Why The Agent Dislikes (Modern) Country Music

Ladies, gentlemen, and fellow enbies: everything wrong with modern Country music in a single image.
Source: Best Top 10

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).


Thoughts On The Line Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation

It’s time for white, middle-America’s favorite game – IS! IT! RACIST!
Source: Bored Panda

So, a certain story has floated past my news feed multiple times for a while now. It made me ask some powerful questions and I want to share those questions with you.

I’ll save you the time spent reading and sum up the source for you; a mom in Utah gave her little girl a traditional Japanese tea party complete with traditional garb and makeup, photos found their way to Tumblr, people cried racism (because that’s pretty much all Tumblr lives for anymore), and one user from Japan named ‘cheshireinthemiddle’ finally shut the whole argument by basically saying there was nothing wrong with what the girl did and the only racists there were the ones that were denying what they saw as healthy cultural exchange.

So this got me to thinking – Where do we draw the line? When does legitimate cultural exchange and appreciation descend into racist caricature? Is there even such a thing as cultural appropriation?

Well, this wouldn’t be a hot topic of debate if it weren’t loaded with unclear details that everyone interprets differently. That said, I CAN offer my own take on the matter and provide a different way of looking at the issue.

To me, the things that separate cultural exchange and flat-out racism are intent and context. Checked in the dictionary, racism is defined as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” By that definition, a racist act is any act that insists on the superiority of one race over another by highlighting a segment of another’s heritage or culture as a negative.

Now, let’s go back to our primary story that sparked this discussion. Did the girl make or intend to make any sort of negative statement of Japan as a racial group? No, what she did was demonstrate an interest in another person’s culture and a desire to learn more about it through first-hand experience. It’s literally no different than when white guys were wearing do-rags and gold chains out of an affection for black rap culture.

I feel the issue, in this case, has to do with a cultural barrier that prevents context from flowing freely and clearly between the two parties. A similar issue occurred between Japan and America in the opposite direction back in my day because we mistook the Ganguro fashion scene for racist depictions of black people (not helped by the fact that ‘ganguro’ translated to ‘black face’ in English) instead of a powerful message that challenged and contradicted the feminine beauty standard that Japan held for years. And it’s still an issue today; This is why in Pokèmon, Jinx is recolored for western audiences from black to purple (it didn’t stop them from having Jesse and James dress up as Ganguro Girls in the anime, though).

Honestly, I love learning about other cultures. I’ve often felt cut off from the rest of the world my entire life and sharing in the traditions and habits of other people gives me a chance to expand my understanding of the world. It fact, allow me to give you a first-hand example from a primary source.

When I was in college, I worked closely with a campus’ LGBTQ rights group who, in-turn, cooperated with the campus’ diversity office. As such, I ended up working with a varied spectrum of people with a plethora of different views and insights that I cherish to this very day.

But the most fun I had with them was the semester’s end soul food dinner that we all shared. Almost every culture can relate to bonding over a family meal, after all. I also got to experience culturally influenced dance performances from the students that were legitimately tear-jerking. As for the food itself, it often consisted of things like oxtails, pork jowls, and chitterlings – what foodies like to refer to as offal or  ‘variety meats’ that were often used as a means to ensure that nothing from a meat animal was wasted. As someone with a Scotish-Irish background whose heritage produced haggis (the pluck of a sheep broiled in its own stomach) and black pudding (seasoned pork blood sausage), I can relate.

And that’s why I feel cultural exchange and showing interest in other people heritage is so important. It’s a chance to expand our understanding of the world and the people in it as well as learn that we aren’t as dissimilar as we like to think; We may have different ways of doing things, but we’re all basically after the same thing – a happy, comfortable life where we can celebrate who we are.

So, the next time you find yourself confronted with a cultural sensitivity issue, remember this rule of thumb: if you’re doing it because you’ve experienced or want to experience the culture and share how amazing it is with others, it’s cultural exchange; if you’re doing it because you’re chasing a fashion trend at best or you just want to poke fun at how silly it looks to you at worst, you’re probably just racist.