Is Aaron Lewis the World's Most Obnoxious Country-Western Wanna-Be?

Have you seen the episode of 30 Rock where Jane Krakowski's character, Jenna Maroney, "goes country" by wearing Daisy Dukes and a cowboy hat, recording a Western-style theme for NBC's off-season tennis coverage? Aside from being one more joke in a long series of jabs at the network that airs the show, the episode highlights the relatively modern showbiz phenomenon of semi-notable performers "going country" in a last-ditch attempt at continued commercial viability.

I bring this up in reference to Aaron Lewis, formerly of nu-metal/alt-grunge band Staind, which hit it big in the late '90s/early Aughts with all the signifiers of the time: angsty lyrics, down-tuned guitars, and a purposefully misspelled name.

Lewis' new EP, Country Boy, places him in the ranks with Kid Rock, Bon Jovi, and Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish fame — oh, and the various casts of CMT's reality series Gone Country, in which Rich (of Big & Rich, naturally) has navigated three seasons of unlikely B-listers such as Bobby Brown, Dee Snider, Jermaine Jackson, Sebastian Bach, George Clinton, Justin Guarini, Sisqo, and Shelia E. toward country gold.

Not that Lewis' career shift down "an old dirt road" seems quite as disingenuous as, say, Bobby Brown's. He's always been more a crooner than a screamer, and Staind's biggest hits haven't been their heaviest: Both "It's Been Awhile" and "Outside" are the kind of baritone warbles that Pearl Jam made huge and everyone from Puddle of Mudd to Nickelback have kept on the FM dial, not entirely unlike the tuneful, melodic grit and spirit of Lewis' supposed outlaw inspirations Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Hank Williams.

Yet the single and titular track feels utterly textbook. Over a few dusty chords, Lewis warbles about standard Western convictions: God, guns, family, American flags, don't-tread-on-me constitutionalist slogans, and even a reference to a big red tractor. He tosses in a line about smoking weed, but the Nelsons and Keiths of the scene have already made pot references pretty unremarkable, as far as rebel statements go.

Personal politics notwithstanding, it's not the lyrics that ultimately damn "Country Boy" to sounding like a tired cliché. Who doesn't love "country life," drinking domestic brews with friends, and riding around in pickup trucks? It isn't the warm Americana and Libertarian slant that ruins "Country Boy"; it's that the whole thing is meandering and without a hook. Lewis has brought out all the country trappings but seems to have forgot to write a good song to sing them over.

Even more troubling is the sense of outrage Lewis expresses while singing about selling his soul to the devil — punctuated by a well-played burst of Charlie Daniels fiddle — out in L.A. The devil instructs him, of course, to lose some weight and change his sound to achieve Staind's massive success. Lewis paints it like his hand was forced, as if we're somehow supposed to feel bad for his making millions of dollars.

You might be able to buy into it, if Staind weren't currently working on another album. Lewis enlists country legend George Jones to sing on the song, as well, but has expressed in interviews that the parts were recorded separately and he didn't have the pleasure of working with Jones in person.

Even if he isn't bluffing, the whole deal feels awfully calculated. Maybe Lewis is embracing his true roots, and with his charity work and upcoming TV special about hunting with war veterans, it certainly seems his heart is in the right place. But the sounds on Country Boy can't escape feeling like a whiskey-soaked cash-in.

 
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29 comments
apaylunn2896
apaylunn2896

Fuck you, why don't you listen to his song of staind, wannabe. An that is exactly what you are. I don't think your in the right place to judge him only he or a fan is and apparently your neither, all you are is a fuckin wannabe. He's very talented, he's selling records, what is it that you do?

apaylunn2896
apaylunn2896

Fuck you, why don't you listen to his song, of staind, wannabe and it will tell you exactly what you are. I don't think you in the right place to judge him, he is, or a fan is as close as you'll get be able to judge him and apparently your not a fan you a fuckin wannabe.

Joelvalenti
Joelvalenti

This article is right on. I just heard country boy and thought what a load of crap! I guess switching from nu metal to country is as easy as taking out your eyebrow ring and throwing on some wranglers. Then hire some guys from nashville and your all set to make millions. Maybe next hank williams jr will trade his levis for fubus and do a rap with jay-z about brooklyn.

Brentscott40
Brentscott40

That song kicks ass aaron lewis has a great voice in staind and now! Just because the way his voice sounds doesn't mean its not country music it is the soul meaning behind the lyrics, all though you had good points I just have to disagree with most of them, I pearsonaly loved him in staind they were my favorite band at one point in time, I like all types of music, but my heart and soul is in country and I know good country music when I here it, and "country boy" is a great song, no one could have sung it better.

Rypken_04
Rypken_04

This is easily the most ignorant music article I've read in some time.

RJ
RJ

Someone needs to tell these bubblegum pop has-beens to stop ruining country music. Oh wait. Eric Church already did in his song "Lotta Boot Left to Fill."

Taylerknotts
Taylerknotts

I am like a huge fan of aaron lewis and staind okay i under stand hes going ccountry all of a sudden but that does not make him a damn wannabe okay he may have just wantes to try something new for once i mean really give him a break what i have failed to understand yet is y people come on a website and talk shit about someone they dont like im just talking in general i mean there are millions of fans ojt there it just pisses me off that everyone is calling aaron lewis a poser just cuz he is going country des anybody else out here u derstand what the hell im saying

Sugarrae3
Sugarrae3

Jason P. Woodbury, jealousy is a nasty thing. Aaron is not formally of Staind, but actually is still with the band as you mention later in your write up. Tisk, tisk on your writing for that, idiot. Aaron is just touching on a new side of music, as what true musicians tend to do. And to mention Nickleback in the same post as Arron... shame, shame on you.

linbo4
linbo4

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Photobrad Mitchell54
Photobrad Mitchell54

dudes, you guys really shouldn't take any album review that seriously, you think Aaron Lewis cares as much as you do about one bad review on an album the probably genuinely sucked anyway?

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CJ
CJ

Formerly of Staind?That one statement shows how little you know.Lewis is still the brainchild of the band, with a new album soon to drop.

Aaron Lewis Supporter
Aaron Lewis Supporter

It frustrates me that someone took the time to write an article like this. It's awfully hypocritical to talk about how the song is about "standard" Western and country music convictions, but that just his seem to be too formulaic. How can one person really decide that? It's also clear that this writer didn't listen to any other songs off of his EP Town Line, instead deciding to single out "Country Boy."

Also with "he has always been more of a crooner than a screamer," one only needs to take a quick listen to any of the songs off of Tormented or Dysfuntion to debunk that theory. Everybody likes to throw the term "sellout" around anyone who has ever been successful and it's ridiculous as far as I'm concerned. Record labels in many cases are like dictatorships and in one case with one of my favorite bands that happened this week, they can apparently release a song off an upcoming album without giving the band notice.

Sometimes success of other projects (as Aaron has had with Staind) allows them to venture out and try new things and I think this is certainly one of them. Country music is where his roots have always been and I think it's time we stop labeling people as sellouts just because they've had a little success.

Test
Test

New Times supports terrorism. I read it on Wikipedia.

Test
Test

FUCK NEW TIMES

Test
Test

NewTimes is anti-american. FUCK YOU..... oh yeah and your mothers!

Bigmomma
Bigmomma

Okay, so basically anyone else who sings country is good to go but he's cashing in. Let me write that down, cause I'm sure you know everything about Aaron Lewis' life and he doesn't.

broylesa
broylesa

I look at Johnny Cash. Johnny was different from any other country singer in that he didn't have to sell out in order to appease the masses. He wore black when everyone else wore rhinestones. I also look at Blake Shelton, who basically looked at a picture of Hank Williams and stuck his middle finger up, and said "country music needs to evolve." Now, Aaron Lewis comes in, with sleeve tattoos and converses, writes an amazing song talking about his interests, his life and his family, (a la Johnny Cash) and this is a bad thing? I fail to see the negativity in this. Country music, if done right, is raised on testicular fortitude. Aaron Lewis is simply doing what Johnny Cash, George Jones, Gram Parsons, Hank Williams (all three) Jamey Johnson before him did. He doesn't need to change his appearance. This is him.

broylesa
broylesa

Yes. Yes. 1000 times yes.

Benjo Widwitz
Benjo Widwitz

i think that's actually the opposite of what he said. more like, "everyone who's going country lately is cashing in, but at least some of them manage to write decent pop country hooks when they do so."

the best part about this song is that the town with a "dirt road" that he talks about living in has an average income in the 6 figures. the best part about the internet is that five minutes on wikipedia and the census sight lets you debunk fake claims of authenticity.

NAUgrad
NAUgrad

Settle down, Mrs. Lewis. Your son is doing just fine.

guest
guest

actually, if u looked at wikipedia and knew how to read, u would know that the average income is only half of what ur claiming. either way it doesnt matter anyway. he doesnt sing about being poor, he sings about living in the country..

Benjo Widwitz
Benjo Widwitz

i started at wikipedia, then i pulled the deed to his house from the county assessor. do you want to know his address? then, i put his township through the census webpage. easy stuff! but not as easy as your wikipedia-ing, apparently!

 
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