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#Blogtops Challenge: Confessions of a Country Music Convert

Do you guys remember those survey forwards that we used to get in middle school and send around to each other? You know? The one’s you’d get on your AOL account that went something like..

Name:

Grade:

Favorite Food:

Favorite Backstreet Boy:

Favorite type of music:

If you were anything like me your answer to the last question probably read something like: ANYTHING BUT COUNTRYYYYY! BLECH PUKE! With exception being that your answer was probably written in Comic Sans. 

I don’t know what it is, but for some reason a grew up with an all-out HATRED toward country music. Even just the first few notes of a banjo or harmonica was enough to send me running for the hills and reaching for the radio knob.

WELL NO LONGER!

For this week’s #blogtop theme: TUNES, I’m coming out…

I now like country music!

tunes

For most of my young-professional life I’ve lived and worked in Minneapolis/St. Paul, where the local top 40 station was all I listened to. Same station from when I was 12 until I was 26.

Going on longer trips out-state for my job, though, I found that my trusty go-to station would start to fade to static once I reached a certain point outside the cities. In turn, I was forced to abandon my comfortable pop hits and find something else, lest I drive hours in silence.

My love for country music came about from these long hours of driving. What I found oftentimes was that the only thing that I could get to come in clearly from small town to small town (besides evangelist stations) was country. I think that the genre itself sort of embodies that same feeling. It’s always there, keeping you company. Telling you a story. Not judging you. And, when you’ve got 2 (or 3, or 4, or more) hours on your journey, sometimes it’s nice to have a friendly voice to ride with. Even now, as I mentioned briefly in my Commute post, the thing that I now gravitate towards on my morning commute is country music, just because it’s there, unlike my Top 40 station, which typically is all talking before 11:00 a.m.

There’s something to be said for reliability and consistency!

Now, that’s not to say I like all country songs. I recently came across the 6 Cookie Cutter Pop Country Song Formulas. While it’s fairly clear that the person who wrote this is not the biggest country fan, and I realize that this is not an exhaustive illustration of all country songs out there,  for the layman country listener like myself, I think the categories provide a basis to distinguish between what I like and what I don’t like.

Type 1: Country Checklist/Laundry List Song

Key indicator: “these songs spew out a string of easily-identifiable countryisms and artifacts in an (idioitc) attempt to prove how “country” the singer and song are”

Example: 

Demonstrative lyrics: For the boys ’round here
Drinking that ice cold beer
Talkin’ ’bout girls, talkin’ ’bout trucks
Runnin’ them red dirt roads out, kicking up dust
The boys ’round here
Sending up a prayer to the man upstairs
Backwoods legit, don’t take no shit
Chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit

My Comments: These songs, to me, are like Country lite. I’m  under no illusion that the things that people rattle off in these songs are a complete indicator of Country life. However, for the pseudo-urbanite in me they are, for the most part, pretty accessible. The trouble comes in when the list items get too specific and/or aren’t held together with a catchy hook. Too specific becomes inaccessible and risks sounding shallow.

Verdict: Like! with stipulations.

Type 2: The Flag Waving Anthem

Key indicator: Intense patriotism

Example: 

Demonstrative lyrics: “I’m an American soldier, an American,
Beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take a stand,
When liberty’s in jeopardy I will always do what’s right,
I’m out here on the front lines. Sleep in peace tonight.
American soldier, I’m an American soldier…”

My comments: I find songs like this intensely polarizing and therefore not as easy to listen to as other country songs. Why do we need to glorify war and conflict as the backbone of our country? I get that we want to honor those who’ve served our country. They made conscious choices to serve this country in real and tangible ways. But, are overly-simplified,  retellings of their stories really the way to honor their service?

Not my cup of tea. At. All.

Verdict: Dislike

Type 3: The Nostalgia Ballad

Key indicator: “Remember back when? Those were the good old days. Your first car, your first kiss. She was young. You were dumb. Y’all got handsey in the back seat. Let’s go back and relive it all and remind us how our lives suck now.”

Example: 

Demonstrative lyrics[Carrie:]
Do you remember how it used to be
We’d turn out the lights and we didn’t just sleep
[Brad:] Remind me, baby, remind me
[Carrie:]
Oh, so on fire so in love
That look in your eyes that I miss so much
[Brad:] Remind me, baby, remind me

My Comments: These songs, for the most part, are full of FEELINGS. And PASSION. And REGRET. To me, this is country’s answer to emo music. Confession: I love emo music.

Verdict: Like!

Type 4: Tears from Heaven

Key indicator: “And as you begin to sob and the rain begins to pour down, the pop country crooner illuminates how that’s not rain. No. It’s the tears of your loved one falling down from heaven.”

Example: 

Demonstrative lyrics: I just left Bobby’s house:
The service was today.
Got me thinkin’ about how fragile life is,
As I drove away.
You know Amy was his only love,
In a moment she was gone, long gone:
It could have been me or you.
Oh, baby, there’s no time to lose.

My Comments: Ok. I know I said loved emo music, but this sort of song goes too far. I think this is the sort of song that people who hate country typically think about. Songs full of maudlin and all too much twang.

Verdict: Dislike.

Type 5: The Booty Anthem

Key indicator: “…overt homage to (idiotically-simplistic) droning dance music, and is the soundtrack to the formation of the mono-genre. Sure, maybe there’s an overdubbed banjo in there, somewhere, way in the back, but they’ll edit that out when they use it in the Axe body spray commercial.”

Example: 

Demonstrative lyrics: Shake it for the birds, shake it for the bees
Shake it for the catfish swimming down deep in the creek
For the crickets and the critters and the squirrels
Shake it to the moon, shake it for me girl, aww
Country girl, shake it for me girl,
Shake it for me girl, shake it for me
Country girl, shake it for me girl,
Shake it for me girl, shake it for me

My Comments: The article that I’m citing mentions that this is the song that loses most of its ties to country music. In my opinion, then, this becomes more of a dance song with dance/pop song rules. Can I dance to it? Is it easy to sing? Is it not too misogynistic? Does it go well with Vodka Diet Cokes? If yes, then it’s good.

Verdict: Depends.

Type 6: Lake Party / Weekend Warrior / Summer Song

Key indicator: “A mix of The Nostalgia Ballad and The Laundry List formulas, this is the weekend warrior’s magnum opus…The beach, and vacations in Mexico and South America are big players in this formula too.”

Example: 

Demonstrative lyrics: At the parking lot party
Tailgate buzz just a-sippin’ on suds
Ain’t never too early
To light one up, fill up your cup
‘Cause there ain’t no party like the pre-party
And after the party at the after-party
At the parking lot party

My Comments: I think this another one of those instances where the song can get to be too much. At the same time, the vapidness of the subject matters often leave a really empty feeling inside of me. Kind of like eating a bunch of salt and vinegar potato chips–ok, not your favorite, and not tons of nutritional value. Still, sometimes these songs can be SO over the top (and they know it) which works in their favor. Gotta like a song that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Verdict: Depends.

There you have it! So, maybe I’ m not the biggest country music convert you will ever meet, but at least I’m giving it a chance! Have you ever learned to love something you once hated? Let me know in the comments!

“BlogTops” are weekly blog posts that myself, my good friend Dave, and hopefully you will join us in discussing topics that we feel the majority of millennials are dealing with or have dealt with in their lives. To keep it creative we pick one specific word for the weekly topic and then we are letting our imagination and creative writing take our blogs in whatever direction we so choose. It could be anything from generalizing the topic, to specific memories, to something serious, or funny. It’s anything goes! If you want to join along tag your posts with BlogTop on Twitter, WordPress, Tumblr, etc. and we will be sure to promote your blogs on social media!

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