Last night I read an article. “How country music went crazy. A comprehensive timeline of the genre’s identity crisis.” He said, she said, these are the artists ruining country music, these are the artists that will save country music, these artists don’t respect their elders, these artists are washed up fuddy-duddies, country music consumers are stupid and will buy all sorts of meaningless crap, country music consumers feel like their intelligence is being insulted and are dying for some meaningful music.
This is a conversation happening not just in the country music community, but in all genres of popular music today by the artists that make it and by the fans that listen to it all.
I’ve always been a huge fan of music. I’ve been on “Team Meaningful” since I can remember. I believe I may have mentioned in a previous blog the soap box I got on while riding the school bus in the third grade regarding my classmates love of N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys and my revulsion of both. “The Beatles are better than all of them!” Not a great way to make friends.
But I can appreciate the need for levity in music. And Beatle-super-fan over here knows that even Lennon and McCartney didn’t always produce the most profound songs in the world. Music does not always need to be thought provoking, or incredibly clever, or revolutionary, or even exceptionally well written to have a function in the musical landscape. Music can be just for fun. And it should be, sometimes.
Shopping for cereal with my boyfriend a few weeks ago I had an epiphany. I became extraordinarily excited and finally realized what I want my music to be. I want to be Honey Nut Cheerios.
Stick with me…
You’ve got your Cap’n Crunch, your Fruity Pebbles, your Fruit Loops. You’ve got your Kashi, your Fiber-One, your various types of bran. And then, you have your Honey Nut Cheerios. Somewhere in the middle, Honey Nut Cheerios are both delicious and good for you. They are just the right amount of sweet. They are adored by people of all ages. They have been around since 1979 and have only managed to become more popular with age (I looked it up, you guys. Citation: Business Week). They are a part of American culture. They sell like crazy (hey, a girl can dream, right?).
Allow me to clarify my little allegorical paragraph. I want to make music with just enough sweetness. Music that’s interesting and different and daring enough that “music people” think it’s cool but accessible and catchy and relevant enough that casual pop fans go for it too. Music that I can play for my grandparents and parents (even if I do cringe a bit at certain lines I’d prefer them not ponder too intently), that my generation will love, and that’s acceptable for the ears of small children (again with the over-pondering thing). I want to be around in forty years, still touring and making records. I want to be a respected part of our musical culture. And of course I’d take the whole selling-millions-of-units part. If I had to.
I realize these are some steep goals. It’s not everyday a musician is able to knit herself into the fabric of music history. But one needs goals in order to accomplish anything in life. Why not set them to the lofty standards of one of the world’s best breakfast cereals?
It may sound crazy, but it’s the moments in life in the cereal aisle, these things that hit me out of nowhere, that really inspire me. I spend an incredible amount of energy fussing over my career and the direction it’s heading in. Even when I’m not actively thinking about it, I’m thinking about it. Which is why these crazy thoughts hit me while grocery shopping. Or why I wake up to write a song in the dead of the night, or why I can’t fall asleep in the first place.
In a musical era where shock value and level are stardom often seem highly proportional and you can’t throw a rock down an old red dirt road without hitting a song about a truck, I think we could use some more Honey Nut Cheerios.
But music isn’t as bleak as people like to make it out to be. There are many talented and successful Honey Nut Cheerios out there. Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert, and Mumford and Sons come to mind as far as acts with mainstream success are concerned. There are more on the horizon.
I’d like to think I’m somewhere just over that horizon. You’ll be hearing from me soon, and I’d be thrilled to be your Honey Nut Cheerios if you’d let me.