Perhaps you assume that country music is not for you.
Perhaps you base that assumption on the impression you piece together from the radio that plays while you wait to pay your mechanic.
Or from tabloid shots of Kenny Chesney’s chest.
Or from your conjecture that the demographic for Nashville product is best exemplified by inhabitants of the house trailer where goats eat a hole in the back bedroom but the owners don’t know it for weeks because the house trailer is filled with crap, as depicted on the cable TV show Hoarders.
It is my belief that this fifteen-question self-exam, which can be taken in private without damage to one’s cred (if any), might reveal an undiscovered tolerance or even attraction to the actual music pumped out of country music radio stations each hour.
Let’s find out:
1. When you are at your parents’ house, alone in their bathroom, you pick up the Reader’s Digest and genuinely enjoy the jokes they use as filler items at the ends of stories. (+5 points)
You have spent enough time reading Reader’s Digest that you know that you actively prefer the real-life anecdotes of “Life In These United States” to the rim-shotty jokes of “Laughter, the Best Medicine.” (+15 points)
2. Little things kill you, like how people bump their heads together when someone points a camera at them. (+5 points)
3. You get a distinct thrill at the long train of pleasing syllables lined up here and clickety-clacking past you at 30 miles an hour:
“Right now she’s probably up singing some white-trash version of Shania karaoke.” (+5 points)
And you admire the specificity of this reference:
“Right now, he’s prob’ly dabbing on three dollars worth of that bathroom Polo.” (+5 points)
4. Your school bus used to drive by fields. (+2 points)
You’re reasonably confident you can distinguish a field of soybeans from a field of corn, wheat, or alfalfa. (+5 points)
Many of your high school yearbook photos show a cornfield in the background. (+15 points)
5. When you were a kid, and certainly as you got older, you found yourself very (+10 points), slightly (+5 points), or not at all (0 points) distracted and impressed by how many times lyricist Yip Harburg manages to find a rhyme for the word “witch” in the Munchkin scene of The Wizard of Oz.
This is not the first time you’ve heard of Yip Harburg. (+3 points)
6. You cannot flip past The Andy Griffith Show without pausing to see what’s happening and, if you pause for more than 30 seconds, you are stuck till the end. (+10 points for an attraction to small-town storytelling) Same for Roseanne.
(+10 points for an attraction to fictional blue collar characters that seem real) Same for Flight of the Conchords. (+2 points for an attraction to clever songwriters)
7. When several people greet you by saying “How are you?” within the space of one minute, you try to give a slightly different answer to each of them. (+5 points)
8. You have forgiven someone in the following manner: your mouth opens and shuts as if there’s nothing left to say, and your head shakes slightly as you look up and to your right at a 45-degree angle. (+2 points)
9. You just tried to imitate the expression described in Question 8. (+20 points)
10. (man) Your significant other accuses you of chewing too loudly, but there’s really nothing you can do about it. (+10 points)
(woman) Your significant other frequently takes large mouthfuls of cereals or salty snacks or pies with seeded fruits such as raspberries and chews on them with great exultation, in a manner that somehow makes the sound come out of his ears which serve to magnify the crunching like old gramophone horns and if you ever do kill your man, this will be what happens right before the stabbing begins. (+10 points)
11. You don’t mind a little show biz, and in fact, if an old Dean Martin special were on, you’d stop and watch it. And enjoy it. (+5 points) And though you’re amazed that America used to be okay with Dean-o’s apparent alcoholism, you think it’s kind of charming. (+20 points)
12. (parent) Weird little things having to do with the kids make you mist up, like being in the grocery store and finding the flavor of toothpaste they prefer. (+15 points)
13. If you have a choice at an interstate exit between Denny’s and Cracker Barrel, you choose Cracker Barrel. (+15 points)
14. Gauge your reaction to this story:
Steve Long was a friend of mine from high school. We weren’t close friends, but I was an “H” and he was an “L” and it was a small school, so our lockers were close and we sat near each other in several classes. We had, I think, a casual understanding and agreed on things that were funny, things that were stupid, things that were okay. After graduation, Steve went into the Army. His family worried the whole time he was overseas. After several years he eventually got a desk job at the Pentagon, and his mother in particular was greatly relieved. She could finally “breathe easy.”
The terrorists killed Steve at the Pentagon on 9/11.
That is painful and sad: (+20 points)
That feels too formulaic: (-15 points)
I prefer not to think about it: (0 points)
15. In high school you had a car and a girlfriend, or a boyfriend with a car. (+20 points)
It’s going to be hard for me to figure out a real scoring system because when I take this test I answer the highest amount on pretty much every question, including corn-in-the-yearbook-photos (but, sadly, excluding high-school-girlfriend). Here’s my best attempt at point values.
80 or more:
You should definitely be able to appreciate or overlook the highly polished production values of Nashville country radio, and tolerate the current (hopefully temporary) tendency toward overwrought celebration of capital-C Country, because you’ll get involved in the songs’ human truths and stories, and/or recognize the skill of highly verbal songwriters assembling strings of words that sound good together.
40 – 80:
You might give country radio a shot. Some of it will bother you, but you could be surprised how gratifyingly clever, sing-a-long-able, engagingly told and frankly touching a lot of it is.
10 – 40:
Someday you may find yourself giving into simpler sentiments than you currently allow yourself—either because you’ve set up housekeeping with a person you love; or forgiven your country cousins for being roughnecks; or had enough kids that you’re plain worn out and some of the songs seem to get that; or for some reason you simply feel part of a larger fabric and can’t spend any more time disdaining the wide, human middle of America which sees nothing wrong with Wal-Mart.
Less than 10: