You've probably seen it floating around social media: Why Country Music Was Awful in 2013. The music video montage, edited by Entertainment Weekly writer Grady Smith, belittles many of the genre's top songs by reducing the content to a series of common elements:
- A bunch of dudes sang about trucks
- They drove down old dirt roads
- And they begged girls to get in their trucks, too
- They only wanted girls wearing tight jeans
- And they drove the girls to the nearest creek bank
- The sunset/moonlight made it all so romantic
- And there was always alcohol (a.k.a. "good stuff") to loosen things up
- But if every bro tactic failed...they would just call their girl, "girl"
Personally, I think the video is hilarious. Haha, we all had a good laugh. But was country music really awful in 2013? It was better than ever.
About six years ago, country still had an outrageously-negative reputation among my junior high peers. "My wife left me/She took my truck/And she took my dog!" the class clowns would mimic (while attempting a southern drawl). I hadn't even started listening to country at that point, but concluded the heartbroken version must have been somewhat true.
Now, the criticism has gone a different direction. Media articles lament the lack of diversity among artists and in songs, while some traditionalists say we've crossed over too far into pop and hip-hop. Huffington Post writer Stuart Henderson calls country a "notoriously conservative genre," adding, "you'll still find less variation in instrumentation, aesthetic, and even vocal performance on a country radio station than anywhere else on the dial."
Contemporary music is an escape from the dullness of real life. Therefore, party songs about shared experiences are going to be most popular. Entertainment is not always about solving the world's problems.
That said, it's unfair to say there were not deep country songs in 2013. I Drive Your Truck was a top 10 hit for Lee Brice on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. The current number one, Luke Bryan's Drink a Beer, also comes to mind. I love those songs. Still, a quality tune doesn't have to be about death or loss to be meaningful.
As lyrics and melody patterns evolve (or stay the same), country music continues to draw new listeners, and with them, new critics. There's no making everyone happy, but I think the genre has improved dramatically over the last five years. Let the haters keep on hating – my radio is cranked too loud for me to hear them anyway.