I listen to country music. For some reason, it’s really appealing to me, especially when I grade papers–and I do this quite often. To the majority of people who know me, this is a surprise; for them, I do not fit the profile, whatever that may mean. In any case, I think that the first time I truly encountered it was during my first year in the USA. I was a student in a graduate program, and I usually took a shuttle from my apartment building to school. The drivers used to listen to a country radio station. The slow, melancholic music contributed, perhaps, to my then mellow state: I was missing my family, and those weird American songs about parents and children somehow matched my state. I say “weird” because I was not used to this “American music style”; back in Romania, American music meant pop or rock.
So I started loving Johnny Cash; later, Faith Hill’s “Cry” truly touched a chord within me; and I have to say that I particularly enjoyed listening to Shania Twain’s “Man! I feel like a woman” when I was driving (I don’t even want to hear the comments 🙂 ).
I now have a new favorite: Carrie Underwood. I don’t remember how I got to her music, but what really kept me was a kind of piety which, on the one hand, is foreign to me and, on the other, is very moving. I’ll just stop to one song, Something in the water. There is one particular performance that I like, due to what I consider to be the authenticity of Mrs. Underwood’s experience. You can see it here.
But really think about it: one of the greatest musicians sings about God… Or about her faith… To a European, this is just surprising, regardless of any other qualifications. People just don’t do this kind of thing nowadays. If you come from Eastern Europe, as I do, you got used to making the sign of the cross with your tongue in your mouth, so that you would not be seen by informants for the secret police. If you come from Western Europe, talking about God is just out of fashion. “God belongs to the church; leave Him out of our lives.” But watch this video, and you can see a young woman on national television singing about being blind and then being changed, about wasting the life “that the good Lord gave me”… This is not even about whether God exists or not; about belief in God or not. It is rather a mesmerizing feeling of freedom that one can witness in such a music. What is it like to sing your joy without thinking whether you are allowed to do so, without thinking whether you are still in fashion or not?
I think I have no clue what this is like. But be that as it may, I think that country music, regardless of how “out of date” some may consider it to be, is appealing precisely because of its raw authenticity.
Perhaps this is why I like it: it reminds me I have forgotten my own authenticity.