As part of Idolator’s continuing effort to geekily analyze every music chart known to man, we present a new edition of Project X, in which Jackin’ Pop editor Michaelangelo Matos breaks down rankings from every genre imaginable. After the click-through, he takes a break from Thanksgiving to sit down with his family and listen to the Billboard Hot Country Songs Top 10, capturing their cantankerous opinions about George Strait, Baz Luhrmann, and Cookie Crisp for posterity:
Back in July, I played the then-current Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 for my family in Bloomington, a suburb of Minneapolis. Last week, visiting for Thanksgiving, I decided to do it again–only this time, I played the Billboard Hot Country Songs Top 10 for November 24, 2007–partly because my mother knows country music better than pop or (god knows) hip-hop and R&B. The listening session took place after Thanksgiving dinner at my mom’s house, where we were joined by all three siblings’ very tolerant significant others, as well as Brittany’s friend Cherrelle. Once again, I typed everyone’s responses on the fly, occasionally pausing the music to fill in gaps.
Lorie, mother, age 47; listens primarily to country and soft rock
Michael, author, age 32; listens to lots of things
Alex, sister, age 22; primarily a country and R&B fan
Brittany, sister, age 20; listens to much music, but no one more than Marc Anthony
Cherrelle, Brittany’s best friend, age 21; listens primarily to rock and hip-hop
1. Dierks Bentley, “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)
Brittany: Josh Turner?
Michael: No, it’s Dierks Bentley.
Lorie: I know this. When I first heard it I hated it, but now I like it. I thought it was about a homeless person, but then I realized he has a car.
Brittany: Lots of homeless people have cars.
Michael: Anyone have any impressions about this song?
Cherrelle: [makes barf noise]
Brittany: The guitar was nice. I probably wouldn’t recognize it unless I heard it a second time.
[Veronica wanders out of room]
Brittany: Well, that’s what she thinks of that song.
2. Kenny Chesney, “Don’t Blink”
Alex: Tim McGraw? Oh, Kenny Chesney.
Brittany: [a few seconds later] Is this Kenny Chesney?
Alex: I just said that!
Brittany: Oh. [deadpan] I ignore you a lot.
Alex: This song reminds me of that song that . . . you know that Rascal Flatts song that goes, “If you play a country song backwards, you get your house and your dog back”?
Alex: Yeah, this sounds like that.
Lorie: It sounds like if you played a rap song backwards.
Brittany: Well, they’re the same thing!
Lorie: No! [Country singers] live hard, real lives!
Brittany: So do gangsta rappers!
Lorie: They say the same things–about booty and welfare lines. Country singers care about people.
Brittany: Rappers care. Haven’t you read Tupac’s poetry?
Lorie: What does it say?
Brittany: [mockingly] He said he was a rose that grew from the concrete. [listens for a while] This song is incredibly cheesy.
Lorie: I think it’s true, from my 50-year-old perspective in life.
Michael: That you lose track of time and are suddenly old? That’s new.
Brittany: Is that what happened to Jesus? All those lost years, he blinked? That’s got to be it. Can I blink this song over?
Alex: I don’t really like Kenny Chseney.
Lorie: You used to love Kenny Chesney!
Brittany: This song is terrible! That’s why she doesn’t like it. Just because you like him doesn’t mean you have to like every song he sings.
Michael: We have to listen to the coda. This is where he sings really “soulfully.”
Cherrelle: [looking agonized] Do we get a cut of the money [from this column]?
3. Carrie Underwood, “So Small”
Lorie: Shania Twain?
Cherrelle: Is it Carrie Underwood?
Cherrelle: I could tolerate this. This sounds like “Don’t Blink.” They’re just saying the same thing.
Michael: “Everything seems so small” . . . except the production on this record.
Brittany: And the notes she’s hitting. She has a good voice but she has the tendency to oversing.
Lorie: You know what happens after that, don’t you? You marry Bobby Brown and start doing cocaine.
4. Garth Brooks, “More Than a Memory”
Lorie: Oh my god. There are songs that the first time I hear them, halfway through I just love them. Turn it up: it just gets prettier as it goes along.
Brittany: He has a great fucking voice.
Michael: Mom, were you ever a Garth Brooks fan before this?
Lorie: No, it just started. There’s two people that, all of a sudden, in the last year I’ve started liking: him and Bob–who’s that guy from here? Bob Dylan.
Brittany: [stunned] When did you get good taste in music?
Lorie: It’s just in the last few years. [Brooks sings, "Waking a friend in the dead of the night/Just to hear him say it'll be all right"] I didn’t know that guys called each other in the middle of the night and talked! I thought that was just a chick thing.
Brittany: Haven’t you ever seen MySpace’s Missed Connections? It’s full of guys doing that.
5. Josh Turner, “Firecracker”
Brittany: This is Josh Turner, isn’t it? You can tell with that voice.
Alex: This is a pretty good song.
Lorie: [yells from kitchen] All right, “Firecracker”!
Brittany: I don’t care about the song. I just like his voice.
Cherrelle: [Turner sings, "My little darling is a firecracker"] “My little daughter”?
Brittany: No, that’s Billy Ray Cyrus.
Cherrelle: He’s hot.
Brittany: Have you seen Josh Turner? He’s hot.
Cherrelle: Yeah, but Billy Ray Cyrus has age on his side. Like, some guys are sexy because they’re older . . .
Brittany: . . . And you’re a slut. [Cherrelle and Brittany crack up]
6. George Strait, “How ‘Bout Them Cowgirls”
Lorie: Oh! This is embarrassing. It’s “Cowgirls.” It reminds me of something from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, like from the ’40s or something.
Cherrelle: Eww. This sounds like something circa 1983.
Michael: That’s pretty accurate, actually: George Strait started out around 1983, and he hasn’t really changed what he does since.
[Strait sings, "I've criss-crossed down to Key Biscayne/And Chi-Town via Bangor, Maine"]
Cherrelle: Did he say “Chi-Town”?
Brittany & Cherrelle: [hands in air] Woo! Woo!
Brittany: Did he just say “brown girls”? Chi-town? Cowgirls? He’s mumbling. Is he even saying words?
Lorie: You half expect him to be driving off into the sunset on a horse.
Brittany: Driving on a horse, eh? [addressing song] So, are city girls the same way?
Michael: All women are the same way in this song: under the thumb of the patriarchy.
Brittany: Cowboys don’t want strong women; they want women who will make babies and food.
Lorie: This is embarrassing.
Cherrelle: The music is nice, but the words suck. Someone should shake this man.
7. Clay Walker, “Fall”
Michael: Another ballad.
Brittany: Go figure. Who is this? They all sound the same.
Cherrelle: Can someone throw in a “yee-haw” just to perk things up?
Brittany: [Country singers are] more fun when they drink. Is it body function day? “Blink,” “Fall.” Now “trip”–that would be funny. Or “Shove,” “bitch-slap” . . .
Michael: You’re quiet back there, Alex.
Alex: I’m tired. This song isn’t helping.
Cherrelle: I thought he was telling her to hold on, but now he’s telling her he’s not going to catch her.
Brittany: “Every time you fall it’s because I’ll push you.” He sounds like the guy from the Cookie Crisp commercial: Cooooooooookie Crisp!
8. Jason Michael Carroll, “Livin’ Our Love Song”
Brittany: Why do all women in country songs have baby blue eyes?
Lorie: The one that had the abortion in the back of the car in the Tim McGraw song, who was pregnant when he first met her ["Red Ragtop"]–she had green eyes.
Brittany: What was the Tim McGraw song where she was always on the verge of death? They were at the movies and she was about to get shot.
Lorie: “Don’t Take the Girl.” I love that song.
Brittany: She must have lived in Compton.
Cherrelle: Or East Bloomington.
Cherrelle: It sounded like he said “prison” instead of “princess.”
Brittany: “A backyard fairytale prison”? He could find a lot of people there. He could sell himself for cigarettes.
[Carroll sings, "Say I love you without a sound"]
Cherrelle: He wants to bump that. So who wrote the love song they’re living?
Brittany: What if the love song is “Whiskey Lullaby”? Then they’ll kill themselves over it.
Cherrelle: Are we really arguing about a country song?
Lorie: Oh, country music’s the shit.
Brittany: What do you mean? You just trashed every song on this list!
9. Taylor Swift, “Our Song”
Brittany: This is Taylor Swift.
Cherrelle: She sounds like she’s 13.
Brittany: She is. Well, 17, 12, whatever.
Lorie: She thinks this is like a sermon, man.
Brittany: Whenever I hear “God” I think, ugh, next song. If I want to hear that I’ll go to church. This is like bad Shania Twain.
10. Montgomery Gentry, “What Do Ya Think About That”
[First line: "I heard it through the grapevine"]
Brittany: Wait, wait–Marvin Gaye!
Lorie: Is this the song, “Mind Your Own Business”?
Michael: No, but it’s the same sentiment.
Brittany: Did he say “jackin’ their jaws”? I like this.
Alex: I could line dance to this.
Brittany: Do it!
Alex: No, because I know you’ll just laugh.
Lorie: I like this a lot.
Brittany: The guitar was nice. [The lyric] sounded like an inspirational speaker at a high school.
Lorie: That song was good, too.
Brittany: Which one?
Lorie: The one with the inspirational speaker at a high school. It was probably 10 years ago.
Brittany: [Baz Luhrmann's] “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen”?
Brittany: Are you kidding? That’s the song Chris Rock modeled “No Sex” after. [deadpan] That song was inspirational. It made me who I am today.