The Negative Charisma Of Sam Hunt

If you have never heard of Sam Hunt, you are a more fortunate person than I am.  Admittedly, I did not hear of him as early as I could have because his earliest success came with his debut album Montevallo, which featured a few songs that became moderate hits, namely “Take Your Time,” and “House Party,” which showed him as part of the transition between bro-country and boyfriend-country that took place over the course of the 2010’s.  By and large his music has not been particularly well-liked, and though he had a big hit with “Body Like A Back Road” in 2017, it was not for more than two years that he would release his second album, the widely panned “Southside,” which has contained some hits of its own like “Kinfolks” and current single “Hard To Forget.”  So while he is an artist that has achieved some mainstream success, he is not exactly an artist that is easy to like.

What is it that makes Sam Hunt have such negative charisma where someone like me feels bad for considering him and his music to be mediocre?  Part of the answer comes in the song “Drinkin’ Too Much,” the last song off of “Southside.”  In this song Sam Hunt expresses regret for having named his debut album Montevallo and for allowing strangers to know the name of an ex-flame, who now feels uncomfortable going to the places she used to with him because now they are associated with having her personal life turned into a public one because of his songs.  Of course, rather predictably, she doesn’t want to talk to him but he still tries to guilt trip her into accepting his help in paying her student loans and in trying to re-establish contact despite the bad blood.  By and large the sympathies of most people are going to be with the girl, although as a writer myself I can fully understand the temptation of writing material about one’s personal life and one’s personal problems with the end result that the other people involved in such problems became public figures because they are named or can be identified based on what is discussed.  The fact that Sam Hunt recognizes this is a problem but fails completely to understand why it is that an ex-flame with whom there was a bad breakup that went public thanks to Sam Hunt writing and singing about it would be unwilling to communicate with him further marks a distinct limitation in Sam Hunt’s interpersonal intelligence.

And this lack of intelligence extends to a large part of Sam Hunt’s work in general.  When he writes about his experiences without attempting to hide or disguise their origin, he makes it hard for anyone to want to be close to him.  One of the hazards about being close to a writer is that your interactions and shared experiences will become the fodder for publicly shared reflection.  Not everyone is a fan of this [1].  There are consequences and repercussions for being known and recognized as someone whose personal life is fodder for creativity, and other people are going to have their own perspective that will not always agree with our own and likely feel frustrated at being painted in what to them is an unjust light.  If that was true of such people as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in their own friendship, it is certainly true when one is dealing with a far less articulate and insightful person like Sam Hunt.  Sam Hunt’s songs, even now, use the awkward and uncomfortable experiences he has had with his current wife–including the aforementioned “Drinkin’ Too Much,” which was about her–as fodder for his attempts to succeed in the country music industry, and for a private person that is likely to be a very unpleasant sort of experience.

It should be noted, though, that this sort of negative charisma that a public figure who mines the drama of their personal lives for public popularity but as a consequences alienates more private people, is not a quality that is limited to Sam Hunt alone.  It is certainly a problem I wrestle with (not always successfully) as a writer.  It is a problem I see when speakers in public use funny and embarrassing family stories as a way of proving a point at the risk of humiliating their wives and children.  In all such cases people who seek public profit from the use of private experiences have that sort of negative charisma that may lead to temporary interest in a person because of their relatability but which hinders intimacy because no one wants to be close to someone who will not respect their privacy.  If we wish to avoid sharing in the negative charisma of someone like Sam Hunt, it is imperative that we develop some empathy and understanding of others even as we seek to better express ourselves.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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