Country Music

Wheeler Walker Jr. Crosses Country's Fine Line Between Satire and Stupidity

If there has ever been a time that country music has needed to step back and poke fun at itself, it is now. For the past several years, music snobs have happily cast the genre aside as bro-country and songs about trucks confirmed everything those snobs already knew about the genre: it’s for stupid rednecks who just want to drink beer, go fishing, and have a good time. Whether or not that is truly the case (and it is decidedly not), country’s image is in desperate need of a little help.

And often, as history has shown, that help comes in the form of country humor. Comedy and country music have always co-existed. From the "Boy Named Sue" to the price tag on Minnie Pearl’s hat at the Grand Ole Opry, this sort of goofy, often family-friendly funnybone has always been part of country music's fabric. Over the years, country and comedy have become more intertwined, with artists like Rodney Carrington and Cletus T. Judd making careers out of joke songs and parodies. Now, another artist that seeks to sort of refine this subgenre of country humor (or comedy country) – the foul-mouthed misogynist archetype that is Wheeler Walker Jr.

To look at this character is to see a modern-day Bocephus and a guy who has been put upon by the music business. According to his press kit, Walker had a major-label deal with Capitol Records after A&R legend Ronnie Phillips saw him playing at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe. He recorded two full-length albums, both of which were scrapped after the label wanted Walker to scrub the curse words out of the tracks. The saga continued, as Wheeler tried to find another home for his R-rated records.

“It was the same scenario with RCA, Giant, Arista, so on and so forth,” the press kit continues. “The stories became the stuff of Nashville legend: Wheeler signs record deal, Wheeler raises all kinds o’ hell, Wheeler threatens to murder the CEO, Wheeler fucks the CEO’s wife... and the cycle repeats itself.” He describes himself as “country music’s most talented artist, and not even a damn single to show for it.”

Now, no one knows how much of this hellbilly backstory is bullshit. Who knows if Walker actually goes around fucking CEOs' wives and threatening to murder record executives, or if this is just some big, elaborate hoax. My money is decidedly on the latter, but there is something worth examining in Walker’s first EP, Fuck You Bitch. The three-song release, described by one outlet as the “filthiest country album of all time,” also includes such classics as “Better Off Beatin’ Off” and “Beer, Weed, Cooches.”

The songs are, for the most part, just pure shock value. The title track sounds like it’s being sung by Jason Aldean, but is mostly just Walker saying fuck some broad who broke his heart, along with her friends, her dog, etc. “Beer, Weed, Cooches,” is a slightly more blunt version of a drunken bro-country party boy song that uses the word “cooches” and the expectation of getting a blowjob instead of subtle references to vaginas and backroads trickery. “Better Off Beatin’ Off” is a sort of depressing conclusion that Walker’s own hand is better than putting up with pain-in-the-ass women.

It is worth noting that the record is sonically solid, no doubt thanks in large part to producer Dave Cobb, who's worked with Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell. Cobb is an incredibly talented guy, and Walker is (according to him) friends with Simpson, which puts him in solid company. Walker reportedly only agreed to work with Cobb if he refused to censor his expletive-filled lyrics, but why one of the aforementioned country heavy-hitters never bothered to tell Walker that this record is actually pretty damn terrible is a bit of a mystery. 

If Walker is truly making the music that he’s been wanting to make ever since he (supposedly) got dropped from that first major label, surely he could’ve done better than a track full of misogynist slurs, slut-shaming, and sophomoric references to “pussholes” and boners. On its own, the music is sort of disgusting and offensive. But in the broader context, this music probably wouldn’t be so goddamn infuriating if it didn’t sound so much like everything else out on the radio.

Let’s be honest – “I’m going to get my dick sucked” is not too far off from Florida-Georgia Line sticking their pink umbrella in some chick’s proverbial drink. If anything, it should be refreshing to hear the kind of honesty that bro-country hasn’t really had the testicular fortitude to tackle. You could say that Wheeler Walker Jr.’s got balls, but that isn’t really the case. Instead of punching up, making fun of the men who have made this sort of music profitable, he’s doing the same thing they are: expressing his viewpoint at the expense of women.

Plenty of people would argue that what Walker is doing is just skewering a few of bro-country's favorite sacred cows. And perhaps he is, but I can't get past the enormously offensive rhetoric in order to find that satire. And sure, it’s easy enough to say this is all a joke. It’s all tongue-in-cheek, it’s all a bunch of fun. A song about smoking weed, drinking beer, and plowing “cooches” (ugh) isn’t on face offensive, but when viewed in the context of Wheeler’s oeuvre, it’s safe to say that he’s guilty of the same sort of objectification and blatant sexism that the rest of the bros are. But we’re guessing that the viewers at PornHub, where Walker recently debuted “Drop ‘Em Out,” a song about a woman pulling her tits out, don’t really give a shit about that.

It is interesting, though, that Walker chose Pornhub, one of the most trafficked sites on the Internet, to debut his single. There probably is no time at which a Web site visitor is less inclined to see a scruffy-faced dude sing about titties than when they have actual access to all the, ahem, titties they want on the rest of the site. If visitors are browsing Pornhub wanting to look at cowboys, it’s safe to say they’re interested in a whole other kind of video.

Notably, Walker’s video has just over 57,000 views on PornHub at present, less than a quarter of the views on a recently-uploaded video of a woman actually, you know, droppin’ ‘em out. But, considering that at least two-thirds of this EP heavily reference jerking off, maybe it was intended to be a soundtrack for Pornhub’s legions of visitors.

Perhaps this is just feminist pearl-clutching, yet another instance of a humorless feminazi refusing to take a joke. But I'd probably be more inclined to laugh if I thought that this EP was somehow worth overlooking its blatant sexism and disgusting depictions of women as little more than untrustworthy, heart-breakin’ penis receptacles. But the only redeeming value of Fuck You Bitch is the fact that Dave Cobb made it sound slightly better than the garbage it is. If I have to hand it to Walker for one thing, it’s that he went all-in, fronting all his money to release this album through Thirty Tigers. That’s infinitely ballsier than complaining about women in 2015.

And hell, maybe he'll prove me wrong and Redneck Shit, his full-length release that is expected next year, will actually contain some kind of nuanced satire. But until then, Wheeler Walker Jr. is just another misogynist in country music, and there's nothing revolutionary about that. 

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Amy McCarthy is a food writer and country music critic who splits time between Dallas and Houston. Her music writing is regularly featured in the Houston Press and has also appeared in Texas Monthly, Salon, VICE, Playboy, and Pitchfork.