If someone were to present you with the following quote from country music phenom Kenny Chesney, how would you fill in the blank?
“The relationship that I have there with the fans is second to none,’’ says Kenny Chesney of his concerts in _____________”
Nashville, right? Houston? Omaha? Atlanta?
Actually, the answer is Boston.
In yesterday’s Boston Globe the superstar calls his relationship with the city “special,” and well it should be: he’s played here five times, more than his hometown!
Chesney’s bond with Beantown may come as a surprise to some. After all, Massachusetts isn’t exactly known as the country capital of the world. But why is that, exactly? We have our share of country radio stations, after all (just ask the successful staff at 102.5 WKLB.)
The answer may come in the way geography, politics, and music genre are interlinked in the United States. Country music is more widely and exclusively popular in the southern states, where politics are generally supposed to be more conservative. The conventional wisdom is double-sided: perhaps conservative people flock to such music and its themes, adopting it as theirs. Or perhaps they are more likely to produce and promote music of this genre. In any case, the relationship stands.
On the other side of spectrum, Massachusetts has long been seen as solidly blue, liberal democrat territory. And in some ways it certainly is, as the state’s leadership has blazed trails (or started forest fires, depending on who’s talking) in the nation on diverse subjects including gay marriage and universal health care. Given the relationship of country music to conservative politics, one might expect the state to be empty of both Republicans and Taylor Swift fans.
But recent developments, from the surprise results of January’s special senatorial election to last week’s Tea Party rally at Boston Common, suggest otherwise. And then there’s Chesney’s considerable popularity among Red Sox Nation. Clearly, country music isn’t just thriving south of the Mason-Dixon line, and neither is conservative fervor.
In the end, politics and regional music taste are two more topics to add to the list of things that are more nuanced, complex, and human in life than stereotypes and conventional wisdom make them appear. This complexity isn’t necessarily a bad thing: people are complicated and sometimes stubborn, but they are also occasionally willing to listen. As Massachusetts learns more about itself in 2010, Republican senators, Chesney devotees, passionate liberals, and all, that will to listen may be its most important asset.