When the Man Comes Around
What is it about country music that makes everything Epic(TM)?
Maybe I should explain.
Country/folk ballad music is… not without its detractors. I believe a wise man once described it as “the music of pain”. I’m not sure if it’s ever been popular, and it certainly has an overabundance of really shitty artists. Don’t get me wrong – I do like it. I have a lot of Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Dolly Parton, and if you say ‘Taylor Swift’ I will stab you with a sharpened Ray Charles CD.
But it’s not incredible stuff. It’s just a few plunky guitars, the occasional harmonica and a middle-aged Southerner singing about how he lost love, loves Jesus or has to shoot someone. It certainly doesn’t get my blood up, and it certainly doesn’t make me want to re-enact Die Hard around my speakers.
So why, for the love of Bill Munroe, is it so badass? Why is it that when you take a video clip of drama, or violence, or explosions, and play a soulful ballad over the top, it becomes wall-punchingly awesome?
Let me show you what I mean.
Did you watch that? I’ll spoil it for you – it was a trailer for the game Prototype 2, and it was bathtub-shittingly retarded.
If OJ had told the prosecutor that his goldfish would die while he was in jail, it would have been more touching and emotional than that trailer. It’s a drug-addled leper’s idea of poignant. My fungal growths are more dramatic.
But you layer Cash’s ‘Hurt’ over the top, and for a moment there, you can almost forget that it’s about an angsty tentacle monster roaring like a poodle while wearing the most ridiculous popped collar you’ve ever seen. Purely because of the song, the relevance of the lyrics and the sombre melodic beat, I actually wanted to slice something with my blade-fist.
I can’t make a blade-fist. I’m not even sure I can make a regular fist. But country music gave me the power.
This is not an isolated trend. Remember the Dawn of the Dead remake? The credits sequence showed a bunch of news reporters getting murdered by zombies, all set to a chirpy country music song about the apocalypse. It was the best part of the movie, and that was not a bad film.
Johnny Cash is good at this, but he’s not the only one. Watchmen featured a Bob Dylan song over some imaginative credits too. That was awesome too.
And Hollywood has figured this out. Since I first noticed this trend, I’ve seen True Grit, Splinter Cell Conviction, Prey 2 and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles all do it. It’s a simple formula: country music + slow motion shots of murder = awesome.
Now, I’m not an artist. I don’t understand music or cinematography – heck, I’m pretty sure I’ve actually bobbed my lead to LMFAO at one point. If I had to try and explain this trend, I’d say it has something to do with juxtaposition – the contrast between gentle, sad, deliberate music and brutal, violent images. It’s kind of like what they did during Vietnam – use a combination of shocking TV images and disjointed, weirdly cheerful music to get an emotional reaction.
But hey, I don’t have to explain this trend. All I have to do is point and nod. And pick up a steak knife, move in slow motion and disembowel the nearest inanimate object every time Hank Williams comes to town.