That's Meta-Country, Bro
May 8, 2019 7:47 AM   Subscribe

 
First thought: Is this actually a trend, or is it just a vlogger who managed to find four songs on a theme and string a rant together? (More evidence would be welcomed).

Second thought: This is a rap music theme, isn't it? I'd kinda expect it to be picked up in other genres.
posted by Leon at 7:57 AM on May 8, 2019 [8 favorites]


Nothing's more country than white male fragility.
posted by saladin at 7:58 AM on May 8, 2019 [87 favorites]


I don’t know crap about country music but this sounds exactly like Daft Punk’s song Teachers
posted by aubilenon at 8:03 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


Rock music (or at least older mainstream rock music) always had songs about how great rock music is.

And to go off on a slight tangent, the Tennessee Waltz is a song about people dancing to a song that's exactly describing what's happening to them.
posted by pipeski at 8:06 AM on May 8, 2019 [12 favorites]


Is this the thread where I link to Wheeler Walker Jr.? I think this is the thread.

cw: vulgar, graphic, obscene, nsfw and undeniably country AF
posted by logicpunk at 8:07 AM on May 8, 2019 [8 favorites]


You know talking about you makes me smile
but every once in a while

I wanna talk about me,
wanna talk about I,
wanna talk about number one,
oh my me my
what I think,
what I like,
what I know,
what I want,
what I see
I like talking about you, you, you, you usually
but occasionally
I wanna talk about me
I wanna talk about me

That was a frickin' hit in 2001. I'm sure there are other self-centered "country" songs before this, but that's what this makes me think about, how country it is that the guy who sang an ode to Red Solo Cups did some "country rappin'" about ... himself, the self-proclaimed "number one."
posted by filthy light thief at 8:08 AM on May 8, 2019 [7 favorites]


Isn't this a thing (songs about the singer being country) that goes back at least to the 70s? I mean, in a way, "Workin' Man" is like this.
posted by thelonius at 8:08 AM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's a trend. Has been for a while. This article has more info.

My favorite laser guided critique of this trope is, of course, Bo Burnham from back in 2016.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:09 AM on May 8, 2019 [23 favorites]


The split between country music radio and country music as an art form feels like it’s at its widest in a long time (maybe since the push and pull between outlaw country and the Bakersfield sound?). You have radio stations that play overwhelmingly male bro country stuff like Keith’s, but meanwhile the country music that’s making mainstream news and setting off cultural trends is by Lil Nas X, Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, etc.
posted by sallybrown at 8:09 AM on May 8, 2019 [27 favorites]


Rock music (or at least older mainstream rock music) always had songs about how great rock music is.

It's ACDC's entire oeuvre.
posted by klanawa at 8:10 AM on May 8, 2019 [13 favorites]


My favorite of these for it's ridiculousness is How Country are You by Kevin Fowler in which a guy and girl who just met quiz each other to make sure they are 'country' enough and not 'city-slickers', and Kevin Fowler makes some joke songs ("Don't touch my Willie [Nelson]") and the video is kind of silly but I think he is relatively serious here.
So to be a 'country' guy you must:
two step dance
love mama
make (no) money
own a shotgun
To be a country woman, you must:
shoot whiskey
fry chicken
make gravy

I mean I thought the bar to being 'country' was higher than that.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:14 AM on May 8, 2019 [5 favorites]






I have been told by an impeccable source that the only things you need for a perfect country & western song are mamas, trains, trucks, prisons, and getting' drunk. (Inclement weather is desirable, but not necessary.)
posted by octobersurprise at 8:21 AM on May 8, 2019 [28 favorites]


You forgot dogs.
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:24 AM on May 8, 2019 [7 favorites]


I stopped listening to country music radio when I once took a trip and in three hours heard one song by a woman, and it was an old Dolly Parton song.

County radio is super dude bro.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 8:25 AM on May 8, 2019 [12 favorites]


Funny cuz Toby Keith is kinda ... I hope he's self aware.
posted by symbioid at 8:29 AM on May 8, 2019


Bobby Vinton's Beer Barrel Polka is the polka version of this.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:34 AM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


It's ACDC's entire oeuvre.

Bon Scott begs to differ.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:35 AM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


County radio is super dude bro.

Some stats on this: In 2018, “the ratio of men to women on country radio was 9.7:1.” And this is declining, not improving: “In 2000, women held 33.3% of songs on the year-end country airplay reports, but by last year, they came in at 11.3% — a decline of 66% percent.” From Rolling Stone.

That is BLEAK. I would guess that if you looked solely at what people stream on user-driven platforms like Spotify, rather than country radio, it might be different.
posted by sallybrown at 8:48 AM on May 8, 2019 [22 favorites]


County radio is super dude bro.

Bro-Country .

(Actually, I think there’s a name for “a genre of oral story or song that enacts its own generic characteristics by telling its listeners what to expect.”)
posted by octobersurprise at 8:49 AM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


Because I live in the goddamn sticks and in my last job spent too much time in someone else's pickup, I've gotten far too much exposure to this shit. Bro country is definitely Nashville's dull trope of the past couple years. I assume Toby Keith is just signing up for what sells.

And yes, there are plenty of other genres that have songs about the genre. But it's never been the dominant theme in rock or hip-hop. I suspect that most of these songs are coming out of writing factory, just linking together certain touchstones - nostalgia for country livin', drinking, pickup trucks, jingoism, and of course, more drinking.
posted by Ber at 8:54 AM on May 8, 2019 [4 favorites]


Bro-Country

Steve Earle’s quote that “They’re just doing hip-hop for people who are afraid of black people“ was proven exactly right by this year’s gatekeeping to exclude “Old Town Road” and Lil Nas X from country radio and charts (by the very same people who continued to play Taylor Swift long after she crossed over to pop).
posted by sallybrown at 8:54 AM on May 8, 2019 [44 favorites]


"This is actually WORSE than it sounds, and I'm not sure how I never heard of it before—a 2003 Willie Nelson/Toby Keith song about how great lynching was."

The song referred to here was an enormous hit. They literally made a movie based on it.

In marginally brighter news, the movie was not an enormous hit.
posted by penduluum at 8:54 AM on May 8, 2019 [5 favorites]


Mefi music challenge: write a pitch-perfect Country song about how non-Country you are.
posted by suetanvil at 8:55 AM on May 8, 2019 [20 favorites]


I like this video. Those songs are so annoying. I can't remember if it is part of one of the songs he played, but there is one that has a "rebel" flag as one of their symbols proving how country they are right from the top of the song. Gross.

Country as heard on mainstream radio does seem to be in a bit of an identity crisis. Is it... twangy* yacht rock? Is it twangy* pop? Just the world's stupidest lyrics about "her" wearing "that dress" which we are supposed to hear as specifically romantic yet are so vague it could be literally any white woman? It's definitely sung by dudes!
*those twangs sound fake as hell

The only saving grace is that their selections of "country" are so bad that many stations play a lot of 90s/00s songs that I love and cherish in the midst of the current garbage.

My current country faves for what is actually worth listening to are:
- Margo Price
- Jon Pardi
- I am not sure what genre Valerie June is but she scratches that country-ish itch for me
- reliving the greatness of the Dixie Chicks and Jo Dee Messina
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:57 AM on May 8, 2019 [6 favorites]


As octobersurprise reminds us, David Allen Coe covered this territory in the 70s with his three popular songs summarized as "I'm So Country I'll Kick Your Ass", "I'm So Country I'll Kiss Your Ass" and "Country is a 4-Corner Time Cube That Eats Itself"
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:59 AM on May 8, 2019 [36 favorites]


Yes, sure, other musical genres have songs about the genre they are. But you don't have to listen to country music for long (especially post-'80s, mainstream pop-country) to run into a lot of songs that are exclusively or primarily about in-group-reinforcement. Doesn't seem like much of a logical leap to figure out why that mindset, and the major demographics of country music consumers, would be linked.
posted by penduluum at 8:59 AM on May 8, 2019 [10 favorites]


I wonder if this is some kind of backlash to the fact that Lil Was X was singing about playing Red Dead Redemption.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:00 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


"...it was not the perfect country & western song
Because he hadn't said anything at all about mama
Or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting' drunk..."
posted by notsnot at 9:00 AM on May 8, 2019 [14 favorites]


I'm a long way away from being any kind of music critic, but isn't this basically the result of there being fewer and fewer people living a country lifestyle as Americans increasingly cluster in cities? 30 years ago I woke up in a mobile home, pulled on my boots, and made sure the cattle had feed and water, but my kids are in the suburbs and the acres where I used to help Granddad bale hay are now middle-class housing. You have a whole genre of music that grew out of a lifestyle that doesn't exist for many people anymore, so contemporary artists can't speak of their own experience, they can only wear the clothes and invoke the names of predecessors who were more authentic. County isn't the only genre with an authenticity problem, but it is especially acute.

I'm not sure who exactly listens to country. I teach at a community college in a small Texas town of about 7,000 people. Many of my students live on ranches. They wear camo to class and love to hunt. We have a rodeo team. Every semester I ask each student to recommend a song to me (my way of keeping up with what's current in youth culture). In most classes, no one mentions a country song. At best, there's one or two. And you don't get much more country than these guys! Sometimes I think all country music fans are people in the city, listening to singers from the city. They have big trucks, but they don't have farms.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:01 AM on May 8, 2019 [57 favorites]


posted by octobersurprise I have been told by an impeccable source that the only things you need for a perfect country & western song are mamas, trains, trucks, prisons, and getting' drunk. (Inclement weather is desirable, but not necessary.)

posted by TrialByMedia You forgot dogs.


Confirmed.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:04 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure who exactly listens to country. I teach at a community college in a small Texas town of about 7,000 people.

I wonder if it is a more midwest genre at this point? I grew up in the country and was in 4H and all that - everyone listened to country. Including town people.
posted by Emmy Rae at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


The standard story I tell is of maybe 10 years ago having worked with all the biggest country artists while on a TV show, and how they all rolled into rehearsal in baseball hats and cargo shorts, but come show time it was all jeans, cowboy boots, bolo ties and pearl-button shirts. The music is just another costume for many of these people.

Also worked with Sturgill and Isbell and Margo Price the last few years. Much less of that with them.
posted by nevercalm at 9:11 AM on May 8, 2019 [17 favorites]


All I know is they had better not take my door.
posted by AJaffe at 9:14 AM on May 8, 2019 [5 favorites]


> The only saving grace is that their selections of "country" are so bad that many stations play a lot of 90s/00s songs that I love and cherish in the midst of the current garbage.

90s/00s.... Are you by any chance in your mid-30s?
posted by Leon at 9:14 AM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


> I wonder if it is a more midwest genre at this point? I grew up in the country and was in 4H and all that - everyone listened to country. Including town people.

Here in North Carolina, the Chinese restaurants often play country music. The BBQ places often play top 40 or pop oldies.
posted by ardgedee at 9:21 AM on May 8, 2019


Some non-country country/bluegrass for example: '(Gimme Some of That) Ol' Atonal Music' by Merle Hazard. A classic.
posted by ovvl at 9:21 AM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


Maddie & Tae have some thoughts about being "The Girl in a Country Song."
posted by mcdoublewide at 9:25 AM on May 8, 2019 [5 favorites]


"...it was not the perfect country & western song
Because he hadn't said anything at all about mama
Or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting' drunk..."


you never even called me by my name
posted by anem0ne at 9:26 AM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]




So many things converging, I think.

All genres have self-referencing songs, but it's more common in some than others, and country -- along with hip-hop -- has always been right near the top. I think it's mixed in with: County isn't the only genre with an authenticity problem, but it is especially acute. This is in part because country places such emphasis on authenticity (see also: hip hop) which I think tends to require this sort of enforcement. Carly Rae Jepsen doesn't need to prove she's authentically pop for people to value her songs; they just need to be good jams.

The second trend is a country/rock convergence; this is also something that's been happening for years. Country songs are one or two sonic cliches away from sounding like rock songs. This is particularly true in the current era, where the trends in rock are also towards the rootsy end; I looked at the Billboard charts (since I no longer really have current knowledge) and there's a fair number of Lumineers and the like, who are only an accent away from recording country songs. This is number 6 on Billboard rock, and it's only a twang away from a country song -- and these guys are from frickin' Wales. So it's important to police the difference. Garth Brooks sounded a lot like rock music, but given the nature of rock at the time, he didn't have to prove he sounded different from Nirvana or Radiohead.

And the third is the culture wars. Mainstream country is a signifier of a political and cultural position more than it is anything else, these days. There's a ton of musicians making music that is country, but not getting country airplay. Kacey Musgraves got album of the year at both Grammys and CMAs, but her best single from it charted 17. This is related to the bro-ification of country. The country music industry seems to have hitched their wagon to the conservative white non-college man, and is mining that into the ground. Willie Nelson is only considered country because of his long history in the genre; if he started recording today, he'd be getting the reception Sturgill Simpson is, which is not much of one. I wouldn't be surprised if country 20 years from now is less like Steve Earle and more like Skrewdriver.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:28 AM on May 8, 2019 [23 favorites]


As octobersurprise reminds us, David Allen Coe covered this territory in the 70s with his three popular songs summarized as ... "I'm So Country I'll Kiss Your Ass"

if that ain't country
(does have instances of slurs but does have the line, "if that ain't country i'll kiss your ass")
posted by anem0ne at 9:38 AM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm a bit surprised the guy in the video took the songs at face value in being as if the singer is proclaiming how country he is rather than being for the audience to proclaim how country they are, with country in that sense suggesting a desired and largely imaginary history of "American". I mean Toby Keith is worth well over 300 million, like many of the popular country singers he isn't really living a country life in the romanticized sense of cowboys and small town blues, he's selling a desired ideal to those who want to claim that as their own cred for not being part of what they see as current values.

The feeling of being left out or left behind or otherwise ignored drives that kind of fandom for many of the same reasons other conservative ideology thrives among those who consider themselves deserving of an expected legacy based on their heritage as working class whites or some near facsimile. The import of the song is as much that it can be played loudly in the face of those that are "stealing" their legacy of country than any worry over whether Toby Keith is like them or sufficiently country himself and the idea that Toby Keith isn't well aware of that is kinda nuts.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:43 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


Came for the David Allen Coe references, stayed for the David Allen Coe references.
posted by PMdixon at 9:44 AM on May 8, 2019 [13 favorites]


octobersurprise: I have been told by an impeccable source that the only things you need for a perfect country & western song are mamas, trains, trucks, prisons, and getting' drunk. (Inclement weather is desirable, but not necessary.)

TrialByMedia: You forgot dogs.

If you need something to cleanse your palate/ ears/ brain, may I offer Clancy T. Bachleratt and Jackie Snad singing songs about Spaceships, Toddlers, Model T. Cars & Jars of Beer, and Easter Songs about those topics.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:46 AM on May 8, 2019 [7 favorites]


TIL there are country songs that *aren't* about "being country".
posted by kevinbelt at 9:47 AM on May 8, 2019 [11 favorites]


Not restricted to country music. CF Jeff Foxworthy, "you might be a redneck if…".
posted by adamrice at 9:49 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


I mean, it goes all the way back to Loretta Lynn, who famously did not stay on the farm. The people who sang most about being country at the beginning were the people who got the hell out of their little shit towns and proceeded to wear rhinestones and live in mansions.

And honestly, the people right now with the most claim to authentic knowledge of rural life are immigrant/Latinx folks who pick our food, and they do have music about their experiences and struggles, but it's not in English and they are not considered "real Americans" so no one cares.

There's plenty of people herding animals and growing food and getting by on nothing, but most of them aren't white.
posted by emjaybee at 9:52 AM on May 8, 2019 [31 favorites]


Yup, same as it ever was; viz. "Okie from Muskogee."
posted by aspersioncast at 9:56 AM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Country is a 4-Corner Time Cube That Eats Itself
posted by aspersioncast at 9:58 AM on May 8, 2019 [6 favorites]


Mefi music challenge: write a pitch-perfect Country song about how non-Country you are.
posted by suetanvil at 11:55 AM on May 8 [3 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]
C_________________ G______C_____________________________________
I never really cared for Waylon Jennings
G________________C______________________________________________
And I never really liked the taste of beer
F________________________C______________________________________
I've always been a cat person, Hawaiian shirts and khaki slacks person,
D______________________________________________________________
Something about my Prius
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:59 AM on May 8, 2019 [33 favorites]


From Sound Designer Jeans (who I've linked to in the past), a country song about a guy who insists how not-country he is

I can't help but wonder if country music's reflexive self-praising has something to do with the trend of country songs increasingly highlighting whiteness - red hair or blond hair, blue eyes, etc., more than in past decades.
posted by Jeanne at 9:59 AM on May 8, 2019 [7 favorites]


The people who sang most about being country at the beginning were the people who got the hell out of their little shit towns and proceeded to wear rhinestones and live in mansions.

One of my favorite Dolly songs, “Wildflowers”
And the flowers I knew
In the fields where I grew
Were content to be lost in the crowd
They were growing too close
I had no room for growth
I wanted so much to get out

So I uprooted myself from my home ground and left
Took my dreams and I took to the road
When a flower grows wild
It can always survive
Wildflowers don't care where they grow

posted by sallybrown at 10:05 AM on May 8, 2019 [16 favorites]


I know it can be funny to talk about David Allen Coe, and mostly he's famous for a song that he didn't even write. I think people should realize that the songs that he has written include some of the worst racist and misogynist things you can think of. He might be one to drop from your 'funny things to laugh about' file.
posted by Quonab at 10:23 AM on May 8, 2019 [13 favorites]


Does this mean Donnie and Marie aren't cool anymore?
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:51 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure who exactly listens to country. I teach at a community college in a small Texas town of about 7,000 people.

It's big here in Pennsylvania. The biggest (and drunkest) summer concert acts are country.
posted by octothorpe at 10:53 AM on May 8, 2019


This is, as many have commented, a long-standing trope in country music, but it used to be kind of tongue-in-cheek whereas nowadays its got all the seriousness of wearing the right colors in the middle of disputed gang territory. One of my favorites from the slightly better slightly older days is Daryle Singletary's "That's Why I Sing This Way" (and which fits perfectly as the only original song on an album of covers by classic artists like Conway Twitty and Lefty Frizzell)

My Momma used to tell me, "Son, you better get your work done
Your Daddy's coming home at five
And if you ain't all through with the chores you gotta do
Boy, I'm gonna tan you alive"

I was glued to the radio, listening to my hero
Singing them sad old songs
Singing them sadder than a one car funeral
Nobody sings like Jones

I'd take that old kitchen broom up to my room
And I'd play it like an old guitar
Or sit out on the porch trying to sing like George
Dreaming of becoming a star

Well, things I never did when I was just a kid
Made me what I am today
You see, Momma used to whoop me with a George Jones album
That's why I sing this way"
posted by drlith at 11:04 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


I can't help but wonder if country music's reflexive self-praising has something to do with the trend of country songs increasingly highlighting whiteness - red hair or blond hair, blue eyes, etc., more than in past decades.

Any time I go on a road trip by myself, I put on a "new country" station with a name like THE EAGLE or THE WOLF or something similarly taxidermy-friendly and it is always striking how many songs go out of their way to mention that the girl in question is blue-eyed. The racial panic is real.

I also notice that a lot of these songs are real big into mentioning how the small town that was good enough for their daddy's daddy and their daddy is good enough for them. And how they're not fancy folk, they just like simple pleasures like getting blitzed in a field on a Friday night or going down to the river to fish.

A steady stream of this reminds me of the passage in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, where the children are subliminally conditioned:

I'm so glad I'm a Beta. Alpha children wear grey, They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfuly glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas.

The popular country genre now seems to be like, "Why would you aspire to anything? Settle. Anything outside these proscribed boundaries is to be scorned. Just ... keep turning inward."

If I were a more suspicious woman, I'd suspect social engineering instead of merely "Reactionary ignorance sells records."
posted by sobell at 11:06 AM on May 8, 2019 [32 favorites]


I assumed the Fulks link was going to be "Fuck This Town," and was mildly disappointed. (Yeah, there's a problematic lyric.)

(I'll also offer up my favorite Robbie Fulks song. You're welcome.)
posted by uberchet at 11:11 AM on May 8, 2019 [4 favorites]


I also notice that a lot of these songs are real big into mentioning how the small town that was good enough for their daddy's daddy and their daddy is good enough for them. And how they're not fancy folk, they just like simple pleasures like getting blitzed in a field on a Friday night or going down to the river to fish.
Yeah, that's a thing I can't help but connect to the stayed-behind folks in many of the very very red states, like the one I'm from. The kids with options put places like Mississippi in their rearview mirrors as soon as they finish high school, and most of them never come back. As one of the ones who left, I've definitely heard this good-enough-for-your-parents crap before.
posted by uberchet at 11:13 AM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


The talk about how contemporary country music is social programming for racism and such is coming awfully close to similar talk about how rap music inspires gang violence. Just saying.
posted by SansPoint at 11:27 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


I can't help but wonder if country music's reflexive self-praising has something to do with the trend of country songs increasingly highlighting whiteness - red hair or blond hair, blue eyes, etc., more than in past decades.

This links to a really interesting article (it'd be nice to see the whole thing):
This paper presents a longitudinal analysis of representations of masculinity in mainstream country music from the 1980s to the 2010s. Analyzing the lyrics from over 800 weeks of songs that topped the Billboard country music charts, I find that working‐class occupations and heterosexuality were relatively consistent components of representations of men across these decades. There were also two notable transformations. Depictions of providing shifted away from a traditional breadwinner toward men providing women with alcohol, transportation, and places to hook up. Masculinity and whiteness also became more closely linked. I argue that these rearranged intersections of gender, class, sexuality, and race enable the continued reproduction of gendered inequalities amid rural men’s worsening employment prospects.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:29 AM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


I also notice that a lot of these songs are real big into mentioning how the small town that was good enough for their daddy's daddy and their daddy is good enough for them.

Yeah, I had a guitar student who wanted to learn all the popular country songs and I was struck by how many of them were explicit scripts for how a country-music listener's life oughta be. Like Lee Brice's "Boy" (note the obligatory blue-eyed girl)

Boy, you're gonna know it all
You'll think you're ten feet tall
And run like you're bulletproof
And total a car or two
Boy, you're gonna hate this town
Wish you could burn it down
That fire in your eyes is twenty counties wide
But boy, you're gonna love seventeen
And boy, you'll do some stupid things
You're gonna drive and kiss
And throw a punch
And grow up way too fast
You're gonna drop the ball
Hit the wall
And break some hearts like glass
I know you will, 'cause you're a part of me
And a part of you will always be a boy
You're gonna be so stubborn
You get that from your mother
I already see it now, you weren't built for backing down
And boy, there'll be a small town nights
And you'll fall for her sky-blue eyes
And when she's in your hands
You'll think you're a man and not a boy
She'll make you lose your mind, boy
She'll be every reason why
But boy, you're gonna come back home
You're gonna settle down
But you won't feel the way I'm feelin' now
Until you have a boy
He's gonna know it all
He'll think he's ten feet tall
And run like he's bulletproof
And total a car or two
posted by straight at 11:29 AM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


This talk about self-referencing songs is cool and all but the pinnacle of the genre occured when I learned what happens if you play a country song backwards.
posted by nofundy at 11:51 AM on May 8, 2019 [5 favorites]


The talk about how contemporary country music is social programming for racism and such is coming awfully close to similar talk about how rap music inspires gang violence. Just saying.

I think it’s more likely that it’s reflecting a cultural moment than causing it (in both cases).

Looking at those Lee Brice lyrics alongside an older radio-friendly country song, like one of Alan Jackson’s or Brooks & Dunn’s, the decline in quality is just sad.
posted by sallybrown at 11:57 AM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


I barely ever hear contemporary country music, but when I do, I am amused by how frequently they namecheck classic country stalwarts like Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, George Jones, etc. Sometimes the singer is even lamenting how far the music has strayed from the old ways. It's ironic and weird that this downfall narrative is integrated into the genre.
posted by chrchr at 12:02 PM on May 8, 2019 [6 favorites]


This talk about self-referencing songs is cool and all but the pinnacle of the genre occured when I learned what happens if you play a country song backwards.

You get your house back, your wife back, your truck back and your dog back?

Came in for this joke, thanks for not disappointing me nofundy
posted by myotahapea at 12:06 PM on May 8, 2019 [23 favorites]


I assume everyone has seen this video on how the snap beat is killing country music. The fact that it's an R&B beat that's "killing" country is suspect, but I take the point that the monotony is the real problem.

The combo of the generic production beats with "cold beer/old truck/blue jeans" cliches is very off-putting. It's a kind of postmodern sludge without self-awareness.
posted by argybarg at 12:06 PM on May 8, 2019 [6 favorites]


octobersurprise: I have been told by an impeccable source that the only things you need for a perfect country & western song are mamas, trains, trucks, prisons, and getting' drunk. (Inclement weather is desirable, but not necessary.)

TrialByMedia: You forgot dogs.


I don't think Coe mentioned dogs in that song.

Please don't tell me I'm the only one who got that reference.

Edit: NM, someone got it.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:17 PM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid in the 80s, we use to argue whether or not Springsteen was country. "Spare Parts and Broken Hearts", "Born in the USA", "Up All Night." Not a huge difference between that and "Copperhead Road". If a country station won't play any of those, the genre has changed so much as to have no meaning.
posted by BeeDo at 12:20 PM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


Yup, same as it ever was; viz. "Okie from Muskogee."

Tyler Mahan Coe dives deep into "Muskogee" in his podcast "Cocaine and Rhinestones." All the episodes are really great, but that one especially addresses this concept of meta country and lyrics being interpreted very differently by different listeners.
posted by CheeseLouise at 12:23 PM on May 8, 2019 [12 favorites]


Country music has been about what country music is since before it was called country music. The first two hillbilly megahit records were Fiddlin' John Carson's 1923 "Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane" and Vernon Dalhart's 1925 "The Prisoner's Song." Compare and contrast and behold an authenticity dialectic that has gripped the imagination of country fans, critics, scholars, and haters ever since.

The "realness" factors are always mapped onto patriarchy and whiteness in some way. The supposed tension is milked for all it's worth by players on all sides of the game.

To paraphrase philosopher Richard Klein writing on cigarettes, "country music is bad for you. That's why it is so good."

Help Me Merle, I'm Breakin' Out in a Nashville Rash.
posted by spitbull at 12:24 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


Is this actually a trend, or is it just a vlogger who managed to find four songs on a theme and string a rant together?

Life ain't nothin but a funny funny riddle.
posted by flabdablet at 12:25 PM on May 8, 2019 [8 favorites]


I don't even know if this is true anymore, but when I was listening to old country music (Kitty Wells era) 7 or 8 years ago, I was struck by the way the instruments twanged, but the voices didn't.

Who knows how that happened.
posted by jamjam at 12:36 PM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


There’s plenty of wonderful non-mainstream country and roots artists, but of course not on the radio or the charts. You should buy their stuff and go see them live because they’ll never survive on streaming or record sales.
posted by tommasz at 12:40 PM on May 8, 2019 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: THE EAGLE or THE WOLF or something similarly taxidermy-friendly
posted by joannemerriam at 12:54 PM on May 8, 2019 [8 favorites]


filthy light thief: If you need something to cleanse your palate/ ears/ brain, may I offer Clancy T. Bachleratt and Jackie Snad singing songs about Spaceships, Toddlers, Model T. Cars & Jars of Beer , and Easter Songs about those topics .

Just to add to these recommendations, I would like to suggest: Are You Drinkin' With Me Jesus? and Let's Go Burn Ole Nashville Down.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:17 PM on May 8, 2019


Different genre, as already discussed, but my mind went to LCD Soundsystem's Losing my Edge. It is, in large part, an excuse to name drop a bunch of bands and places/times, but it's also put in a frame that makes it about the singer's anxieties, which elevates the songwriting. There's no frame present in That's Country, Bro, and the singer is barely present, which limits the complexity.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:38 PM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


(I prefer the Beat Farmers' original version of Are You Drinkin' With Me Jesus. RIP Country Dick.)
posted by uberchet at 1:47 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


I finally broke out of my weeks-long Jason Isbell streak, only to land on a three-weeks-and-counting James McMurtry jag. When I was younger I think that McMurtry would have been called country, but now he's Americana, and I don't really understand anything any more except that songs without choruses are surprisingly satisfying. I also may have some mood-related issues right now...
posted by wintermind at 2:06 PM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


Are you by any chance in your mid-30s?

Anybody remember the FPP about how we most love the music we listened to when we were teens? Well I'm not immune!
posted by Emmy Rae at 2:11 PM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


Don't forget Barnes & Dunfrey!
posted by polecat at 2:16 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


Country Willie Edwards is the most authentic country (musically and literally) performer I’ve ever seen. He has been living on his old family farm in East Texas and cranking out music for years now. He doesn’t have to name-check the greats, he just effortlessly channels them. Here he is covering Hank Williams at the Baptist Church homecoming in his hometown of Sardis. Here is he is singing about zombies at the Old Settlers Festival. A few of my other favorites: Marfa Lights; Leaving Dallas in the Night; 13 Miners.
posted by mcdoublewide at 2:40 PM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


I was a country radio DJ for four years from roughly '89-93.

Hence I don't listen to country music much nowdays.

It's also the worst place to work when you've just broken up with your girlfriend, as nearly every song will remind you of stuff.

I think a lot of the "how country are ya" or "We're so country" songs are really so the listener can self-identify with others of a similar bent, as an anti-Establishment/big city thing.

I think my favorite example of this is Country Boys Can Survive by Hank Jr.
posted by mrbill at 3:01 PM on May 8, 2019 [6 favorites]


This is number 6 on Billboard rock, and it's only a twang away from a country song -- and these guys are from frickin' Wales.

I take your overall point, but it's worth mentioning that Wales is likely the most musical country in the UK (on a cultural DNA basis) and it's overflowing with white farmers and their livestock.

It's more surprising to me that its biggest exports were Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey and not a Welsh Invasion, storming the Grand Ole Opry.

(I'd nominate Cate le Bon to go and fuck up Nashville, but they don't deserve her.)
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 3:22 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


If I were a more suspicious woman, I'd suspect social engineering instead of merely "Reactionary ignorance sells records."

Music genre feedback loop, maybe? You look at the big hits for the last six months in your genre, then try to write something like that, only a bit moreso? Twenty years of that'll smooth the creative wrinkles out of anything.
posted by Leon at 3:29 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


All I can think of is this amazing image: Who’s country?

Also, my experience of country music in Austin is, thankfully, way more on the “not conservative white dude” side of things. I grew up in North Carolina where “country” meant “conservative white dudes” — though bluegrass, old-time, and Americana did not have that connotation. But in Austin, I mean, we get Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic. I went to that, cautiously at first — and saw Margo Price and Kacey Musgraves, and realized there was a whole world of country music that was not about being racist and/or Republican, that I really enjoyed.
posted by snowmentality at 4:05 PM on May 8, 2019 [4 favorites]


But who's gonna fill their shoes?
posted by clawsoon at 4:28 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


I recently discovered "Rednecker" by Hardy, which is near the middle of the airplay charts and it is a particularly lunkheaded, straightforward take on the trope.

Todd in the Shadows remarked how modern country often seems to be a ticking off of a list of tropes/topics, and, uh, apparently Hardy heard that and took him literally.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 4:34 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


I looked up the lyrics and I realized that I'm not sure I have the genre knowledge to tell the difference between a really asinine country song and a cleverly self-aware, tongue-in-cheek one, tbh
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:42 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


This strikes me as the opposite of the goth music genre, in which most of the iconic performers would rather lie down and die than admit to being goths.
posted by webmutant at 5:21 PM on May 8, 2019 [7 favorites]


It just occurred to me that once upon a time God was pretty central to a lot of country music, but that's not on any of these "essence of country" lists. I have almost no exposure to the commercial end... does He turn up much in the country top 40?
posted by Leon at 5:26 PM on May 8, 2019


Ben Nichols is the best country singer working today.
posted by East14thTaco at 5:38 PM on May 8, 2019


does He turn up much in the country top 40?

Today’s best comparison to Amy Grant is working in the pop arena instead of country—Lauren Daigle
posted by sallybrown at 5:51 PM on May 8, 2019


does He turn up much in the country top 40?

Well, I know next to nothing about Contemporary Country, but this audio nightmare was playing at work the other day: Real Men Love Jesus
posted by biddeford at 6:13 PM on May 8, 2019


If it was really the song of the working man in the country, the lyrics would be in Spanish.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 6:18 PM on May 8, 2019 [13 favorites]


Yeah, I think that God is still a pretty big thing in commercial country, although partly as an indicator of being the right sort of God-fearing country people. But I checked the current Billboard country chart, and number 3 is Blake Shelton's God's Country (which is mostly establishing his country cred, but in a very God-y way), while number 7 is Thomas Rhett's Look What God Gave Her, which is how God made his girlfriend extremely sexy.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:26 PM on May 8, 2019 [4 favorites]


I think God has faded from country because the seriously devout church-going demographic now tunes its radios to Christian Rock stations.
posted by Rash at 7:24 PM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


My favourite country singers - Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. Which probably means I have almost nothing in common with the current crop.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 7:26 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]


Contemporary Country on the radio is terrible, true, lots of good Country not on the radio. Definitely weird signalling about race and other things, basically Farmer's Only commercials in song form. All this is true.

But anyone that thinks Rock wasn't ridiculous self referential and cliquish wasn't listening to anything from the 50's to the 90's.
posted by bongo_x at 11:13 PM on May 8, 2019


I’ll admit to not being a fan, and not knowing all that much about the genre, but given the narratives (if we took them at face value) about economic insecurity being a driving force for how things are, politically, why the hell isn’t angry, pro-union, pro-working class country music a thing? I mean, if it is, and I’ve missed it, that’s on me, but I would hope that music that likes to hold itself up as the voice of the people (and all of the bullshit no true Scotsman about who the “people” really are) would be concerned with the actual plight of the people they claim to represent.

I mean, sure, there’s the conservative/nativist/racist bullshit just under the surface (or sometimes blatant as all hell) but are you telling me there’s no country out there about actual class struggle and the need to fix things?

I mean, without all the implied racism and scapegoating?
posted by Ghidorah at 1:29 AM on May 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


I mean, sure, there’s the conservative/nativist/racist bullshit just under the surface (or sometimes blatant as all hell) but are you telling me there’s no country out there about actual class struggle and the need to fix things?

That's folk music. They're softies who don't appreciate the beauty of a pickup truck and indignation at not getting what you want. They think you have to fight for it and share!
posted by gusottertrout at 1:51 AM on May 9, 2019 [8 favorites]


I mean, sure, there’s the conservative/nativist/racist bullshit just under the surface (or sometimes blatant as all hell) but are you telling me there’s no country out there about actual class struggle and the need to fix things?

Check out Steve Earle.
posted by sallybrown at 3:34 AM on May 9, 2019 [12 favorites]


The Kevin Fowler "How Country Are You" ridiculousness mentioned above is made even more ridiculous by the fact that he began his career in a hair metal band.
posted by mcdoublewide at 6:19 AM on May 9, 2019


fact that he began his career in a hair metal band.
How come Pantera's so tough when they used to be glam?
Well their secret is safe with us as long as we are fans.
posted by The_Vegetables at 6:47 AM on May 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


Basically, at this point anything labeled "Country" probably is this reductive, nationalistic, borderline racist, and generally bad.

The good stuff working off a similar musical tradition, or at least what used to be similar, is more often labeled "Americana." Think Steve Earle or Jason Isbell or Gillian Welch or Kasey Chambers.
posted by uberchet at 7:12 AM on May 9, 2019 [9 favorites]


Rock music (or at least older mainstream rock music) always had songs about how great rock music is.

True but the difference here is that most of those rock songs are about how great rock music not how rock-and-roll the performer is.

It's the difference between "I love rock-and-roll" and "I am rock-and-roll".
posted by VTX at 7:33 AM on May 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


If you want to read about Country music that is not on the radio, No Depression is a good resource.
posted by Quonab at 7:51 AM on May 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


Rock music (or at least older mainstream rock music) always had songs about how great rock music is.

True but the difference here is that most of those rock songs are about how great rock music not how rock-and-roll the performer is.


Braggadocio? add it to the list of things people took from the Blues
posted by eustatic at 8:29 AM on May 9, 2019


My favorite country music is folk. I mean, listen to Cry Cry Cry sing Lord, I Have Made You a Place in My Heart. It's depressing as hell, and I love it.
posted by domo at 9:04 AM on May 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


I have a problem with bro country in general, but "Caught Up In The Country" is like, next level. It could not be worse. My husband periodically just looks at me and growls RED BARN! ROOSTER! TRUCK! CORN STALK! ever since he heard that song, and I die laughing every time.

Anyway this vlogger guy, whoever he is, hates it so much he can hardly even articulate it, so I'm a fan of his.
posted by gerstle at 10:09 AM on May 9, 2019 [5 favorites]


There is no more authentic country music rite of passage than to have the previous generation of country musicians, the ones you grew up listening to, complain about how your music isn't "real country", a complaint that you will repeat yourself in a decade or two. The last country music show that I went to was watching Lorrie Morgan at the Mid-South Fair maybe twenty years ago or so, and she made a point of saying that (I got the impression that she was complaining about Shania Twain, although she didn't mention Twain by name).
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:25 PM on May 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


I have a problem with bro country in general, but "Caught Up In The Country" is like, next level.

You could write a thesis on these stanzas alone:

Wind chimes, front porch
Good dogs, wood floors
Work boots, open doors

And miles and miles of John Deere green
Freedom far as I can see
A road to run and room to breathe
That's who I am and I'll always be


I remember listening to songs like "John Deere Green" and "Queen of My Double-Wide Trailer" in the 1990s, and you had your signaling there too, but I also remember songs like "On a Roll Here in Little Rock" and "When My Ship Comes In," which were pretty explicitly about how sometimes, leaving that bucolic wide-open space is the only way to fix what's wrong.

These new songs really seem to be doubling down on a STAY PUT AND BE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR GOD-GIVEN FREEDOM TO NEVER LEAVE message.
posted by sobell at 2:15 PM on May 9, 2019 [3 favorites]


Levon Helm, Growin’ Trade

The Band wasn’t exactly country, but Levon was.

I still like the Bo Deans Love Hope Sex & Dreams.

Anyone making anything like that these days?
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:57 PM on May 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


The BoDeans are still around, but they’re a little more blue-collar rock these days. I think there’s a lot of good country hiding out in the Americana catalog these days.
posted by wintermind at 8:18 PM on May 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


These new songs really seem to be doubling down on a STAY PUT AND BE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR GOD-GIVEN FREEDOM TO NEVER LEAVE message.

Here's one that doubles down on that same message, but the subject of the song (maybe specifically Dale Watson, maybe not as it's unspecified) realizes it's him that's in the wrong, but he's going to do it anyways because its called the The Dumb Song
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:18 AM on May 10, 2019


For the exact opposite of the
STAY PUT AND BE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR GOD-GIVEN FREEDOM TO NEVER LEAVE message
you can't beat Livin' Next to Leroy, my favorite country song about the opiate epidemic.
posted by domo at 11:54 AM on May 10, 2019 [1 favorite]


domo, I'm in love with Ashley McBryde's voice. Thank you for the link and the song. It's fantastic.
posted by sobell at 12:21 PM on May 10, 2019 [1 favorite]


> I think my favorite example of this is Country Boys Can Survive by Hank Jr.

The first time I heard this song, I thought it was a parody. I was at open shoot at my archery range and the guy playing it is this man who is desperately overbowed and wants everyone to know how high his draw weight is (translation: it take a lot of strength to pull the string back on his bow, and he's not strong enough to do it well). He tries to get everyone there to play stupid games that involve damaging arrows (I've never seen anyone take him up on it). He will shout about how loyal he is to one particular brand. He goes on and on about how eager he is to go hunting. He is desperate, desperate to seem like a Cool Bowhunting Dude. The song is so appropriate for him. I'm still not certain it isn't a parody.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:08 PM on May 10, 2019 [1 favorite]


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