Brad Paisley's latest song, featuring a guest rap from LL Cool J, is called "Accidental Racist," and sure does start off swell. But, long before the abrupt and poorly written rap laid down by "Ladies Love" kicks in, it devolves into "Saturday Night Live" sketch territory. Except for the fact that it's not; it's deadly serious. It's also -- which is important to note -- well-intentioned, as well as it is territory mined before, and with much better results (more on that in a moment).
Yes, the song has "ignited controversy" -- not the most difficult feat these days. Folks are offended. Country music fans don't like the description Paisley utilizes for their ilk, nor do African-Americans love the "cover" LL paints that their "book" is being judged by. Plus, there's the time-honored "sell-out" grenade being lobbed in generously by both sides. Sides.....when it comes to a song with a goal of eradicating just that, one that encourages understanding, backing off (and down) and even sitting down and having a beer together.
That last part is what offends me. No, not the concept of sitting down for a beer with someone you've decided you don't like solely due to his or her appearance; it offends me lyrically. LL thinks his Cool can render us susceptible to rhyming "frankly" with "Yankee" and "Red flag" with "do-rag" and "Mason/Dixon" with "fixin.'" There shoulda been some nixin.' Shame on the producer who facilitated this fiasco for not one single objection regarding lyrics!
For the record, I've seen both Paisley and LL in concert before. I fell asleep during the former's borderline-"Hee Haw" extravaganza and had a blast at the latter's "Mama Said Knock You Out" triumphant comeback (even as he declared, "Don't call it a comeback"). As far as personality is concerned, they are both extremely likable and genuine. Musically, I'd rather cue up some Cool J over some Paisley, but that's besides the point. Even on paper a duet would have been laughable to me. Sure, drop the opening of "Sweet Home Alabama" in the middle of a rap record, but a rap in the middle of a Southern-fried ditty is decidedly more difficult to pull off. This doesn't.
As for the subject, the civility implored with music as the mean.: Been there, done that. And better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sssqBjaTzOU
It was a beautiful afternoon, Spring elbowing its way into the air, my kids and I listening to the new Bon Jovi CD as I drove to a church in bucolic Branford. We were making perfect time, singing in unison, readying my daughter's pipes for the choir practice I was taking her to. I dropped her off, exchanged I love you's, and then it was just my boy and I, with the comic book store downtown New Haven as our new destination.
My cell phone rang. I picked it up just as I pulled onto the ramp to get back on the highway. Sirens howled.
The officer addressed my son first, and then asked me for my license. I gave it. As he returned to his vehicle my son informed him that he's exactly who he wanted to be when he grew up. Sweet moment. "I think you just got me out of my ticket, my man," I actually said to the li'l guy. I was wrong. $125 wrong.
The officer told me to stay off the phone while driving, and that I could expect Connecticut to crack down even more on this in the future. I started the car again and continued on my way, my son reiterating he wanted to be that officer when he "growed up." "Do you mean that specific one, the one who just gave me a ticket? Or a policeman in general?" I asked, seeking clarification. "Him," came the response. Um...okay.
Tricky father/son dynamic aside, I brought this story up on "The Project" the following day and was quite surprised not only by the phone calls I received, but also the emails that came in that day, and for many days afterwards. Folks in Branford and the surrounding area are clearly pretty ticked at their law enforcement. Everyone urged me to "fight the ticket," to endeavor to get it thrown out. Many had gotten tickets themselves, with still others relaying that when they neared Branford they put their cell phones in their glove compartments for safe keeping; they don't even wanna risk it. If you ask me, that means Branford Police are doing a hell of a job.
Incidentally, did you know that men are on their phone while driving more than women here in good ol' Connecticut? http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/In-Conn-more-men-than-women-use-phones-drive-3306364.php
I am continuing to get emails, unsolicited legal advice and phone calls from angry drivers about my ticket. They want me to take a stand. They want me to call the Branford Police out for their hipocrisy (evidently many are seen on THEIR phones while driving through town). But, I won't. I can't. Wanna know why? I was talking on my phone while driving my car, and with my 6-year-old in the backseat. It's against the law, never mind putting my main little man's life at risk (even if, I suspect, he wants to arrest me when he grows up). Whatever happened to ramification? We've become a nation devoid of ramification. Not here; not with me. When I write the check and put it in the envelope, my son will be the one who puts said envelope in the mail.