March 09, 2011

I Believe That's What They Call A Dubble Entender

From AOL The Boot: Trace Adkins Apologizes for 'Brown Chicken Brown Cow'
Trace Adkins has sold more than seven million albums and scored 22 Top 10 singles . . .

His previous hits run the spectrum from 'Hot Mama' to 'You're Gonna Miss This,' as well as comedic tunes including 'Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.' But it's his new single, 'Brown Chicken Brown Cow,' from his latest CD, 'Cowboy's Back in Town,' that has the burly singer red in the face. . . .

The song, [whose title] is actually the punch line to a sexual joke that dates back to porn movies in the 1970s, has caused quite a stir among formerly loyal fans.
Interesting side note: one of the song's writers is named Casey Beathard.

Also, though this story makes it sound as if Adkins wrote an innocent, heartwarming paean to his favourite barnyard animals, which only happened to be the punchline to a porn joke, that isn't even close to the truth.

To demonstrate my point, I will now provide a tongue-in-cheek Marxist cultural studies reading of the lyrics:
Bobby Joel and Betty got a real nice farm
Everybody knows that they work real hard
Bobby Joel sweatin' in the noonday sun
Betty right beside him 'til the work's all done
So far, so good, right? Here we see the classic configuration of the capitalist promise — hard work will get you a real nice farm — coupled with an irresistible heteronormalising narrative about a wife standing by her "sweatin' " (read: working; read: breadwinning) husband. Adkins is playing on a listener's expectations of the genre to disarm them, creating what looks like a "standard" country song, before introducing a twist that therefore becomes all the more shocking:
But every now and then they get a strong desire
To crawl up in the hay and set the barn on fire
This couplet is clearly an incitement to revolution, though there is some ambiguity as to whether Adkins is in favour of a more individual revolution — reading "strong desire" as a reassertion of species-being, i.e. our natural proclivities breaking free of their alienating capitalist fetters — or to a wider revolution based on destroying the very means of capitalist production, or "setting the barn on fire". Close reading of the following lines, however, suggests that Adkins gravitates more towards the former:
Now the hay needs haulin', the hogs need slop
The corn needs cuttin' but the tractor's stopped
They climbin' up the ladder, clear to the loft
Shuckin those dirty ol' work clothes off
Here our synecdochic proletariat's goal is less to destroy their capitalist "hog" oppressors than to ignore them, channelling their (re)productive energies away from "shuckin" "corn", and instead into "shuckin those dirty ol' work clothes" — yet another metaphor for the reclamation of their species-being. Like Orwell's Winston and Julia, who defy the strictures of their authoritarian society by having sexual intercourse in the "loft" of an antiques shop, Bobby Joel and Betty are here defying their capitalist strictures in equal measure — and the intent of the Orwellian allusion is confirmed by the song's chorus:
Singin' brown chicken brown cow
(Ain't nobody watchin' but the)
Brown chicken brown cow
And so, having successfully ignored the imperative to work — thus crippling, at least in part, the machinery of their oppression — "nobody is watchin' " anymore: not the implicit "Big Brother", nor the implicit, corrupt "hogs" of Orwell's other masterpiece, Animal Farm. Indeed, the only animals left watching are the brown chicken and the brown cow, who, as equally oppressed "workers" in the capitalist system — at least inasmuch as they also have profit extracted from them — serve as yet another stand-in for the (now liberated) proletariat.

In summary: Obamacare.

1 comment:

Claire said...

I came here to post something suitably pretentious but instead I'm just going to complain that Orwellian comparisons are lazy.

Next time you're doing a Marxist reading of country lyrics, please compare them to Proust. thx

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