There’s a firestorm in country music right now. With Zac Brown speaking out about his hatred of Luke Bryan’s newest single and Kacey Musgraves going head to truck with her distaste for country music cliches, it’s turned into something of a war that everyone is weighing in on. It used to be that only people outside of country music had something negative to say. It’s “too twangy” or “too redneck” or “i hate people that sing about trucks.” Growing up, my least favorite phrase was “I listen to everything… but country.”
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of country music, but that’s not to say I like everything, or that I take all of it incredibly seriously. I feel the same way about some songs in country as I do in pop. While there are incredibly talented, soulful, authentic pop artists that sing about life’s truths, there are also the ones that offer a dose of fun, a little ridiculousness, and over all aren’t written to be taken seriously. Each side of it, brings something to the genre. While I grew up hearing Patsy Cline and Waylon Jennings via my grandmothers radio, my first real trip into country music was when Leann Rimes hit the scene with “Blue.” It was, honestly, the first time I gravitated to country music on my own. It was a defining moment that sent me searching for music with a similar sound. Leann is not strictly country, I think we all know this by now. “How Do I Live” was a major crossover hit, she’s released full out pop records internationally, and even some of her deeper country cuts possess the hooky staple of pop music. But you know what, it brought me to country music. She was what inspired me to dive deeper and search harder for more and more artists. Without Leann, I wouldn’t have searched further to listen to Johnny Cash, I never would have discovered Dolly Parton, and I most certainty wouldn’t be listening to the Civil Wars right now.
Whether or not these artists feel there is artistic integrity in any of Luke Bryan’s singles, he’s bringing a whole new audience to country music much in the same way Taylor Swift has, and those that are listening to music for more than just a good time will eventually discover Zac Brown Band, Kacey Musgraves, Charlie Worsham, The Civil Wars, and so many other amazing artists that don’t always have the explosion of success that sits on Bryan’s back. Nor do they dedicate all of their time trying to write perfectly hooky, feel good hit singles. It may not be what you like, it may not be what you would write, but you never know who might be listening with an open mind and venture out to buy more records from other artists. It’s such a shame to knock artists that bring an influx of fans to a genre that was once the orphan child of music. Sure, it doesn’t need to be “cool” and maybe with it’s rising coolness we got songs that posses too little heart and too much hook, but there’s still so much authenticity within the genre that I feel it’s shameful to call out other artists.
My absolutely favorite thing about loving country music is the sense of community instilled in it. Between the artists, between the fans, between the artists and the fans. Something like this starts to feel like the seams that held country music together are coming undone, and what makes it truly special, is fading faster than the authentic radio singles. It breaks my heart to see an artist tear another down, in any genre, because whether or not I agree or disagree it just looks like jealousy and hatred gets an opportunity to raise it’s head within someone that has a voice to preach kindness. Music has always been about togetherness and feeling less alone, and to speak out otherwise, seems to negate the whole point.
Zac Brown has a song about frying chicken and drinking a cold beer on Friday night, Kacey Musgraves has a few love songs that have been done once or twice before (or a thousand times). It’s not as if these artists haven’t given in to the need to write about universal topics that are understood by a wide expanse of people. That’s what music IS. It’s supposed to be relatable. Whether you drive a truck or want a cold beer on a Friday or lost love or found love. We have these topics because someone out there, somewhere, feels good or less alone or excited when they hear it. Shouldn’t the fact that people are coming out to these festivals and shows, with the opportunity to discover something new, and have an absolutely amazing night, be enough? Shouldn’t we be happy that people are listening at all?
I’m never one to say that someone shouldn’t speak their mind. But kindness and happiness for others success, speaks volumes about who a person really is.