The New York Times of all places has…

The New York Times (of all places) has an article about Brad Paisley’s new album, This Is Country Music, and more generally, Paisley’s answer to the question “what is country music?”:

The latest philosopher to tackle the problem is Brad Paisley, one of modern Nashville’s biggest stars, and greatest talents. In “This Is Country Music,” the title track from Mr. Paisley’s forthcoming ninth studio album, he offers a theory: country is what other pop music isn’t. It’s down-to-earth, not trendy; it prizes realism over artifice; it’s steeped in traditional values — old-time religion, the old folks at home, Old Glory.

I think that’s basically right, and the article goes on to cite several past Paisley songs that defied country stereotypes — including the song that made me a Paisley fan, “Welcome To The Future.”

But then there’s this:

What is absent from “This Is Country Music” is a big risk, like the one Mr. Paisley took with “Welcome to the Future,” the arena rock-style anthem that celebrated Barack Obama’s election. (Mr. Paisley performed the song at the White House in July 2009, one week after its release as a single.) Before “Welcome to the Future,” Mr. Paisley had had 10 straight No. 1 country hits, a record that stretched back four years. But the song stalled at No. 2, snapping Mr. Paisley’s streak. That may have been coincidence, but it’s clear that some of Mr. Paisley’s fans were turned off by a song that saluted the nation’s first black president — and, perhaps worse, a Democrat.

Um … huh? I guess they’re referring to the third verse:

I had a friend in school
Running back on the football team
They burned a cross in his front yard
For asking out the homecoming queen

I thought about him today
And everybody who’s seen what he’s seen
From a woman on a bus
To a man with a dream

Sure, it’s likely enough that the verse was vaguely inspired by wonder at how far we’ve come, that we live in a time where a black man can be elected president. But in what conceivable sense does the song “salute” Obama, or even really “celebrate his election”?

In the very next paragraph, the article quotes Paisley as saying “I knew that the song would be misunderstood.” Oh, the irony.