Let’s Review a Paula Cole Song a Little Bit

by Chris McGinty

Yesterday, I wrote a reasonably funny blog post that could have easily been a tweet. Don’t believe me? I’m going to sum up yesterday’s post in 280 characters or fewer: The team of the Srangers and the team of the Scowboys.

You know what? That’s not fair. They’re real people not so much characters. I’m going to sum it up instead with a tweet sized writing that only has 280 character… oh, I see what I was doing.

“I don’t care about sportsball, but given the Srangers won this year, I don’t want the Scowboys to win, because a whole bunch of posers will start acting like they were always fans just because they’re winners now.”

Sorry if you actually read yesterday’s blog post. I did post a couple of songs up when I did it though. Here, listen to this song by The Pixies while I talk about my experiences listening to Paula Cole. It’s short. You’ll like it.

The Pixies – Tame

One of those songs was “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” by Paula Cole, who was probably better known for performing the song that became the theme song for “Dawson’s Creek.”

I own two copies of Paula Cole’s “This Fire.” One was a dubbed tape and I don’t remember where I got it. The second was when I found the CD used. You would think I would remember a lot about the album. I don’t. The two hits are all I can readily remember. You might think that means I didn’t like the album. By the way, you’re being very presumptive today. I did like album. It’s just been two and a half decades since I listened to it. I might need to integrate it into my playlists for the year and reacquaint myself.

“Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” is a song I probably shouldn’t like. It falls into the category of song that was clearly written to be an emphasis track. We’re meant to like the song. Speaking of liking songs, when you’re done with that The Pixies song, listen to this very well known Luke Combs song. It’s a little longer. You’ll still like it.

Tracy Chapman – Fast Car

People get confused when I complain about music that’s designed to be liked. In their minds, they figure that songs should be written so that people enjoy them. It’s not really what I’m saying though. It’s about using a formula to produce something that seems to work. Go read some of the fiction I’ve posted this year so far. None of it’s bad, so far. None of it’s really very good either. You can read it and think, “Eh. Ok.” I can definitely write better. Sometimes the songs they push on us on the radio is exactly that. It’s not meant to make you think anything. It’s just meant to keep you from changing the channel.

With Paula Cole, “I Don’t Want to Wait” was a much more interesting song, but for some reason I like “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” better, even though I recognize I shouldn’t like it all that much. Here’s what it is. I like her voice and I like the chorus a lot. It’s a good chorus and it’s catchy without feeling like it was designed to be catchy. I can get behind that.

It’s the rest of the song is where I’m being duped. I like it because it sounds like “Tame,” from the whispered verses to the do do dos. If that chorus didn’t work, I would hate this song. Ask me about Weezer’s “Undone (The Sweater Song)” sometime. The lyrics are similar in concept to “Fast Car.” It’s about a woman in an uneven relationship where they’ve fallen into a rut. The difference is that with “Fast Car” she is ambitious and the other person in the relationship is complacent. It’s not really about male and female roles as much as “Will we let life defeat us?” “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” is more of an indictment on traditional roles, possibly because The Lilith Fair probably existed when the song came out. (I looked it up. It’s murky. I might have to write a blog post about it. Paula Cole is involved.)

Paula Cole – Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

This is one of those instances where I believe that someone took influence from different places and the end result worked. There is every reason for me to find the song uninspiring and trite, but it works for me. I like both “Tame” and “Fast Car” better though.

The thing is that artists do this kind of thing all the time. We try to create something that is entirely original. I’m writing a short story right now about a mouse who’s trying to have a fully original thought before he dies, because I’m trying to capture the basic problem. What we tend to end up with is something that has technically never been presented in the same way, but it’s piecing together aspects of other art that inspired us. It’s never fully original, but it’s somehow new.

Chris McGinty is a blogger who wonders if he can somehow integrate “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” into every blog post he writes this year, including the ones he’s already written. This will have to involve time travel, I think.

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