If it were 1987, Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson's "Don't You Wanna Stay" wouldn't be a country-radio dominating hit; it would be a Bics-in-the-air hair-metal ballad, something Whitesnake or Cinderella would play near the end of the set to get all the girlies grooving. But it's 2012, and the song, like Aldean's latest single, the firmly Nickelback-with-pedal steel-sounding "Take a Little Ride," is a monster country hit. It should come as a surprise to no one that there's a direct line between cock rock of the '80s and the blue-jeans-and-earrings country of Aldean. It's a matter of audience, and the kind of folks who want something that sounds good cranked from a Camero stereo in a parking lot could do a lot worse than Aldean. He's the kind of populist artist who can name-check George Jones in a song that features dirty South rapper Ludacris, and sort of rap in the same song. Is it sort of awful? Yes, of course, but it's nearly impossible to deny that in 10 or 15 years people are going to look back and re-evaluate this stuff with the the same bewildered fondness that Foreigner and Bone Thugz n' Harmony earn today. It's the sound of the new populism, the sort of thing that appeals to all in a way that's this close to appealing to no one. This is what people love, and in a baffling way, it's easy to see why they love it.
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