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'Detroit' vs. 'America'- Bring it on!
'Detroit' vs. 'America'- Bring it on!

John Rich vs. Rodney Atkins

John Rich’s “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” vs. Rodney Atkins’ “It’s America”

Yes, both are simplistic and cliched. But I like ‘America’ and hate ‘Detroit’ and here’s why.

“Shuttin’ Detroit Down,” says Rich, was inspired by the current financial crisis. Some stretch that was- the financial sitch has been front-page headline news for what, the past year? He portrays the CEOs who take big bonuses out of their government bailout money as bad people… again, this is some big creative leap?

So okay, that’s what doesn’t make me like the song. But what makes me dislike the song is when he says they’re living it up big in New York while they’re shutting Detroit down. For one thing, Wall Street isn’t living it up. Wall Street took a torpedo below the waterline, in case John Rich didn’t notice. And the hard working joe in NYC isn’t living it up. He’s got the same economic problems we’ve got everywhere else, on top of what his city suffered in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

When John Rich says “they’re” shutting Detroit down, who is they? Did you see the recent sales numbers out of Detroit? Everybody’s down like 30 to 40 percent in sales from last year… maybe the American consumer is shutting Detroit down. Have you seen the kinds of perks that the unionized auto workers get? Maybe the unions are shutting Detroit down. In any case, I don’t think New York is shutting Detroit down. Rich comes off sounding like the very worst caricature of a paranoid, ignorant hillbilly, pissing and moaning about how the guv’mint won’t get off the backs of po’ hard-working salt of the earth folk like him.

Even the fact that Rich claims that John Anderson helped write this song doesn’t make me like it any better… it just drops Anderson (who I really like, btw) down a few notches. Nor does his bringing up the fact that he campaigned for McCain score any points. The government bailouts that he’s railing against actually started before the current Democrat administration took over, so Rich is kind of full of it on that account, too.

Now granted, Rodney Atkins isn’t much more creative in “It’s America”- he throws out all kinds of Norman Rockwell imagery, from front-yard lemonade stands to summertime fireflies to Chevrolet. But it’s upbeat, it’s catchy, and it sounds good. Some of the criticisms leveled against this song have been that it uses poor grammar and odd metaphors, such as, “It’s America, it’s a man on the moon.” But if that’s what you’re going to judge a country song on, you might as well pack up and go home, ’cause good grammar ain’t nobody’s strong suit in any music on the radio. (See what I did there?)

Bottom line, while “It’s America” certainly isn’t going to blind anyone with it’s brilliant and original creativity, I’ll leave it on my radio. On the other hand, even a piece that features Kris Kristofferson can’t get me to watch the video for ‘Detroit’.

About R. Keith Rugg

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7 comments

  1. Well the only bailout that was started before obama was the Bank bailout. The stimulus package was started under bush a month before obama got into office cause obama begged and pleaded for bush to do so. So dont put this recent bailout out package on the bush era administration when if was 99% obama.

    And attacking someone for poor grammer, especially in a song that just supposed to make people feel good, is quite possible the lowest point of criticism.

    Quick note: Bush’s deficit as of oct 05. 5Trillion. Obamas deficit in oct 09 will be 12+ trillion.

    Now thats change we can believe in.

  2. Rich isn’t talking about the regular joe in New York. He is talking about execs continuing to collect fat paychecks and bonuses in the midst of a bail-out. And, it is hypocritical to take a swipe at his lack of creativity regarding finding a fresh issue and then draw on 9/11 sentiment. Perhaps you should be more creative in your criticism.

    It’s just a song.

  3. Just a Song?
    It’s a song that can be construed as critcizing “THE ONE”. Sung by a guy who supported Mcain.
    Joe the plumber just asked a questioin and look what they did to him.

  4. Yeah, poor Joe. He went from complaining about taxes on a business that he didn’t even have to a speaking tour, tv gig, and a book deal. I think he’ll be ok.

  5. The dumbing down of America continues, with mainstream country once again leading the way.

    Atkins shamelessly drops Bruce Springsteen’s name throughout his song, which sounds like it took about 15 minutes to write. Springsteen, however, has been writing songs about hard-luck, hard-working blue collar people his entire career, not just at times when he can cash in. He does it better and smarter, and gives his listeners credit for having intelligence, not just writing some simplistic, populist crap for the lowest common denominator.

    I don’t disagree with the sentiment; I love America too. But “It’s America” is boring, trite, mawkish and manipulative. In other words, perfect for country radio. Rich’s song is even more lightweight, but is a perfect flag-waver to give the NASCAR set something to rally ’round.

    But I know I’m pissing in the wind here. There will always be a market for opportunists like Toby Keith and Hank Jr. to write reactionary songs after a national disaster. Welcome to the club, Mr. Rich. Enjoy your profits.

  6. I can’t believe this. If it wheren’t for these two artist and many others, We wouldn’t have an American back bone. This song is about so much more than that! If it weren’t for these artist we would have forgoten every thing that has gotten us to where we are. If you look back between Kenny Rogers and Chris K. and Toby Kieth and Merle haggered and Willie and Waylon all remind us of the reason we like to be American. They tell us what we are fighting for and remind us to try to stay Americans, how dare you put down something you don’t understand. If you don’t get it then don’t listen! We have to many people that enjoy and NEED this song and many others. GOD BLESS AMERICA

  7. You know, when I read the last post, the one by C. masters, I sat down a wrote a scathing reply. Then I deleted it. It had too much of a smartass tone to it. Instead, just a couple of points I’d like to raise. Briefly.

    1. A patriotic theme doesn’t automatically make a song, even a country song, good.

    2. Patriotic songs, even patriotic country songs, are responses to and reflections of the people who write them, perform them, and listen to them. These musicians don’t give us our American backbone; they simply remind us of what already exists.

    3. The implication that the reason that I don’t like a particular song is that I don’t understand it or don’t ‘get’ it is just flat-out wrong. I will go pointy-cowboy-boot-toe-to-toe with ANYONE on this issue. I’m just tellin’ you- you are not going to find anyone with stronger country music and cowboy livin’ bona fides, period.

    4. And yes, this is where I start sounding like a jackass, but dude! Check your spelling! Out of six country musicians cited by name, the spelling on three of them were painfully mangled.

    5. And yes, here again, I might sound just a bit snotty, but I really do want to point out that, while the music might be inspirational, might drive you to tears (it happens to me more than I’d be comfortable admitting), I don’t require these ENTERTAINERS to tell ME what I’m fighting for. Not now, and not when I wore the uniform. (And at the risk of sounding more sanctimonious than ever, I will point out that one of the things we’re fighting for is the right to free speech, which is what helps to ensure that a country singer can come out with a bad song, that I can criticize that song, and that you can chastise me for my position.)

    Okay, so maybe it wasn’t so brief, but believe me, it was a lot less sarcastic that the original…