OPINION COLUMNS

Quit letting (your) country down

By David Talley | Published Saturday, September 17, 2016
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Country music has lost its way. The themes and subjects listeners have enjoyed for much of the genre’s history are, at least in mainstream, gone.

Here’s exactly what’s wrong:

TELLING INSTEAD OF SHOWING.

David Talley

David Talley

This is, in my opinion, the most annoying theme in today’s country music. Luke Bryan’s 2015 song, “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day,” idealizes this movement. In the song, Bryan tells us, “If I could make a livin’ from walkin’ in the woods, you can bet I’d be sitting pretty good” (Bryan’s $70 million net worth means he must be doing a lot of walking), but this simply isn’t something listeners identify with.

The entire song is basically a persuasive essay on how rural Bryan’s lifestyle is but because of his insistence, his case falls flat. He’s like a movie character with a Napoleon complex who, because of his appearance and general lack of life experience, feels the need to constantly remind everyone how tough he is. Having grown up in Wise County, I can firmly attest that no respectable member of our rural community acts like this.

This braggadocio form of songwriting is much more common in rap genres than traditional country music. Not surprising, it’s popped up more and more these days, considering recent collaborations between Florida Georgia Line and rapper Nelly and Jason Aldean and rapper Ludacris are both chart-topping country tracks. These are not duets that should merge.

CHEAPENING COURTSHIPS AND DEGRADING WOMEN.

In today’s hyper-aware society, we should be fed up with the way these songs portray love and dating. Bryan, Aldean and others would have listeners believe all it takes to form a relationship is a cold drink and a lifted pickup.

For instance, Bryan’s song “Don’t Want This Night to End” details how he doesn’t know a girl who climbs into his truck but proceeds to drive around the countryside with her for most of the night. I’m pretty sure several episodes of “Criminal Minds” have started that exact way.

Bryan includes the lyrics “You got your hands up, you’re rocking in my truck … I’m slowly losing hold of everything I got. You’re looking so damn hot.” Wow, Luke. Poetry.

I’d like to take the official stance of encouraging women to not hop into random vehicles with men who only call them hot. You can do better, girls.

Let’s contrast this with a classic from Brooks and Dunn: “Once I thought that love was something I could never do. Never knew that I could feel this much. But this yearning in the deep part of my heart for you is more than a reaction to your touch. It’s a perfect passion, and I can’t get enough.”

I could probably sneak those into my wedding vows someday and no one would notice.

REPETITIVE BASE TRACKS.

This isn’t something I was able to easily research online. I started by listening to as many top-40 country tunes I could find on Spotify, which was both time-consuming and depressing.

As I did a little more online research, I found a YouTube mashup of six popular country songs. The creator pasted pieces of each song into a program and what emerged was a seamless party anthem. Each song’s base track was essentially the same, with predictably synthesized drum and banjo pieces.

So what can we do? Quit supporting this music.

Mainstream country stations are large distributors of modern country, so move your dial elsewhere. Fort Worth-based station 95.9 The Ranch plays more traditional and Texas-inspired country music.

Looking outside the genre, artists classified as folk or Americana incorporate traditional country themes into their music regularly, so I’d encourage listeners to check those sections of iTunes or Spotify.

Just say no to this mainstream mess.

David Talley is a Messenger reporter.

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