A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this misguided, controversial attempt by country star Brad Paisley to address the complex historical issues associated with the Confederate flag and its role in the South is behind the times, cringe-worthy, and misleading in its tone and content. The song is about a proud white Southerner who likes to wear Confederate flag apparel, insisting that he isn't a racist and just wants to leave the past behind. LL Cool J offers a verse that features embarrassing stereotypes ("If you don't judge my gold chains, I'll forget the iron chains"). The only positive thing about this song is the fact that it could open the door to conversations about race relations and stereotypes.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
"ACCIDENTAL RACIST" is a song from Wheelhouse, the studio album from country music superstar Brad Paisley. The track has generated controversy and viral buzz because of its provocative lyrics that approach the "elephant in the corner of the South," meaning historical racism and Confederate pride, and because it features a verse from New York rapper/actor LL Cool J. While LL might be willing to "forget the iron chains" if "you don't judge my gold chains," there are many who would find such parallels offensive and disturbing, particularly in light of the ongoing racial tensions in the American South that this song is attempting to gloss over. Other notable moments include a shout-out to Robert E. Lee, the excuse that a Confederate flag can simply represent being a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, references to Dixieland and being a "proud rebel son," and the unforgettable anthemic chorus declaring "I'm just a white man/ Coming to you from the Southland."
Is it any good?
Racial harmony is a tricky subject to approach in popular music, particularly in the country genre, where a highly pro-South culture thrives. With the exception of the absurd rap interjection, the song sounds like it could fit in perfectly on any Nashville station, which is perhaps what is so troubling. Paisley seems sincere, but his approach is off-putting. LL Cool J not only embarrasses himself with what he says, but also with weak rhymes and a lack of flow.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the ongoing controversy regarding the Confederate flag. What does it symbolize to different groups?
Why do you think Brad Paisley enlisted the help of LL Cool J on this song? Did he need the presence of a black artist to make the song less uncomfortable?
Why is the topic of race still such a difficult subject to address in popular music without arousing controversy?
Talk about stereotypes. Which ones does this song feature? Where do these stereotypes come from? Does this song promote or debunk these stereotypes?