CMA performance proved that country music has moved on from mindless hick bops
“Country sounded more country tonight than it has in a long time.” That was Luke Combs closing sentiment on Wednesday night as he accepted the CMA’s coveted Entertainer of the Year Award. Combs was correct, thanks in no small part to the chilling performance by Hardy of his sleeper hit, “Wait in the Truck.” (Stylized “wait in the truck,” the single off his similarly-styled the mockingbird & The Crow record, out next year.)
“Wait in the Truck” is a song sung by a man from the confines of prison, where he has been sent due to the events of a fateful night. He meets a young lady (duet partner Lainey Wilson) who has been abused by her live-in boyfriend or husband. Though she is but a stranger, Hardy’s character is inspired to avenge her treatment and free her from her life-threatening situation.
The song itself is the kind of story-driven country music that was sorely lacking in the last decade. It is a return to the eras of George Jones and Randy Travis, when a hook led to something more than a catchy phrase that you could bop along to. “Wait in the Truck” has more “The Grand Tour” and “Three Wooden Crosses” in its makeup than it does “Cruise.” And that’s a good thing for country music’s role as a genre that is authentic and truthful.
In a way, “Wait in the Truck” is the final death blow to bro country. Because if Hardy and Lainey Wilson can sing about murdering a shitbag who beats his woman, we no longer need songs about girls in tight jeans having wet t-shirt contests on flatbeds in the sticks. We tried that. It lasted ten years. Bury it.
And it is because of this that I am as surprised as anybody that the “Rednecker” guy wrote this. That the guy who jumps around in his trucker hat and hipster glasses is the one to speak about domestic violence in such a devastatingly beautiful way. But it just works. Because Hardy does look like the guy who would take justice into his own hands. Through this song, and its accompanying video, it feels as though we are seeing the real Michael Hardy for the first time. And the result is something that is even larger than country music itself.
The music video for “Wait in the Truck” has achieved over 11 million views in two months on YouTube alone. It stars Hardy and Wilson as their characters from the song. They act it out in a mini-movie conceived by Hardy–credited under his full name, Michael Hardy, which he uses when writing and producing music–and directed by Justin Clough.
The video has the DNA of Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls,” with a beaten woman that pulls a gun on her snarling man. But “Wait in the Truck” brings those insinuations inside from the darkness of Garth’s thunderstorm and turns them into a full-throated confrontation with the bang of Hardy’s pistol hammer.
The comments section on YouTube is virtually all survivors of domestic violence thanking Hardy and Wilson for telling a story that gives justice to those who have been through hell with no way to escape. This is what country music is supposed to do for people.
Country music is shedding bro country at a rapid pace. This is what Luke Combs was referring to in his speech. Sorry to say, but Luke Bryan’s word salad “Country On” is behind the times when “The Kind of Love We Make” and “Hate My Heart” are aching to tell the truths of the human spirit. “Wait in The Truck” goes several steps further by talking about the lengths the human spirit will go to in order to sacrifice for another human being. If that ain’t country, nothing is.