Is John Cougar Mellencamp ironic? Seriously, what gives?

That’s basically the question. Every song I know of his (“Pink Houses”, uh, the other one, “Jack and Diane”), he sounds like he MIGHT be being ironic (or even sarcastic)…but then, if he was being ironic or clever, why is he always coming out to support the small town folk he seems to be smugly shitting on in his songs?

Yeah, yeah, I think the answer is, “Oh, it’s all a rich tapestry”, but I’ve got a suspicion it started out as cheap irony and moved towards earnestness when that sold better.


Only because you make fun of them doesn’t mean they aren’t your people. Most human groups have two favorite targets for jokes: themselves and the nearest neighbor.

Isn’t he (in the two songs you’ve mentioned) merely describing their hopes and disappointments and realities - as a member (or former member) of the community of ordinary working folks. I don’t get “smug” or “shitting on” from him at all.

I’m not sure Mellencamp is smart enough to be ironic.

Agreed. If anything he’s shitting on the American dream mythology that permeates U.S. culture.

Mellencamp’s lyrics at worst are akin to King of the Hill’s treatment of Texas and rural America. Pointing out the silliness and flaws but at the same time lovingly praising it.

How is John Mellencamp “shitting” on the working class? If anything, I think the OP is projecting his own contempt for Middle America onto his lyrics.
If you actually read the lyrics to Pink Houses, you see he is describing the lives of a couple of working class people. There is a sense that their lives don’t measure up to the official “American Dream[sup]TM[/sup]” of “pink houses” and “growing up to be president” but there is also a sense of contentment.

In contrast, you have the people “working in some high rise and vacationing in the Gulf of Mexico” (presumably lawyers, bankers and other corporate types) who are caught up in the rat race of trying to get ahead and keep up with the Jones. But it is the labor of the working or “simple man” that this country was built on. It is their labor that pays for the “thrills” and “pills” of the elite.
Jack and Dianne is simply a musical essay about a couple of 16 year old kids living in the Bible Belt. It talks about how the carefree hopes and dreams of youth are soon going to give way to the realities of adulthood.
Really I think Mellancamp’s point with both songs is that while people like the OP might view Bible Belt Middle America as a bunch of ignorant hicks, he sees them as caring, hardworking people trying to just live their lives the best way they know how.

I don’t think he was being ironic at all. It’s autobiographical; he grew up in Seymour, Indiana, a stereotypical American small town.

My question is: Why does he always come out grinning when authority always wins?

You are SO utterly wrong.

I heard him a while back in an interview on NPR. Ostensibly regarding a new album or something Mellencamp came across as smart, motivated, and well informed on both the music industry, current events, and other items. He took control of the interview and really impressed me. I couldn’t have been more surprised.

Really, I like my musicians dumb. It makes the easier to predict.

Well, he’s been doing it since he was a young kid.

ETA: Addressed to Biggirl.

FYI: Though I am a big fan of JCM, he is a terrible live performer!

Plus, since he was a founder of farm aid, I don’t see him hating on middle america.

I still contend some of his lines are tongue in cheek. Small Town, especially.

Because The Man can’t keep him down.

Absolute bullshit. Mellencamp is very smart. I know him personally, though not all that well, and he is extremely articulate. I don’t know why you would think he wasn’t, except maybe for the whole “John Cougar” persona which he abandoned decades ago (nobody uses the “cougar” part now - he’s just John Mellencamp.) Listen to any interview with him; he’s very intelligent. He’s also a pretty good painter. The lyrics of his songs are not intended to make fun of anyone; msmith537 described them accurately. There is no irony in his music.

Chili dogs from the Tastee-Freez always make me grin.

John Cougar and I share a birthday so he can do no wrong. :slight_smile:

Related question – was Tom Waits being ironic when he wrote “Jersey Girl”? And was Springsteen being ironic when he recorded it?

Why are people nowadays so obsessed with irony, that they need to find it everywhere they look?

There was a post a few months ago asking what beer people drank in Europe “ironically”. What does that even mean?

I could see that–there’s beer you drink seriously and beer you drink as a joke deliberately because it’s just what beer shouldn’t be. Like fast food or snack cakes.

That’s not irony. Irony is drinking beer that is inconsistant with your normal style or socioeconomic status. Like a bunch of NY lawyers drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon. Or college kids wearing trucker hats.

Irony has become a way for people to try and seem clever. Usually it just comes across as pompous and smug.

That’s not any definition of irony my high school English teacher would have recognized.

Bruce Cougar Mellensteen has a very loyal following, but I think he’s the most grindingly horrible songwriter this country has ever produced. He’s the very definition of “pretentious” to me–he thinks he’s being clever or poetic or whatever, but in reality he’s borderline retarded. The only artists I can compare him to as far as unlistenability are the likes of Phil Collins or Stevie Nicks. If there were such a thing as music criminals, he’d be in jail.