I haven’t had the chance to listen to the entirety of country singer Brad Paisley‘s latest effort, Wheelhouse. As an artist in a genre in which I’m more of a casual listener, Brad Paisley is one of my favorites – he’s got a great since of humor and can play a mean guitar. That said, my homeboy is drawing some criticism because of a certain track called “Accidental Racist” (Accidental Racist: How Bad Punditry Makes Bad … ). “Accidental Racist” features veteran rapper LL Cool J and is written by Paisley, LL Cool J, and Lee Thomas Miller.
The idea Paisley seeks to achieve on “Accidental Racist” is noble; He is trying to mend broken bridges, do away with misunderstandings, and ease racial divides, etc. The execution and final results of the cut miss. The problem is that perhaps Paisley is plays up those same divisive stereotypes, even though they are with good intention: “I’m just a white man / coming to you from a south land / tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be / I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done / And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history / our generation didn’t start this nation / we’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday / and caught between southern pride and southern blame”. Out of the refrain, he is quick to point out race, minding what you say/act, and the infamy of the south.
LL Cool J, an odd match for Paisley (or any country artist for that matter), makes things even more
awkward arguably, posing as a ‘Black Yankee’: “Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood / what the world is really like when you’re livin’ in the hood / just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good…Now my chains are gold but I’m still misunderstood / I wasn’t there when Sherman’s March turned the south into firewood…” Oh brother! Even more ‘laughable’ (not really), is as Paisley continues to sing after LL’s verse, he chants random things in relation to racial differences (“if you don’t judge my doo rag, I won’t judge your red flag…”).
If “Accidental Racist” weren’t so stereotypical and perhaps simple-minded, would it be considered a really ‘good’ song musically? No. The cut is too long and drawn out at just under six minutes in duration; a quicker pace certainly wouldn’t have hurt. While there is a distinct form about the songwriting, perhaps Paisley didn’t need a bridge given LL Cool J’s verse, or visa versa. The point is, Brad Paisley likely had good intentions, sparked a reaction (which gets you talking about the particular record/topic), but doesn’t deliver the perfect song with the perfect lyrics to match his intentions. Pundits will pick it apart, but ultimately Wheelhouse has 16 other songs, some of which I’m sure are stronger and probably more notable.