So, I may have gone on record more than a few times voicing my displeasure with the state of the genre of music we know as Country. Most of that is due to my boss’ insistence on playing a Country music station at work EVERY. SINGLE. GODDAMN. DAY.
Now, I realize that a lot of people can be VERY sensitive when something they love gets criticized. And you know what? I totally get it. When you love a particular art form enough, any attack on it can feel like an attack on you personally. It’s the main reason why we nerds get into such heated debates about our passions (that and debate is fun and healthy).
But I don’t like feeling like I’m just singling people out with malicious intent. If I ridicule something you love, it’s because I’ve found something questionable or objectionable about it that ruins my ability to enjoy it; not because I think you are an inferior person for enjoying it. So, let’s discuss my rationale for why Country music repulses me so.
Firstly, I want to make it clear that it’s mostly the turn that modern Country has taken – not Country as a whole – that perturbs me. Granted, I have issues with Classic Country as well, but that’s mostly an unfortunate byproduct of my upbringing. My parents raised me on Classic Rock and Hair Metal. When your life’s soundtrack consists of Aerosmith, AC/DC, and Kiss, everything else seems soft and unengaging.
But, even then, I’m still neutral to Classic Country at most times. Compared to the stuff we get today though, the likes of John Denver and Johnny Cash may as well be Freddie Mercury to my ears. Being assaulted with today’s Country has had the effect of allowing me to reassess those old-timey tracks with a more favorable ear.
Really, my disdain for modern Country comes from what seems to be its two largest modern sub-genres; Bro-Country and Country Rap (AKA; Hick Hop).
The problem that I have with these classes of music is two-fold. Firstly, the subject matter never seems to change. This was a (slightly less prevalent) problem in Classic Country as well with its performers working on the unchanging theme of, “my life sucks, but I’ll get by with enough booze.”
In today’s country scene, they dial that up to eleven. Nearly every song I hear coming over that radio is about A) glorifying alcoholism, B) Objectifying women, or C) turning to alcoholism to cope with the loss of an objectified woman. So not only is it infuriatingly repetitive, it repeats an equally infuriating theme. When the modern country station I have to listen to needs to sneak in pop tracks that are over 10 years old to spice it up, you know the genre is getting stale.
Secondly, the thing that Bro-Country and Country Rap have in common is the reliance on Rap-style production and themes. And as much as I loathe the word “cultural appropriation,” I can’t shake the feeling that it may be at play here.
To be clear, not all of these artists are apeing Rap to keep their careers afloat because it’s just how pop music sounds today. Hell, you can even make a legitimate case that Rap and Country have a common cousin in Talking Blues. Plus, with Rap dominating the sound of Pop Music and with Country being the number one radio format, the two were bound to come together eventually.
However, Rap is a lot more than just a style of music. It’s one of the “4 pillars” of Hip Hop. Rap, along with DJing, Break Dancing, and Graffiti, form the basis of an entire culture of artistic expression that defined life for countless people that, while not possessing great monetary wealth, were rich in history and pride. To take that for yourself for no other reason other than, “because the kids like it,” is kind of disrespectful – especially when you boil it down to a couple of tired and problematic tropes.
So, in conclusion, modern country is a tired, old, cliche-ridden genre that shamelessly rips off other, more popular genres without understanding the societal weight of the art form it’s attempting to emulate and it really needs to take a few steps back to reassess its current position in life before I start considering it good art.
And while I’m ragging on music genres, all of the above applies to Contemporary Christian as well (saved me writing a future article there).