Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The sameness of contemporary country music

Forget what I said several years ago about liking country music. I finally persuaded E-girl to listen to it on the radio yesterday during a long car ride. We both agreed:


All male singers. Nearly the same melody.  And the same topics:

• trucks and/or Chevys
• pretty girls with jean shorts (sun tans/smiles, etc.)
• drinking cold beer/partying
• a disdain for cell phones (3 out of 5 songs) and foreign cars (2 out of 5 songs)
Everything was cheerful. No angst allowed.

"Make it stop!" E-girl said after the fifth song, putting her hands over her ears. "I can't tell them apart."

Their voices sounded like they like to pop a cold beer now and then--not like they sit at a bar all night downing whiskey and smoking endless cigarettes. They were more akin to pop singers than to Johnny Cash.

Tom Petty has criticized contemporary country music as sounding like "bad rock with fiddle." I actually didn't hear any fiddles or banjos yesterday. It really could have just been generic rock music, the only difference being, instead of complaining about a breakup or sexual frustration (or the usual narcissistic urges of rock music), these songs celebrated the simple pleasures of a rural life and the possibility of seeing/being with a beautiful "girl."

What I liked earlier about country music is that it celebrated monogamy--something rock music isn't too strong on. But now it seems heavily imbued with an almost anxious nostalgia for a rural/idyllic life that hardly exists. A lot of under-65 year-old rural people aren't working on the farm--they are more likely to be sitting in front of a computer all day than behind a forklift. They drive their trucks (or, more likely, SUVs) to a metro area to earn their pay.

The best critique of the sameness of contemporary country music comes in this mashup published by "Cowboy Dave" earlier this year. (I think I heard at least two of these songs yesterday--but maybe not.) Enjoy?

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