Genuine Question: How the Fuck is this Country Music?
warning: explicit language. I never censor myself, but I feel that I should warn you.
Time to start off Friday right with a little controversy.
Sam Hunt. Kane Brown. Sam Hunt again, or Walker Hayes I guess. Gooch.
These names are constantly being thrown around as the next big thing in country music. These are supposedly the next Outlaws. The next Highwaymen. These men are bringing country music to the mainstream. The only problem is:
THEY ARE NOT FUCKING COUNTRY ARTISTS.
I literally had to google who some of the people on the radio today are because their songs all sound the same. They are starting to blur together as one gelled up, gold chain sporting, deep V wearing, tight jeaned, metrosexual, homogenous blob.
Kevin and I did not start this site to shit on artists we don't like. We don't want to turn into a hate country site. We started this site, and our podcast before it, to inform anyone who will give us their attention that there are artists worth knowing.
Those who hate country because it's too sad, we have music to prove you wrong.
Those who hate country because there's no substance and it's all the same tailgates and tight jeans drinking songs, you are dead. fucking. wrong.
You are allowed to like the music that you like. I will never take that from you. But what the hell is country music anymore? Apparently, it's just a word, not a defined genre, because all I ever hear anymore is that the music is evolving. I want to break down some arguments I've heard and make some of my own.
Argument #1: Country music is evolving
Yes. Music is always evolving. Every genre. Country has changed a lot. Outlaw country changed what it was when it became too commercial. Bakersfield Sound did the same. Texas and Nashville have stayed significantly different because they have different ideologies. However, there comes a time when you stop tiptoeing the line and end up just tumbling across.
That is where we are now. I keep hearing that country can be interpreted how the artist wants. That's fair, you are allowed your opinion, but there is a difference between interpreting your sound and telling everyone that you are a part of a genre just because you think you should be.
I'll use two hypothetical examples:
1. If I join a pick up soccer game, I am in the soccer game. I can tell everyone that I am playing soccer, if you're playing by the rules of the game. But if I start picking up the ball and running with it, I can't say, "It's still soccer! Rules change!" I am playing a new sport.
2. If Drake releases a new song tomorrow and calls it Beer on my Tailgate, but keeps in exactly how his music sounds while talking about how he's spending his night on a tailgate drinking beer, did he write a country song? The answer is no. He is a rap artist who decided that the subject of that song should be drinking beer on a tailgate.
Argument #2: Sam Hunt wrote I Met A Girl
Big. Fucking. Whoop. He also wrote Body Like a Backroad. One well-crafted song does not make you a master lyricist. The best example I can think of is Brad Paisley. He wrote Letter to Me, an amazing story about talking to your teenage self about how everything will be ok. He also wrote Accidental Racist, which is just a dumpster fire that LL Cool J decided to go diving into.
Argument #3: Kane Brown can sing
So can T-Pain, but that doesn't change the fact that he decides to sing as if he is singing directly into a fan like Chris Farley in Tommy Boy. Whiskey Riff once wrote an article about Sam Hunt and Kane Brown being legitimate country artists because they can cover George Strait songs. That doesn't change the fact that the songs they release on their own albums are large piles of varied animal excrement. James Hetfield of Metallica has covered Waylon Jennings. This doesn't mean that Hetfield is coming out to say that he's a country artist. Waylon Jennings was just an inspiration to Hetfield. Metallica's song Mama Said is 10x more country than these artists I'm discussing will ever be, but that doesn't mean that they wrote a country song. It's a rock ballad.
I am not denying Kane Brown's ability to sing. I am not doubting Sam Hunt's either. They have done nothing to prove that they are country artists. They are pop artists who enjoy covering country songs.
Argument #4: "I can play Cody Jinks and Sam Hunt in the same playlist"
So? When I'm working out, I play Avenged Sevenfold and Eminem in the same workout playlist. That doesn't mean Avenged Sevenfold is rap, nor does it mean that Eminem is metal.
I will never forget the time I was downtown Chicago with some friends after a Cubs game at a club, and a Nicki Minaj song was playing. Probably that godawful Baby Got Back remake, but that's beside the point. It was one of those bars where they have TVs on around the bar playing the music videos. As the song ended, it seamlessly transitioned into a Sam Hunt song. I gave a disgusted look to my friend, who doesn't listen to country music, and he asked me who it is. I said, "This is Sam Hunt, a 'country' artist." He asked me how this song was country. I told him it's not, and then the song transitioned into a Justin Timberlake song.
Just yesterday, I was on my lunch break with a few coworkers and asked them if they'd like to hear a song. They know I love country music, so they reluctantly said yes. I started playing Sam Hunt's- er I mean Walker Hayes' song You Broke Up With Me. One coworker breathed a sigh of relief and told me, "I thought you were going to play me some country song." I told him that this song is climbing the charts and will probably hit number one on the radio, and the Backstreet Boys are currently number one on country radio. He laughed. My coworker, who hates country music, even agrees that country radio is in hell right now.
Just because you can listen to two different genres back to back, that doesn't make them the same genre.
My Reasoning: Country music is cool to like now
When I was growing up, pretty much until I got to college, I always heard "I love all music, except for country." While in college, I started to hear bro-country songs at parties. I was ok with it, because I was drinking, talking with women, and playing drinking games with my fraternity brothers. Hearing Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean was a step up for me because it meant 5 minutes less where I didn't have to hear Wiz Khalifa or whatever rap song was popular.
But during that time in college, I heard more and more, "I love country!" or "I don't like country music except Sam Hunt and [Gooch]." My friends were going to country festivals. They were wearing cut off jeans and flannels with the sleeves torn off. They were dressing like the stereotype of a genre they always told me they hated.
I turned 21 at the peak of the bro-country movement. Every song was a party song. Notoriously sober artists like Chris Janson and Brantley Gilbert were singing party anthems. Every country song that people told me they loved was about spring break or dancing with college girls or using them as arm-pieces.
Country music was no longer the sad genre. It was a party genre. Country music was cool.
Nashville knows it. If you look at any video about country festivals or any images of a stadium concert, it is pretty young girls in dukes with their boyfriends flexing in their sleeveless flannel. The target demographic is college aged men and women. This is why 40 year old men are singing about being in love with 18 year old girls. This is why they are singing about how fun high school was. They are pointing towards a demographic who refuses to grow up because they peaked.
Country music is mainstream now. It's like superhero movies. Only nerds used to love Iron Man, but now everyone does, because someone decided to make it cool.