Unpopular Opinion: I Wish I Liked Wheeler Walker Jr.'s Fake Country, But I Sure Don't
Wheeler Walker Jr., enjoying his 15 minutes
Pepper Hill Records/Thirty Tigers
Strap yourself in, kids. This is one of those "Unpopular Opinions" where people are going to accuse me of being a Radiohead-adoring elitist (oh hell no) or a Justin Bieber fanboy (I have literally never heard Justin Bieber, so for all I know, he could be amazing).
If you’re a male over the age of 30 who has the Internet and is vaguely aware of podcasts, you have almost certainly had a gentlesir named “Wheeler Walker Jr.” cross your path. I’m using quotes, because Wheeler Walker Jr. is actually a comedian named Ben Hoffman. This isn’t exactly a secret, but I’m not going to refer to this guy by his fake name without calling attention to it being a fake name.
Truth be told, Hoffman’s work doesn’t really offend me. It's not the worst trad-posturing country music out there. But it’s noteworthy for how generic it is. There’s nothing exciting about his album Redneck Shit from a musical point of view. No one would have given it a second listen were it not backed up by a massive PR machine and laden with filthy lyrics.
Not that I'm opposed to filthy lyrics. Here’s the thing, though: Ben Hoffman’s fans desperately want him to be the second coming of David Allan Coe. As the Notorious D.A.C. is still alive, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to have a second coming of him. Even if we were looking for the reincarnation of the man who gave us classic country jams like “Cum Stains on the Pillow” and “Fuckin’ in the Butt,” he probably wouldn’t be an ironic faux redneck from a well-heeled Lexington, Kentucky, family.
Hoffman’s lyrics have their moments, but tend to be the type of thing that's funny the first time you hear it but becomes less so with repeated listens. The whole thing obviously has a shelf life of about 15 seconds, with Joe Rogan podcast fans listening to the record on Spotify a couple times before completely forgetting that Hoffman exists.
There’s nothing classic, timeless or lasting about Redneck Shit — and yes, good country music is all of these things. But this record is the musical equivalent of fast food, the type of thing anyone could draft given a weekend and enough cocaine. That, plus the right marketing budget, and you too could get the kind of exposure Hoffman has received.
I’m not entirely without a sense of humor. If Hoffman were any good at imitating a redneck country musician, the whole thing might actually connect. But the first time you hear him open his mouth and speak in the fakest faux-Southern drawl this side of Hillary Clinton, you're already trying to figure out if he’s for real or not, contra Poe's Law.
It’s not that the lyrics are so over-the-top they must be fake. I can see a smart-dumb redneck coming up with something similar to Ben Hoffman's jams on his record. It’s all just so obviously contrived that it doesn’t pass the most basic smell test.
Of course, all of this would be forgivable were the music actually good. It’s not. It sounds like it was generated by the CountryTron 6000 by turning the Bro County knob down a few notches and turning the Charlie Daniels knob up a few more. Hootie’s career as a country musician has more vitality.
But hey, best of luck to Hoffman. I hope he enjoys his 15 minutes of fame LARPing. It’s just not particularly clever LARPing.
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