East Portland Blog: John Mellencamp Evolves Into Modern Populist Hero
03.11.2012 - By Eduard P. Gomez -
East Portland Blog
Troubled Land – John Mellencamp Evolves Into Modern Populist Hero, By Eduard
By admin, on March 10th, 2012
“I put out a song about the way things are called ‘Troubled Land’ to give
folks the news like Woody Guthrie used to do with his music,” John Mellencamp
said in a statement on a political blog.
Woody Guthrie? Really? Ironically, that’s the sense I felt about this song
when I first heard it. “Troubled Land” reminded me of a sort of “This Land Is
Your Land” updated for the 21st century. The song conveys a singularly bleak
worldview, as Mellencamp considers the definite lack of freedom afforded by the
current political climate. Also, the subject matter goes beyond any implied
anti-war message of the song’s “bring peace to this troubled land” tag line.
Musically “Troubled Land” harkens back to “Crumblin’ Down” with its swampy
groove and sings of bringing peace while warning of the hurricane on the
horizon. The accompanying video juxtaposes scenes of Mellencamp singing the song
self-accompanied with acoustic guitar are stark shots of a tattered American
flag, military graveyard, burning paper money, a gas pump with swiftly
increasing gallon pricing, a man twirling a foreclosure sign, an anti-war
demonstration, and finally, a naked baby crawling across Old Glory as to suggest
a kind of rebirth and renewed idealism.
Very few artists like Mellencamp can pull off this kind of melancholy—it’s
certainly more fitting with his artistic persona than writing jingles to sell
Chevy trucks—and that his world-weariness feels legitimately earned rather than
affected keeps “Troubled Land” from being just an exercise in pessimism.
Sometimes I have trouble reconciling my small town upbringing with my Liberal
ethos, but I see the past, present, and future the way he does, and that gives
me an odd sense of kinship with him. John Mellencamp continues his ongoing
evolution into something of a modern populist folk hero.