Country music really isn't a genre; it's an ulterior universe that, paradoxically, penetrates a wider swath of American soil, if not population, than catch-all Top 40. That's why, instead of seeing country videos on MTV or its various offshoots, Nashville has its own MTV in the form of CMT (and its own VH1 in the form of GAC), its own reality series to mirror the likes of Survivor and Ax Men, and enough of its own award shows to cause the casual follower to lose track.
Prime-time CMT looks a lot like MTV, in that the station airs enough original programming or syndicated flicks to avoid playing actual music videos. But late at night and throughout the morning, CMT loops popular current videos in an ultra-tight rotation, to the point where Toby Keith and Taylor Swift might become mistaken for actual acquaintances in a bleary-eyed parents' everyday life. And it's these bleary-eyed parents--especially ones with infants who wail for the tit-spigot at all hours--who are especially susceptible to CMT's nocturnal hypnosis.
The chorus of Swift's "Begin Again" concludes with the line: "On a Wednesday, in a cafe, I watch it begin again." This perfectly encapsulates the evil genius of late-night CMT's immersion strategy: Should you awaken to a screaming infant three hours to the minute of when you last awakened to a screaming infant, odds are you will literally be watching "Begin Again" begin again.
"Begin Again" is merely a decent video when pitted against Swift's own summer scorchers, like "Sparks Fly," which appeared with similar after-hours frequency during the summer of 2011. This winter's crop of vids, however, is slim-picking; hence, Taylor's trip to Paris comes off as downright pleasant. Typically reliable artists like The Band Perry, Eric Church and Jason Aldean each have uncharacteristically crappy tracks in the current rotation, to the point where Toby Keith's turn ("Hope on the Rocks") is a peculiarly welcome occurrence.
But that's the thing about late-night CMT: Even the shit sticks to the wall. In "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye," the marginally talented heartthrob Luke Bryan implores a former lover to take off her "leaving dress" before jumping in the sack for an encore pole dance, begging the question: What's the difference between a leaving dress and a dress better suited for arriving? In the waking world, the utterance of such an asinine line--not unusual for Bryan, it's worth noting--would get the channel changed immediately. But when viewed repeatedly during hours when most people's brains are shut down and alternatives are scarce, it's not only tolerable, but infectious.
Coincidence? I think not. Red-state voters might not be so sure about science's role in the areas of evolution and climate change, but their artistic kingmakers have clearly invested in the finest psychological manipulation technology gold bullion can buy.