February 26, 2010

"Lost Sweathog Tyler Grady had a nice look and shtick, but he sang a mediocre song boringly."

No, that's not my theory why Tyler Grady failed to garner the votes to survive for another week of the "American Idol" competition. The song — "American Woman" — is not so much "mediocre" — many songs sung on AI are mediocre. That can hardly cause sudden death. The problem is that the song insults American women, and American women are the main people who do the voting. I have hated this song since it came out in 1970. The original group that did this song was the Guess Who. They were Canadian, and they were insulting American women and insulting America:
American woman gonna mess your mind...
American woman, stay away from me...
American woman, get away from me...
Don’t wanna see your face no more...
You know I’m gonna leave
You know I’m gonna go, woman
I’m gonna leave, woman
Goodbye, American woman
Goodbye, American chick
Goodbye, American broad ...
Well, hell. He was asking to leave. Don't want to see our face? Fine! We don't want to see yours.


Mark O said...

You probably think that song is about you.

clint said...


One of many, many songs that benefits greatly from the difficulty of actually understanding the lyrics.

Scott said...

Rufus Wainright doesn't like America, either.

I'm getting sick and tired of Canadian exceptionalism.

traditionalguy said...

An undercover truth in Canada is that the only political issue that gets a Canadian politician elected or thrown out is a variation upon the theme of "Who hates America Most?". They see us all as rednecks that got lucky by size and brute force. Our existence as a more powerful influence on the world than Canada frustrates the heck out of Canadians. Other than that they love us because they need us. So they see the relationship like a woman (Canada) that lives with her abusive brute husband (the USA) for the money and security, while hating his personality. This song reversed the genders, but expressed the Canadian's feelings toward the USA perfectly.

Treacle said...

When I hear this song, I always mentally readjust the lyrics in my head:

"Goodbye, American woman
Goodbye, American chick
She don't like limp
Canadian dick"

The point of the song: an American woman is too much woman for Canadian men.

k*thy said...

Oh,I don't know - their women hockey players are certainly more exceptional than ours...

Issob Morocco said...

Ann, it sounds like you've come "Undun".

michaele said...

Ha, great observation about the lyrics being a foretelling of the results. That happens to be a game in our family to notice if a contestent's song choice has some killer "good-by" line in it.

TMink said...

I really like the song, and think the Guess Who were a great power pop band. But then I thought the song was metaphorical in that they were bashing the American government like everyone else was in those days. It never occured to me that the song might be literal.


SteveR said...

Just about every male top 12 did a crappy job, I think this guy was eliminated for attitude.

Geoff Matthews said...


It's a metaphor for the U.S. (the country, the government, take your pick). It isn't literal.

This was during the days of the Vietnam war. Americans were doing this too.

One of the members of Loverboy didn't want a song of their's included in Top Gun because they thought the movie was a recruitment tool for the U.S. Airforce.

As a Canadian, I heartily agree that there is a insecurity complex towards America (though, where I come from, Alberta, it isn't as pronounced), but this is the case with any country that has a prominent neighbor (Scotland with England, for example).

MadisonMan said...

America doesn't love a hipster doofus with a disproportionately large jaw. That's what Tyler's exodus means.

He didn't have the worst voice -- that would be Mr. Apologize with the Screechy Falsetto -- but it's not always about the worst voice.

I thought his feedback to the bad suggestions given by the judges was very good, though. I think Kara et al. aren't particularly in tune with today. I'm suddenly thinking of George Harrison's excellent scene in A Hard Day's Night.

Ann Althouse said...

"It's a metaphor for the U.S. (the country, the government, take your pick). It isn't literal."

Read the link with the quote. The writer of the song says it really is about the preference for Canadian woman. Anyway, the idea that it's about the country is familiar and also discussed at the link. Moreover, it doesn't matter whether they meant women to be a metaphor for the country. If you explicitly insult women, women feel insulted. You can use that tip in everyday life. Even if I believe the theory that it's a metaphor, it still pisses me off. In addition, I'm pissed off that they hate America... and that they are bellowing so unattractively about it.

Gary said...

God almighty! It's a rock 'n roll song! Not a Bob Dylan poetic treatise on existentialism. Or even a national anthem.

I know, I know. Rock 'n roll is supposed to be our cultural equivalent of The Book of Job.

I just say, if it's got a beat, dance to it.

traditionalguy said...

In Canada just saying the hated words "I am an Amurican" is despised like the KKK using N word is here. It is seen as a high insult that claims that the odd combination of brutish cultures within the lower 48 States make up all of North America, Central and South America.

Ben (The Tiger in Exile) said...

I always wondered about American artists singing that song -- it was so obviously an anti-American anthem to my (Canadian) ears.

Finally, an American listener gets it. (Apparently Pat Nixon did, too, according to that Wikipedia article. Smarter lady than most, apparently.)

Pastafarian said...

Althouse said: "The writer of the song says it really is about the preference for Canadian woman."

If I recall correctly, the song also includes lines like:

"I don't need your ghetto scenes, I don't need your war machine".

I don't know too many American women responsible for ghetto scenes or war machines. I suspect that the song's author was trying to improve their marketability by softening the message after the fact, making it less political and more personal.

But it's BS, it's obviously a political song. And a very good one, albeit poppy. The Guess Who had a great lead singer. That's probably why this guy got bounced -- it's like trying to sing something originally done by Paul Rodgers or Freddy Mercury.

Oligonicella said...

Althouse --

"If you explicitly insult women, women feel insulted."

Hell, explicit insulting isn't needed. Just don't praise them.

El Pollo Real said...

Yikes! I'd normally have a lot to say here but to paraphrase knox, better to avoid this thread!

Matthew said...

I'd always thought the most anti-American song sung by a Canadian was "The Trees" by Rush:

The trouble with the maples,
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light.
But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made.
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade.

mccullough said...

I never liked this tune until Lenny Kravitz did his version.

jgm said...

Definitely a political song. In fact, I always thought the "American Woman" referred to was the Statue of Liberty. Great song, by the way, despite the stupidity of the lyrics. Classic guitar riff.

The Crack Emcee said...

"Explicit insulting isn't needed. Just don't praise them."

Damn it, Oligonicella, you beat me to it.

And I betcha we'll never hear Ann complaining about that.

FormerTucsonan said...

Total misread of "The Trees". Consider the last verse:

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
'The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light'
Now there's no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe and saw

Neil Peart is a devotee of Ayn Rand.

El Pollo Real said...

Anybody else think it odd that lead guitarist Randy Bachmann chose to hide himself behind the bass player in this video? He's only fully visible here for second or two.

Matthew said...


(Without asking Mr. Peart)I have always interpreted "the Hatchet, Axe and Saw" as references to nuclear war, or ecological disaster.

In 1978, when that song was recorded, Jimmy Carter was busy doing his best to ensure the Soviet Union would win the Cold War by disarming the United States, and thereby encouraging Moscow to launch the Big Boom-Boom.

This was also the height of the No Nukes movement -- and if I remember correctly, also the Three Mile Island disaster (which in retrospect, really wasn't).

And finally; this was also when the first grumblings about Acid Rain began, where it was believed that pollution form American industry was carried north to Canada and fell in the form of Acid Rain.

Anyway you slice it, "Hatchet, Axe and Saw" could be metaphors for America destroying Canada, either with it's ideological battle with the Soviet Union, it's nuclear power plants melting down, or American polution poisoning Canadian soil.

That's how I always interpreted it, but then again,I'm old...

Matthew said...

Oh, forgot:

The Union is probably a reference to the United Nations...

And I don;t know if Peart is a fan of Ayn Rand, but he is a hell of an intellect.

cathy said...

It doesn't matter what the writer thought. It's part of the job to know how it comes across. "American woman, stay away from me." I never listened to the whole song, hit the radio button real fast. Maybe once I listened for half a minute to see why it's popular. Yes it's bad. I wanted Tyler so gone.

knox said...

"Explicit insulting isn't needed. Just don't praise them."

Damn it, Oligonicella, you beat me to it.

Whatever, you guys.

AND, no one has mentioned my hairt today!! JERKS.

ken in sc said...

I thought ‘American Woman’ was insulting when I first heard it as well. I am married to an American Woman and I am quite happy with her. However, I have lived in the Philippines, Thailand, and Korea. I know that many American men could get a much better deal than they have now. Ironically, Canadian women are like the worse kind of American women on steroids. At least the single ones I’ve met.

Some of them are totally crazy.

rhhardin said...

I assumed it was about some woman.

Synova said...

"However, I have lived in the Philippines, Thailand, and Korea. I know that many American men could get a much better deal than they have now."

Ken, my take on this having lived in the Philippines (military) for a couple of years is that the wisdom was that the American guy finds this girl who treats him great and when they get back to the US she changes and dumps him. My opinion of this, from observation of how most of these young guys treated their wives was that the women realized they shouldn't have to put up with being treated like crap once they were exposed to American women. Now, I don't even really blame the guys for treating them badly either, because it's human nature to take what you're given until meeting some sort of push-back. How's he supposed to know that she maybe doesn't want to wait on him hand and foot when she's trying to get stuff done if she doesn't tell him so?

Don't misunderstand, I believe in acting out love by doing nice things for your spouse (because I believe that love is what you do far more than it is a feeling) but I'll never forget visiting with a guy from my husband's shop (before I enlisted) and his wife and sister. Jeff says, "Lisa, get me a lemonade?" Lisa gets up and walks to the next room to get him lemonade. Having now established normal behavior and expectations *my* husband says, "Hey, Julie, I'd sure like a lemonade." I was just as sitting and just as far from the kitchen, so I said, "You know how to find the lemonade," or some such. Now, yes, he took this in stride and got up and got his own lemonade, but the expressions of total shock on the faces of Lisa and her sister I will never forget. I could have grown a second head and not gotten those sorts of stares.

Jeff really didn't treat his wife very well, but he loved her a whole lot and he was a really nice guy, but it's human nature to judge your own actions by how they are received. I've no doubt at all that if his wife told him to get his own beer or lemonade or whatever because she was busy, that he'd happily do that. But I doubt seriously that she would ever tell him that she was busy or do anything at all but drop what she was doing and wait on him. Still, she might start to resent it. And if she does leave him someday (or has) he probably didn't have a clue why.

In any case, I have mixed feelings about the whole "asian wife" thing because these ladies were my *friends*. On the one hand, particularly around the military bases at the time, marrying an American was the ultimate marriage "up" for many who were very poor and likely to benefit her entire family in extraordinary ways. On the other hand, a man wanting to marry a woman from the Philippines because of the idea that she would treat him like the boss and wait on him and be subservient makes me assume that he *wants* to be able to treat her like shit.

And like I said, these ladies were my friends.

Joe said...

If a song is fun to listen to, I rarely care about the lyrics. If people choose to be insulted by a rock song, they're idiots.

Oh, and Neil Peart is a drummer GOD.

What does Tom Sawyer mean? Who the hell cares, it's a great song.

Omni Presence said...

I totally agree with you Ann. But I also thought that Grady's entire 70's gimmick was dishonest. Obviously, he never lived through the 70's and watching the "That 70's show doesn't count" as far as truly understanding what was behind a lot of the protest songs were about. Whether it is metaphorical or not AI is not the place for protest song or to be insulting people if you want to appeal to a nation. It's like biting the hand that feeds you. If he needed to sing a song from the 70's there were a ton of other choices. It was a stupid choice on his part.

Personally I always saw the song as expression of the male ego. Basically, let's blame everything on women instead of taking responsibility of our own doing. Sorry, women don't have a history of declaring war all over the world. Women never had that power. Men have historically had the political power and the ability to change the "ghetto scenes" but did they change them or in this song just blame someone else.

He made a stupid song choice and then when he got bumped he complains about it. He doesn't know how to play the game and he his male ego will not allow him to admit he made a mistake. He want's to blame it on someone else. So ironically maybe he did choose the right song that honestly expressed his character. He probably chose it because he related to it.

kyle said...

Wow. If ever such ignorance about a damn song was displayed, it's right here. It's JUST a song. And not everyone who happens to think differently than America hates us, by the way. Perhaps the hate we're being shown is the fact that we have this "our way or the highway" attitude.