F2K10 is a countdown of the 20 worst songs of 2010. Track our progress here.
Let’s say you’re Staind frontman Aaron Lewis. You’re a titan of the post-alt era who made his bones moaning about the frustrations of the rock-embracing American male–but you’re a bit long in the tooth, which means that wallowing in teen angst might not be the best look for you. What’s a safe space for you to continue your musical career without being forced to make yourself as happy as Uncle Kracker, or as Scott Stappy as the former Creed frontman?
In 2006, you might have mused to a newspaper about how you were inspired to lay down a “male Portishead record.” But in 2010, when potential audience members are as precious as they are fickle, you’ll have a different artistic impulse, one inspired by seeing a Kid Rock-provided light some 11 years after it was shined in your face.
“When Staind did our first tour with Kid Rock in 1999, I rode the bus with him on a couple occasions and we bonded over this music. I haven’t been able to let go of it since then,” Lewis said around the time of the release of his debut solo single last month. The genre he’s speaking of is country, and just in case you didn’t quite get that, the song in question is called “Country Boy.” It’s an allegedly autobiographical song — yes, Massachusetts now counts as the heartland — that also gives a platform for Lewis’ strict-constructionist tendencies:
Now two flags fly above my land
And really sum up how I feel
One is the colors that fly high and proud — the red, the white, the blue
The other one’s got a rattlesnake with a simple statement made
“Don’t Tread on Me” is what is says, and I’ll take that to my grave
Because this is me
I’m proud to be American and strong in my beliefs
And I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again
‘Cause I never needed Government to hold my hand
And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again
Because my family’s always fight and died to save this land
And a country boy is all I’ll ever be.
(The rhyme scheme works better in the context of the song. Sort of.)
Politics aside, what’s most impressive about “Country Boy” is the way that this “country” song is little more than a Staind track that’s angry at the government instead of a girl/mom/cruel world. It plods! It’s lyrically awkward! Lewis’ vocal range is about five notes wide! Do a side-by-side contrast of the new track with Staind chestnuts like “It’s Been Awhile”– the only differences here come from the verse supplied by the beautifully cracked voice of George Jones and the contributions of Charlie Daniels, who schmaltzes up “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” on his fiddle and provides the following message-board-worthy rant over his string-playing:
“I love my country. I love my guns. I love my family. I love the way it is now, and anybody that tries to change it has to come through me. That should be all of our attitudes. Cause this is America, and a country boy is good enough for me, son.”
Daniels’ mic stays on after that; the producer allows him to ramble a little bit more, perhaps for the purposes of making the song feel more “real”. At the very least, indulging him spares us from Lewis yowling New Hampshire’s state motto over and over.
“Country Boy” is a relatively recent release, so whether or not it’ll catch fire among radio programmers is up in the air. But if the EP containing this track is hastily reworked to include a mashup of “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” and “Gimme Three Steps,” we should probably all start worrying about Lewis eventually deciding to follow his heart and make good on those “male Portishead” threats.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 15, 2010