“If you like Andy Warhol and say that you don’t like pop country, you’re kidding yourself.” An odd statement, I realize, but a touch of context: my friend Jonathan was espousing his respect for modern pop country music as slavish devotees to the perfect pop song. “Verse, a sweet chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus and maybe the chorus again if it’s really good.” And thus his comparison to Warhol – pop über alles.

“I won’t argue with you,” I said, “but I can name one particular way in which pop country songwriters can go wrong every time: trying to pull in cultural references from other parts of the mainstream and shoehorn it into a country song.” Before I could even say it, the words were out of his mouth: “Oh, like ‘Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.‘”

The first time I ever heard Trace Adkin’s ode to country derrière, I audibly guffawed. It seemed like such a forced piece of cultural hijacking that I sneered at what, to me, appeared to be its clumsy attempt at crossover appeal. The chorus seemed especially odious: from its use of the titular phrase to indicating that the narrator’s ogled object had it “going on like Donkey Kong.” I’m still a bit unclear as to what that means, unless she was throwing barrels at Italian plumbers, or (more likely) it was just a nonsensical piece of internal rhyme. Either way, it just seemed like a dud of a song. Of course, Billboard says otherwise as the song would eventually hit #2 on the Country singles chart and as high as #30 on the Hot 100.

Twenty years earlier though, Mel McDaniel, another pop country craftsman, had created his own celebration of posterior in the form of “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On.” While it doesn’t rely on a clichéd phrase to get its point across, it does center on a particular cultural fixture: blue jeans. “Everybody’s looking as she goes by,” McDaniel sings, noting that the crowd turns their heads and watches her “until she’s gone.” Certainly not a far cry from “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”‘s line about how people “hate to see her go, but love to watch her leave.” Similarly paired are lines like “she can’t help it if she’s made that way” from McDaniel’s song and “you can’t blame her for what her mama gave her” from Adkins’.

Now, admittedly, I’m a sucker for McDaniel’s song, but certainly not for Adkins’. But why? They’re the same exact song in so many ways that it’s hard to rouse a defense for my feelings. I’ve always had an aversion to songs that make references that are dated the moment they’re used, but almost anything in our culture can have that happen. It’s mere coincidence that blue jeans are a staple of clothing, and “badonkadonk” is a phrase that has even now slowly slipped from its at-one-time more common cultural usage. Both songs take an equally objectifying view of the woman in question, but that’s not uncommon in pop music either. It might just come down to the fact that McDaniels was on the radio when I was young and my parents were listening to country radio, and Adkins was around when I’d grown old enough to be jaded and cynical about pop matters.

Thanks, Mel McDaniel. Way to undermine my high horse. words/ j neas

MP3: Mel McDaniel :: Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On

+ Download DRM free tune via eMusic’s 35 free MP3 no risk trial offer

8 Responses to “The Difference of 20 Years in Writing About Asses In Country Music: A Study. Or: From Blue Jeans to Badonkadonk”

  1. The two aren’t comparable — the concept of “blue jeans” is generations old and deeply engrained in general American culture at-large, whereas “badonkadonk” is, as you noted, a nonsensical, flash-in-the-pan — and I would add “urban” subculture specific — term with little to no resonance among the greater American populace. The former is using a reasonable, generic, audience-appropriate term while the latter is co-opting a ridiculous, fad term that is incongruent with the song’s genre. That obviously isn’t to say though that the latter didn’t resonate in some way with people who buy records, as you also note. But I don’t think that’s because the word itself or his use of it is particularly clever or artistic — rather, it may just be a case of people being told what to like and buying whatever is popular at the time. You know, like Lady Gaga.

  2. Also the song in general stinks, it’s not only the lyrics…But I can picture a music exec high fiving his marketing junior vp about how clever the use of Badonkadonk is…

  3. Yes, the song is absolute shit.

  4. I agree with drt, the only comparison is that an ass in involved. I’m vaguely familiar with Adkin’s song but I can only assume it’s more graphic than McDaniel’s subtle ode to Baby’s Bluejeans. McDaniels just sounds so much more authentic and Adkins, along with pretty much all of contemporary country music, just sounds manufactured and false. It’s heartbreaking the shit I hear on country radio these days. It seems like they’re all trying to ‘out country’ one another by embracing the most broad cultural concepts of being a country fan…redneck, poor, loves america, blah blah blah.

  5. Just to clarify, Honky Tonk Badonkadonk was written by Jamey Johnson, Dallas Davidson and Randy Houser (yes, it took three guys watching a pole dance to come up with that gem). Trace Adkins was just the delivery device.

  6. i have to disagree here. im glad that someone pointed out that trace did not write the song. i have an unapologetic appreciation for both modern country music and these songs. admittedly the trace adkins version of b’donk is quite cheesy and over the top. however, if you listen to a version of the song by jamey johnson (the songwriter), you may feel differently. i sure did. here is a link.


  7. The “on like Donkey Kong” thing is an Ice Cube quotation. Or a quotation of an Ice Cube quotation. Or something Ice Cube quoted that got quoted again. You get what I mean. Made more sense out of Cube’s mouth.

  8. Okay, the live Jamey Johnson one is a big improvement thanks for posting. Funny reading the comments someone takes it back to McDaniels song, so it goes full circle.

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