Thoughts on Garth Brooks

January 27, 2012

Originally published in Boulder Weekly

April 2009

I was hanging out at a bar on Pearl Street, trying to suck the last vestiges of life-giving nectar from a beleaguered rum and coke, when the young man sitting next to me started berating his girlfriend for her “bad taste” in music. He was a snarky little prick, decked out in designer blue jeans, a popped-collar Tommy Hilfiger shirt and a mesh trucker hat turned sideways. (Quick aside: Can we place a moratorium on these ridiculous trucker hats already? Yes, I know Ashton Kutsher is like a god to all you moronic post-adolescent MILF hunters out there, but it’s starting to get annoying. It’s not cute, it’s not ironic — it’s just plain stupid. Do you want to know the main difference between a frat boy and a trucker? The trucker has a real job, and the frat boy’s daddy buys his clothes. OK, now back to our regularly scheduled program…)

ANYHOW, this metrosexual shitbird’s primary argument was that his girlfriend’s artistic discernment was inferior for one reason and one reason only: she liked Garth Brooks. In his mind, anyone who knew all the lyrics to “Friends in Low Places” was uncool and probably not very bright.

This is essentially why I can’t stand hipsters. They are the Hitlers of cultural cache, constantly attempting to control the opinions and perspectives of the people around them. It’s not enough for them to appreciate a certain style of art; they have to force the rest of the world to conform to their aesthetics. And when the rest of the world finally comes around to their way of thinking, what do the hipsters do? They declare those aesthetics “too mainstream” and turn their noses up at them.

I once had a roommate in college who constantly argued that the Red Hot Chili Peppers had “sold out” when they stopped making thrasher/punk music that no one cared about and started cranking out catchy alternative-rock hits that everyone loved. When he and his insular group of skater buddies were the only people who knew about the RHCP, they were cool, but as soon as the sorority girls across the hall started singing along to “City of Angels,” the band’s musical capabilities suddenly came under question. (Incidentally, this former roommate was also fond of trucker hats.)

For the record, there really is no such thing as “good taste” or “bad taste” when it comes to art. It is a concept that was invented by snooty elites to sell magazines and expensive clothing. Someone’s personal opinion about a subjective medium cannot possibly be wrong. You either like it or you don’t. Period. Does that mean all art is created equal? Absolutely not. There is a world of difference between Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “Purple Haze” and some 15-year-old stoner’s bastardization of the same song. But hipsters aren’t talking about talent or skill when they discuss bad taste; they’re subconsciously talking about exclusionary group dynamics.

In other words, they want to feel superior to you.

Hipsters often accuse Garth Brooks of creating the musical genre “new country.” This is a fairly accurate assessment, although one could also make a reasonable argument for Alabama, Brooks & Dunn, Hank Williams Jr., Kenny Rogers and possibly even Dolly Parton. But it’s true that Garth eclipsed all of these icons back in the 1990s with his unique combination of country-western twang and ass-kicking pyrotechnics. He made the definitive decision to meld arena rock with cowboy hats, and this earned him piles of money and the eternal ire of hipsters everywhere.

Hipsters absolutely hate new country, and, therefore, they are also obligated to hate Garth Brooks. At this point, I don’t think they even know why they despise these two entities, but I’d like to pose a theory: Hipsters hate new country because pathologically uncool people love it, and the hipsters cannot convince these pathologically uncool people that their music is actually uncool. Consequently, when you think about it, this makes new country very cool.

The people who listen to new country are the same people who shop at Wal-Mart and watch NASCAR and eat McDonald’s and vote Republican. They are the people who wear sweatpants to social events and often live in trailer parks. I know this because I grew up in a small town and I shopped at Wal-Mart and wore sweatpants to social events and listened to new country.

When hipsters try to shame people for liking Garth Brooks, in a way they are also trying to shame them for being proud of their subculture. It has nothing to do with bad taste, but it has everything to do with cultural elitism.

In the end, the guy at the bar who accused his girlfriend of having bad taste should probably examine his own political and social insecurities. And get rid of that stupid hat.

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