Brad Paisley’s So Much Cooler “Online”

Brad Paisley’s got a real hate on for Hollywood. His beef with Lipstick City goes all the way back to “Celebrity”, Paisley’s 2003 single that trashes how the famous can say “adios, reality” and behave like animals yet escape scot-free. Released in 2007 as the second single from 5th Gear, “Online” is Paisley’s attempt to make sense of the confusing cultural monolith that is the internet. You see, Brad’s just a simple country boy from West Virginia. He doesn’t understand fame, technology, or pretty much any paradigm shift since the Dust Bowl. The video for “Online” showcases the budding directing talent of former Seinfeld star Jason Alexander, who plays the song’s protagonist, an awkward “sci-fi fanatic, mild asthmatic” man child who’s “never been to second base” and still lives with his parents but escapes his suffocating existence through Myspace (hey, remember that thing?), where he’s taller, lives in Malibu, and sports “a set of six pack abs that’ll blow your mind.” In fact, on the internet our boy’s so desirable that “even on a slow day” he can enjoy “a three-way chat with two women at one time. Very clever, Brad! Alexander’s character daydreams that he’s the now ultra sexy Paisley, with the video intermittently cutting to the country star performing in front of cascading green visuals that borrow liberally from The Matrix. Can you imagine having such a pea-brained understanding of the internet that you equate logging onto Myspace with a fantasy universe where sentient machines harvest human beings for their energy? But that’s cool, go ahead and lecture us on reality some more. Knowing Paisley’s inherent disdain for innovation, I’m surprised “Online” doesn’t throw in a long-winded screed against verbose Starbucks drinks for good measure, although the video for “Celebrity” includes a running gag on soy milk, so thankfully his back catalogue has us covered on that front (I was worried there for a second). One of the video’s most ridiculous moments is when the protagonist’s father, played by William Shatner, creates his own Myspace profile to meet “chesty” women and step out on his wife. Charming stuff, isn’t it? The video’s comedic tone, while easy to laugh at, hides the song’s mean-spirited message that attractiveness and beauty are objective traits exclusively possessed by certain types of people. Paisley comes across as more than a bit of a bully, so it’s no shock that when their paths crossed he and Shatner got along like a house on fire. Not only did the legendary Captain Kirk actor also feature prominently in the video for “Celebrity”, Paisley even wrote the closing track “Real” on Shatner’s second solo album, Has Been. And with “Online” it seems as if Paisley’s learned a lot from his bromance with Shatner. Paisley’s ridiculing of science fiction enthusiasts has echoes of Shatner’s 1986 Saturday Night Live appearance where he famously told legions of Star Trek fans to “get a life.” Oddly enough, in recent live shows Paisley’s reworked “Online” to reference Facebook instead of Myspace, so clearly the guy’s not a total Luddite. Maybe Paisley’s a savvier songwriter than he’s given credit, seeing as how “Online” is an absurdly catchy slice of audio malware that’ll infect your brain despite its glaring faults. Much like the aftermath of a computer virus, sometimes the only solution to defective hardware is to replace it altogether. You might need a new brain after hearing this one. Catch you online, nerds! 

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