Special All-Nashville Edition

"Online" by Brad Paisley

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(Arista/Sony BMG Nashville)

Country music does funny more consistently than any other pop style, so it's no wonder that Brad Paisley has become the current Nashville artist for neophytes to latch onto. On the first single from his excellent 5th Gear, "Ticks," Paisley offered to take you camping and be your one-man can of Deep Woods Off; the follow-up comes from the opposite end of the psyche, describing a "sci-fi fanatic, mild asthmatic" living in Mom's basement with a cyberlife that beats this one: "Online, I live in Hollywood/I'm six-foot-five, and I look damn good." Paisley never invites you to feel superior to his narrator, probably because most of us are a lot closer to him than his web-based alter ego. The real clincher, though, is the throwaway detail that Paisley's typist plays tuba in the marching band at the track's end; it brings on a wonderful marching-band coda that's more poignant without trying than nearly every tearjerker coughed up in a year on Music Row.

"Love Me if You Can" by Toby Keith

(Show Dog)

Speaking of tears and jerks, try the chorus of this long-after-the-fact valedictory address: "You may not like where I'm going/But you sure know where I stand/Hate me if you want to/Love me if you can." Everyone's favorite mid-decade Nashville blowhard (not a value judgment—it's Keith's role, like if he were a professional wrestler) sings it pleasantly enough, over an easy rhythm bed and gliding classic-rock guitars. Anyway, he's admitting he was wrong about the whole Dixie Chicks thing. In other news, maybe getting the U.S. military involved in Iraq post-9/11 was a bad idea after all—ya think?

"How Long" by Eagles

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Don Henley has been an environmental activist for decades, but this song might as well have been recorded inside of an air-conditioned SUV. Or maybe a Wal-Mart, or a Sam's Club, the only places other than their official website that you can purchase the song. Non-fans of progress can further rejoice in the fact that not only does the song sound just like their '70s work, it was, in fact, written in 1972 by J. D. Souther, coauthor of "Best of My Love" and "New Kid in Town." Good thing these zillionaires apparently believe they sound relevant and/or rebellious and/or not like a bunch of over-the-hill jerks singing this line: "Well, I wish I lived in the land of fools/Where no one knows my name/But what you get is not quite what you choose." You're telling us, birdbrains. recommended