Island Airwaves… Countrified.

Written by: Maura

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When I moved to the Caribbean almost two years ago, the last thing I expected to hear on the radio was country western music. I expected Bob Marley, reggae, the sounds of steel drum bands – and maybe the odd Beach Boy song or two.

But much to my surprise, of the paltry few radio stations we have to choose from, it’s country western music that seems to dominate. This genre is definitely not my cup of tea, and I’ve yet to meet a country western fan here in Tortola, so I’m at a loss as to where these mystery fans are hiding. As there seems to be no escape, I’ve started to develop a growing disdain for the music flooding Tortola’s airwaves, in particular, the songs that have an “island country” feel. I’m sure you’re familiar with these gems – they’re the ones that replace the stereotypical country music themes of heartbreak, American patriotism, and guns with one basic activity: drinking. They’re a party anthem to the country bumpkins who are apparently in need of some major alcohol-induced escapism.

The song I love to hate the most is Drink in My Hand by Eric Church. I kid you not – every single time I sit in my car this song is somehow playing on the radio. Like most of the songs assaulting my ears in the BVI, it’s about one man’s love affair with alcohol:

Fill it up or throw it down,
I got a little hungover still hanging around
Yeah that hair of a dog is howling hey there man,
All you got to do is put a drink in my hand

Yea that hair of a dog is howling hey there man,
All you got to do is put a drink in my hand

Haaaouuhhh Yeaaa

What I loathe most specifically about this song is the fact that as much as it makes my skin crawl, it’s also pretty damn catchy. To my shock horror, I now unwillingly sing along to Drink in My Hand and yes – I know all of the words. My drive to and from work is a battle of my two selves – the one who can’t help but sing along to cheesy country music I openly hate and the one who judges me harshly as I do it. Suffice it to say, I’m in dire need of a CD player in my car.

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Another song that makes my ears bleed is People are Crazy by Bill Carrington. The main line in the chorus is, “God is good, beer is great, and people are crazy”. Though unlike the more popular Drink in My Hand, I have only heard this song once or twice… but rest assured, more than enough times  to develop a hatred that has penetrated every fibre of my being. Like all island country songs, it’s a drinking ballad and alcohol is placed so high on a pedestal, it comes second only to God. Thankfully, I think that the only way I could actually sing along to this song is if I was drinking beer…a lot of beer… so much beer that I could not be held accountable for my actions.

But the aforementioned songs are only the tip of the cowboy hat iceberg when it comes to my hatred of island country music. A particular standout is Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off  by Joe Nichols. If you do one thing today, please listen to this song. I promise you – it’s so ridiculous that it warrants your immediate attention. This country western crooner sings about his lady love’s propensity to lose items of clothing when she’s out drinking with her girlfriends. She is also heading to the Holiday Inn for cocktails. For that line alone, I love, love, love to hate this song. I always thought of the Holiday Inn as a no frills hotel in a convenient location like, say, next to an airport or a major tourist attraction. It’s definitely not somewhere I really thought of hitting up with my girlfriends for a few drinks on a night on the town. Perhaps the Holiday Inn is where the Carrie Bradshaws of rural America congregate?

She said, “I’m going out with my girlfriends
For margaritas at the Holiday Inn”
Oh have mercy my only thought
Was tequila makes her clothes fall off

Now, I’m probably going to make a few enemies with the next song on my list given the fact that Jimmy Buffett has a god-like status in this part of the world, but I’m not a country rock kind of girl and all of his songs sound the same to me. They are usually about the beach, happy hour, and/or tropical cocktails – meaning they make an appearance at practically every beach bar I frequent. And while I like and support all of those things, I just don’t like his music. A song I particularly detest is It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere, a collaboration he did with Alan Jackson. The lyrics simply grind my gears:

Pour me somethin’ tall an’ strong,
Make it a “Hurricane” before I go insane.
It’s only half-past twelve but I don’t care.
He don’t care.
I don’t care.
It’s five o’clock somewhere.

I couldn’t listen to this song unless I had at least five hurricanes. I would surely go insane otherwise. Again, what is with the idolisation of alcohol? Every single song on the radio is about people counting down the hour until drinking time. It reminds me of being in college and the excitement of finishing final exams. Everyone is counting down until it’s time to get drunk and getting ready to make a pit stop at Margaritaville.  AA groups around the world must hate Jimmy Buffett. Or love him. Who knows…

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The part of this song I absolutely hate the most is when Alan and Jimmy have a back and forth “chat” mid-song:

It’s always on five in Margaritaville, come to think of it.
Yeah, I heard that.
You been there haven’t you?

I can’t explain why, but I have a physical aversion to this little dialogue. I actually have to change the radio station accompanied by a sound of utter disgust such as “ewwwughhhh” or “ahhhheeww” – a unique refrain that is especially reserved for when a song makes me want to vomit. An impressive feat, Mr. Buffet and Mr. Jackson.

The last song I will add to my list of repulsion is a song I’m sure everyone knows: Red Solo Cup by Toby Keith. It seems to be the current ultimate country party anthem on the BVI airwaves:

Red solo cup, I fill you up
Let’s have a party, let’s have a party
I love you red solo cup, I lift you up
Proceed to party, proceed to party

I’ll admit this song is a guilty pleasure of mine and I can’t help but sing along. It’s unapologetically stupid and oh-so-cheesy, but – in my defense – it’s just too catchy to stay silent! Don’t worry though – I still judge myself brutally for my inability to not join in this chorus. I sing, I cringe. I sing, I cringe…

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7 thoughts on “Island Airwaves… Countrified.

  1. You’re listening to 92.3 aren’t you?! haha I feel your pain. I don’t mind ‘People are Crazy’ so much, but I HATE Red Solo Cup. Other particular pains in my ass are ‘I Drive Your Truck’ by Lee Brice, which makes me want to shoot myself, and Chicken Friend, by Zac Brown Band….to which now I cannot help but sing along to…with my best southern drawl.

      • It is horrifying to find yourself humming some of these annoying tunes without thought – what we dislike shouldn’t be so catchy!
        I turned up on Tortola back in 2000 and Jimmy Buffet has remained difficult for me to handle – constantly revolving between grudging acceptance (it does fit in), annoyance, dislike and hatred. I do think I should point out, in the afore mentioned ‘People are crazy’, that God is great, beer is good and people are crazy so the man has a slightly better sense of proportion.

  2. St Lucia…they luurvv.. Country music there! The gardener for our apartment couldn’t read or write and could barely speak anything other than patois but he could belt out Kenny Rodgers like no-ones business!

  3. Agh! Cannot stand it, but everyone thinks because I grew up in the country that I should love it grrrrr!

    I have not heard Country music yet in T&T but my husband loves it and flips stations in the car or on TV at home, to find it to purposely vex me, it amuses him.

    He did go to someone’s 60th Birthday party there one time (I was not there that trip) and the party was totally country and western. They even had hats & bandana’s for everyone & the Birthday boy wore jeans and chaps . Yikes!

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