Country music needs to stop hating on country music!
If you’ve ever read the comment section of a Sam Hunt or Florida Georgia Line video, you know what I’m talking about. And if your gut reaction to that sentence is to say, “That’s not real country music”, I really hope you keep reading this post.
In the last few years we’ve seen the country charts include monster hits tagged as Bro Country, we’ve seen Kid Rock, Don Henley, and Steven Tyler release country records, we’ve lamented the evolution of Taylor Swift from Tim McGraw to Shake It Off, and we’ve also seen Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves celebrated by the country music community for their work.
All of this has happened in country music, and it has very clearly made some “True Country Fans” upset. Because they love Willie and Waylon and Kitty Wells and Loretta Lynn, they hate FGL and vocally attack their popular music as an affront to the genre that they love. They post memes about country music not being dead, just asleep, and waking up with Chris Stapleton. And I get it, people like what they like, and they don’t like what they don’t like. The issue right now is that the conversations don’t stop at “I don’t like this song/album/band”, they continue to “this isn’t country music”.
Our reality in country music in 2015 is that we’re still saddled with an outdated and overly simplified categorization of the genre. And an even more outdated view of what that means.
Brad Paisley’s Country Nation proudly boasts that there are over 2,000 stations playing country music in the United States. That’s an awesome number, but let’s step back for a second and really look at what rock and roll has done in its evolution.
From Elvis and Buddy Holly to U2 and Foo Fighters, rock and roll has changed. In any major North American market you’re bound to find a New Rock station, a Classic Rock station, Alt-Rock, Soft Rock, etc, etc, etc. And in record stores or online we see Pop Rock, Punk Rock, Prog Rock, Southern Rock, Metal, etc, etc, etc. But in country music we have country music.
Let’s call back for a minute to the “It’s not country” thing. Rock and roll fans love to hate Nickelback en masse, but they don’t try to claim that they aren’t a rock band, or that they don’t make rock music. See?
There is nothing wrong with writing, singing, buying, or loving new country music that is popular on radio and the Billboard charts. And there is nothing wrong with loving roots artists that are holding onto influence from Hall of Famers like Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton.
As media, fans, industry, and artists we need to stop creating bullshit rules and boundaries about what is Real Country Music and saying it’s wrong if a song doesn’t fit your personal description of country music.
We have one country music that all of us need to either embrace regardless of our tastes, or use as an excuse to keep on hating.
None of us have the right to say that a musical genre can’t evolve. That an artist can’t express themselves and explore something new. Or that an audience whose grandparents love Marty Robbins, can’t love Maddie & Tae.
The country music community has always preached a message of inclusivity, and that all are welcome if they love the music.
Well now it’s time to practice what we preach and understand that country music you don’t like, is still country music.
Welcome to 2015. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.