Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Bro-Country And Same-Old Songs

Okay, this one almost made me laugh out loud...literally. And while it's a funny sketch, artist/writer David Horsey actually makes some insightful arguments about the state of my favourite genre.

In Are bro-mantic songs taking over country music?, Horsey takes a shot at the number of male artists performing "interchangeable songs" about girls, alcohol, and pickup trucks. He adds, "Most of the lyrics could have been written by the same guy on the same night at the same wild party." Ouch. Is Horsey right?

He goes on to explain that many country songs are predictable – essentially lists of these common elements. Horsey also writes that the formula is based on "the allure of reckless freedom" and has been successfully applied to other genres over the decades.

Here's my take: Horsey makes some strong points, but isn't completely right, either. I can tell you from personal experience that writing a party country song is far more complicated than throwing redneck buzzwords into a pot and hoping the soup turns out okay. The author isn't giving songwriters the credit they deserve.

On the other hand, if you listen to country at all, you know that many of the songs are nearly identical in the theme department. And yes, occasionally the lyrics can be shallower than a backyard kiddie pool. Everything depends on what the listener wants to hear. People don't want every song to have deep literary meaning – they just want to feel a little better about driving to work in the morning, or about letting loose on a Friday night. Stick with what sells.

It is accurate, as Horsey points out, that there are comparatively very few female artists being played on mainstream country radio. I've heard it suggested the reason is that females want to hear male singers (and vice-versa), and that most country listeners happen to be female. But Horsey suggests guys are in fact switching over to country for these "bro-mantic songs."

Ultimately, money talks. If the fans are buying music from male artists and not from female artists, we can't shake our fists at the industry and cry foul. At the consumer level, we're making the decision. That said, there is an unreal amount of female talent in country music today, and it is a shame we sometimes fail to recognize it. On the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart today, there is a total of one solo female artist (Miranda Lambert) and two duos/groups that include female singers. That seems skewed.

Despite these thought-provoking critiques, country is as hot as ever right now – and it's hard to argue with that.

Photo courtesy of latimes.com.

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