The world is full of country purists and traditionalists. As each generation has grown older it has chosen to covet its own era of country music and refuse the legitimacy of future progressions. It’s an age-old argument that I’m sure we are all more than tired of, and I hesitate to join the ranks of those who champion one particular decade of country music, maybe two, over all others.
Yet for those who are familiar with my writing and opinions, I tend to take my own authority over a modern country music canon. I think it’s impossible not to, ultimately, if you aim to be honest with your writing. I try to take into account that country must move forward and that we cannot simply reproduce what has gone before, and understand mainstream country music from a viewpoint firmly rooted in 2013. I say all this because despite my efforts I find myself looking at the likes of Florida Georgia Line and wanting to hang up my boots, proclaiming that country is dead and that my era was the best (I am not yet 21 years old, for the record).
Florida Georgia Line are perhaps not the first to usher in the country rap song, the frat boy image, the token banjo line or the pervasive, sexist lyrics worringly abundant on country radio. Yet they are one of the most insufferable to utilize these, and what’s more combined that with melody lines that attract every pop music fan there is. That’s exactly why they are so dangerous; even I, who cannot stand them, find myself getting caught up in the hooks and aurally-friendly chord progressions if I’m not thinking too hard about it (for the record, listening for the purpose of this article. Just saying). And you might say that if I enjoy some of the melody lines, why do I strongly dislike their music? Because it’s not country. It’s not. If you are fooled by the presence of a banjo then I have no hope for you as country music fan. These are pop songs that are lucky enough to exist at a time when mainstream country desperately wants to be pop or rock, and so they fit right in. Just stretch the boundaries a little more, and they’re pretty much what fans are used to.
It’s not that country music fans are being fooled by any means; most of us realize that the music isn’t the least bit authentic and largely ignore them. But while I don’t mean to point the finger at teenage girls (I was one not too long ago), they are part of the problem. All of those undiscerning pop music fans who latched onto the latest country pop offerings are just exploring more of the same – and since this is mindless pop nonsense with fast cars and rappers and autotune – they eat it up. Some of the rest of us, having been exposed to this stuff for so long, we get used to it, it sounds familiar, so we just mark it down as country. I think we all need to remind ourselves what actual country music is. We don’t have to look into the past, but a decent 21st century take on country music can be found coming from Kacey Musgraves, the Pistol Annies and Ashley Monroe, among hoards of others, both well-known and less so.
When I go to watch the latest country music video, I don’t want to see half-naked supermodels draping themselves over cars and the frankly not-even-close-to-their-league artists who just gaze, drooling, at the fake breasts bouncing in front of their face. I’m not even going to go into what I strongly believe real country music is here in comparison – I don’t think it’s necessary. What it isn’t is bimbos who’ll have sex with any guy who drives them somewhere, faux-outlaw claims (oh wow, you drink your beer ice cold, you’re such a rebel), failed gangsta branding and songs called ‘Dayum Baby’. Really?! If that wasn’t enough, they also have a song called ‘Tell Me How You Like It’. Need I say more.
I bring this up because it has recently been announced that they have broken the record for the most number of weeks spent at #1 on Hot Country Songs for a duo since Carl and Pearl Butler in 1962 with ‘Don’t Let Me Cross Over’. I really hope this makes you angry too, as I shouldn’t have to explain why this is a ridiculous situation. I recently readthis article from Saving Country Music that spoke of Florida Georgia Line as the new superstars of country music who will go from strength to strength. I would like to think that most mainstream country fans are more discerning than that, but I fear SCM is right. They appear to be sidling into the record books, and have their sights set on generational memory. Can music that is so uncountry and contrary to what the genre and the people stand for be allowed this free reign to do as they please, with the music and the community we created and fostered?
I fear that I, and those who agree with me, may not get to make that decision.