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RICHARD ROEPER: ‘Accidental Racist’ joins the ranks as the worst pop songs of all time

Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley

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Updated: May 12, 2013 6:06AM



Around the time LL Cool J was rapping, “If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forget the iron chains,” I was thinking, somewhere Ice T is really glad he didn’t pick up the phone that day when his assistant said, “I have a Brad Paisley on Line One.”

A song titled “Accidental Racist”? Nobody in Paisley or Mr. Cool J’s camps pulled them aside and said, “Uh, you know this is one of the 10 worst ideas ever, right?”

Words — and music — cannot describe the epic bowl of awfulness that is “Accidental Racist.” Since it was released on Monday to a stunned American public, there’s been near-universal derision, with Twitter nearly exploding with criticism and the blogosphere blowing up with negative reviews.

Is “Accidental Racist” accidentally racist? Is it one of the most offensive songs ever recorded?

I’m reminded of the “Seinfeld” episode when dentist Tim Whatley (Bryan Cranston with hair) converted to Judaism and immediately started telling jokes from the Henny Youngman playbook (“Did you hear the one about the rabbi and the farmer’s daughter?”), much to Jerry’s horror.

JERRY:“I have a suspicion he converted to Judaism just for the jokes,” Jerry tells a priest.

PRIEST: “And this offends you as a Jewish person?”

JERRY: “No, it offends me as a comedian.”

Kind of how I feel about “Accidental Racist.” Is it a truly offensive piece of work because of its content — or because of the ham-handed simplicity, the bad puns and the horrible clash of country and rap?

In the annals of pop culture, there have been far more offensive works.

In the annals of pop music, there have been only a handful of worse songs.

Good intentions,
awful song

“Accidental Racist” isn’t about an accidental racist, whatever that is — it’s about supposedly unintentional or subconsciously racist behavior. Paisley’s white guy character claims the rebel flag on his T-shirt just means he’s a Lynyrd Skynryd fan, which isn’t all that far from someone claiming his collection of the black-faced lawn jockeys just means he’s a fan of kitsch.

If you’re a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd, here’s an idea: Get a Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt.

“Cause I’m just a white man, livin’ in the southland,” goes the chorus — and again, I’m not saying Mr. Paisley had anything but the best intentions, but geez, when a song has “I’m just a white man” as its signature lyric, you wonder if there’s going to be a rhyme for “Kleagle” before it’s over.

Paisley’s cringe-inducing lyrics (“The red flag on my chest is like the elephant in the corner of the south . . . Just a proud rebel son with an old can of worms, lookin’ like I got a lot to learn from my point of view . . .”) are epically bad on their own, but it actually gets worse when LL Cool J makes it a duet.

I’m just a white man

(If you don’t judge my do-rag)

Coming to you from the Southland

(I won’t judge your red flag)

Oh Dixieland

(The relationship between Mason-Dixon needs some fixin’)

At least when Joe Piscopo’s Frank Sinatra and Eddie Murphy’s Stevie Wonder sang “Ebony and Ivory” on “Saturday Night Live” back in the day, they were trying to be funny. Remember?

FRANK: “You are black and I am white, Life’s an Eskimo pie, let’s take a bite!”

STEVIE: “I am dark and you are light.”

FRANK: “You are blind as a bat and I have sight! Side by side, you are my amigo Negro, let’s not fight!”

By mid-week, Paisley and LL Cool J were standing by the song, trying to stem the tide of criticism.

It wasn’t working. In less than a week, “Accidental Racist” has joined the likes of “Seasons in the Sun,” “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero,” “Achy Breaky Heart,” “We Built This City,” “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and “Friday” on the list of the worst of the worst of the worst pop songs of all time.

It’s Accidental Garbage.



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