Songs Of Love And Money

Joshua Clover argues that the “world of country music is structured by two cycles; one we might call the cycle of life, the other the cycle of money”:

If the former sounds saccharine, it nonetheless moves us. It travels an infinite loop whose signposts are birth, the (oft-coded) entry into sexuality, marriage, childbirth, death. Sometimes divorce appears, without much interrupting the orbit. It recalls Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale, which shows that even the most fantastic tales are snapped together from repetitive units, always in the same order. The great formalization is Lorrie Morgan’s “Something in Red,” assigning inflection points between birth and death to various dress colors—from the red of sexual adventure to the maternity blues—after which the child commences its own cycle.

It is a story of generations and repetitions, in short. Its signal moment comes when we discover that a tale of crazy kids is being told by their parents, once crazy kids themselves. Thus the reveal of Trisha Yearwood’s “She’s in Love With the Boy” [seen above]: “My daddy said you wasn’t worth a lick / When it came to brains you got the short end of the stick / But he was wrong and, honey, you are too / Katie looks at Tommy like I still look at you.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

The other cycle is much shorter, but no less prevalent. Punching in on Monday, it trudges toward the Friday whistle; the weekend runs from paycheck to the local bar, the working man’s church. Maybe a moment of romantic or domestic happiness, maybe just a hangover; then Monday coffee sings its bittersweet song as all begins again.