Jamie O’Neal — “Somebody’s Hero”

Released: 4.5.05

Peak: #51

Not many songs make me cry. I’m not talking about those drunken nights in my early twenties, sobbing “What is wrong with me” along with “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter,” or any similar rubbing of sonic salt within psychic wounds, but the physical tug that feels as though it comes from within the music itself. A rare thing. But if a song makes me cry, it’s most likely a country song, and it’s most likely about how families change over time. Like this one.

When it comes to country music, Australia is no Canada, but Jamie O’Neal is hardly the first country queen from that “continent” (yeah, right), which has offered as wide a spread of talent as Olivia Newton-John and Kasey Chambers. O’Neal began the decade with two very different yet terrific country number ones: the bleak, betrayed “There Is No Arizona” and the giddy “When I Think About Angels” (“Why does the color of my coffee match your eyes?”)  But those were just warm-ups for Brave, a solid album which begins with “Trying to Find Atlantis,” a gutbucket romp about looking for a “perfect man,” and closes with “I Love My Life,” a fiddle-driven heel-kicker about what happens when she finds him.

Between those two hits came O’Neal’s most moving song, “Somebody’s Hero.” Country loves to re-enforce a feeling of special-ness among its ordinary fans, and O’Neal goes out her way to show that the “everyday average girl” she sings about is, in her ordinary way, genuinely special. Not cause she can keep up with boys–O’Neal is intent on finding the everyday heroism in motherhood, going so far as to bestow the homey title “keeper of the Cheerios” upon her protagonist. In the third verse, her daughter visits her mom and is dubbed “the envy of the nursing home,” and becomes a hero to the woman who was once hers. I’m not sure if such a cross-generational celebration of the domestic counts as feminist, but it feels plenty humane and progressive. And yeah, it chokes me up.

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