Monday, March 26, 2007

Country Song of the Week: "Stupid Boy" Keith Urban/Sarah Buxton

The Olivier post is coming soon; I was only recently able to track down a copy of Richard III. I plan on watching it tonight and having the post up tomorrow. In the meantime, though, I am going to indulge another of my passions: country music. I was raised on country and in recent years have come back around to appreciating it as one of the most intelligent and lyrically interesting forms of popular music going. I am fan of not only the hipster fashionable old-school country (Cash, Waylon and Willie and the boys, etc) and alt-country, but also of mainstream country, especially the things that have been happening in Nashville in the last few years.

So, on to my country song of the week, which I think illustrates how great country lyrics can be. For the past few weeks, I have been haunted by Keith Urban's new single, "Stupid Boy". Today, I discovered that this song is in fact a cover of a song by a young country artist named Sarah Buxton. I am not technologically advanced enough to embed the songs in my post, but you can follow these links to listen to them:

Sarah Buxton's Myspace page: You can play it on the jukebox

Keith Urban's website: You can watch the video

As the song was originally recorded by Buxton (who also co-wrote it) it is a female empowerment ballad by a woman (speaking of herself in third person) breaking free of an emotionally abusive relationship to find herself. Fairly standard stuff lyrically, the kind of thing the Dixie Chicks would have recorded around '98.

Urban, however, while only changing a single pronoun, turns the song around into a plaintive lament by the abusive boyfriend. Slowing the tempo, stripping it of the original's glossy production and singing slightly behind the beat, Urban takes a typical Nashville Sound song and turns it into something gloriously weird and sad. Most importantly, the lyrics, which come dangerously close to corny in the original, take on a new resonance when the speaking roles are reversed. The dialogue the songs create between each other shows the beautiful ellipticism of country lyrics and the ability of country singers to transcend a song's lyrics while never devaluing them.

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