Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Country music is misrepresented and overlooks diverse talent

The biggest names in country music are harming the genre’s reputation
Country music is misrepresented and overlooks diverse talent

Country music, for most people, is either a hit or a miss. Its reputation often pushes listeners and artists away, and its most popular musicians are why.

Chart-topping country artists such as Morgan Wallen commonly find themselves at the center of controversy. Wallen has a successful career despite his continued racism. Country music has created a space that allows an ignorance that make minority communities feel unwelcome.

Many of the most popular country songs are performed by straight white men, who direct their music at the same demographic. There’s a lack of diversity within the genre, and it wholly disregards women and people of color.

Not only has country music become an unsafe space for most, but it has also completely lost its integrity. Today, mainstream country music has forgotten its sound.

While Bristol, Tennessee is considered the birthplace of country music, the genre has roots all across the South. It was birthed from a collection of immigrants bringing their country’s sounds together, which allows country music to be a uniquely American genre. It has been influenced by decades of American history and has experienced distinct changes as the American political landscape has evolved.

Three characteristics can be attributed to country music: a southern-sounding twang, the use of string instruments and the art of storytelling. Mainstream country music tends to lack these characteristics, especially in storytelling, which is contributing to the dilution of the genre. Artists such as Wallen and Walker Hayes, two chart-topping country artists, are not producing tracks that are true to the country genre. The writing and production of many of these chart-topping songs are lazy and sound like a cash grab.

Other artists in the industry are noticing these discrepancies between authentic country music and what makes it on the charts.

Artists like Zach Bryan and Tyler Childers have recently been topping the charts on country radio. They exemplify what it means to be a country artist, showing great love and dedication to art and their storytelling and lyricism are unmatched. Yet, as white men, they should not be representing the genre as a whole.

Other artists, especially women and people of color, are getting snubbed by the genre. The War and Treaty, a husband-and-wife country duo of Michael and Tanya Trotter, were nominated for two Grammy Awards this year. Kacey Musgraves, Brandi Carlisle and Maren Morris are three top female country artists, yet the industry does not award them nearly enough.

Maren Morris has called out the racist, homophobic and sexist behavior within the country music industry plenty of times. The offensive behavior and actions of many individuals involved in country music has put her off country music, as she has recently announced stepping away from the genre.

Jason Aldean has found himself at the center of many controversies regarding his song “Try That in a Small Town,” which had racist connotations, and other people point to his wife making multiple transphobic comments.

While these white, male artists are the current face of the country music genre, they shouldn’t be. They are diluting the genre and don’t represent what it should mean to be a country artist. The genre has deep historical roots and the artists are diverse and talented; these are the artists we should be focusing on.

I encourage everyone to give the underrepresented artists of country music a listen. They are making good music that centers on inclusivity, storytelling and a classic country sound, which is what the genre should value as a priority.

Katherine Varrell can be reached at [email protected].

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