Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Articles [NAJP]

Only in America

Maybe everybody knows this, or soon will. But just in case it gets lost in the hubbub, let me note for the record that the music the Dems cued up directly after Barack Obama's acceptance speech in Denver tonight--which at least temporarily undid the knot in my stomach that formed during his damn vacation--was Brooks & Dunn's "Only in America." What a gutsy move, in a night filled with them. Brooks & Dunn are a well-regarded country duo I found mysteriously wanting even before they performed at the Republican convention in 2004. But it isn't the Repug thing that's gutsy--it's the country thing. Stevie Wonder? Manna for this guy (and especially his wife). But he can reach across the aisle--way across. I listened to the lyrics, and not merely so I could Google a line and find out what the thing was. They fit wonderfully. Context is everything. Yes we can.


By Kenneth Coleman on August 29, 2008 2:39 PM

I'd like to think the genius who reclaimed B&D's 2004 Bush jingle was the same wisenheimer who queued up Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" as Bill Clinton strutted off the stage Wednesday night.

By Chuck Eddy on August 30, 2008 2:59 PM

It was always a great song no matter how reprehensible the band's politics might be, but yeah, it sounded perfect Thursday night. Here's more:

By Michael Goodman on September 3, 2008 8:54 PM

Dear Bob:

You are my hero, and I've been reading your stuff since 1990 (I'm older than that, but you have to excuse a kid from Iowa not finding you before that . . . there were no Internets back then). My CD collection is a primer in your A-list. . . . But, really? Obama? A hero? Tell me you know a Democratic hack when you see one. Best, M (saw you at an Orchestra Baobob concert in Central Park about 5 years ago . . . too shy/nervous to approach).

By Robert Christgau on September 5, 2008 1:47 PM

I'm glad Michael Goodman and I like the same records, but he needs an editor. Love him or hate him, there's just no way the word "hack" applies to Barack Obama, from the left or from the right--not something anyone who makes a political comment should leave unclear. I suppose a Repug might just think any Democrat except our derelict ex Joe Lieberman is a hack--they're given to epithets those guys (and gals). And lefties like me (roughly speaking) might think a centrist and a hack are the same thing. But they're not. A hack is a machine politician for whom public office is an end in itself. I believe Obama is an unusually honest, moral, and intelligent politician who's in it to lead. I believe his politics are the consensus politics he's always said they are, and that should he become president he will make many decisions that disappoint progressives who place their hopes in him, as he has also said. Since the '60s I've dissented from my lefty allies' starry-eyed and/or slack-jawed belief that deep down most Americans share their values--we're nowhere near a majority, though if more non-voters voted, which is one thing "We are the change we've been waiting for" is about, the numbers would probably get better. So I try to make do. I worked for Kerry in 2004--put in a lot of hours making phone calls and ringing doorbells. I'll work for Obama with even more enthusiasm, because he has a much higher upside, because four years after 2004 the country is in even worse shape, and because he's opposed by a hothead and an ignoramus who in their own horrible ways may be more dangerous than Bush-Cheney. Goodman lives in a swing state, so I really hope he sees the light and does the same thing. And I hope everyone reading this does too.

By Michael Goodman on September 5, 2008 8:08 PM

What's funny is that I am an editor -- but not a good one, apparently. Touche to my pop music hero -- my "hack" label was meant as an indictment of Obama's failure to proffer a truly independent or inspired thought. But I didn't mean to imply that he's in it for the money. (I cover Wall Street stuff, and I realize where the real cash is made). Maybe I'm just not as enthusiastic about "making do" with a centrist who seems likely to revert to the Clintonian "smile while you say that" dismantling of the social safety net and violations of international law, while the faithful nod approvingly. I'd agree that the McCain hothead-wild card is to be avoided. But I'm also concerned about what 4 or 8 years of an Obama presidency will do to the remnants of a progressive movement. He's "our guy," right or wrong, I'm afraid. (It's already happening--note the cheers at his convention speech busting McCain because he wouldn't do enough to kill Bin Laden. That's hope and change?) Maybe we just differ on the upside: you see Derek Jeter, I see Pat Kelly. For what it's worth, this Iowa boy is now a Californian, so I'll probably give Ralph a vote and not influence Election Night one iota. But if I was back in the homeland, I'd pull the lever for Obama. Thanks for responding, though--it'll make my fridge.

By Jones on September 27, 2008 4:20 PM

Do you always reply to comments exclusive to politics, Mr. Robert Christgau? (If you don't reply, I'll consider that a reply).

By David Schweitzer on October 1, 2008 11:51 AM

Hi Bob -

After your post prompted me to read (though apparently not hear -- I saw the speech too) "Only In America" for the first time, it rang a slight bell. OK, so it's not actually that similar to Los Lobos' "One Time One Night."

But not only does Brooks & Dunn's song read better despite its blindered optimism, but it rocks more, too. Anyone using this during the 7th inning stretch yet? Beats the fuck out of Kate Smith.

Articles, Aug. 28, 2008

Freak You Jumping the Barracuda