I Hope You Dance (Lee Ann Womack)

Despite my best intentions I actually did not deliberately listen to a song yesterday. I think partially because I was wrapped up in the whole “What song should I choose first?” conundrum. Should it be my favorite song? And, if so, what is my favorite song? I think I have favorite songs of the moment, but to narrow it down to ONE favorite song was entirely too much pressure. Should it at least be a song by my favorite artist (Jackson Browne)? And really that one was just fraught with complication. I guess if I was asked, at gunpoint say, I would probably choose Late for the Sky (or Sky Blue and Black or For Everyman or Call It a Loan or oh, well, you get the idea). The song that I have most probably listened to the most of late is Creep by Radiohead. But, really, who hasn’t listened to a lot of Radiohead in recent years?

Kind of like a puppy or a religious calling, the song found me. The fact that fate chose a decade old (although now that I think of it, Creep is probably at least that old as well) country song is just downright weird; but it did. And here is how it happened: I work in a theme restaurant that plays piped-in mostly contemporary country and yesterday morning I heard I Hope You Dance by LeeAnn Womack. I have always liked it because it’s pretty and has a nice message. Then, last night I was watching The Voice and one of Blake Shelton’s team members was charged with singing I Hope You Dance. After hearing it for the second time in a day I thought: hmmm? I guess that’s the song for the blog.

I don’t know if Blake Shelton deliberately sabotaged this kid, but it was just not the song for him. At all. He should NEVER sing it again. In fact, he should never even listen to it again. And, I suspect he will harbor some resentment about this song (as I would think it will lead to his inevitable ousting from the show). His performance can best be described as painful (at least for me).

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this song the theme is basically that when faced with life’s challenges the singer advises the subject (one imagines it to be a child) to dance (metaphorically to participate in life — “If you have the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance”). That’s it. Pretty simple. It’s a nice little country tune that tends to stick with you.  The version I am familiar with is by a woman named LeeAnn Womack (for a time I just heard LeeAnn and thought it was LeeAnn Rimes… sorry Ms. Womack). Ms. Womack has a pleasant voice with a nice country twang (if I had to compare her to someone I would probably choose Dolly Parton). The song grabs  you right away with a nice guitar intro and then introduces the violin… the bridge makes nice use of the strings (for which I am an absolute sucker… thanks David Lindley!). It is one of those songs that you likely can come across on any given night at any given honkytonk by any given bar band with access to a female vocalist; I would imagine it is popular at Open Mike and Karaoke nights as well. I will go out on a limb and contend that its popularity is not just south of the Mason-Dixon line. I say this to point out that it is a song that has definitely “crossed over” from the country charts and become part of the, dare I say, “pop” canon. In other words, most people know it at least a little.

I have heard it covered on any number of occasions over the years by any number of singers (prior to the performance on The Voice the little country girl… Lauren Alaina (?) performed it on the latest season of American Idol and did a very nice job of it). Considering that it was performed well by this girl on American Idol and given that the demographic for The Voice is probably about the same as the demographic for American Idol I really have to question why Blake Shelton assigned this particular song to (and I had to look up his name… that is how forgettable this kid is to me) Patrick Thomas. I may be a little biased where Patrick is concerned, as I thought that he was the “loser” in the battle round; I preferred the guy he sang against. Blake Shelton disagreed with me. Oh, well. I have to live with that. It is his “team”, after all!

Having no pretensions to any expertise to music in general nor to country music in particular I still have to contend that I am quite certain that there must be another song out there that Mr. Thomas could have done some justice; I Hope You Dance was just not it. First of all he is just entirely too young (If I had a criticism when Lauren sang it on AI it was that she was too young as well) and he is, well, a man. Now I am not saying that men should never sing songs made famous by women (you only have to look to Kurt on Glee to find the exception to that rule), but there is just something maternal about the advice given in this song. It would be kind of like hearing Butterfly Kisses sung by a woman (and there is probably a version out there). It just feels wrong, that’s all I’m saying. Because I think the appeal of Butterfly Kisses is in the fact that a man is showing his vulnerability by admitting that he feels a loss when he realizes that his little girl has grown up. There is just something heartwarming about it. There was absolutely nothing heartwarming or vulnerable about Patrick Thomas’ version of I Hope You Dance. Nothing.

Hearing I Hope You Dance and writing about it started me thinking about my relationship with country music. It made me realize that I actually do have one (much to my surprise). And, I realized, that country music has definitely evolved since the 70’s when my mother was listening to it. I remember a song (and you can look it up if you don’t believe me) entitled Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life. It was a big hit.

While one would almost be remiss in not listening to a song with such a catchy title as Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life, I must admit that I have not thought of that song nor heard it in more than thirty years. That being said, I have to tell you that I have a real affinity for Cowboy Take Me Away by the Dixie Chicks (maybe its those strings again). I also listen to This Old Guitar by John Denver fairly often. I have also discovered that I like Keith Urban (it seems that every time I hear a song at work that I like I come to fin out that it is a Keith Urban tune); and truth be told he is pretty easy on the eyes. I also defy anyone to hear Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying and not at least think about doing just that!

I am determined that tomorrow’s musical selection will not be accidental. But as in any journey through self-discovery, one should be prepared for the unexpected. Who knows? Maybe tomorrow I’ll have run across some AC/DC and be forced to tap into my inner metalhead. Bring it on!

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