And the new worst song of all time is ...
Acouple years back, I dedicated 24 inches of column space to declare the Insane Clown Posse's "Miracles" as the single worst song ever recorded.
I thought that song's mind-breaking stupidity would stand the test of time, keeping it atop the pantheon of awful music for at least the next 275 years.
After reaching my conclusions regarding "Miracles," I quickly put all things Insane Clown Posse out of my mind, confident that I would not have to revisit the subject of Worst Song Ever in my lifetime.
That was until the broadside attack on my senses and intellect that is the Brad Paisley and LL Cool J duet "Accidental Racist."
It takes real effort to make the Insane Clown Posse look like Rhodes Scholars, but Paisley and LL Cool J somehow manage to do this while setting country music and the topic of race in this country back several generations.
"Accidental Racist" tells the story of a "proud rebel son" who catches some crap from a Starbucks barista after he walks into the coffee shop wearing a shirt emblazoned with the Confederate flag.
Of course, the narrator is not a racist. Oh, no. He's just a "Skynard fan" who is proud of his heritage, but not some of the "things we've done."
The whole song is couched in the cowardly language of equivocation. Paisley puffs his chest out as a challenge to the meany pants barista, but all the while he feels the sting of guilt for some of the bad things some bad people did 200 years ago.
This bad thing is slavery, which Paisley never refers to by name, only shading around the specifics by referring to some vague "mistakes / That a bunch of folks made long before we came."
Brad, I know you're a huge fan of my work, and thank you for taking the time to pick up Tempo every Friday. But I'm going to level with you here. A mistake is leaving a $20 bill in your pants before throwing them in the laundry. A mistake is backing your jacked-up F-350 into the garage door before it is fully opened.
Slavery was not a "mistake." It was a deliberate act of dehumanization and subjugation for economic gain that might have spoiled every chance that this country had of fulfilling its potential less than 100 years after its founding.
After about three minutes of Paisley's wishy-washy equivocating, in chimes LL Cool J, famous for bringing hip-hop to the mainstream in the mid-'80s.
Problem is, LL Cool J was never known for his wit or wisdom, nor his lyrical prowess. He might have outsold rhyme sorcerers such as Eric B. and Rakim and Big Daddy Kane, but they forever will tower above LL in terms of skill and depth.
LL pats Paisley on the back before hitting him with some tough love, with lines such as: "Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood / What the world is really like when you're livin' in the hood." So far, not too bad.
But LL then starts laying it on thick, suggesting both sides are guilty of "judgin' the cover not the book" and that everything can be sorted out if they'd sit down for a beer to "conversate and clear the air."
Because, you see, in the wishy-washy equivocation world, everyone is guilty! You can't assign blame to any side, because that would involve making people uncomfortable, and, golly, that can't happen if we're gonna have a serious talk about serious things.
The songs ends with the co-narrators speaking of letting "bygones be bygones" and accepting that the "past is the past." There's no mention of either side coming to any sort of tough realization about how it's impossible, let alone counterproductive, to let bygones be bygones when issues of race, class and ignorance continue to be an anvil chained around this country's neck. An anvil that someone put there. It didn't just magically appear.
"Accidental Racist" has been attacked by some in Internetland for being unintentionally, or intentionally, racist, depending on the writer's take.
I'm not buying it. It's too shallow and maudlin to harbor any sort of subversive agenda. It's guilty of dumbing down the conversation, of taking the easy way out.
It's a damn shame, because Paisley and LL could do better. I actually like a fair amount of Paisley's work. Out of the current crop of mainstream country superstars, he remains one of the more clever song-spinners. His 2005 album "Time Well Wasted" is a classic, old-school honky-tonk album, complete with fatalistic alcoholics, guilt-ridden cheating husbands and some Haggardesque licks from Paisley's Fender Telecaster.
As for LL Cool J, I didn't expect much from him to begin with, but "Accidental Racist" is embarrassingly bad. He goes on tour with Public Enemy later this year. I'd like to think Chuck D will find a spare moment between sets to sit LL down for a word or two about how you don't need to appeal to the lowest common denominator to sell hip-hop to the masses.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email@example.com.