June 15, 2012

A Country-Hater Defends Country Music

Dear Country Music,

I don't like you.

In fact, there was a time in my life when I could honestly say, "I like all music except country."

Life was simple. None of the awkwardness of my hipster friends asking me what I thought of some obscure band and then needing to actually go and listen to some of their songs before I could make a judgment call. If it was a country song, I could guarantee that I wouldn't like it. The stereotypical whining drawl, the severely outdated twang of the hillbilly's banjo, the adoration of trucks and beer--none of it appealed to me. In fact, I was offended that this stuff was taking up the airwaves.

Things have grown complicated now that I have been condemned to carpooling with my sister for the length of the summer. It's her car. She runs the radio. We listen to country.

To maintain my sanity, Ive tried to open my mind to the great variety of music available in the country genre. If I were to be honest with myself and the rest of the world, I would have to admit that there are now a few country songs that I enjoy and even more that I can tolerate quite easily.

Wanting to give all art forms an equal chance (and to convince myself that I will make it through these next few months of car pooling), I have therefore made an effort to objectively analyze the good points of the country music industry.

Here is my country-hater's defense of country music:

1. It tells a story.

I dare you to find a country song whose lyrics don't form some type of narrative. A lot of the stories are sad (hence the "I lost my dog, my truck, and my woman" stereotype), but just as many are joyous and/or party-related (hence the "Let's drink Bud Lite on my tailgate while we baja through some farmer's cornfield" stereotype.

More importantly, the fact that the lyrics of these songs are trying to weave some type of yarn for listeners makes them automatically meaningful. Just for this reason country is instantly greater than the arbitrary "tick tock on the clock but the party don't stop no" mumbo jumbo chasing you every time you change the dial.

2. It is uniquely American.

There isn't an aspect of pop culture that captures the pure apple-pie-and-ice-cream American reality better than country music does. While as many people will sing along to "Call Me Maybe" in South Korea as in North Dakota, country will forever be the product of Nashville, Tennessee and will forever sing about topics close to the heart of it's motherland. Good home cooking, faithful friends, the freedom to turn our music up as loud as we want, and the sex appeal of a guy or girl in uniform are themes that will never cease to blare out of the nation's country stations.

I doubt there's a United States citizen who doesn't know a few bars of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA." We are all proud to be Americans, and country songs don't merely come out and say just that. They take time to sing the praises of the little things that make living in America so great.

3. It expresses emotion in a way that no other musical style can.

Somewhere between the impressive vocal ranges of the singers, the explicit declarations of love and loss in the lyrics, and the tense crescendos followed by glorious musical climaxes, even the most hard-hearted country-hater inevitably finds herself feeling something. Now that is art.

If you're a lady who can resist the charm of a country love song, you're a stronger woman than me.

4. It brings people together. 

Maybe it's the patriotism. Maybe it's the nostalgia. Maybe it's the sense of good, clean, reckless fun that makes you want to take to the freeway with your top down. Like it or not, liking country music is contagious. The way it can make a crowd of people clap their hands, stomp their feet, or just sway side to side creates an environment that no one would want to miss out on.

If someone you love and/or respect and spend a lot of time with is into country, I guarantee that it is only a matter of time before you start to find that you are as well. *Ahem* Rachel.

While I still can't quite say that country music has made a believer out of me, to quote Gloriana, I'm "on the edge and ready to fall."

A (former?) country-hater  

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