When songwriters find a formula that works, they use it. This formula clearly works. Many of the following songs were #1s on the Billboard country chart. They all use the youth→marriage→parenthood cycle as a major structural feature of the narrative. Some do it better than others, but the radical in me wonders: why do it at all?
There Goes My Life – Kenny Chesney (#1 in 2003)
Hell I’m just a kid myself / How am I gonna raise one?
Nothing like an unplanned pregnancy to speed up the maturing process.
In a Real Love – Phil Vassar (#1 in 2004)
How am I gonna have a kid / When I’m still a kid myself?
Sound familiar at all? I wonder which was written first…
Best Mistake I Ever Made – Kevin Fowler (#1 on Texas Music Chart in 2008)
Never thought I’d see Kevin Fowler at home on a list with Phil Vassar and Kenny Chesney, but his spot here is well-deserved.
You’re Gonna Miss This – Trace Adkins (#1 in 2008)
First verse: “I can’t wait to turn 18”
Second verse: Before she knows it she’s a brand new bride
Third verse: One kid’s cryin, one kid’s screamin’
Real Life (I Never Was the Same Again) – Jeff Carson (#14 in 2001)
Loss of childhood friend (a dog) → meeting future wife → birth of child
There isn’t much more to it than that.
The Love Song – Jeff Bates (#8 in 2003)
Thank the Lord, cut the cord / Take her home, help her grow / And complete the circle of love
One Boy, One Girl – Collin Raye (#2 in 1995)
Why am I not surprised to find a Collin Raye song here? He’s got the market cornered on sap.
Don’t Take the Girl – Tim McGraw (#1 in 1994)
Boyhood → relationship → birth of child → big finish (wife dies)
Sorry, Collin, but Tim outsapped you this time.
She Was – Mark Chesnutt (#11 in 2002)
She said “What would you like, a boy or a girl?” / And he said “Are you?” (SPOILER ALERT: She was!)
We Weren’t Crazy – Josh Gracin (currently climbing)
Just a couple kids a couple years ago
Now we got a couple kids of our own
Tough Little Boys – Gary Allan (#1 in 2003)
When tough little boys grow up to be dads
They turn into big babies again
It’s a good thing Gary Allan can pull it off.
Don’t Blink – Kenny Chesney (#1 in 2007)
Kenny again? From 6 to 25 to marriage to kids to grandkids to death in one chorus. An impressive feat, I would say.
Remember When – Alan Jackson (#1 in 2004)
Livin’ on Love – Alan Jackson (#1 in 1994)
Alan Jackson can do whatever he wants. He knows how to build something substantive around the formula rather than using it as a crutch. Still, it doesn’t make for his best work.
Note to songwriters: Unless you’re Alan Jackson, try something else.