Billy Ray Cyrus' 9/11 Album: The Tragedy America Forgot

Categories: Strum & Twang

​Unlike his rash colleagues Alan Jackson and Toby Keith, Billy Ray Cyrus passed a full decade in contemplation before sharing with the world art wrung from his feelings about life in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001.

Unleashed this June, the resulting disc, I'm American, should clear up once and for all any confusion you might have had concerning Cyrus' feelings about the American flag (for it!), American soldiers (for 'em!), and choruses pitched higher than his speaking voice (ain't going to happen!).

The eight-song EP features one Cyrus original, the title track, a travesty of southern butt-rock more greasy than a bucket of Popeyes and so dumb it rhymes "red, white, and blue" with "from my head down to my boots." Cyrus shouts each verse like he's a professional wrestler in a pre-match interview -- imagine Hulk Hogan trying to sound like Bon Scott.

It's pure ear pain, but I give him credit: It takes guts to commit to lyrics like

Mama's in the kitchen, supper's almost done
Daddy on the front porch lookin' at my guns

That couplet raises some questions. First, is that guns as in firearms, or guns as in the biceps of Billy Ray Cyrus, a performer who has always been the answer to the question What would it sound like if a shirtless fireman calendar somehow got a record deal? Second, presuming these are firearms, why would they be stored on the porch? Third, presuming these are biceps, ewww, is that daddy as in father or daddy as in the older half of an inter-generational two-man love affair?

​Each of the remaining tracks concerns flags, soldiers, and sacrifice. There's a remake of his 1993 hit "Some Gave All," a duet with Amy Grant, a better-than-average fake Springsteen number, six songs that mention how war is hard, zero that mention that war might not have been necessary, and exactly thirty American flags spread throughout the cover, booklet, and jewel case.

Only "Nineteen" -- which has nothing to do with the bitter Paul Hardcastle hit of 1985 -- makes explicit mention of September 11. First recorded by Taylor Hicks, it is state-of-the-art Nashville songwriting: a detailed narrative about an extraordinary (but totally relatable!) American. In this case, that hero is a high school football captain whose life is changed you-know-when:

On the day those Twin Towers came down
His whole world turned around
He told 'em, "All y'all, I can't play ball."

So, the kid enlists. Marrying heroic decisiveness to shrugging, colloquial language, the songwriters (Gary Nicholson, Jeffrey Steele, and Tom Hambridge) are either honoring or pandering to the country-music audience's idea of itself as the get-it-done spine of American life. Two verses later, that kid is paraded, Purple Hearted, down Main Street in a flag-draped coffin.

The song -- and Cyrus -- acknowledge that these wars have taken many sons and daughters of that rural and heartland audience. The song -- and Cyrus -- are good enough to thank those sons, daughters, and families for their sacrifice. But neither the song -- nor Cyrus -- dare to consider whether or not this country should have demanded that sacrifice of them.

Worse, the song plods along like a broke-legged dog, and Cyrus throws in a couple of shouts, which always come out of nowhere like maybe he's trying to scare you out of the hiccups.

Other thoughts about I'm American:

  • "Old Army Hat" is about an old army hat.
  • The label is DMG, which is owned by Disney, but all that corporate muscle isn't helping. This just ain't charting.
  • The re-do of "Some Gave All" features Jamey Johnson, Craig Morgan, and Darrell Worley, and is far and away the best thing here.
  • One song has the lyric "Let's take the world by the seat of its pants."
  • Others: "Mama, we fought real hard"; "They shipped us out in 2001/ To a battle in the desert sun"; "this soldier's rockin'/Get that jukebox a-hummin'"
  • Here's a line about 'ol glory that would also work in a Frankenstein musical: "I see the chance to dream/ Sewn into every seam."
  • Finally, courtesy of SF Weekly blogger and Bad Movie Night hero Sherilyn Connely, click here to see YouTube video of Billy Ray sneering at a blue-haired NYC girl from the opening credits of his TV series Doc.

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Patrick Gear
Patrick Gear

By the way... along with the rest of your ignorant, hate-filled thrashing of America (see below... it wasn't about Billy Ray Cyrus or his music), one comment that really proved your ignorance was about "Old Army Hat."  That song is a true story about a real American hero who's still alive today... Have you not ever had anything that was worthless to everyone else but meant everything to you?  It's called sentimental value.  Did you not get the significance of the song, the hat, or that you don't have to be dead to be a hero?  Is the depth of your intellect that shallow?  For all the bashing about the songwriting, it's funny that the writing on "Some Gave All" (written by that Cyrus feller) was ignored... "All Gave Some, Some Gave All" is one of the greatest patriotic lyrics ever written and is on thousands of t-shirts, signs, billboards, bumper stickers, tombstones, etc..  Good grief man. 

Patrick Gear
Patrick Gear

This review has nothing to do with Billy Ray Cyrus, his music, or the songwriting... It's all about the pro-America, pro-troops message.  If the music was bad (it's not), singing was bad (it's not), but was anti-American crap with nothing but liberal talking points for lyrics (thankfully it's not), this guy would've given it 5 stars.  How dare Cyrus or anyone else be proud to be an American and support the troops without trying to shove their political views down people's throat? 

Alan here shows the maturity and intelligence of a school yard bully.  I'll take a guess that Soulja Boy is one of his favorites.  Thanks for taking the opportunity right before the anniversary of 9/11 to spit in the face of America and the troops (the album has been out since JUNE).  Get a life, dork. 


YOU FUCKIN DIPSHIT OF A CRITIC(wait aren't you all)................Billy Ray always supported America....he wrote & released Some Gave All long before all these other dumbasses like Toby Keith, whoever else......and I'm sick of people always relating Billy Ray to Bruce Fuckin Springteen....he sounds nothing like him.........and as far as Nashville songwriting goes.....we who live here and are in music KNOW that it sucks......BRC's best stuff always was what he wrote on his own.........kinda folky....and for the poster about it taking 5 people to write the song, I'm american........................those were members of his rock band BROTHER CLYDE, and he gave them credit out of the goodness of his good ole Achy Breaky Heart!!!!

By the way someone stated in another article wriiten about Rolling Stones readers voting ACHY B of the worst songs of the nineties....they said wait is that magazine even relevant anymore?......well no they fuckin arent.....all they know how to write about are Bob Dylan, U2. Beatles, the Stones, Damn I'm sick of hearing about all these belong writing for them, i tell you!!!


I'm just in shock that it took FIVE PEOPLE to write "I'm American." It reminds me of those terrible Hollywood movies like "The Tooth Fairy" or "The A-Team" that are toiled on by dozens of screenwriters... it sometimes seems like there is an inverse ratio between the number of writers you have and the quality of the finished product.

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