Tim McGraw, I Hate (Love) You

By Maddie

I hate country music. I hate everything it stands for. I blame country music listeners for Bush and for 9/11. But ever since I moved from Missouri to New York City for college, I have become somewhat enamored with what I like to call the “Missouri Lifestyle,” and this includes listening to country. And when I say country, I mean Tim McGraw.

Embarrassingly, I have five Tim McGraw songs on my iTunes. Even more embarrassing, all of them have been played over ten times. Considering they have only been on there for about two months, that is a lot, especially coming from someone who rarely listens to an entire song. I mean, it could be worse. At least he’s a Democrat! And in my defense, these high play counts are not entirely my fault. I never listen to him alone. My friend Drea (from Missouri), my friend Stephanie (from Tennessee), and I sit on my bed and blast us some Tim McGraw while doing important things like talking about our non-existent boyfriends and checking our Facebooks. We like to envision ourselves as Southern girls gone North, remembering imagined childhoods filled with, as Tim sings so poetically, “skippin' rocks on the river by the railroad tracks.” We tell ourselves we are being ironic, and at one point I am sure we were, but the level it has scaled to is no laughing matter.

In writing this, I have admitted to myself for the first time that I actually enjoy listening to Tim McGraw. Just typing that out makes me want to commit suicide, but I do. Take the song “Seventeen.” It starts, “Backseat of her daddy's car/ I was trying not to go too far/ Kept thinking about the words the preacher man said.” Apart from the fact that I do not respect religious figures and have never gone too far in the backseat of anyone’s car—let alone my daddy’s—I have never related to any song as much as I relate to this. When the chorus kicks in (“Seventeen only comes once in a lifetime/ Don't it just fly by wild and free”), I sing along and almost forget that when I was seventeen, I was an anxious depressive who spent my weekends watching “Law & Order” reruns and dragging my mother to see Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage.

As I took a train back to New York recently, I wanted to listen to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” I know Christmas was a month ago, but Thurl Ravenscroft has a really cool voice. I scrolled past The The, Thieves Like Us and Three Dog Night to get to his name. Then I saw it. Hanging out right under Thurl was Tim. I turned to my left to see if my friend Drea was looking at my iPod. She was asleep. I was safe.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, I never listen to Tim alone. I will admit that there have been times when he has come on shuffle and I let him play for a minute before changing the song, but I have never wanted to listen to him like I did at that moment. But I did. I actually wanted to listen to Tim McGraw. I felt so dirty. It felt so wrong. I clicked on his name anyway, and then clicked on the title “Something Like That.” I looked to my left to make sure Drea was still asleep, then I turned the volume down so there was no chance it would leak out of my headphones and corrupt the innocent East Coasters. The song started and it felt so right. “It was Labor Day weekend, I was seventeen/ I bought a coke and some gasoline/ And I drove out to the county fair,” Tim sang to me. I do not know if it was some sort of twisted result of having been in Missouri for the past month, but I swear, at that moment, as the train rolled through Trenton, New Jersey, there was nothing I wanted to be doing more than drinking a Coke and driving to the county fair. Now if only I knew how to drive!


  1. Hey girrrrl, Next time you're in Mo, I'll take you down an "old county road" and teach you how to drive.

  2. Nate, that's creepy.

    Maddie . . . that was beautiful. Sometimes I, too, get in touch with my nonexistent roots. Over break I told my grandparents that I started listening to bluegrass just like the old days in Grampa's red-striped truck . . . which apparently never happened.

    I think you might still be alright. I mean, you haven't been sneaking roadkill into your salad or anything, right?

  3. no, but i did almost order soy buffalo hot wings for dinner the other night!

  4. I told you this in private, Maddie, but I may as well shout it to the world (via the comment section on this blog): I love this article. It is funny and very well written. You have shunned the chains of low self-esteem that many women have that makes them feel they are uncapable of being funny.

    I feel like this article is so important that it will be considered the first text in fourth wave feminism. Third wave feminism is all about liberal sexual activity and fourth wave feminism will be about high self-esteem and being hilarious.

  5. I'm with Jake. Between you and Caitlin, my entire theory about girls having too low self-esteem to ever post on a website has been shattered and rendered moot, like the 50,000 word article I had written about how a black man could never be elected President - and then a later 80,000 word article about how a black man could never be inaugurated President.

  6. That was very brave of you to come out of the closet, and also to admit you like Tim McGraw. I think you're right when you point out that the appeal is that it's something familiar, and it is especially comforting in an unfamiliar environment. There's a great Radiolab episode where they talk about how different 'country' musics are popular across many cultures, but they all have similar whiny sort of tones and lyrics that are forlorn and yearning for things past in a modern age of disenchantment and urbanization. Songs about county fairs sound ridiculous to people in New York, because they just don't have them there, they're alien. But just the same, many people in Kentuckytown think a song about befriending a black person is anomalous because there just aren't any to befriend. So while a song about shooting cows with assault rifles may be appealing to one demographic because it is something familiar, a song about shooting latin kings will be popular with another demographic because it is familiar to them. It doesn't make either one good per se, but they are able to evoke romanticized memories of times past that don't necessarily hold up to reality - due to our imperfect memory perception they become painted with broad strokes and the angst and anxieties we felt then as we do today are inevitably glossed over (that's kind of still a painting metaphor). And the beauty of country music is that its sole purpose is to manufacture those reminiscent kinds of feelings, it doesn't even have to actually be something you were once fond of like Full House or N.W.A. where the nostalgia provided by the medium communicating very base plot-lines and ideas is genuine (for me, at least). They just have to say 'this is how things were, and weren't things great back when?'. I mean this is basically the M.O. of the modern Republican party, so obviously it's pretty appealing as to get wide swaths of people to vote against their economic interests and foment hatred toward fellow human beings. And it is easy to get sucked in. I'm a big fan of The Band and while I would not lump them with ANY contemporary country musicians, they were still a group that performed a straight-faced eulogy to The South. So it's an interesting dichotomy for us rural liberals to be able to appreciate the familiarity and the simplicity and at the same time condemn the banality and awfulness of 'country' life.

  7. This article is still great and Glenn and I don't talk about women having low self-esteem anymore because of it.

  8. Enjoyed your article... as I am also one coming to grips with the fact that Tim McGraw is worth listening to, for the same reason you presented: There's something about his songs you can connect with no matter where you're from... Who woulda thought?