Country Music Needs to Stop Hating on Country Music

Country music needs to stop hating on country music!

Sam Hunt with guitar Wheels Up Tour Toronto June 2015If 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Our reality in country music in 2015 is that we’re still saddled with an outdated and overly simplified categorization of the genre. And an even more outdated view of what that means.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 Boots and Hearts 2015Brad 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?

Luke Bryan Boots and Hearts 2014 Saturday NightThe entire genre, from Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Jr. to Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan sits under one category. One listing. One banner to hold all of the music we like and don’t like.

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.

creator of content, manager of community, writer, tweeter, coffee drinker. sports, comics, movies, food, music & pop culture geek. Proud MoBro.

15 comments on Country Music Needs to Stop Hating on Country Music

  1. Bj Rodgers says:

    This is a very contradictory article…it contradicts itself….the Nickelback comment makes zero sense…point is, Country should embrace sub genres…

    1. Joshua says:

      Thanks for the feedback Bj. What we’re trying to get at is this – Country music has evolved, and whether you like the “new country” or don’t (either is fine!) we all need to embrace the fact that it’s country music just as much as the traditional country sound is.

      As for the Nickelback comment, we see it like this… Many country music fans love to hate Florida Georgia Line, and they love to say “this isn’t country music”, while rock fans just say they hate Nickelback. They don’t try and say that the music isn’t rock and roll. Fans of a genre can dislike music within the genre without trying to dismiss it. That’s where that point comes from, and that’s where we want country music fans to be too.

  2. Steve Graham says:

    The problem is not diversity of the music. The problem is that over the past several years the subject line of each song was the same, tailgating, tight fitting jeans, beer etc and each song sounds the same. Nashville writers are tired of writing about the same thing and if they don’t they won’t get any cuts which means no income. Artists like Luke Bryan Florida Georgia Line don’t like the label ‘Bro Country’ but their careers thrive on it. Now the listeners and country fans want something with more substance yet music row and radio want to keep adding ‘Bro Country’ songs because they are out of touch and feel that is the way to reach the younger demo. Zac Brown Band have a wide scope of material. Chris Stapleton is a fresh sound even though Chris has worked on his career for over 15 years but was shut out by the industry and radio. If it wasn’t for his song writing success he would be working in the coal mines in KY. Jamey Johnson is another great artist not heard on radio. Brandy Clark has won awards but you don’t hear her on radio. Kacey Musgraves is getting limited play. These are just a few examples of artists that have substance in their music but have been shut out for the most part. In the rock industry you don’t hear every song saying the same thing and sounding the same so why should a country listener have to hear the same thing over and over again. Sure you are going to have the core country audience say it isn’t country the way they know it, being Loretta etc. Radio feels that the way to reach the younger demo is by playing all ‘Bro Country’ all the time. If they reach the younger demo then they will sell more ad dollars. Problem with this is the younger audience are fickle and push buttons quickly so hours tuned are not there. In Canada we have more different songs then what is coming out of Nashville like Gord Bamford, Dean Brody, Paul Brandt etc but radio still plays a lot more Luke Bryan, FGL etc because consultants tell them to. Any radio format should have an equal balance in the music they play so they reach a larger audience. Playing all Bro Country is not an equal balance and listeners are now starting to tune out. Country has always been about a strong lyric that people can associate with. Your point I believe is don’t talk bad about music in the format. But it is OK for Luke Bryan to talk about the outlaw days and saying he can’t sing about what they sang about because he never woke up in a street gutter. I knew Waylon and while he did have a drug problem early on in his career he never woke up in a gutter. In fact he paved the way for artists like Luke. You think his music was excepted at first? No sir. Wow talk about hate talk. The funny thing was that Luke had run into Waylon’s family backstage at the Opry and told them how Waylon had influenced him and a week later he came out and said what he did. People are going to listen to what they want whether radio plays it or not. I guess you have never heard a rock fan say “that is crap” referring to a song in that genre. People are going to speak their mind especially when it comes to their favorite music whether it be rock, country or whatever.

    1. Joshua says:

      Great points Steve, thank you. And you’re right, people are going to speak their mind, especially when it comes to their favourite music. And I’m all for that, people should call in and request Chris Stapleton, Brandy Clark, Jamey Johnson, Kacey Musgraves, Lindi Ortega, Whitney Rose, etc. if they want more balance! Radio may never play the songs some of us want to hear more often (you’re right, ad dollars dictate spins) but what I really want is for country music fans to accept that the music they don’t like is still country music.

  3. Steve Graham says:

    Requesting songs on radio today goes on deaf ears. Yes you are going to have the die hard country fans that will hate “new country” and will speak their mind because they are frustrated that radio is not giving a balance of (new) traditional, new country and even female artists. Heck when a major radio consultant comes out and says there is no room for female artists on country radio that get’s people speaking out. Having worked at rock radio and in the country music industry I have heard rock fans say “That’s not rock & roll”. It doesn’t mean they are hating on rock music and I don’t think a majority of people are hating on country. The bottom line is that there is a disconnect between what people want to hear and what the industry wants them to hear. The industry wants to attract a younger demo but that younger demo are already leaving as they are a fickle audience. Bro Country is over for the listener but not for the industry. I thing people just want strong lyrics and a sound they can associate with rather then hear the same lyric over and over again only sang by a different artist. How many times can you sing about tailgating, tight fitting jeans drinking beer and trucks and make it sound fresh. Zac Brown has had a lot of success and he will be the first to tell you a country song sucks. He did in an interview in Vancouver talking about Luke Bryan. Zac is very passionate about music and so are fans. Just my point of view.

  4. Terra Lindsay says:

    Radio stations play what their listeners ask them to play, plain and simple. The goal of all radio stations, regardless of genre, is more listeners. It’s what their ratings, and by extension their ad rates, are based on. Radio does not ignore their listeners. You’ve got the equation backwards, Steve. Spins are not dictated by ad rates. Ad rates are dictated by spins. Too much of the wrong thing, ratings go down and so do ad rates. Radio stations do everything they can to find out what their listeners want so they can keep them. That’s what the music challenges are for and the music testing they all do. Traditional sounding artists don’t win challenges and don’t test well. Or they don’t, at least, until a performance like the Stapleton thing happens and suddenly ‘traditional’ sounding Country is all everyone outside of Country is talking about. Suddenly radio’s credibility is called into question for never introducing Stapleton to its listeners when the reality of it is that Stapleton has been on the challenges, and has been featured on Country radio and the listeners overwhelmingly vote for the FGLs and the Lukes and the Sam Hunts. As someone who currently works in Country Radio it is beyond frustrating. Our music team loves Country music but we all have different influences at the table. At the end of the day, though, we know it’s not about us. It’s not about the labels pushing us for adds. It’s not even about the artists. It’s about the listeners. We play what they want or we die. The point of the article is to say that there is room for all kinds of influences in Country. It’s one of the most awesome things about Country, it’s versatility. We can play Brantley Gilbert up against Carrie Underwood up against Tim McGraw up against Sam Hunt and it’s all still Country. The industry should stop sh*tting on itself, stop eating its young, and accept that Country’s evolution and diversity is what makes it the greatest genre in music.

    1. Joshua says:

      Terra, you’re a queen. Thank you for taking the time to comment with such passion and insight.

    2. Steve Graham says:

      So Terra you are saying if a listener calls in a requests a song on your station you play it? That’s cool. I will tell my friends in Vancouver to request songs. Most stations will not play a song until it reaches a certain number on the BDS Mediabase charts and then only if their consultants agree it is OK because it tested well with their group of people that they test new material. Yes we have diversity in country music which is a good thing but you can’t just go in one direction like Bro country and forget about any song that has substance in their lyrics. One thing that makes country music stand out is a lyric that the average person can associate with. When I hear the top song writers here in Nashville complain about having to write another song about tailgating, tight fitting jeans etc and artists shying away from the labels it makes you wonder who is driving the bro country sound. It’s the labels and radio that drove that sound and same lyric song after song. That’s what people get tired of. The other beef is the fact that radio is ignoring female artists that are talented and have something to say in a song. The typical response is that females don’t test well. I bet when you look at your list there is less than 30% female acts being played. I think the industry is coming around a bit and hopefully it will give a much better sound to radio with a variety of different artists.

  5. Lisa says:

    Yeah, I get it, country music evolves, but it stopped evolving and took a sharp left turn and transformed. Yes, transformed.

    To evolve is to develop gradually.

    To transform is to make a thorough or dramatic change in form, appearance, or character. Which is what FGL, Sam Hunt, and etc., have done with their music.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with country music if it started to have subgenres and radio stations became that subgenre and the awards shows starting aligning themselves to the new genres.

    I don’t like when you have artists, (who are trying their best to evolve with how music came around to into the 2000’s), and these artists are getting leaped frog over and getting all of the number ones. Oh look Sam Hunt now has 3 #1s in a row, FGL now has 4 number #1s in a row, but what about Randy Houser who only made it to #2 with Like a Cowboy, and this song was a written and sung a whole lot better than what Sam Hunt and FGL were singing about. Even Carrie Underwood’s Something in the Water only made it to #2. She was stomped on, leaped frog over by a bro country person who got the #1.

    The radio station I listen to seems to play only the top 10 and a select few from the top 20, unless it’s Luke Bryan, FGL, or Sam Hunt, then whatever number they are sitting at on the charts they play their current song.

    Songs like Blue Bandana, That Don’t Sound Like You, Riser, Better in Boots, We Went are not being played on my radio station. (I was coming home from a ladies night out and I heard We Went, but it was 11 o’clock at night when I heard it. Heavens forbid you play it during working hours that you piss the listener off).

    So as long as I’m still hearing r&b, hip hop, pop on a country station, not subgenre specific, I’m gonna complain, because I can and it’s my rationale. Why Nashville can’t get it through their thick skulls on subgenre country music is beyond me. It’s time Nashville and the radio stations start listening to those who are complaining about country music and get with what and how we would like it.

    1. Joshua says:

      Hi Lisa, thanks for taking the time to read the post and leave your comment.

      Here’s our suggestion for you that should help with your enjoyment of country music… stop listening to the radio station you’re listening to. Then, instead of complaining (and judging the art and choices of country fans who do like what they play) you can pay to subscribe to a service like Apple Music or Spotify and listen to playlists and albums from artists you do like and want to support.

      Country music is what it is right now. You don’t have to like every new artist or song, as I said in the post, but what we’re asking for is the respect of everyone in the country music community for an artists right to make the music they want to make, and for a fan’s right to like the songs they like without being told that they’re wrong or that it isn’t country music.

      “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.”

      Or, like we learned from Thumper in Disney’s Bambi all those years ago… If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.

      1. richard says:

        I love all country just think luke bryan,florida giorgia line and other newer country sound like real country like George jones. keith whitley,merl haggard,hank wiiliams ,patsy cline I can name a lot more nothing against newer country I just think the real country is the older country

        1. Joshua says:

          Hey Richard, thanks for reading and commenting!

          We are all for you loving Jones and Whitley and Merle and Hank and Patsy – but the problem we have is your term “real country”.

          What we want to get away from is that. None of us have the right to say what is “real country” or “fake country” – what we all have the right to say is, “this is country music I like, and this is country music I don’t like.”

          Keep listening and supporting artists Richard, there are some awesome country acts out there repping the old country sound. Check out our pal Whitney Rose!

  6. Carol Sinkler says:

    Only one thing to say the so-called country music of today is crap the lyrics have no meaning and most of the people who think they know how to sing CAN”T All the songs sound alike and don’t even make sense when you hear the lyrics. Too bad country radio can’t realize this!!! If the songs didn’t get played they would disappear altogether!!

    1. Joshua says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Carol. We appreciate your opinion as all music is subjective. As we said, we aren’t asking for anyone to like everything, that would be naive, we’re just asking for respect for artists to make the music they want to make, and fans to like the music they like.

      We hope you have an awesome list of country artists that you love to listen to. Actually, we’d love it if you shared them with us, maybe we’ll love them too!

  7. Aaron Fowler says:

    I’m sorry, today’s country music (mainstream, anyway) doesn’t speak to me. I’ve stopped listening to the radio because I don’t like what’s being presented to me. I love neotraditional sounds (Mo Pitney, William Michael Morgan, and Jon Wolfe) but the radio refuses to play them (at least in my area).

    I miss out on events that happen in my area because I don’t listen to local stations.

    If the radio stations played a mix, like they used to in the 90’s for example (Shania Twain being played with Alan Jackson), I might consider going back to it, but as it stands, I don’t like the pop sounds.

    I turned to country music in the 90’s as a teenager because I didn’t like pop music. Now there’s not much of a difference. :/

    I want to support current popular artists, but I just can’t identify with partying and trying to hook up in the back of a truck.

Comments are closed.

Country Music Needs to Stop Hating on Country Music

Country music needs to stop hating on country music!

Sam Hunt with guitar Wheels Up Tour Toronto June 2015If 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 Boots and Hearts 2015Brad 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?

Luke Bryan Boots and Hearts 2014 Saturday NightThe entire genre, from Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Jr. to Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan sits under one category. One listing. One banner to hold all of the music we like and don’t like.

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.

Scroll to top