While I only listen to pop, rock, and hip-hop on an infrequent basis, I do have the credibility of someone who's entered country from the outside. That is, I didn't grow up on it. So when I hear about a "civil war" in Nashville and tensions between "traditional and modern-country fans", as an Entertainment Weekly article puts it, I'm somewhat baffled. The apparent resistance to change seems illogical. Country is bigger now than ever – why the complaining from some artists and diehard fans?
Yes, there will be divisions. And yes, it is not impossible that there will eventually be a complete break between "traditional" and "modern" country. But while our sound continues to change, our lyrics don't. Not really. You see, I believe lyrics are what makes country, country. And not in the way you might think. It's true that our themes and content are repetitive. However, the real clincher is the way songs are built.
Other genres tell stories. Other genres convey emotion. But we're somehow different. Country lyrics put you into the subject's shoes in a genuine, sensory way.
"Got a moon and a billion stars/The sound of steel and old box cars/The thought of you is driving me insane/C'mon, baby let's go listen to the night train." (Night Train, Jason Aldean)
"If you still love me/Don't just assume I know." (Remind Me, Brad Paisley)
"He's the reason for the teardrops on my guitar/The only one who's got enough of me to break my heart." (Teardrops On My Guitar, Taylor Swift)
Country music presents sophisticated emotions in ways anyone can understand. We use imagery – ALL the time. We sing the things we can't say in a meaningful way. We put the complexities of life in a nutshell the average Joe can crack.
No, I can't prove it. But while our lyrics and musical style will continue to evolve, the underlying structure of real emotion through descriptive story will always be there.