Just another schmo who hoped that 9/11 would change everything…for his career.
It’s tempting to simply quote in full the lyrics from Darryl Worley’s crass-in attempt to tie together the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the run-up to the Iraq war. After all, its lyrics, which rhymed “forgotten” with “Bin Laden” and called for daily showings of the attacks on the World Trade Center, were the linchpin of its “appeal.” But to do that would be a disservice to the fine men and women of this country who have actually had to sit through the track.
Worley claimed that he wrote his song on the way back from a USO tour of Afghanistan. But it’s hard not to hear “Forgotten” as a 21st-century curio that’s as calculated as an Old Navy flag t-shirt, with lyrics that are aimed both at the heartstrings of listeners who were scared by the idea that people living half a world away might “hate us” and the headlines of newspapers looking for someone to counteract the politics of those mouthy Dixie Chicks. And it worked–“Forgotten,” with its vague allegiances to freedom and disdain for the PTSD of people who might have been averse to watching the World Trade Center get blown up again and again, was No. 1 on the country charts for a month and a half in 2003 and even cracked the top 25 of the Hot 100.
Let’s not forget, however, that “Have You Forgotten” is a pretty crummy song on its merits. It’s lazy Nashville boilerplate, crafted seemingly from Worley and his bandmates adding a twang and a dash of jingoism to the strummy intro of Skid Row’s “I Remember You” after an all-night Fox News-watching session. Would “Forgotten” have been anything more than a footnote if not for the clumsy fearmongering of its lyrics? Would Worley need to disclaim his desire to make money off the track to NPR? (Although don’t think he wasn’t completely blase about his commercial success: “I don’t care if people roll their eyes, or if they think my music is cheesy,” he said in the same interview. “The Have You Forgotten album is about to go platinum, so I’ll take all that cheese I can get.” America!) Would we even need to forget about Worley if he’d put forth a more nuanced version of U.S.-Middle East relations? The fact that we’ll never know is enough to throw this decade in the bin and leave it there.
And what was Worley up to in the back end of the decade, after the cool reception to his support-the-troops track “I Just Came Back From A War” served as a signal that reaching for the headlines didn’t always result in chart gold? He dropped trou for Playgirl and started braying about how he’d added a “sexual” element to his music. Once a whore…