Don’t piss off a country star; they’ll probably write a song about you.
10. “Outlaw You” – Shooter Jennings
Few are as mad about inauthentic country as Shooter Jennings. To be fair, we can’t all be country royalty, but Jennings gives his underwhelming contemporaries the ultimate ‘Bless your heart’ by giving them a literal history lesson. He indicts the machine just as much as the cogs: “Let me paint a picture for you / Nashville ’62 / The formula had proven true, they didn’t let nothing new through.” But the most vicious part comes in the chorus, where he calls out pretty boys who wear the right clothes and namedrop the right states, but never live what they sing.
9. “Dear John” – Taylor Swift
The speculation surrounding wrongdoers in Swift’s songs could outpace the average Russian novel. “Dear John”, released in 2010 on Speak Now, is her most transparent barb. Written as an open letter to an ex-boyfriend, the lyrics turn his crimes of hot-cold manipulation into sweeping metaphors: “You paint me a blue sky / And go back and turn it to rain / And I lived in your chess game / But you changed the rules every day.” Besides the track’s title, a big clue on the song’s main character is the melancholic, bluesy guitar riff that keeps popping up.
8. “Half Your Age” – Kid Rock
Nothing like a high-profile contentious divorce to get the creative juices flowing. Kid Rock’s light switch romance with Pamela Anderson officially ended at the beginning of 2007; ten months later, he released the most successful record of his career in Rock N Roll Jesus. “Half Your Age” is a snarling piece of winning-the-breakup braggadocio. His new girl doesn’t care about the strippers at his shows and she gladly does his household chores. The chorus’ punch line describes the narrator’s latest conquest, employing what is probably Kid Rock’s favorite kind of math: “She’s half your age and twice as hot.”
7. “Girl In A Country Song” – Maddie & Tae
Plenty of grumbling has been done over Nashville’s current bro-ing down, with charts featuring the same tired old clichés: girls wearing tight jeans, going on fishing dates, and drinking on truck beds. But this teenaged duo’s first single was the first succinct response. They manage to hilariously burn Billy Currington (“I hear you over there on your tailgate whistlin’ / Sayin’, “Hey girl” / But you know I ain’t listenin’”), Tyler Farr (“Yeah it’s drivin’ me red-red-red-red-red-red-redneck crazy”), and Jason Aldean (“Yeah baby, I ain’t your tan legged Juliet. Can I put on some real clothes now?”) in 3:39 flat.
6. “California Girls” – Gretchen Wilson
Despite its title, Wilson’s Chuck Berry-esque 2006 single takes it easy on the women of the golden state – she doesn’t have a problem with California, and she doesn’t even have a problem with plastic surgery. Pretty progressive stance on body image if you ask us. But sometimes she just gets tired of seeing size zeroes and fake tans everywhere. As an example, she belts out this gem: “That Paris Hilton gets under my skin / With her big fake smile and her painted on tan / She’d never have a chance at a real man.” Whoosh!
5. “Gone Country” – Alan Jackson
If done right (whatever that means), country can be one of the most profitable career moves a singer can make. Plenty have transitioned from pop to twang: Faith Hill, Sheryl Crow, Darius Rucker, and Michelle Branch are a few notables. No matter how deep their southern roots may have grown, it really pisses Alan Jackson off: “She’s been reading about Nashville and all the records that everybody’s buyin’ / Says, ‘I’m a simple girl myself / Grew up on Long Island.’” He doesn’t name names in this cleverly aloof slight, but he makes his feelings on boot-chasers pretty clear.
4. “Celebrity” – Brad Paisley
Paisley released this criticism of America’s cult of celebrity back in 2003 – a pre-Kardashian, pre-Twitter world. 2003 Brad would be disheartened to learn that it would get so, so much worse. The song eerily predicted Britney Spears’ ephemeral marriage to KFed and Justin Bieber’s Ferrari shenanigans. Plus the line “Can’t wait to sue my dad” may well have been a dig at fellow country star LeAnn Rimes, who sued her father in 1998. But his music video is the most cutting of all: it mocks Simon Cowell, Fear Factor, and The Bachelor.
3. “Keep The Change” – Hank Williams, Jr.
Hank Williams, Jr. used to do the NFL’s Sunday Night Football theme song, but he got in a spot of hot water after likening President Obama to a certain genocidal German. The NFL gave him the axe, and he got really, REALLY mad. He banged out this screed as a take on Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan – he’ll keep his freedom, guns, and religion, and the “United Socialist States of America” can keep the change. Depending on your political affiliation, the song may strike you as absurd, patriotic, or worrying. Either way, we’ll never have to guess where the dude stands.
2. “Stupid Boy” – Keith Urban
Since their 2006 wedding, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman have had one of the most highly publicized celeb marriages in recent memory. Kidman had previously been married to Tom Cruise for eleven years. Details on their split never surfaced, but it’s widely speculated that Cruise’s involvement with Scientology had something to do with it. Urban released this song pretty soon into his marriage, and has publicly stated that Kidman inspired him to write it. The stupid boy who “Stole her every dream / And you crushed her plans” is never named, but we’ll give you one guess.
1. “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Perhaps one of the most famous songs ever – ever – the jaunty piano and enduring guitar riff sometimes distract from its purpose, which is to tell Neil Young that he’s being an idiot. Lynyrd Skynyrd were dismayed after hearing Young’s songs “Southern Man” and “Alabama”, feeling that the south was being misrepresented (by a Canadian, of all people!) “Sweet Home Alabama” was Skynyrd’s attempt to tout Dixieland’s good side, through references to its endless blue skies and the legendary Muscle Shoals sound – especially the studio’s in-house band, the Swampers.