Last April, I committed to attend Boston College. Immediately, I was added to The Official BC Class of 2020 Facebook group. Instead of being filled with the current desperate pleas for lost Eagle IDs and dozens of offers to sell useless Beanpot consolation game tickets, the page was mostly populated by “introduction” posts. A brief formula for most of these posts is name, city/state/country of origin, request for roommate, hobbies, television shows (Wow, you like Friends and Breaking Bad too?), and favorite kinds of music. And before all of my dedicated readers eagerly check the page to shove my hypocrisy in my face, yes, I made one of these posts as well.
But I noticed a difference between the delicately-crafted yet seemingly casual posts made by everyone else and my own. When they mentioned their favorite genres of music, it was often something along the lines of “My favorite genres are pop/rap/hip-hop/Scandinavian death metal, but really I listen to everything. Except country lol.”
I’m from Florida, and not even the “Southern Pride/blatant racism” part of the state—that’s the Panhandle. For the most part, Florida isn’t really The South™ either. It’s more like the South’s trash can. But there is a fairly large country-music audience throughout the state.
I grew up, riding around in my dad’s pickup truck (I swear I’m not a redneck), listening to classic rock, Jimmy Buffett (a genre all his own), and of course, country music. Though my favorite genre of music now is classic rock, I still listen to country music. But here in New England, everytime I say “yeah, I like country music,” I must be quick to tack on the modifier “no, no I mean good country music.”
I know, it sounds like an oxymoron (jumbo shrimp, act natural, quick trip on the B-Line). But I’m serious. There is such a thing as good country music. Country music that isn’t about the Confederate flag, racism, or sexism. Country music that isn’t anti-LGBTQ+, Islamophobic, or xenophobic. These problems have all plagued the genre, and that’s not okay. I don’t believe that counts as country music, or even music at all. But the music I’m talking about is free of any overt political message. It’s simply good music.
The reason people have a certain thing in mind when they think “country music” is probably the fault of Taylor Swift, much like a lot of the world’s problems. Many of her adoring fans seem to have forgotten that before T-Swizzle was repeatedly telling us to “Shake It Off,” she was singing about “slamming screen doors” and the ignorance of mothers late in the evening. Tay Tay began her career as a “country” singer.” This classification allowed Swifty to transform the genre into what it is today. She added pop. Tater Tot, along with artists like Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts, ran with this access to a wider audience. High-tempo lyrics and shouted choruses filled the playlists of country radio stations across the nation (i.e. the South and that weird part of Connecticut). Artists like Jason Aldean sought to expand the genre into such grotesque crossovers such as country-rap (both good genres by themselves) with his song “Dirt Road Anthem” feat. Ludacris. Now, country music seems to be going off the rails. The emerging popularity of “bro-country,” with its gross focus on the objectification of women is a prime example.
But what I mean when I say good country music is just that—good country music. Singers like Johnny Cash, George Jones, and George Strait. Country music from the 60s and 70s as well as from the 90’s like Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, and Alabama is all good country music. These songs aren’t thinly veiled hate speech, or part of the cluttered crossover genre area. They are songs that tell a story. Stories are the root of country music. The stories are why I enjoy the music so much. The artists, as was common with Jones and Cash especially, sing about their struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction (just like lots of other genres/artists). The subject matter is not so different from more popular music. Relationships, loss, and memories are not genre-specific. It’s okay to dislike the way country music sounds. All I’m saying is to give it a second chance. You never know, you might like a little twang.
Featured Image By Big Machine