Song of the Day #2,399: ‘Country Down’ – Beck

beck_morning_phaseLike most of the world, I assumed Kanye West was joking when he started to take the stage following Beck’s Grammy win for Album of the Year.

After he became a national punchline and punching bag for interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards, I figured Kanye had developed a sense of humor.

I should have known better. In an interview after the Grammys, he revealed that the only reason he didn’t follow through with the stunt was out of consideration for his clothing line and his daughter (probably in that order).

He went on to call the Grammys’ selection of Beck’s Morning Phase as Album of the Year an example of them “diminishing art and not respecting the craft.” Beck, he said, “needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé.”

A few days later, after much backlash (including from fellow rapper 50 Cent), Kanye walked back his comments and complimented Beck as an artist worthy of the high honor. Too little, too late.

I thought Beyoncé would win the award, both because she released a groundbreaking album (in terms of its marketing, cultural impact and enhanced multimedia format) and because she’s Beyoncé. How can Beck be viewed as anything but the underdog in that fight?

In light of the Selma near-shutout at the Oscars, it’s hard not to get an Ava DuVernay vibe from this upset. In his rant, Kanye pointed out that he’d won a few dozen Grammys but not one against a white person. That was a disturbing prospect, but a quick Wikipedia check revealed that at least two of his wins for ‘Best Rap Album’ came against The Beastie Boys and Eminem.

But his point, I think, was that the big prize tends to go to the safer, and yes, whiter, nominees. The exceptions in recent years have been a Herbie Hancock album of Joni Mitchell covers and a Ray Charles tribute record. Not exactly cutting edge stuff.

Is there something to that? Perhaps. But the fact remains that Beck released one of last year’s very best albums, a gorgeous, meditative record that he wrote and produced. Was he worthy of the award? Absolutely.

And given Beck’s track record over a two-decade career that has spanned rap, folk, soul, country and electronica, he strikes me as the very worst example of the Grammys not respecting artistry.

At any rate, I would have given the award to Miranda Lambert, and she wasn’t even nominated.

Oh country down
Where I found my proving ground
All along the flood-line
Wheels are turning around
The hills roll out like centuries
Pass by without a sound
Just a mile outside of town

Down-river bound
Where the lemon-tea-sky fell down
A plot against your will
Is furrowed into your brow
Against your better judgment
It’s all behind you now
Just a mile outside of town

What’s the use
Of being found?
You can lose yourself
In some good ground
In the weeds hiding
Down the river right next door
There’s no frame around your picture
Just a view through my back door

Time evermore
You just found what you’re looking for:
A tiger rose
Growing through your prison door
Reaching for sunlight
Can’t see it anymore
Just a mile from my back door

You could wake up on a lifeboat ‘neath the sun
On a ladder up to the sky
You’re standing on the lowest rung
Holding a lifeline
Using my best defense
Running in the undertow
I couldn’t fight against

Oh lay me down
Where we found my proving ground
All along the floodline
Waves are turning around
The hills roll out like centuries
Pass by without a sound
Just a mile outside of town

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,399: ‘Country Down’ – Beck

  1. Dana says:

    I didn’t think my opinion of Kanye could have dropped any lower, but, after the Grammy’s and his self-indulgent performance at the SNL 40 special (then his absence from the after-party musical celebrations that found Prince, Swift and McCartney jamming together on “Shake it Off” and Beatles songs),

    I am utterly and entirely through with him. He’s an ass, plain and simple, and I don’t find his auto-tuned “artistry” nearly good enough to overcome the need to take a bath should I happen across his music.

  2. Dana says:

    Oh, and his allegation of racism falls far flatter than you suggest. I agree the Grammy’s have at times gone with musically “safer” artists, but that is not a race based issue. In addition to the recent Black artists you named, the Grammy’s have heaped album of the year honors on the likes of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Quincy Jones. They were late to recognize rap music, but also late to recognize the almost entirely white heavy metal. To their credit, though, they have rectified those early oversights.

    So, in conclusion, West is an ass without a valid point, just an opinion that he ncorrectly feels is so objectively correct that he must insert himself time and again into what should otherwise be a wonderful celebration of accomplishment.

  3. Dana says:

    Forgot to add Lionel Ritchie and Natalie Cole to the list of Black winners of album of the year. safe? Sure, but not white.😄

  4. Amy says:

    Thanks for posting a Beck song today, as I’ve been meaning to listen to something off this album since it won. As little as I’ve thought of Beck over the years, Kanye’s insulting, ridiculous stunt – and subsequent comments – have made me want to buy every one of Beck’s albums and listen to them on a loop. That’s not gonna happen, of course 😉 but the emotional impact Kanye made was that powerful.

    Think of all the various awards show, always pitting apples vs. oranges, and the gracious manner the “losers” handle their defeat against artists (actors, directors, musicians, writers, art directors, etc.) they may or may not consider as (let alone more) worthy of the award than they themselves are. Then you have Kanye. Of all the great, snarky, clever comments I read after the fact, one of my favorites was someone pointing out that Beyonce does not need Kanye to come to her defense, thank you very much. So, in addition to all of the other things Dana has already pointed out Kanye is, I’d like to add a sexist misogynist to the list. What an ass.

    Meanwhile, as I finish this post and this song, I’m glad I waited before rushing out to buy any Beck albums. 😉 I think I’ll go put on some Maroon 5, the artist who bested Kanye for Best New Artist however many years ago, but, in Kanye’s mind, had the good sense to give him a shout out when they accepted their award. Oh brother.

  5. Clay says:

    Hey, don’t be dissing Beck! Check out some other songs from the album, including my #3 song of 2014, ‘Turn Away.’

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