Song of the Day #540: ‘Welcome to the Future’ – Brad Paisley

Best Songs of 2009 – #1

Brad Paisley was my most welcome surprise of 2009. I lucked into purchasing his album after reading a discussion among music critics on Slate.com in which the first critic named his album American Saturday Night as her favorite of the year and effusively sang his praises.

This was the rare album that struck me as great the very first time I heard it… the album wasn’t even over before I knew it was rocketing up my own list. Many listens later, it settled into its perch at #1. I picked up another of Paisley’s celebrated discs, Time Well Wasted, a week later and I find it equally good.

I suppose my blind spot when it comes to country music is what’s kept Paisley off my radar. Now that I’m a fan, I’m finding traces of him everywhere, from the Cars soundtrack I’ve known and loved to this fawning essay by perennially hard-to-please music critic Robert Christgau. Christgau taps into what I love most about Paisley — his charm, humor and earnestness, and especially the way he celebrates his marriage and the general concept of long-term commitment.

Every song on American Saturday Night is worth featuring, but the one that hit me first is ‘Welcome to the Future.’

I’ll let him introduce it… this clip is Paisley performing the song during a White House celebration of country music and explaining to the Obamas the feeling last November when he saw Obama elected. It says everything about why I like this guy so much not just as a musician but as a person. [I embedded the album clip below as well.]

When I was ten years old
I remember thinking how cool it would be
When we were going on an eight-hour drive
If I could just watch TV
And I’d have given anything
To have my own Pac-Man game at home
I used to have to get a ride down to the arcade
Now I’ve got it on my phone

Hey, glory, glory, hallelujah
Welcome to the future

My grandpa was in World War II
He fought against the Japanese
He wrote a hundred letters to my grandma
Mailed them from his base in the Philippines
I wish they could see this now
The world they saved has changed, you know
‘Cause I was on a video chat this morning
With a company in Tokyo

Hey, everyday’s a revolution
Welcome to the future

Hey, look around it’s all so clear
Hey, wherever we were going, well we’re here
Hey, so many things I never thought I’d see
Happening right in front of me

I had a friend in school
Running back on the football team
They burned a cross in his front yard
For asking out the homecoming queen
I thought about him today
And everybody who’s seen what he’s seen
From a woman on a bus
To a man with a dream

Hey, wake up Martin Luther
Welcome to the future
Hey, glory, glory, hallelujah
Welcome to the future

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #540: ‘Welcome to the Future’ – Brad Paisley

  1. Amy says:

    He’s not your Daddy’s country star 🙂 Then again, he is. Which explains a lot of his appeal. Hard not to be charmed by the whole Obama thing; that may have given unfair weight to this song as it rocketed up your list. Of course, what better song to represent as BELONGING to the year then one chosen to be performed for the President during his first year in office. Very nice.

  2. Clay says:

    Actually, I didn’t come across the White House clip until well after I’d written up this list. But it definitely didn’t hurt. Now, if I’d stumbled upon a clip of him playing it for G.W. Bush, that might have complicated matters. 🙂

  3. Dana says:

    I was going to comment that this song might not be number one if he were praising Bush, but you beat me to the punch:)

    I also find it interesting that you rank this song so highly given your usual aversion to political songs. However, as “political” songs go, this one goes down easy and smooth without ever sounding preachy or didactic.

    Very good song (yes, I said it, notwithstanding my general disfavor of country…maybe Nashville started to change me after all….:))

  4. Clay says:

    One of the things I like about the song is that it’s not overtly political despite its inspiration. You can infer that the “today” he refers to in the last verse is Election Day, but it’s certainly not spelled out. That verse could just be about racial progress in general, and the first two verses aren’t political at all. I think that makes it more effective than the sort of specific political references I dislike in a lot of songs.

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