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’.