteps of his entire career.

"Redneck Anthem" by Ty England

Highways & Dance Halls seemed to finally mature Ty England after two mediocre hat-act albums, so how did he end up backsliding this hard? Sounding far weaker than ever, he plows through some of the worst redneck clichés on the planet in a manner that makes his previous groaner "Redneck Son" sound like Merle Haggard in comparison. He crams the phrase "jacked up" twice in the first verse alone, then lists off such things as sleeveless shirts, aggressive jingoism, "mow our lawn with a billy goat," guns, daddy, Skoal, NASCAR, and even a name-drop of Larry the Cable Guy's "git-r-done" catch phrase. The album leans into this caricature all the more with "The NRA Song,” "Stick to Your Guns,” and "Texans Hold 'Em.” I think even Jeff Foxworthy would tell this guy he's making rednecks look bad.

"Tail on the Tailgate" by Neal McCoy

You can hate "The Shake,” but ultimately I find that one too goofy to be bothersome. This, on the other hand, does not get a free pass. This guy gets a beat up old truck from his brother, who points out the one thing I don't want to know: "hey, I fucked a lot of women in this truck.” At that point, the only reaction should be "eww!" But instead, this sleazy little pervert takes the truck and does exactly the same thing with an already cliché party in the woods. While he tries to dismiss it with a "that ain't what you're thinkin'", how else am I even supposed to interpret that hook? It's fitting that this was an early Rodney Clawson co-write, because it fits right in with all the bro-country songs he'd later write.

"Whistlin' Dixie" by Randy Houser

Having "Dixie" in the title isn't even a concern when at least half the lyrics are a billion times worse. Let's start with "learn how to talk straight, not back / Or my little white butt get a whippin'" for some parenting as horrible as the grammar. Add to the pile shotguns, naked Southern women, drugs, and food, and then scream it over an overly-loud mishmash of guitars, and the result is headache-inducing on so many levels. At least "I'm All About It" seemed more lighthearted, but it's not hard to see why his second album got delayed. Thankfully, the downward slide from the very good "Anything Goes" would later be reversed in favor of the much better "Like a Cowboy" and "What Whiskey Does.”


"Fly" by Maddie & Tae

Hey, look, another motivational cliché song with a nonsensical hook. I thought we stopped doing those in 2002. "You can learn to fly on the way down" is not an inspiring image. If you're falling, it's too fast for you to suddenly learn how to fly; instead, you're just gonna face-plant into the ground. And now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's count off the clichés: "heart's a mess,” "find a way to make it,” "keep on climbing" (wait, weren't we just flying? Why are we now climbing?), "we've come this far,” "more to this than just the breath you're breathing.” While the song does sound less processed than others like it, that's not saying much when the lyrics are this bad. And why does it randomly shift from third to second person halfway through?

"High Class" by Eric Paslay

This song sounds like if "Uptown Funk" shat itself. As he tries to come off as the country boy who's still "street" enough to crash even the ritziest of parties, Eric Paslay does nothing but embarrass himself. What the hell does "Cadi up that Lac" even mean? Is he listening to the Lacs in his Cadillac? (The closed captioning on the official YouTube upload says it's "cattle up this 'Lac", which makes even less sense.) Not to mention the zero copula (that's the technical term for omitting verbs, as in "tonight we high class") that tiptoes dangerously close to "white person using AAVE". Add in the most forced name-drop of Justin Timberlake since "I'm a Saint,” and the result proves that you can't spell "high class" without "ass.”

"Hope You Get Lonely Tonight" by Cole Swindell

If I were to rank songs for "worst production choices,” this would be neck and neck with "Bob That Head.” The loud-ass drum machine that sounds like driving over rumble strips, the overdriven muddy guitars, and Cold and Rainy's wallpaper-paste voice all combine into sound (but no fury), signifying nothing. Maybe better production and a different vocalist might make this at least tolerable -- actually, no, it'd still be about drinking and kissing on a tailgate, drunk late-night sexting, and two white-trash doofuses screwing. So yeah, Michael Carter, I think you're off the hook with this one. Cole, however, can just go back to being the Save-a-Lot brand mayo that he is.


HARDY really started off on the wrong foot. I ended up hating this song so much that I also hated "ONE BEER" entirely by proxy until I finally analyzed it on its own merits. I get that he's at least trying to deconstruct the "list off redneck clichés" trope by one-upping them, but just like "The Worst Country Song of All Time" (which he also had a hand in), just doing the thing you're riffing on louder isn't the same as subverting it. And there is literally no reason for any song to include a lyric as gross as "I piss where I want.” Just like most Joey Moi productions, this one is all processed guitar and Auto-Tune. HARDY has had a few flashes of brilliance on there, but he started off so thoroughly on the wrong foot that I almost dismissed his entire career by proxy.

"The Rest of Our Life" by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

I'm gonna be honest: I've never liked most Tim and Faith collabs because I find their vocal styles too dissimilar. And it's especially bad here, because Tim is way out of his range, straining and shaking to catch up to Faith's bellowing (especially on the chorus). And I can tell that Ed Sheeran wrote this, because it has his whimper-y sweet little nothings all over it. Other than jarringly out-of-place names for their kids (which has zero buildup, by the way) and somehow working in the word "waistline" (seriously, not even "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Fat" did that), it's just a bunch of mushy platitudes with no narrative connection. This just sounds like an even more embarrassing "Shape of You" clone.

"Honey Jack" by 17 Memphis

The intro to this, which sounds like a vaporwave remix of Kiiara's "Gold,” is probably the worst way to start out a song since "Bob That Head.” Then come the trap snares, played on quite possibly the same broken-as-fuck drum machine used on "Hope You Get Lonely Tonight.” Underneath this extremely ugly interior are laughably juvenile lyrics that take on backroads, whiskey, trucks, phones, etc. Both members of the duo actually have decent voices and there is some chemistry on the recording, but it's hard to tell with the farting synths, jackhammer drum machines, and Auto-Tune doing everything to drown them out. It's easy to see why these two didn't go anywhere.

"21" by Hunter Hayes

When your song's hook is "gonna party like we just turned 21" and you still sound like you're in kindergarten, what other reaction should I even have? I legitimately laughed out loud the first time I heard this. I want to like Hunter Hayes because of his child prodigy nature, but for the most part, his discography has leaned way too far into Disney Channel-esque teeny-bopper fluff for me to care. "Wanted" pissed me off by being extremely stale and one-dimensional, but this one annoys me for the opposite reason. It calls for an edge that Hunter just does not have. His musical image was already too squeaky-clean, and the song is just too lethargic for lyrics about "going crazy". This just sounds like a slower version of Rascal Flatts' "Summer Nights,” which itself is just an only slightly-less-bad rewrite of Hot Chelle Rae's "Tonight, Tonight.” And you know what they say about copies of copies.

"You Look Good" by Lady Antebellum

No, this isn't about the naming controversy. However, that whole scenario did make me reassess this duly lamentable group who does almost nothing but blandly emulate the worst of cheesy soft rock. Charles is as stuffy as ever, Hillary is as pitchy as ever; put them together, and you're just mixing two different bottles of warm water. Even with the horn section behind them, these two are just way too bland to even begin to convey the flash of spending New Year's in a penthouse or head-turning dudes in black jeans and shades. This is less outwardly offensive than Eric Paslay's attempts to crash upscale big-city parties, but it's almost more embarrassing in just how out of place they seem. (Fun fact: both "duly lamentable" and "blandly emulate" are anagrams of "Lady Antebellum.”) 

Jul 1, 2021

More Worst Country Songs of the Last 3 Decades

By Bobby “Ten Pound Hammer” Peacock

In researching the 1980s list, I kept finding or getting recommendations for songs from later decades that I'd forgotten about. Here are the leftovers.

More of the Worst of the 1990s

"Big Hair" by the Bellamy Brothers

I'm usually all right with the Bellamys. They have a good range of funny and serious, upbeat and downbeat, and an ear for genre experimentation. But sometimes all that range misses; it missed with "Dancin' Cowboys," and again with this one. The big hair-wearing lady in the song is a walking white-trash stereotype with exposed roots, a mini skirt and tube top, a tiny dog, an Airstream trailer, and of course, enough hair for ten Bon Jovis. The good ol' boy likes it all so much that he's gonna buy her a ring at Walmart just to drive the dopey hick shtick home even harder. Unlike "Redneck Girl", there's no indication of respect for the target. Every single attempt at a joke is half-hearted and predictable at best, and eye-rollingly awful at worst, and it's sung way too earnestly to a melody that rips off Diamond Rio's witty "Bubba Hyde." Thankfully, this particular album also gave us my absolute favorite Bellamy song "Jesus Is Coming." I'm not gonna spoil that one for you. Look it up.

"A Country Boy Can Survive (Y2K Version)" by Chad Brock feat. Hank Williams Jr. and George Jones

Overblown Y2K panic was everywhere in 1999, even on the country charts. While I gave Hank Jr. a ton of flak on the '80s list, I think that "A Country Boy Can Survive" is deservedly a classic. But this "timely" makeover settles for stuffing the phrase "Y2K" into a few random places along with a reference to a "computer man" and ATMs crashing, and doesn't even bother with the second verse. Even weirder, most of the "friend in New York City" verse is skipped in favor of saying that a killer got off because "the system don't work for me and you." Chad Brock's thin wispy voice sounds like a demo singer at best, Bocephus sounds like he's on Novocain, and I have no idea why the Possum even showed up. (Another version managed to drag John Anderson in too, but I guess he was too embarrassed to make the single edit.) Thankfully, once January 2000 hit and the world didn't end, this song disappeared along with the panic. And people like me would go on to spend the entirety of 2000 telling everyone that the new millennium didn't start until next year.

"Hollywood Indian Guides" by Bill Engvall

In the late 90s, both Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall had their standup routines remixed to music beds and a sung chorus. Some of them worked pretty well, but this one was a serious misfire. The original routine (from Engvall's 1998 album Dorkfish) is about a Native American culture class that Engvall attended with his son. While the Native American stereotypes really aren't that bad, that's mainly because they're overshadowed by gay stereotypes. The class's teacher is "Dances with Men", whose dialogue is represented entirely in an over-the-top sassy lisp; what follows are jokes about pink rattlesnakes that hiss with a lisp, and the class singing Barbra Streisand songs. The music backing is a barely-discernible beat that sounds like an extremely bad remix of "Kokomo", and a weak tuneless chorus with anonymous session vocalists whose main gig was probably one of those "Drew's Famous" albums. Say what you will about "Indian Outlaw"; at least that one was catchy, self-aware, and, you know, not homophobic.

"A Random Act of Senseless Kindness" by South 65

Boy bands are a huge guilty pleasure of mine, and I'm not surprised that the sound tried to cross-pollinate with country. After all, country music is no stranger to harmony or easily accessible songs about love and positivity. And these five generic pretty boys were the first to try -- but unfortunately, their first effort ended up closer to the "badly-written pseudo-motivational fluff" style rampant in country at the time. Whichever generic pretty boy was given lead vocals clearly sounds uncomfortable and forced into a fake twang, and the production is bone-dry and oddly lacking in harmony. The lyrics are the kind of syrupy drivel that Gary Baker and Frank J. Myers would later crank out for Lonestar (making me wonder how the latter went from so many great Eddy Raven songs to this). An unspecified violent act drives the narrator to be kinder. How? Why? No details are given, just a random act of motivational clichés: love is the cure for hate, get back on track, never too late, blah blah blah. Can't have any ugly details turning the teenybopper fanbase away now, can we? Thankfully, said fanbase didn't bite, probably because there was no flavor to be had (other than the catchy, Exile-esque "Baby's Got My Number"). 

"We Must Take America Back" by Steve Vaus

Steve Vaus is one of the more interesting artists to make this list: in addition to recording country and children's music (and winning a Grammy for the latter), he was also a California mayor in 2014. But his only country chart entry is an absolutely pathetic attempt at jingoistic pandering. Lyrics like "ransom our future and our children's, that's wrong" and "as liberty weeps, our forefathers spin in their graves" are laughably amateurish, giving very little indication of what kinds of problems he wants solved outside a few beyond uninspired lines about Wall Street, the American Dream,  fear, freedom, We the People, Independence Day, God, and other "patriotic song checklist" entries. On top of all that is Vaus' laughably amateurish singing voice, which sounds like Tim Wilson with a really bad head cold (not helped when the tacked-on choir vocals drown him out almost completely on the chorus). In fact, it kind of reminds me of an even worse version of some of the dubious political songs on Wilson's later albums.

"What If?" by Reba McEntire

What if everybody cared with just one heart? The heart that we're "looking inside of" for some kind of completely undefined "answer". What if everybody reached out with just one hand? (Is there a reason you only want me to use only one hand? I'm left-handed, you know.) Apparently if we did all of that, we could "make it better". I don't even know what "it" is, because this song doesn't even try to establish any groundwork underneath its myriad of motivational fortune-cookie phrases. Reba, while as on point as ever, fits very poorly into the ultra-slick pop production that doesn't even try to make any concessions to country. As a charity single, it was almost certainly recorded in good faith; as a song, it's clearly the direct predecessor of the "Don't Laugh at Me"-type garbage that would proliferate only months later.

"Where Your Road Leads" by Trisha Yearwood feat. Garth Brooks

Another song to play late-90s love song cliché bingo with: "believe in miracles", "wish come true", "one prayer at a time", and "only human" should be enough to get most people a bingo before the chorus. And if that doesn't, how about "when your heart bleeds", "can't find your tomorrow", "love forever"? (It really says something that for once I'm not railing the Diane Warren ballad for this, but "I'll Still Love You More" is ultimately too boring to rile me up.) Adding to that are a weirdly structured chorus that seems to end abruptly and some of the most bombastic production I've ever heard out of Tony Brown. Blaring strings, power chords, even a choir on the last chorus -- it's like a predecessor of the bloated Dann Huff production Lonestar and Rascal Flatts would later get saddled with. (Or how Brown produced Reba and Kelly Clarkson's otherwise decent cover of the latter's "Because of You"). Trisha practically has to scream to be heard above the noise, and Garth is barely even detectable. Just listen to the fantastic "There Goes My Baby" and skip the rest of this album.

More of the Worst of the 2000s

"Braid My Hair" by Randy Owen

Did he raid Martina McBride's reject pile or something? Childhood cancer deserves a better song than this. Of all the other things the little girl wants to do (such as play Little League and become President), the fact that she wants to be able to braid her hair is somehow the most important? These are the kind of skewed priorities that come from songwriters who have clearly never even seen a young girl before (a little something I call "Who I Am" Syndrome). Add in two forced mentions of God, a jarringly transparent name-drop of Locks of Love, and overly melodramatic piano-heavy production courtesy of eternal Farce the Music punching bag John Rich, and what do you get? A bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul that's had an entire bag of sugar dumped in -- far too sickeningly sweet to have any nutritional value.

"Crazier Than Usual" by Joey Daniels

Around 2005, I started listening to WATZ out of Alpena, Michigan, which tended to play a lot of obscure independent acts. One such act was Joey Daniels, who caught my ear with a great read of the oft-recorded Ashley Monroe cowrite "Swingin' Door". Unfortunately, that was the only good song on her entire album; this song, the second single, was a far better indication of the overall quality. (Thanks to a random Las Vegas Sun article for confirming that it was, indeed, a single.) Daniels struggles to stay in key and otherwise completely lacks the energy to carry lines like "I won't let go, I'm gonna lose control, I'm flirting with danger" through the clunky melody they're given. (Jarringly out of place lines like "squirming like a worm" don't help, either.) Overall, it's an awkwardly-written amateur piece with no passion or energy or anything even remotely interesting. Thankfully, like most of the other one-note indie artists at the time, her album's title Take Me Off the Market describes exactly what happened to her.

"A Good Way to Get on My Bad Side" by Tracy Byrd feat. Mark Chesnutt

You want to know a good way to get on my bad side? Have two great '90s artists waste their talent on an overly defensive, bitter piece of trash such as this. Where do I begin? Is it wishing death on any man who dares raise an eyebrow at the wife that you patronizingly call "little lady"? Going all 'MURICA about wanting to keep your shotguns? Callously dismissing all forms of modern music -- including "a little sissy in a cowboy hat" long after hat acts had become passé? (The dig at Kid Rock's "Cowboy" is hilarious in hindsight. I bet just a few years later, they'd be fine with that nutjob.) All of this is presented in an unnecessarily vicious tone that clashes with both artists' styles and vocal ranges, making the entire package just seem like two old farts who want me to get off their lawn.

"Keep the Change" by Darryl Worley

I'm not surprised that Obama's election ruffled a few feathers in country music, especially not those of the man behind the God-awful "Have You Forgotten?" The song starts off miles away from its goal by having him defend why he says the Pledge of Allegiance or prays. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the following thesis of "fat cats" attacking the "little man" (once again I must praise Alan Jackson for being just about the only person to do a good song about the "little man"). After that, the song just disintegrates into barely-coherent rambling about how an "average joe" is still somehow smart, how an unspecified "foundation" is in trouble, and how this country is "going crazy" in a totally unspecified way. Few major problems are targeted beyond the most vague and broad-stroke catch phrases, and even fewer solutions or attempts at unity are offered. Just like far too many of these songs, it's all angry ranting meant to escalate tensions and nothing more.

"Keep the Change" by Hank Williams Jr.

Speaking of angry ranting political songs... how about one with the same title and most of the same problems, along with a few more of its own? It's also got a list of "God, family, and country" tropes that goes on for miles just like the previous one, with a sarcastic jab about the "United Socialist States of America" thrown in for good measure. But just when you think it's nearly a carbon copy of Worley's song, he instead launches into a rant against Fox & Friends "twisting" his opinions (dude, you compared Obama to Hitler -- there's no un-ringing that bell) and then calls for a boycott of both them and ESPN (who temporarily dropped the use of "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" for use on Monday Night Football; they reinstated it in 2017). While the second verse at least sets up an ulterior motive (which is more than Worley's song did), it's every bit as angry, defensive, bitter, un-remorseful, and pointless. If you want a good song called "Keep the Change", listen to the one that Hank Jr.'s daughter Holly put out in 2009.

"If Nobody Believed in You" by Joe Nichols

I'm not even going to talk about the first two verses, which are an inoffensive enough "repurpose the chorus" formula. Why? Because the third verse alone drops this song straight into "worst" territory. Every religious fanatic's biggest sworn enemy is the mysterious outfit known as "they". "They" are responsible for everything from workers saying "Happy Holidays" to negative reviews of PureFlix movies to cutting out mentions of God (including in the Pledge of Allegiance, which didn't originally have the phrase "under God" to begin with). Yet again I boggle that any Christian can pereceive even the slighest deviation from their values as a threat. Even if I'm not a believer, I think that Jesus was onto something with this whole "love one another" thing, and I'm sure not seeing it practiced enough. (Maybe this misfire is why Joe kept this one off his Greatest Hits album...)

"Illegals" by Cledus T. Judd

Literally the only reason this didn't make the last list is because, at the time, I could only find a cover version by one of the writers. But now that I found the actual song, all I have to wonder is what the typically apolitical mastermind behind "She's Got a Butt Bigger Than the Beatles" was even thinking. Much like Buddy Jewell's similarly minded dumpster fire, this one layers on the jingoism-racism duopoly quite thickly -- pseudo-Spanish gibberish, stereotypes of Mexicans fixing cars and buying too many groceries on welfare, a dig at "for Spanish, press 2" phone options, and demands to ship Mexicans overseas in exchange for bringing American soldiers back. Cledus does try to liven things up with spoken ad-libs, but if anything, these only make him seem like even more of an ignorant buffoon than his shtick usually calls for (to his credit, all evidence points to this indeed being shtick; the real-life Judd seems somewhat more tolerant). Overall, it's hard not to figure out why this one got buried for so long.

"Our America" by Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich, and Cowboy Troy

Buried at the end of the uneven yet fascinating Comin' to Your City was this bizarre cut-and-paste job that just screamed "we're already running out of ideas". Opening with all four vocalists reciting random patriotic sound bites (the preamble of the Constitution among them), this one cascades with strings, timpani, bells, and crash cymbals clearly indebted to "God Bless the USA" (other than the wildly out-of-place guitar solo at the end). Big & Rich and Gretchen croon a typically over-the-top rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner", interspersed with Cowboy Troy listelessly reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It's so overly cloying and mismatched that even at the time, I couldn't take it as anything other than pandering of the highest order. (All the more surprising given how much better the story-song "8th of November" was.) But in hindsight, it's only worse following the path from this to the flag-waving paranoiac of today. I guess this was just the first sign...

"Six Foot Teddy Bear" by Richie McDonald

Following his first departure from Lonestar while they were at their sippy-cup-of-milk worst, Richie brings more of the same turned up to about 90. The song starts off on a laughably wrong note by trying to convince us that milquetoast Richie goddamn McDonald is a tattoo-clad "Mr. Tough". What I do buy, however, is Richie the dopey dad who goes totally UwU at the sight of his kids. Buried in the deluge of syrup are references to Barbie, Dr. Seuss, and quite possibly the only ever name-drop of SpongeBob SquarePants in mainstream music history, all of which sound a hundred times more nauseating with Richie's mushy delivery. Maybe he left the band because he was the only one who actually wanted to keep churning out 73 billion progressively worse rewrites of "My Front Porch Looking In"?

"Summer Nights" by Rascal Flatts

Only three singles after the embarrassment that was "Bob That Head", Rascal Flatts delivered one of the worst in the already-dubious category of summertime country anthems. With a melody and production so Disney Channel squeaky-clean that they make "Tonight, Tonight" by Hot Chelle Rae sound like Alice Cooper in comparison, the other faults only become all the more obvious. Terribly scanning lyrics like "the sunset better set". The stilted way he sings "Y'all keep doin' y'all's thang" followed by a falsetto "scream" only slightly less eardrum-bursting than... well, the opening notes of "Bob That Head". A key change that actually achieves the seemingly-impossible task of finding a note too high for Gary LeVox to squawk out. How they went from this to the legitimately great and tender ballad "Why", I'll never know.

"Thank God I'm a Country Boy" by Billy Dean

As the 1980s list made clear, I'm not a John Denver fan at all (except "Take Me Home, Country Roads"). But at least the original "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" has a goofy kind of energy that makes it stand out among the schmaltz for better or worse. So how do you undermine even that? First, give it to one of the most laid-back vocalists of the '90s. Then layer on a fake drumbeat, power chords, and overly processed fiddle. The result is one of the most extreme mismtaches among artist, song, and production style; it'd be like if Don Williams covered "The Streak" and had Joey Moi producing. Even at the time, I was completely baffled that this of all things was the song to briefly pull Dean out of the doldrums ("Let Them Be Little" wasn't much better). He'd probably have been better off releasing the theme song to the cartoon Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa.

"That Thang" by Fast Ryde

I'll take "Bobby Regrets Another Roughstock Review" for $600. The one thing I will say in this song's favor is the production is driven by actual guitar, fiddle, and drums, without a lot of power chords or digital processing. Unfortunately, the good qualities end the second you hear the duo's dry, barely-in-key voices drone out these womanizing lyrics. And boy, do they ever lay it on thick with dumb similes like "she got that junk like a trailer yard"... along with the jaw-droppingly awful "so if you got a little lecture, best believe that we respect ya." After all of that, they just repeat "da dang dang dang" (because what else even rhymes with "thang"?) over and over to pad out the length. Regardless of one's opinions of "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk", at least that song had flavor and energy. This was just a prototype of the deplorable bro-country tropes that would rise to prominence in the coming years. If Fast Ryde had charted "Make It Rain" instead, then I might be having a different conversation.

"This Ain't No Rag, It's a Flag" by Charlie Daniels

As if I didn't get my fill on "Simple Man"... Yet another over-the-top post-9/11 anthem from an  flag-waver to wrapped up in his anger to make an actual narrative. It's just an odd, unfocused mishmash, vacillating between angry xenophobic rants (not one, but two references to guns and hunting down the unnamed enemy), interspersed with catch phrases that were already outstaying their welcome even then ("these colors don't run", "united we stand", etc.). And for extra pandering points, the song just dissolves into a chant of "USA! USA! USA!" over and over while a kid recites the Pledge of Allegiance. (See, Joe Nichols? I told you kids still know it.) Anger was asbsolutely a justifiable response to 9/11 (Alan Jackson's "Where Were You" stood out to me by being calm and unifying instead), but surely there was a better way to channel that anger than by screeching death threats and random bumper sticker slogans.

"This Is My Life" by Phil Vassar

Yeah, with what I said about "Where's the Dress", you're probably expecting me to destroy "Bobbi with an I" instead. But that one at least has a playful, non-judgmental tone that suggests that the subject is in on the joke. Far worse on the Phil Vassar spectrum is this aimless rant at nobody or nothing in particular. The targets are the same stock ones as always -- "fat cats", middle class, talking heads, rising gas prices, and the utterly baffling line "pledge allegiance to my God". With no intended target and no real hook ("this is my life and I want it back" -- okay, who's taking it? How do you plan to get it back? Details, man), this is exacerbated by one of his shoutiest vocal performances and excessively florid piano runs that sound like Billy Joel after drinking an entire swimming pool full of Red Bull. It's amazing how quickly he forgot about all of his pleas for unity in "This Is God"...

"What Children Believe" by Shenandoah

Marty Raybon is one of the best country vocalists. Almost every song Shenandoah put out with him on lead was amazing, and he managed to make the only good version of "Butterfly Kisses" to boot. So when Shenandoah re-established in 2000 without Raybon up front, this song alone should have been enough to make anyone ask "why bother?" It reads a lot like an answer song to "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Ol' Days)": kids in a treehouse, drinking Kool-Aid, use crayons to write down overly simplistic and twee fortune-cookie platitudes like "love lasts forever, mom and daddy stay together" (My parents divorced when I was 4 and I never had any problem with it), "It's bad to lie", "faith is all you need", and so on. Short-lived lead vocalist Brent Lamb's voice has all the charisma and energy of drywall, making it clash all the harder with the stereotypical string section and key changes. Thankfully Raybon has been reinstated, their new stuff is still good, and the output of Shenandoah In Name Only has been quietly forgotten.

More of the Worst of the 2010s

"Country Boy" by Aaron Lewis feat. George Jones and Charlie Daniels

What do you expect when the lead singer of Staind tries his hand at a country career? I sure wasn't expecting an overlong, bloated mishmash of pandering and posturing. Somehow we're supposed to buy that this rich hard rock vocalist from New England is a gun-toting, tractor-driving, jeans-wearing, deer-hunting good ol' boy from the South. (Even weirder is that he mentions the American flag and then criticizes the government only one verse later.) He even throws in a totally unnecessary verse about "selling his soul" for a record deal, which doesn't fit in thematically at all. On top of that, the song casts George Jones as an evil record exec and staples on a xenophobic coda narrated by Charlie Daniels. I've liked the few Staind songs I've heard, and I think that Lewis' voice actually works pretty well on his later, more sincere attempts at country (e.g. "Forever"). But man, did he ever start this genre-shift off on the wrong foot.

"Fake ID" by Big & Rich feat. Gretchen Wilson

Ages of the three people in this song in 2011: Gretchen Wilson was 38, John Rich was 37, and Big Kenny was 48. In short, none of these people need a fake ID. They're probably old enough that they won't even need to be asked for their real ones. By this point, the Big & Rich well had clearly run completely dry. "Loud" was clearly the tipping point, and this random... noise for the soundtrack of the totally unnecessary Footloose remake. There's no energy or creativity in any of second of it, just the two of them shouting the lyrics over way too many guitars (Gretchen isn't even on the song until a barely-noticeable backing vocal on the last verse). Tired, boring, and unnecessary, just like nearly everything else churned out by them in the past decade. If you want a good song about fake IDs, check out "David Ashley Parker from Powder Springs" by Travis Denning.

"Get Me Some of That" by Thomas Rhett

In which I once again express shame for an older Roughstock review... Well that was a younger and less worldly-aware Bobby Peacock who wrote that one. It was also a younger Thomas Rhett who wrote and sang this one, drowning it in a pool of sexist fratbro clichés -- "diggin' on you", a door/floor rhyme, moneymaker, jeans, kissing, hips, hair -- I might as well just end this review here and just let you draw your own conclusions. TR's smarmy, cocky delivery does the lyrical content no favors, and it's not hard to picture it coming from a sweaty ball-cap-wearing douche wearing way too much Axe. I'm still amazed that Rhett managed to move away from this into material that -- while still far from greatness or even country-ness -- is at least somewhat more tasteful to women. (You know the world's out of whack when I'm saying nice things about "Die a Happy Man".)

"Girl in Your Truck Song" by Maggie Rose

While we're on the subject of tastefulness to women... the only thing worse than an entire musical movement predicated on sexism is having the target of said sexism say "yes". It runs down the checklist in exactly the same ways as the songs it glorifies -- some of which it even name-drops -- with the same canned banjo and drum machine sound. Rose's vocals are completely listless, lacking any sort of energy or passion to make this even rise to the level of being attention-gettingly bad (surprising, given how shrill she was on the only slightly less bad "I Ain't Your Mama"). Considering this was released at the same time as the witty and progressive "Girl in a Country Song", it's not hard to figure out why this one (and Maggie Rose herself) disappeared.

"Happy People" by Little Big Town

When your song's first line is "happy people don't cheat, happy people don't lie", what else could the ensuing song be but a sermon? Happy people don't do this or that or anything. The hook ("whatever makes you happy people") undermines the whole premise by suggesting an openness that is completely contradicted by the preachy, one-note laundry lists of the verses. Happy people don't fail? Does that mean they succeed at everything on the first try? Way to trigger my gifted kid syndrome. Happy people always wait their turn? So that means they're doormats. Oh, and happy people don't judge? Well, you've spent this whole song judging me for apparently not being "happy people" by your standards. And of course, like most latter-day Little Big Town songs, it's got a dull vocal arrangement that's so Karen Fairchild-centric that the other three might as well not exist. This song is a waste of both Lori McKenna and Hailey Whitters' songwriting skills, and it doesn't make me happy people.

"If I Were a Boy" by Reba McEntire

Most of my issues with this song are also in Beyoncé's version, and so omnipresent that I would hate any cover on principle. As Todd in the Shadows pointed out in an early video of his, the original song acts as if, quote, "only guys hurt the ones that love them, only guys cheat, and girls never have their friends stick up for them when they screw around." The original feels way too bratty and immature for an artist who was 27 at the time, so how much more wrong can you get than by having someone who was FIFTY-SIX sing it? The only "boy" someone that age should be singing about is her grandson. To Reba's credit, the vocals are up to her usually high standards -- even if they are smothered in Dann Huff production. And squandered on absolutely dogshit lyrics. I'd like to think that this song is singlehandedly responsible for Reba not having another radio hit since.

"Party Like Cowboyz" by Big & Rich

Do cowboyz (because poor literacy is kEwL!) actually party with box wine, G-strings, and "pawn shop bling bling"? I don't know because I'm not one myself, but the ones from Big & Rich's perspective make the Bellamy Brothers' "Dancin' Cowboys" look like Will Rogers in comparison. Just like "Fake ID", Big & Rich are so throughly out of ideas that they just resort to an odd mishmash of party-hearty clichés, recycled power-chord riffs, and outright gibberish ("jackety jacked up, beer backed and doubled up"?!?). The "cowboy" references and overall song structure are clearly transparent attempts to re-create the magic of "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)"; love that song or hate it, it definitely occupies a unique place in country music canon. And that's not even the only nod to their past, as they rip an entire lyric straight from "Wild West Show" (you know, one of their few serious songs). Like most of their later attempts at party songs, it's just an obnoxious mess, and I can see why they gave up entirely and pushed harder for ballads on Gravity. Because sometimes you just gotta know when the party's over.

"Pills" by Tracy Lawrence

Ah yes, quite possibly the only country song to attack the pharmaceutical industry. While there are legitimate concerns such as improper diagnoses, side effects, and addiction, there are also plenty of people who are given completely valid prescriptions for completely valid maladies. Take it from me, a guy who spent most of his adolescence taking multiple different prescriptions for his autism. So Tracy's callous dismissal of drugs for depression, ADD, and the like -- not to mention calling people "emotional zombies" -- is extremely tasteless from the word go. It's made even worse when he instead prescribes "daddy's belt" as an alternative (wonderful idea; let's give the kid trauma instead) and bitching about how nobody diets or exercises anymore. You know, as opposed to people being genetically predisposed to being overweight -- again, I would be an example here -- and pressured by unrealistic expectations of body image. In fact, I think I need a pill just listening to this cranky old geezer whine at me. Anyone got a Tylenol?

"#REDNEK" by Gord Bamford

If nothing can good can come from a misspelled song title, or from a song title that's a hashtag, then it must apply double when you have both. Bamford is yet another one of those Canadian country singers who has a billion hits in his homeland but absolutely zero stateside -- something which initially caused me to think this hadn't been released as a single and therefore did not qualify for the list. Some are actually quite good, especially given how quickly he seems to churn them out, but this is not one of them. This one is yet another checklist with a few absolutely weird ones such as "hillbilly banjo hip-hop rap" (nice redundancy there, and an accurate description of the Brantley Gilbert-lite production) and probably the first use of "pimped out" in a country song. To call this lazy, loud list song "played out" would still be giving it too much credit. Perhaps this one didn't cross the border or even appear on an album because even Canadian radio was embarrassed by it?

"Merry Go Round" by the JaneDear girls

Their first two songs weren't terrible, but they really lost it with this one. John Rich is clearly phoning in the production, which includes synthesized hand-claps that sound like they were sampled from an 8-bit video game, combined with lifeless power chords an already-weak vocal track worsened by the most haphazardly placed Auto-Tune I've ever heard in my life. (Seriously, it almost sounds like it was applied completely at random.) The hook makes no sense; how does dancing in the woods equate to making one's "merry" go 'round? (Calvin & Hobbes was right -- "verbing weirds language".) Everything else is just the same "party in the woods" tropes that were already getting played out in the years leading up to the bro-country wave. Altogether, a dismal end to a largely forgettable duo -- and, for that matter, to John Rich's production career.

"Shut Up About Politics" by John Rich featuring The Five

Speaking of John Rich... let's be be serious. Are we really going to buy a song called "Shut Up About Politics" from a guy who clearly has no intention of ever doing so? I knew that at the time, and it's true like the sun coming up each morning. Rich claims to be tired, but even after the song's release, he spends most of his time raging at literally everything on Twitter. (Apparently Biden's mere existence is "elder abuse" in his eyes?) The fact that he roped in the hosts of a Fox News show to shout the chorus is a tasteless bit of pandering that shows he has no intentions of shutting up. And naturally, as one would expect from a wealthy paranoid nutjob, his "solution" is to offer both sides a shot of his own Redneck Riviera whiskey. Even if Rich were to practice what he's preaching, he's still given himself enough rope to hang himself at least a thousand times over.

"Shut Up and Hold On" by Toby Keith

Funny how these entries keep having connecting themes, huh? I feel like I'm on Chain Reaction. Much like John Rich, Toby Keith has spent way too much of the 21st century embarrassing himself. Jacking the electronic beat of "That's My Kind of Night", the seasick non-melody of "Sideways", and the overblown machismo of "Country Boy", this one staples on a confusing narrative -- he gets to the bar with his girl, and then the same girl pulls up to the bar? Or a different girl? Whatever it is, two people are going out on a "crazy" night in the most forced of ways, there is literally zero definition given to the woman in this scenario, and it doesn't even sound like she has a choice in the matter. (Boy, these complaints sound familiar.) And what the hell is that vocal mixing on the last bridge? It sounds like an odd mix of chipmunk vocals and vocal fry. Shut up and don't sing.

"That's Country Bro" by Toby Keith

And completing an utterly bizarre quadfecta, how about watching Mr. "How Do You Like Me Now?!" shove an already-outdated reference to bro-country right in the title? List songs are a dime a zillion, and while I do have to give some credit to being possibly the first ever name-drop of Eddie Rabbitt, all of those points are taken right back by the anachronistic title, lazy lyrics, and overly defensive tone. I don't think it even needs to be said, but name-drops are not a yardstick of country cred. And this is made all the more baffling by the exceptional lyricism of his previous single "Don't Let the Old Man In". Even worse, this song speeds through is name-drops so quickly that he runs out of singers and starts randomly listing characters from The Dukes of Hazzard, Bonanza, and Gunsmoke before he's even hit the 2-minute mark. How the hell did he rope Bobby Pinson into this garbage? That's bad songwriting, bro.

"That's How It Still Oughta Be" by Trent Tomlinson

Yay, more preachy conservatism from someone way too young for the topic. As if I didn't get my fill of that with "Automatic". At least this one does a better job staying on-point, but they aren't good points. Pro-child beatings? Check. Blind trust in neighbors, preachers, teachers, and the like? Check. Bemoaning high gas prices? Check. Complaining about jobs sent overseas? Check. Mentioning the Bible? Check. Thankfully this was just a blip on the radar for the underrated Tomlinson, whose first album is still so strong that I wonder how he never got a big break. (And as an aside, he did much better portraying down-home old-school mentalities with "Henry Cartwright's Produce Stand".)

"The Way I Talk" by Chucklefuck McMullet Morgan Wallen

Take the usual Joey Moi production style: power chords, banjo, drum machine. Add one mulleted doofus who talk-sings in a lazy phony drawl and hides his vocal shortcomings under layers of Auto-Tune. Sprinkle in a jittery and poorly-scanning melody. Mix in all manner of utterly forced Southern references: "y'all come back", daddy and mama, "down yonder". and of course, admitting that he refuses to change. If the way you talk is nothing but a checklist of down-home good-ol'-boy southern clichés, and you live the way you talk, then that just raises even more questions. Even before the controversies, I boggled that Morgan Wallen had any semblance of a career; he seemed even less competent than the bland bros who churn out #1 hit after #1 hit but can't move a single album (looking at you, Russell Dickerson), and his songs seemed beyond even the lowest common denominator. But then it hit me: there is a level lower than the lowest common denominator, and that seems to be exactly where Wallen, his music, and his fans reside. Why else do you think his Wikipedia article still doesn't have a picture of him? His bottom-feeding nature was right there from the first single, and I feel like I'm the only person to have spotted it. (Hat tip to Jonathan Keefe for the epithet "Chucklefuck McMullet".)

"Way Out Here" by Josh Thompson

Just like "A Good Way to Get on My Bad Side", this one wastes a talented performer (and songwriters) on another extremely xenophobic screed. Its protagonist is an animal-abusing, tobacco-using, gun-toting, death-threat-spewing, Bible-thumping hick with a crappy rundown truck and an unhealthy diet. In other words, the same kind of people that I see flying the stars-and-bars and Gadsden flags in my own neighborhood, even though I live in goddamn Michigan. And the lines about wanting to "see this country run like it used to be" give me flashbacks to all the terrible post-9/11 songs that took up a lot of the last list and even portions of the revised 2000s list. We're about enforcing negative ugly stereotypes way out here, apparently. Thankfully this was a fluke on an otherwise pretty solid album.

"The Weight of the Badge" by George Strait

I can hear you now. "Really, Bobby? Not one, but three George Strait songs on a worst-of list? Isn't that at least twelve too many?" Yes, but that's three out of a catalog numbering in the thousands, of which roughly 99% are absolutely goddamn amazing. Much like "I Believe" and "Troubadour", this one fails for me almost immediately by pandering with the most superficial of clichés (why yes, they did put the phrase "protect and serve" in there -- how else would you even know it's about a police officer?) instead of telling a story. But even worse, it seems willfully ignorant by not even trying to breach the subject of police brutality in a time when Black Lives Matter and similar movements were already in full swing. I don't think Strait is trying to be a screeching jingoist like Toby Keith, but it's one of the few times I've been floored by an artist's exceptionally poor timing. I think I'm gonna go listen to "I Can Still Make Cheyenne" on loop for the next hour.


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