The rap songs are:
Soul Survivor, by Young Jeezy Featuring Akon
Gold Digger, by Kanye West Featuring Jamie Foxx
Like You, by Bow Wow Featuring Ciara
Girl Tonite, by Twista Featuring Trey Songz
Play, by David Banner
The country songs are:
Better Life, by Keith Urban
Skin (Sarabeth), by Rascal Flatts
Probably Wouldn't Be This Way, by LeAnn Rimes
Who You'd Be Today, by Kenny Chesney
Redneck Yacht Club, by Craig Morgan
All the rap songs are sung by, and from the perspective of, men, though one is an unbalanced duet.
“Soul Survivor” is about unrepentant armed drug dealers. There is nothing about love, or even sex, in this one, but it portrays a very bleak world.
“Like You” is a straight love song, though the marks of his care for her are not a promise of marriage and children, but letting her drive his Benz and go on shopping sprees. Still, this is the most hopeful of the bunch.
“Girl Tonite” is an extremely vulgar sex song. “Play” is a pornographic sex song, including an invitation to group sex with her friends. He calls himself a pimp and the other women hoes. This one is truly disgusting.
The most interesting rap song is Kanye West’s “Gold Digger,” which Maggie Gallagher wrote about recently. This is a gold mine (so to speak) of relational disaster and ambivalence. The woman he describes is a gold digger, though he says he won’t call her that. She has four children, some by other named stars. She wants him to pay for them, too. He offers as general advice that if a woman has your child you have to pay her child support for 18 years. He has a friend, an NFL star, who paid child support, but the woman spent the money on herself – and after 18 years he discovered that the child is not his, anyway. Yet the singer claims that he loves her anyway.
The key lines are:
“If you ain’t no punk holla We Want Prenup
WE WANT PRENUP! Yeaah
It's something that you need to have
Cause when she leave yo ass she gone leave with half”
Note that he says when she leaves, not if.
He urges another woman to stick with a poor but ambitious young man who will make it one day – but then the punch line is “But when you get on he leave yo ass for a white girl”
This is a tragic view of the relations of men and women, and truly horrid for the children they casually and incidentally produce.
The country songs are, not surprisingly, a different story altogether.
“Better Life,” like “Like You,” is a man promising a woman to stay with her and provide a better life for her – with none of the ambivalence of “Gold Digger.”
“Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way,” and “Who’d You Be Today,” are both about grieving for a dead loved one, the first by a widow, the second by, I think, a father. They are tender and straightforwardly grateful for the loving relationship that they had, before the early death of the other person.
“Redneck Yacht Club” is just a genial, working class hoot. Whereas the rappers brag about how expensive their things are, the country singers emphasize how modest their lives are materially. The good ol’ boys who tie their houseboats together for some low-key summer fun suggest nothing more risqué than “than checking out the girls on the upper deck.”
The most interesting song of this set is Rascal Flatts’ “Skin.” A teenage girl with cancer, supported by mom and dad, worries about the embarrassment of going to the prom bald, and thus disappointing her first love. When he picks her up for the dance, however, he has shaved his head in solidarity with her.
I read both sets of top-selling songs as telling us more about the audience than the performers. The audience for country songs wants a world of married parents taking care of their kids, and encouraging young love, in a life in which material things are secondary. The rap audience, on the other hand, wants to feel the feeling of a bleak world of sex, money, and impermanence in all relationships.
Both audiences, we know from other research, are predominantly white. The country singers, though, are popular because they reflect the lives and aspirations of an audience that is like the singers themselves. The appeal of rap songs about brutal, criminal, misogynist black men to the white boys who buy most rap music is that rap portrays a life they don’t live, but are darkly attracted to. Most of them will get over it, and live a life more like a country song. Still, the rap world, as portrayed in its best-selling songs, is all threat to marriage and family life, and no help.
But it is an effective way to annoy your parents. And that may be the main point.