This weekend's out-of-conference, neutral-site game with Florida State will be played in Jacksonville, home of the NFL's Jaguars, in whose stadium the game will be played, and of Alabama favorite, Lynyrd Skynyrd, authors of the most rawkin'-est song ever, of course, regardless of context, "Sweet Home Alabama."
Now before you dismiss this as rabid homerism, hear me out. Below are quantifiable standards by which to judge "Sweet Home Alabama"'s superior rawk.
1) Turn It Up: For a song to rock, it must be recognized immediately by its audience. We'll categorize this under the ethos guideline of Aristotelian rhetoric: the author of the message must be perceived as having the audience's best interest in mind for the message to be accepted.
Of course you're probably saying, "would not rawk prioritize pathos and marginalize ethos? Stop being such a Stanley Fish out of water!" And though your complaint has merit, I would argue that rawk marginalizes logos, not ethos.
What disqualifies so many rawkin' tunes to my ear is the initial chasm of the audience who fails to recognize the song: Is this "Radar Love" or "Sister Christian"? Who sang this song, Berlin or Journey? Is this Wolfmother covering Led Zep or ripping off Led Zep?
And while many songs lay claim to distinctive guitar riffs as an ice breaker, only "Sweet Home Alabama" breaks through the fourth wall, standing with the audience instead of singing to the audience, by calmly but assuredly stating "Turn it up."
2) In Birmingham they love the Guv'nah: Perhaps the most controversial aspect of naming "Sweet Home Alabama" rawkin'-est song ever is the claim that the song requires no context to rawk. Naturally, it is impossible to list every conceivable venue in which a song may be played, but perhaps my own observation may convince the undecided that it is possible to have a context-free rawk song.
I have observed "Sweet Home Alabama" rawk equally in the following places:
-- a bar in South Philadelphia
-- a wedding reception
-- a 92,000-seat football stadium
The diversity of venue speaks for itself, but a subtler point may be missed. The obvious hurdle for "Sweet Home Alabama" to overcome is its fixed place in geography: How can a song with a state name in its title be a universal rawk song? And while in most of 50 cases this would be true, Alabama is not just any state, it's a (pardon the pun) state of mind, a signifier of a polarizing point of view.
The Great Leader did not leave Miami for Auburn.
While rawkin' in a bar is no large feat (and certainly this song has played well past its cover-band shelf-life in the South), consider the degree of difficulty overcome by "Sweet Home Alabama" rawkin' in South Philly. A true rawk song must make its listener feel as if they are the ones rawkin', that they are better people than they were before the song began.
In a contest between stereotypes and regional pride, everyone's a winner, no matter which side you've chosen.
3) We all did what we could do: Ooh Ooh Ooh. Audience participation confirmed. QED.
See you in the club level. Tip your waitress.