Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music

Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music

Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music

Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music

Synopsis

In her provocative new book Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Nadine Hubbs looks at how class and gender identity play out in one of America's most culturally and politically charged forms of popular music. Skillfully weaving historical inquiry with an examination of classed cultural repertoires and close listening to country songs, Hubbs confronts the shifting and deeply entangled workings of taste, sexuality, and class politics.

In Hubbs's view, the popular phrase "I'll listen to anything but country" allows middle-class Americans to declare inclusive "omnivore" musical tastes with one crucial exclusion: country, a music linked to low-status whites. Throughout Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Hubbs dissects this gesture, examining how provincial white working people have emerged since the 1970s as the face of American bigotry, particularly homophobia, with country music their audible emblem. Bringing together the redneck and the queer, Hubbs challenges the conventional wisdom and historical amnesia that frame white working folk as a perpetual bigot class.

With a powerful combination of music criticism, cultural critique, and sociological analysis of contemporary class formation, Nadine Hubbs zeroes in on flawed assumptions about how country music models and mirrors white working-class identities. She particularly shows how dismissive, politically loaded middle-class discourses devalue country's manifestations of working-class culture, politics, and values, and render working-class acceptance of queerness invisible.

Lucid, important, and thought-provoking, this book is essential reading for students and scholars of American music, gender and sexuality, class, and pop culture.

Excerpt

White working folk in the American hinterlands are rednecks. And rednecks are bigots and homophobes. This is common knowledge and reliable terrain for launching any number of stories, jokes, and armchair analyses. So the alternative rock band Foo Fighters stood on solid ground when, in late summer 2011, they posted online a jokey music video marrying two incongruous types, the redneck and the queer. The video featured an original song track titled “Keep It Clean (Hot Buns)” and four band members in hillbilly and trucker getup depicting long-haul drivers rendezvousing at a truck stop. Complete with wailing pedal steel and a drawling vocal, the song presented faux honky-tonk style—but with a twist. Its first verse opens with the couplet “Drivin’ all night, got a hankerin’ for somethin’ / Think I’m in the mood for some hot man muffins.” And the rest of the lyrics carry on in the same vein—of an adolescent gay joke in which redneck and queer worlds collide. Foo Fighters’ country music send-up parodied the redneck and the queer by uniting them in a single, unfathomable figure: the queer redneck trucker. These truckers show a taste for blue-collar duds, diner grub, and low-key country on the jukebox but also—as revealed when the quartet enter a steamy truck stop shower—brazen disco, homoerotic water play, and posterior penetration (wearing nothing but a crazed grin, frontman Dave Grohl lowers himself onto a shampoo bottle).

With its sly play on charged stereotypes, Foo Fighters’ music video attracted mild notice and some YouTube hits. But when the band released a new, live version of “Keep It Clean (Hot Buns)” unleashing the same redneck queer imagery in front of apparent real-life redneck homophobes, that video went viral. Foo Fighters performed their song across from a street protest by the notorious Kansas antigay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) and posted online video of the event. Immediately Huffington Post, the . . .

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