I'd been confused by this for a little while.
At my fitness pilates class (haha yes I'm an OAP, something to do with my left hip flexor means I need to do stretches and...you don't want to know all this) there is occasionally a country playlist. I'm not adverse to country music - I love hearing a Marlboro man sing about how upset he is that his lady left with his truck - but some of the tracks on it are truly unbelievable.
One such song is "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry. A song that's quite nice in a bland, background radio music sort of way; it doesn't scream "crossover single of the century" but it doesn't make me want to tear my eardrums out with horror and frustration either. It's essentially a 'nothing' sort of song. If you heard it once you'd never think about it again.
I hear it once a week though, while we do awkward spine rotations in a gym hall just outside of Clitheroe.
For the first couple of weeks the whole playlist blended into one lamentable drone, occasionally punctuated by cynically-written wedding song cash cows by the likes of Shaniah Twain and Alison Krauss. One week I noticed that Brad Paisley was in on the act, crying about drinking whiskey to forget his cheating wife (true country ethics). All seemed well and relatively dull.
Then a song started creeping into my subconscious. I found myself humming a tune throughout the week, so I Googled the words I remembered and lo and behold, here was "If I Die Young", wriggling around in my frontal lobe.
I'm now semi-obsessed with this song. It's not great - as I mentioned before, it's the type of mid-chart-bothering pop country a million other people have done before - it's the sentiment that affects me so. Let me explain.
"If I Die Young" is a song about dying when you're young. Obviously. It details how the singer would prefer to be buried (in satin on a bed of roses) and sent off (sank in a river), how sad her mother would be to bury her child and how people would listen to her final words with reverence and respect.
Despite this being a wholly inappropriate premise for a pop song, this still isn't why the song fascinates me.
What I find so truly fascinating about this track is how it must have been written along the same lines as any classic "first dance" wedding song, but for a young person's funeral.
Everybody has a song that reminds them of somebody, and should that person pass away, that song becomes your own personal memorial of their life. The Band Perry (or more probably, their manager [NOTE: I have since been informed by an eager fan that this track was made before they had a manager, however it was released on Republic Nashville so make of that what you will) had the fantastic business idea of creating that song cold, therefore offering their cut and dried sentiments to be pasted onto an entire nation's grief. What a fantastic way to make money! People are always dying, ergo, people will always need moving funeral songs. The grim gift that keeps on giving.
I'll paste the video below so you can listen for yourself. There is no personal sentiment, no added memoirs or anecdotes - this track was made to be grafted onto as many people's emotions as possible. Almost regimentally innocent with choice lines like "the sharp knife of a short life", I wouldn't be surprised if a boardroom of people sat around brainstorming ways to describe a mother's perfect vision of their beloved child. I can't believe somebody has been so savvy and cynical. I'd be appalled if I wasn't in awe of their massive, businessbutt balls.
Oh, it's also in a key pretty much everyone can sing, perfect for recitals and cover versions. Cha ching.
Listen to it here and then tell me if I'm just being a cynical, unfeeling twat.