Middle of an Eye Roll: Let’s Talk Country

So I have lots of feelings about country music. Mainly, I LOVE it. But secondly, it is a fascinating juxtaposition for me. I’m aware of the traditional sort of values some country music promotes, values that are very much at odds with my queer feminist self. But it’s catchy, cute, and sometimes even challenges the status quo. Sometimes, however, it only enforces it.

When I first heard Cole Swindell’s “Middle of a Memory” I almost snorted to death with laughter. It’s catchy, but it sure isn’t cute. It’s the perfect embodiment of that creepy guy at the bar who thinks he’s such a great guy. Let’s take a look:

Baby, it just took one look at you
For me to change my one drink order to two
Like we already knew each other
Like we been talking all night
About a minute into our first dance
We got blindsided by your friends
All in a hurry like you had to go
Didn’t they know you can’t leave someone
Girl, you can’t leave someone

Okay, let’s pause here. We’ve got a guy at a bar who spots a cutie. Immediately, he buys her a drink even though he’s just looked over at her. Already this dude is going 200 miles an hour, but hey, so far so good: the girl agrees to dance. Or so it seems. Cause right away she’s hustled away by her friends, leaving our poor country singer down in the dumps. Notice how he says “we” got blindsided…nah buddy. Your cutie was 100% making the please-help-me eyes at her friends, who thankfully stepped up to the challenge. We end this verse with a nice lil dose of entitlement. How dare she leave him in the middle of the song! In the middle of his MEMORY! Again, slow it down, lover boy, you literally just met. This dude is making memories at warp speed. Okay, let’s continue:

I’d get your number and I’d give you mine
And we’d be hanging out tomorrow night
But now I don’t know where you are
I’m under these lights right here in the dark

Let’s take stock of what’s gone down so far: he buys her a drink she didn’t ask for. They dance for a couple seconds. She’s rescued by her friends — who knows if they even exchanged names. This girl is NOT INTERESTED.

In the middle of a dance floor all alone
In the middle of an old school country song
Right when I was just about to lean on in
Why’d you have to go then?

Hmm, she left right when he was leaning in for the kiss, huh? What an odd coincidence.

Yeah, it’s like you walked right out in the middle of a movie
Tore the back half out of a book
And no, you’ll never know, girl, what you did to me
It ain’t right saying goodbye

THIS VERSE THOUGH. Okay, first of all, we’ve got some great societal forces at play. Country boy is straight up acknowledging that according to popular media, the guy is SUPPOSED to get the girl. Never mind if she only talked to you for a couple seconds, she’s ~yours~. Also, this dude doesn’t even know her. He’s projecting a whole lot of baggage onto this girl who is most definitely not his soulmate. My favorite part is that last line there: “what you did to me.” Poor sad country boy chock full of entitlement. Boohoo.

Now let’s look at another country song, this time by Sam Hunt: “Take Your Time.”

I don’t know if you were looking at me or not
You probably smile like that all the time
And I don’t mean to bother you but
I couldn’t just walk by
And not say, “Hi”

At first, it doesn’t seem like we’re off to that much of a better start. True, at least this time the girl might be looking his way, but Sam’s still being a bit creepy. You could walk by and not say hi Sam. You could.

And I know your name
’Cause everybody in here knows your name
And you’re not looking for anything right now
So I don’t wanna come on strong
Don’t get me wrong

Sam has the advantage here of actually knowing the girl a bit, at least by reputation, versus Creepy McCreepyson from “Middle of a Memory.” Because of this, he’s able to match his actions to her desires a bit more.

I don’t wanna steal your freedom
I don’t wanna change your mind
I don’t have to make you love me
I just wanna take your time

I don’t wanna wreck your Friday
I ain’t gonna waste my lines
I don’t have to take your heart
I just wanna take your time

Again, still not ideal. Maybe this lady doesn’t wanna give up her time. I’m giving Sam props though for toning it down unlike Mr. 200 Miles an Hour. Also, thank you for saving the pick-up lines, no one needs that.

And I know it starts with “Hello”
And the next thing you know you’re trying to be nice
And some guy’s getting too close
Trying to pick you up
Trying to get you drunk

HERE’S WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING Y’ALL. Look at Sam, being all self-aware! He’s totally aware of creepy dude culture, AND is aware of how uncomfortable that makes the ladies and how they get a bit trapped (“trying to be nice”). For real, this is some disturbing shit though. Nothing new, mind you, but check out this line: “trying to pick you up/trying to get you drunk?” Remind you of anyone? Not a certain someone who’s out buying drinks for a lady he hasn’t even talked to yet? Moving on.

And I’m sure one of your friends is about to come over here
’Cause she’s supposed to save you from random guys
That talk too much and wanna stay too long
It’s the same old song and dance but I think you know it well

CONTINUING WITH THE SELF-AWARENESS. THANK YOU SAM. This song literally describes “Middle of a Memory” from wiser dude’s perspective. Shout-out to the girl from that song though, hope she still managed to have a great night. (Ooh what if that girl left the bar with her friends to escape from Creeperson and goes to this NEW bar where Sam is? THINK ABOUT IT.)

No, I ain’t gotta call you baby
And I ain’t gotta call you mine
I don’t have to take your heart
I just wanna take your time

The final lyric is pretty sweet. He’s aware of boundaries and the fact that he literally just met this lady. He wants to get to know her a bit, maybe have some fun, all assuming she wants to and that he’s approved by her kickass gang of friends. Kudos to him for understanding how out-of-bounds it is for him to assume that she belongs to him (though frankly this shouldn’t get kudos, cause, c’mon.) Now, yes, this might seem pretty basic in terms of decent behavior. But all too often country dips into that pool of sexism and creepitude for some lyrical inspiration, so shout-out to Sam Hunt for showing how it should be done. Even the song titles are telling: Take Your Time versus Middle of a Memory.

I’d take my time.