Arts and Culture Editor
I used to be you once. When you’d hear the same 4 chord guitar opening and that southern draw, you’d immediately turn the radio to the next station. You don’t care if it’s elevator music. It could be classical music for all you care. Anything is better than country, right? Wrong.
Country music gets a bad rep. It makes sense with the music playing on today’s radio stations. I’m sorry, but Luke Bryan isn’t country. As Bo Burnham says, it’s “stadium” country music. I refer to it as “pop” country. They sing about the same things in every song. “Pop” country sounds the same with little variation in both lyrics and musical accompaniment.
Why has country music evolved into unoriginal musical attempts? It sells. No matter how much you hate country music. There is always going to be that one Southern-lovin’ person buying every album. It will be by that “pop” country artist who hasn’t written even one of the songs he sings. That same 4-chord melody you hear in every country song used to sound great until it became overplayed. It sold to millions of fans so they keep using it.
The best type of country music has all those stereotypical country instruments. These include banjos, mandolins, string basses, and fiddles. It’s fast-paced and makes you want to dance. All the instruments get woven together into this beautiful, rich tone that makes you feel good. That’s what real country music sounds like. It has more than 4 chords and a catchy chorus.
What’s even worse in “pop” country music are the lyrics. They talk about the same five things: dirt roads, cold beers, pickup trucks, sweet tea and that beautiful southern belle in her blue jeans. Yes, country haters, that is a poor representation of country music and I’m sorry you have to listen to that.
Scotty McCreery said it best in his song “Something More.” In it, he says we should sing about something that means something. That is, more than the normal “country music jargon”. Believe it or not, there’s tons of other great songs by well-known country artists. They do talk about something more and tell a meaningful story.
You can’t mash good country music with this “pop” country music. By good country, I mean Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, and George Jones. The good guys! Listen to some old-fashioned country music and you’ll see how much it has evolved. Need something a little more modern? Martina McBride’s “Concrete Angel” will make you cry. Not a bad cry either! The power and emotion she sings behind the story she tells brings tears. Jamey Johnson’s “In Color” tells the story of grandfather telling the stories of his black and white photos to his grandson. Carrie Underwood’s “Church Bells” describes the story of how a woman got out of an abusive relationship.
There is plenty of country music that has meaning and emotion in its lyrics. There are tons of country songs that don’t sound like every other country song as well. You have to look for it. I promise you won’t find the good country music on the Top Country playlist. You’ll need to do some digging. Once you hear those banjos twangin’ and that string bass thumpin’, it’ll all be worth it.