Watch Sturgill Simpson take on Donald Trump’s wall in political new music video

 

Sturgill Simpson’s latest music video dropped yesterday, four days after he took home the Country Album of the Year award for “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth” and performed at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Simpson was also nominated for Album of the Year, but lost to Adele’s “25.”

YouTube screenshot.
YouTube screenshot.

The video is for “All Around You,” the horn-laced song Simpson performed at the Grammys. Like the other two videos from “Sailor’s Guide,” it is directed by Matt Mahurin, and it features the same grungy, earthy animation style as the clips from “Brace For Impact (Live a Little)” and “In Bloom.” Unlike the other two videos, “All Around You” has more of a political bent.

More: Tickets for Sturgill Simpson’s September concert at Austin 360 Amphitheater are now on sale

The video features a young boy in a superhero costume and cape (probably a stand-in for Simpson’s young son, for whom “Sailor’s Guide” was written), walking gloomily around a barren landscape until he finds a ring in the shape of a heart. The ring becomes the boy’s compass that he uses to guide a rowboat. The boy then travels to a wall overseen by a very familiar-looking American president in a red tie and uses the heart to destroy the wall while the horns from the Dap Kings reach a crescendo.

YouTube screenshot.
YouTube screenshot.

The clip is the most political Simpson has ever gotten in a music video, although he made news last year after he called out the politics of Nashville when he said “Garden and Gun Magazine” disrespected the late Merle Haggard by not putting him on their cover as planned.

More: Sturgill Simpson teaches a master class in cool at “ACL Live”

Watch the full video below.

Gone Country: Should country stars get political?

On Jan. 21, when up to 50,000 people attended the Women’s March in Austin and hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C. for the same purpose, social media was lit up with #WomensMarch tweets, posts and photos. Protesters and marchers took to the internet to share their views on the day and what it meant to them.

Margo Price performs at the Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic at Austin360 Amphitheater on July 4, 2016. Photo by Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Margo Price performs at the Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic at Austin360 Amphitheater on July 4, 2016. Photo by Erika Rich for American-Statesman

Another group of people who shared their views on that day’s events: country music stars.

Once you think about it, it doesn’t seem so far fetched. Entertainers are people, too, with lives and thoughts and political views. But in today’s ever-polarizing political climate, some of the voices of the “shut up and sing” school of thought have become more prominent. We want our entertainers to entertain and not proselytize, the thought process goes.

Country stars used to be shunned for expressing atypical political views. Almost 14 years ago, when Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines spoke out in London against President George W. Bush’s stance on Iraq, the trio was quickly made a pariah in Nashville. On top of the radio silence they received from DJs, the trio received death threats for their views and got involved in a longtime feud with Toby Keith, who rose to stardom off of his uber-patriotic songs in the wake of 9/11.

Now, following the inauguration of Donald Trump as America’s 45th president, many country stars are becoming more and more politically active. The tweets and Facebook posts referenced above are just a drop in the ocean of country stars expressing their views.

Some, like Americana singer/songwriter Jason Isbell, express their views with a dry sense of humor. Here’s a tweet from him following news of President Trump’s proposed immigration ban:

Margo Price, who tweets and posts regularly about political news and who used her November 9 NPR “Tiny Desk” concert as an opportunity to mourn the election results, also had this to say about the immigration ban:

And this, on deleting ride-sharing app Uber from her phone, in the wake of that company’s dropping of surge prices near JFK Airport in an effort to capitalize off of a cab driver’s strike:

Here’s Natalie Maines on Twitter, joking about Sean Spicer’s “alternative facts” explanation of Trump’s inauguration crowd size:

And here she is again, in a bit of a deja vu moment:

Maren Morris, who has also spoken out on gun control following last year’s shooting in Orlando, is also angry at the “shut up and sing” mentality foisted upon women in country music:

marenmorristweet

 

 

 

 

 

The stars who are expressing their frustration are historically in good company. Johnny Cash was always a mouthpiece for “the poor and the beaten down, living on the hopeless hungry side of town.” Merle Haggard sang about how he was happy to be an “Okie from Muskogee” when he was disheartened by protests of the Vietnam War. Willie Nelson has a new song coming out bemoaning the states of politics in America. And the Drive-By Truckers, who have long been political, released country’s most liberal-leaning album of the last decade (decades?) last year in “American Band.”

But now, with the ability to shoot off an opinion at the touch of a button, many country stars (and entertainers in general) are encouraged and expected to have a point of view on the politics of the day. If the Dixie Chicks were at their peak popularity today and not in 2003, they would be just as viciously attacked if they didn’t say anything about the president. Gone are the days of being judged solely on your artistic merits. Now, every entertainer is judged on their artistic merits and if their politics line up with those of their fans. It’s becoming increasingly hard to divorce the two.

And many media outlets are expecting country stars to speak out.

The very act of playing a presidential event is in itself considered political. When Lee Greenwood, historically a Republican who has played at the inaugurations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, was selected to play Trump’s inauguration party, he got grilled by an overeager Rolling Stone Country reporter eager to catch the “God Bless the U.S.A.” singer in a series of “gotcha” questions:

“President-elect Trump’s campaign was ruthless and controversial. Did you have any reservations about performing for him?
Well, no, because I’m not really performing for him. The Inaugural Committee chose entertainers to come and entertain the crowd.”

Texas’ own Randy Rogers Band had to issue a reassurance tweet when news broke that they were playing a pre-inauguration party in D.C. that routinely features Texas artists and has been in effect for decades. And everyone just assumed it was a given when Toby Keith was selected to perform at the inauguration.

A recent article from Rolling Stone Country argues “Why It’s Time for Country Stars to Speak Up About Trump.” But what that article fails to realize is that while artists like Margo Price, Jason Isbell, Drive-By Truckers and Maren Morris are infusing the genre with more liberal politics, many of the members of country’s old guard are either savvy enough to remain apolitical, like Dolly Parton, or they supported Trump in the first place, like Charlie Daniels, Ronnie Dunn or Travis Tritt.

There’s a reason most of the country artists you see speaking out liberally about politics are either indie artists or young artists: they can afford it. Most of their fans expect them to have those views anyway. And whether they’re entertainers or not, everyone’s got an opinion on everything these days, and it’s easier to share those opinions than ever. Country stars are people, too, whether you agree with their politics or not. If you’re a liberal country music fan or a conservative country music fan, just keep in mind to consider the source of those political views. Don’t let Margo Price’s political views detract from the fact that her debut album is amazing. Don’t let Charlie Daniels’ stance on Hillary Clinton blind you to his fiddle playing. Besides, it’s not news when Toby Keith or Lee Greenwood play a Trump inauguration. Call me when the Drive-By Truckers do. That’ll be news.

Gone Country aims to thoughtfully explore the country music genre and where it’s headed, with a focus on national trends and buzzworthy news of the week. For info about album releases and concerts, check out this week’s Country Music Roundup.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or through email at jharris@statesman.com.

Five dope vintage rap songs that reference Donald Trump

Kanye West meets with President-elect Donald Trump in New York in December. Sam Hodgson/The New York Times
Kanye West meets with President-elect Donald Trump in New York in December. Sam Hodgson/The New York Times

Back in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton was president and Donald Trump was merely an example of when-you-got-it-baby-flaunt-it! wealth and not the Russia-endorsed leader of the United States, the latter showed up in a whole lot of rap songs.

Seriously: a whole lot of them.

What with his vast wealth (but nobody is entirely sure how vast), conspicuous consumption and love of the spotlight, he seemed an ideal aspirational figure (or at least a rich white guy).

As you might imagine, references to the man have gotten grimmer since, say, 2015. They are unlikely to get more positive any time soon.

Here are five of the best hip-hop songs that shout out the current president-elect. All of these are older and actually mention the man, unlike Run the Jewels’ brand-new “2100,” which they wrote in response to the election but which does not mention the president-elect by name.

1. Nelly — “Country Grammar “

“From broke to having brokers: my price-range is Rover/ Now I’m knocking like Jehovah/ let me in now, let me in now Bill Gates, Donald Trump, let me in now.”

In one of 2000’s best pop songs, Nelly blended playground/double dutch rhymes with spare, loping beats. The clean version is better than the dirty.

2. UGK —  “Pocket Full of Stones”

“It’s gettin’ so bad I got pregnant fiends hoin’/ (REDACTED) and (DEFINITELY REDACTED) just to get a pump/
(BEEP) Black Caesar, (BEEP) call me Black Trump”

A classic ode to that trappin’ life from Houston gods Underground Kingz. RIP Pimp C.

3. A Tribe Called Quest — “Skypager”

“The ‘S’ in skypage really stands for sex/ Beeper’s goin off like Don Trump gets checks”

A deep cut from Tribe’s immortal “The Low End Theory,” “Skypager” takes us back to a time when, well, folks had pagers. The line belongs to the late Phife Dawg. It’s a bit of a throwaway, but as with so much on “Low End,” that beat is RIGHT.

4. Raekwon– “Incarcerated Scarfaces”

“Poisonous sting which thumps up and act chumps/ Rae’s a heavy generator/ But yo, guess who’s the black Trump?”

A stone classic from the still-knotty “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx,” considered by many heads to be the finest of the first wave of solo Wu Tang albums. (Yes, “Liquid Swords,” “Brooklyn Zoo” and “Ironman” all compete for the top spot, don’t @ me).  How strong was “Cuban” as an album? “Scarfaces” was THE B-SIDE to “Ice Cream.” Those were the days.

5. Kanye West — “So Appalled”

“I’m so appalled Spalding ball/ Baldin’ Donald Trump, takin’ dollars from y’all”

Well before he was taking meetings in Trump Tower, Ye manages to work in a joke about the Donald’s hair. And yeah, it’s not the strongest track on the opulent “My Dark Twisted Fantasy” (indeed, the whole opening has a freestyle feel), but it takes us back to a time when Kanye and Jay still talked to each other, which is nice to recall. And the chorus is probably how about half of Americans will feel Jan. 20: “It’s like that sometimes, I mean ridiculous/ It’s like that sometimes, this (beep) ridiculous.”

 

 

 

Willie Nelson’s next album will feature a song inspired by the 2016 election

Willie Nelson was a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election cycle, but now that Nov. 8 has come and gone, he said he has written his takeaway from the election in a song.

100316 willie nelson studio
Willie Nelson tapes a piece in the Pedernales Recording Studio for the US premiere of the Irish music series Other Voices on October 3, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

“Delete and fast-forward, my friend/ The elections are over and nobody wins/ But don’t worry too much, you’ll go crazy again/ Delete and fast forward, my friend,” were the lyrics he spoke to Rolling Stone Country in an interview published Friday.

The lyrics, from a song called “Delete and Fast-Forward” from Nelson’s upcoming album “God’s Problem Child,” uses a refrain Nelson has been using since at least August of 2015, when he told GQ Magazine that “delete and fast-forward, start over again” was his “new motto.”

Another interview with “The Cannabist” in October of 2016 had Nelson telling an interviewer these lyrics to the song (possibly another verse): “Delete and fast-forward, my son. The wars are all over, and nobody won. But don’t worry too much about it. You’ll just go crazy again. So just delete and fast-forward, my friend.”

More: Read more Willie Nelson coverage here

Nelson told RS Country that he’s not too concerned about the upcoming Trump administration’s stance on marijuana laws:

“I didn’t have any problem finding [marijuana] when it was illegal, and now that it’s legal, it’s still no problem. Making it illegal again won’t stop people from smoking. They should have learned that back in prohibition days.”

According to RS Country, the rest of the album will feature original songs co-written with producer Buddy Cannon, including “Still Not Dead.”

“I got up two or three times in the last couple of years and read the paper where I’d passed away,” Nelson said. “So I just wanted to let ’em know that’s a lot of horse****.”

Gone Country: Which presidential candidate does your favorite artist support?

“We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

DixieChickssjp24JPG
Staff Photo by Sung Park/AMERICAN-STATESMAN The Dixie Chicks perform at the Frank Erwin Center. Natalie Maines sings “There’s Your Trouble.” Note the F.U. T. K. (F U Toby Keith) shirt.

When Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines spoke those words to a London crowd in March 2003, right before the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq, she couldn’t have imagined the media firestorm she would ignite by voicing her political opinion.

“Bushgate,” as it came to be known, resulted in boycotts of the Chicks, death threats towards Maines and the reinforcement of a prominent attitude in country music: you don’t talk about your political beliefs, and you definitely don’t express your disapproval with the president. And you especially don’t make those statements if you’re a woman. (The fact that Maines got boycotted for voicing her political beliefs but Toby Keith made a career out of voicing his is enough fodder for another column, but I digress.)

That’s why, during the 2016 election cycle, Bushgate seems quaint. The Dixie Chicks routinely open up shows on their new tour with a photo of Donald Trump as The Devil, often brought out during their performance of “Goodbye Earl.”

In fact, country artists are still historically mum about who they support on the ballot, but many are still showing their approval (or disapproval) of the two party’s candidates in myriad ways.

Take Jason Isbell, for example. The Americana star hasn’t formally endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, but it also looks like he doesn’t support Donald Trump, either. He tweeted the following after his wife Amanda Shires gave birth to their first child:

Margo Price put her songwriting chops to good use back in December to decry the Donald:

And the latest rock star-cum-country outlaw Steven Tyler threatened legal action against Trump’s camp if he ever used Tyler’s music again, after “Dream On” was used during campaign rallies.

But there’s still many country artists and celebrities who support Donald Trump, including Ronnie Dunn, who counts “Whoopi [Goldberg] say[ing] she’ll leave the country” and “You will not be able to marry your pet” as benefits to a Trump presidency in a recent Facebook post.

Kid Rock (who previously supported Ben Carson), Lee Brice, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Chris Janson all performed at the Republican National Convention last week, which also saw an appearance from Willie Robertson. Janson somehow made the unbearable “Truck Yeah” even worse after changing the lyrics to “Trump Yeah.”

(Side-note: While not the most relevant artist, Kid Rock’s episode of Planet Money where he goes into his detailed plan to stop ticket scalping at his shows is a beautiful lesson in free-market capitalism.)

Loretta Lynn told Reuters that she thinks “Trump is the only one who’s going to turn this country around.”

Even part of the Oak Ridge Boys are riding the Trump Train, as evidenced by the following tweets from member Joe Bonsall:

https://twitter.com/Bikers4Trump/status/758006682538512384

So who is left in Hillary’s camp?

The Dixie Chicks, of course. And Willie Nelson, who supported both Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary race, and Cyndi Lauper, who expressed her confidence in Clinton in an earlier interview with Rolling Stone Country.

On the whole, many artists are honoring that time old tradition of keeping quiet, and some are even playfully deflecting political questions.

“I’ve been thinking about running for president myself — I have the hair for it. We need more boobs in the White House! You know me, I don’t get into political things, I just hope and pray we get somebody wonderful,” Dolly Parton said at a press conference earlier this summer.

Longtime Democrat Tim McGraw hasn’t said anything about the election yet, and the historically Obama-bashing Hank Williams, Jr. told Rolling Stone Country he “[doesn’t] give a s— about the election.”

But one thing’s for certain: nobody has called for any all-out boycotts of any country artist for expressing their views this election. And that’s truly something that Makes America Great.

Gone Country aims to thoughtfully explore the country music genre and where it’s headed, with a focus on national trends and buzzworthy news of the week. For info about album releases and concerts, check out this week’s Country Music Roundup.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or through email at jharris@statesman.com.