April 10, 2013 at 8:20 AM ET
Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney sang about races living "in perfect harmony" back in 1982, comparing the blend to keys on a piano in "Ebony and Ivory," a tune that hit No. 1 with relatively little controversy. But the latest attempt by a white and black singer to talk about racial issues is stirring up a lot of hate -- for the song and its singers.
The song, "Accidental Racist," is a duet between Brad Paisley and LL Cool J, featured on Paisley's new album "Wheelhouse." Lyrics include Paisley crooning:
“I’m proud of where I’m from/ But not everything we’ve done/ And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history/ Our generation didn’t start this nation/ We’re still picking up the pieces/ Walking over eggshells/ Fighting over yesterday”
While LL jumps in with:
"When I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinking it’s not all good/ I guess we’re both guilty of judging the cover not the book/ I’d love to buy you a beer/ Conversate and clear the air”
Opinion about the song has been seriously divided: Demetria Irwin wrote in The Grio, "This song ... would be more accurately titled 'White Privilege and an Unfortunate Middle-Aged Man.'"
Other critics include Salon.com, which tweeted that "Racist" is a "contender for the worst song of all time" while Jezebel echoed that sentiment, without the "contender" part. But the New Yorker gave the song a more thoughtful assessment, calling it "prosaic and inert" and that it largely fails by giving the heretofore noncontroversial LL Cool J an "oddly supplicatory posture" with "mangled" syntax in his words.
Meanwhile, the singers have taken to Twitter to defend the song: "I wouldn't change a thing," Paisley tweeted. "This is a record meant to be FAR from easy listening. But fun. Like Life." And among a series of quotes from famous names, LL tweeted on Monday, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that," referencing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.