Tone Deaf: What Does the Program Director Listen to?

by Jade Watts


Explosive and electric, Sweet Southern Sugar by Kid Rock is a rollercoaster ride of red neck pride. This forty-six year old musician successfully twists classic rock sounds with modern mixing, leaving a high quality musical product.

Sweet Southern Sugar begins with blow-out opener “Greatest Show On Earth.” This tune jolts the listener awake with it’s provocative lyrics and it’s dirty rock-and-roll sound. Kid Rock ambushes the listener and pulls them into the album by reminding them of his talent and just what rock-and-roll is supposed to sound like.

Kid Rock mixes southern rhythm with classic rock sounds.
(Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Kid Rock is not at all modest in his abilities, and comes across as uncaring and reckless as he goes into the next song, “Po-Dunk,” a catchy toe tapping tune that’s a blaring ode to the hillbilly.

Bluesy “Po-Dunk” idolizes the carefree redneck lifestyle that Kid Rock knows oh so well. Rock eases right into this one with stereotypical imagery of the redneck life, with guns, boozes, and excess children. Although most of these stereotypes could be viewed as poor manners and in poor taste, they are accentuated by the hook, “Love us if you can, sorry if you can’t,” reminding the listener that they are perfectly content with their life style.

In contrast to the previous song, “Tennessee Mountain Top” displays the irony and heartbreak of “southern hillbilly” culture with the back drop set in California.

Kid Rock tries to navigate his way through the dry state, but is met with contradiction and distress. He recalls ”(…) preacher man prayin’ for peace but still packin’ a gun,” as evidence of not being able to trust even the holy men. The only thing keeping him going in such an environment is his need to bring soul and rock-and-roll back to the heartless state.

Although preaching the resurrection of rock-and-roll, anyone who’s listened to Kid Rock knows that he tends to transcend genres with his fusion style of rock. His song “I Wonder” is a perfect example of that.

This composition starts in memphis blues style but evolves into a techno-esque Journey reminiscent sounding song about love lost’s addictive quality. Although slightly less infectious than “Don’t Stop Believing,” “I Wonder” is certainly a fan favorite on this album.

Kid Rock also excels in bringing classic rock to a modern age by borrowing techniques used in the production of soul and hip-hop classics, like the use of a live chorus and the mixing technique of record scratching. Feel good country rock song “American Rock n’ Roll,”  a song about feeling the spirit of rock-and-roll itself and falling in love with it’s soul, fits the canon of Rock meshing musical styles.

Kid Rock isn’t all sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll though; sometimes he has a sensitive uplifting side too. In an uncomfortable yet soul-baring rap about suicide, Rock motivates the downtrodden and surrendering listener to keep going. He challenges this archetype of person to rely on themselves while simultaneously putting all their trust in God to see them through this taxing time in their life.

Besides his cover of the Four Tops song “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch,” the next two songs on the Sweet Southern Sugar are all and all a similar quality to the rest. “Grandpa’s Jam,” the last song on this album, however, is spectacularly unique in it’s unfathomably poor musical and lyrical quality.

Kid Rock is a talented individual and does a variety of musical and lyrical techniques well, but releasing rap music is not one of them. “Grandpa’s Jam” is a hysterically bad diss track aimed at younger rappers who’ve called Rock out on his absurdist stunts and contradictory politics. This boisterous rap song is possibly one of the most embarrassing things Kid Rock has done yet, and he pretended to run for senate in Michigan to promote this album.

From start to finish, this album was an absolute trip of generally high quality music with a twisted and odd progression of lyrical messages. Sweet Southern Sugar is certainly Kid Rock’s most socially aware piece of work to date. There is no doubt that Kid Rock is a talented man, but it may be time for grandpa to take a turn at rocking a chair instead of the world.

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