Country music is dying fast

Brice Burge

Nothing screams “southern belle” quite like a country song. I love the way that women are portrayed so strongly, as they’re just too lazy to take down their own Christmas decorations or when they shake their muffin top from their alcoholism.

It takes a special kind of person to be prideful of their work ethic or physicality like Gretchen Wilson does in “Redneck Woman” or the woman in “Rockin’ the Beer Gut” by Trailer Choir, but it takes a real jerk to be prideful farmer in Craig Morgan 2006’s “International Harvester.” The farmer prides himself on backing up traffic for three miles on the road, only to complain about the people behind him as they try to make their commute to work. If country music is all about jerks like this, then I now know why it is on its final decline.

Don’t get me wrong; I love country music. The way the twang of a banjo in perfect harmony with a slide guitar, combined with the versatility of a violin, completes the down-south orchestra and intertwines with the singer’s melody line can produce some great songs which pull the heart strings. I just wished that this was the case of country music today.

Modern country music lately falls into two categories to me: not musically country or redneck pride music. Artists like Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood have all crossed onto the American Top 40 with multiple songs. Tim McGraw,  has solidified his role as the missing link between John Mayer and Eric Clapton by collaborating with rappers for projects like 2007’s “All In My Head” with Nelly, and remaking “When Stars Go Blue” to include a 16-bar guitar solo in 2006.

All these artists have some great talent and some great songs, but to classify them as country would be foolish. There is just something missing in the music to make it country. It’s easier to just classify it as Top 40 music with all the genre-bending instrumentation and lyrical styles than to try to make it fit with Travis Tritt, Loretta Lynn or Brooks and Dunn.

The most insulting bastardization of country music would be the perpetuation of negative stereotypes in the form of redneck pride songs. As a guy that grew up in between a sod farm and a grain elevator, I know that the people who grow up in the sticks aren’t the oblivious-to-reality folks in the Wilson and Morgan song. These people, despite what Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley think, don’t find tractors sexy or think getting checked for ticks is romantic.

Songs like this are why people laugh at farming communities, NASCAR fans and the South. These songs are a slap in the face of the artists celebrating their heritage with a little more twang and a lot more tact, like Alabama’s “Song of the South” or Clint Black’s “Dixie Lullaby.” Even the story songs have gotten a lot more tactless, proven by the matter-of-fact fictional killing of Blake Shelton’s wife to set up a song about a prison break in “Ol’ Red” compared to Reba McEntire’s remake of “The Night that the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” Anyone can fake a southern accent without actually understanding the typical lifestyle sang about in a country song. Gary Allan grew up in Southern California, while Keith Urban is an Aussie, mate.

If these trends continue, country music will lose its last dog, home, spouse and pick-up truck to the pop and/or rock markets and fakes in cowboy boots and 10-gallon hats. It might already be too late for the industry though: Billy Currington’s college drop-out anthem “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer” just got knocked off of the number one spot on the Country Top 40 by Lady Antebellum. Maybe somebody should write a country song about it.