Things That Threaten My Sanity: Country Music Gossip Sites
Roger Miller once sang that “it takes all kinds to make a world.” Since Roger Miller is sort of my spiritual guru, I try to keep those words in mind as I encounter things and people I don’t understand.
But sometimes it’s too much. Even though I generally avoid visiting country gossip sites, their very existence bugs me. Who are these people demanding the latest pictures of Taylor Swift shopping and Kenny Chesney being bald as soon as they’re available? Why have they chosen to associate themselves with this genre? Are any of them over the age of 14? Is this a sign of the apocalypse?
Gossip sites have a right to exist, and they absolutely have an audience. In fact, if I were mostly interested in having a heavily-trafficked blog, I would probably be well-advised to start up another online gossip rag instead of continuing to plug away at this thing I’m doing now. I just don’t have it in me.
Beyond my longstanding distaste for gossip in general (as a precocious lad, I would advise chattering adults to “cut the small talk,” which I’m sure they must have found adorable), there’s something about country music in particular that makes it a terrible fit for the gossipy format. Isn’t this supposed to be a music of substance? A music of adult complexities and hard truths? The antithesis of the superficial youth- and image-centered world of Hollywood? Right, so remind me again: why do I need to know what Chuck Wicks ate for breakfast this morning? I’m more interested in whether he can sing a good country song.
One explanation for the popularity of these sites is the personal connection many fans in this particular genre feel to their artists of choice. They see them as friends. That’s the whole idea behind the CMA Musical Fan Fest Fair FunTown or whatever they’re calling it these days. Up close and personal with your favorite singers. Fan appreciation. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Sure, I’m living in a nice house and being flown around the country because you’re buying my albums, but we’re also buddies. And the relationship obviously isn’t one-sided because I’m taking these two days out of my year to thank you for the 365 days per year you spend worshipping me. That’s fair, right? Good, now wait in a seven-mile-long line just to shake my hand.
Sorry, got a little carried away there. The point is that even if fans do see their favorite singers as friends, that doesn’t explain needing to know every solitary thing about them. If my friends were that demanding, I’d disown them. Luckily, they don’t usually chase me around with cameras or call for constant updates.
It’s no coincidence that one of the major gossip songs in country music is actually an anti-gossip song. “Harper Valley PTA” was a huge hit for Jeannie C. Riley in 1968. Penned by legendary songsmith Tom T. Hall, it’s all about Mrs. Johnson “socking it to” a judgmental (and, as she points out, quite hypocritical) group of her peers who apparently have nothing better to do than involve themselves with all her alleged problems. The message is simple, clear and (in terms of the country music canon) familiar: butt out. Country gossip sites are often more like the meddlesome Bobby Taylor or the nosy Shirley Thompson than the admirable Mrs. Johnson.
That’s all for now. I’ll play you out with some Hank Williams:
Oh, the woman on our party line’s the nosiest thing
She picks up her receiver when she knows it’s my ring
Why don’t you mind your own business, mind your own business
Well, if you mind your business, then you won’t be mindin’ mine.