Today’s country music is cheap and easy

By Steven Gillard

Lunchbox LP/ Flickr
Lunchbox LP/ Flickr

The first country music album that I ever owned was Tim McGraw’s 2004 “Live Like You Were Dying,” which went four times platinum.  At the age of 11, I was instilled with a love for the genre and many of the 1990s and early 2000s artists who I grew up with: Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Alan Jackson and, of course, McGraw himself. Turning on country radio back in 2001 or 2002, you would hear a wide variety of songs, covering topics from heartbreak to death to letting loose on a Friday night after a long week’s work. Today, however, country radio is barely listenable.

The aptly named “bro-country,” embodied by artists such as Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line has replaced traditional country as the mainstream, and it draws its influence from other genres of music such as hip-hop, rock and pop. Instead of detailing both the harsh reality and unbelievable beauty of life, many of the songs that top the charts nowadays focus mainly on the superficial: attractive women in skimpy clothes, Fireball whiskey and the sweet smell of smoke.

While bro-country has drawn a host of criticism for its subject matter, I’m not one of them. In fact, I have a number of bro-country songs on my iPod that I’ll happily blast while driving down the highway on a summer night or preparing for a night out. Still, the culture embodied by this genre, one of getting drunk and getting laid, has severely damaged the reputation of country music in 2015.

Of the top country music songs on iTunes, one is about throwing a house party, another concerns buying a boat and yet another is told by a man who begs a woman to break up with her boyfriend and “bring it on over.” The No. 2 song on the charts is one by none other than Bryan, titled “Strip It Down,” in which he, in uninspired lyrics, describes getting naked with his girl.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of great country songs being released today, but it’s disappointing to see just how far the genre has fallen. The average country fan under 30 will happily exclaim that he or she is a fan, but will most likely cite his of her favorite artists as Aldean or Bryan.  The days when the genre was defined by names such as George Strait are long gone.

The country music industry has become akin to the fast food one: the product is easily produced and easily consumed.  It takes very little talent to string together a few chords and pen some catchy lyrics that tap into America’s fascination with good-looking women and beer.  Moreover, it’s just not healthy. These songs constantly glorify one-night-stands and binge drinking, and ignore the problems associated with both.

Like I said before, I don’t hate these songs; in fact, I enjoy quite a few of them. But I’d prefer that they were the anomaly and not the mainstream. I’ve always taken pride in being a country music fan since such a young age, but it’s hard these days to express pride in a genre that has come to be defined by shallow, derivative lyrics. I fell in love with country music because of its ability to capture the human experience in just a single song.  Let’s bring it back to that. Yes, drinking and sex are parts of life too, but unimportant ones. Country music deserves better.

Steven Gillard is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]