Last night was the Academy of Country Music awards. Anyone who follows me on Twitter not only knows this, but also knows how I felt about parts of the show.
As always, the show left me sitting back, pondering the direction of country music, the genre of music I’ve loved for years and that, well, pays my bills. I spent time on Twitter following some discussions, and I realized some glaringly obvious things.
Today, country almost needs to be broken into more than one genre. Perhaps its always really needed that, but it feels stronger than ever now.
I say that because much of the modern country is being called “Bro Country” and its gone in a pop, rock and rap direction. It’s catchy and gets stuck in your head. The lyrics are far from deep and tend to go in a very similar direction of trucks, hot girls, parties in the country, bonfires, and just riding around. It creates an idealistic view of “country living.”
Fighting to stand beside the “Bro country” is what I’d call the people holding on to the more traditional approach… with its own modern twist. Songs that strike a chord and/or tell a story. Songs that make me want to find a dancehall and dance the night away with my honey. Songs that respect women, history, family and true love.
I’d also say there’s a solid section that fits right in between the two. And I think its that fact right there that makes the idea of breaking the genre up in any way would never work. And honestly, I don’t WANT to see the genre broken up. I’m not opposed to there being the existence of “Bro Country.” (Yeah, I just said that. But I’m not.) I’m opposed to the fact that its shoved down country fan’s throats. I’m opposed to the fact that I never hear the new stuff I would like, because I get so fed up with country radio that I keep my radio set firmly on Sirius’ Prime Country.
While watching the awards while on Twitter, I’m left going, “Who is requesting this stuff??” as the Bro Country thing came on multiple times. The outrage I saw over Florida Georgia Line performing twice, while Lee Brice’s passionate acoustic performance of his award-winning “I Drive Your Truck” was regaled to a verse and a chorus.
I’ve known all along that what we hear on radio is (not quite) equal parts what the labels back, what fans request and what fans purchase. The first and the last are all about the money. It’s something that many who make music in Nashville lament and fuss about, but its money that decides what we hear. And within that, its why many aim at the teenage demographic. Teens will purchase singles off iTunes faster than those of us that are older. Parents will buy their teens music while foregoing their preferred music. Those of us that are older are more worried about paying the electric bill than we are buying a new album. We’re more willing to buy a hot cup of coffee from Starbucks to get us going in the morning than we are to buy a new single for $1.29.
Is it a messed up mentality? Yeah. It is. But I do it myself… and I’m married to a musician!
How do we make sure artists that are carrying to torch for country music stay successful? We buy their music. I think we’re all still, in a way, ingrained to buy a whole CD versus single tracks. “Oh I’ll get it when the album comes out.” Then we go get a vanilla latte instead of the album. Maybe next month.
Meanwhile, the “Bro Country” that’s popular with teens and young adults is being played over and over and over because sales have shown its what “the majority” wish to hear. And you know what? Maybe it is the majority that wants it. Maybe I’m stuck in my own little world and I’m clueless. Maybe we DO need to consider splitting up the genre some. But maybe we can instead make our statement 99¢ or $1.29 at a time. And in doing so, we hear more of what we want to hear, and we support the creation of even more songs to love in the future.