Vintage Review – Alan Jackson’s “3 Minute Positive Not Too Country Up-Tempo Love Song”


A lot has been made lately about the prevalence of country music protest songs and the instances when certain artists speak out about the ills of modern country. Usually this acrimony is being sowed by artists who are on the outside looking in to the very top spots of popularity in the genre who might be looking to even scores or challenge the mainstream and the direction the music is headed.

But imagine a scenario where one of the very top artists of today, someone like Jason Aldean or Luke Bryan, wasn’t just actively not trying to be a part of the problem, but was doing things to troll the rest of the industry right under their noses while still holding one of those very top industry spots.

That’s what Alan Jackson did throughout his commercial career. And though at the time it was so easy to overlook his contributions, or lump him in as part of the problem during one of country music’s most commercially-oriented eras (he was one of the signature members of the “Class of ’89” afterall), the entire time Alan Jackson possessed an incredible self-awareness, an understanding of his place in country music history, and most enjoyably, a keen sense of humor on how to rib the industry while somehow staying out of harm’s way.

Many of Alan Jackson’s hijinks and protest moments are well-documented. There was the time he stopped down his performance of “Pop A Top” to launch into George Jones’ “Choices” after the CMA’s cut George’s performance slot short. There was the time at the 1994 ACM Awards that he directed his drummer to play with no sticks after producers insisted Jackson sing to a backing instrumental track. And then of course there’s his performance of the song “Murder On Music Row” with George Strait, which ultimately won multiple CMA Awards despite its anti-industry message.

But in the gaggle of Alan Jackson album cuts, he hid this awesome little gem of a protest song—subtle yet still so pointed and hilarious—it just goes to show you the smarts and self-awareness Alan Jackson possesses.

alan-jackson-when-somebody-loves-youWritten by Jackson himself, it was the last track on his 2000 album When Somebody Loves You. At the time, Jackson’s career could have swerved in a number of different directions. He’d won the coveted CMA for Entertainer of the Year back in 1995, but it was still very much in question whether newcomers like Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban would nudge Jackson and others out of the spotlight. Garth Brooks was getting ready to retire, and the Class of ’89 was getting ready to give way to a new generation.

But it wasn’t going to happen without Jackson putting up a fight. As “commercial” as the Class of ’89 era was, it was nothing compared to what country music was about to become, with nothing but 3-minute positive not too country up tempo love songs dominating the format. So that’s what Alan Jackson wrote.

It’s a little bit edgy, but softer than spaghetti
Weak yet redundantly strong
It’s a three minute positive
Not too country up-tempo love song

Well it’s the right amount of timin’, the proper form of rhymin’
A little guitar then it’s gone
It’s a three minute positive
Not too country up-tempo love song

There’ll be no drinkin’, no cheatin’, no lyin’, no leavin’
That stuff it just don’t belong
In a three minute positive
Not too county up-tempo love song

And of course because it was an Alan Jackson song, it still remained solidly country with Stuart Duncan on fiddle and Paul Franklin on steel guitar. There’s even a shout out to long-time Jackson producer Keith Stegall. “Hey, how much time is that Keith?” Jackson asks at the end.

Smart-assed and riotous, it got Jackson’s point across without sacrificing any entertainment value, and it offered a unique twist on how to challenge the adverse trends in country music without being a party to one himself by cutting just another boring and bitchy protest song. Put “Three Minute Positive Not Too Country Up Tempo Love Song” right up there with Willie Nelson’s “Sad Songs and Waltzes” for using subtly and slyness to get an important point across.

Alan Jackson would go on to see a huge resurgence in his career after early 00’s hits like “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning,” and was once again named CMA Entertainer of the Year in 2002 and 2003. And as he’d done throughout his career, he did it his way.

Two Guns Up.