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We all know Bieber is the lowest form of auditory torture. Treating Bieber, Selena Gomez, Pink, Pitbull and so on as music is like saying butt chugging is the best use of alcohol. To treat modern country music in the same breath is a terrible, serious accusation. As disgusting as much of it is, good music, and good country music in particular, isn’t going anywhere. It all comes down to the right artists and the right situation.
This column, while containing some valid points, didn’t tell the whole story.
Why is pop music popular? Become it appeals to the lowest common denominator of people. That in turn allows it to appeal to the broadest number of people. Huge acts like Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban and Hunter Hays are terrible because they’re supposed to be. All of them have a major cross-over appeal. It’s upsetting now that the local country radio station will follow up Randy Travis with Rascal Flatts. Then again, what would you expect from a terrestrial radio station looking for as many listeners as possible? Have you listened to the “Country Pop” station on Pandora? It’s dogshit. One of the best country/party/end of the night songs is Friends in Low Places. Not surprisingly, the corresponding Pandora radio station is awesome. It’s free from the aforementioned “single woman masturbatory aides.”
Even Garth Brooks is relatively pop friendly. Pandora alone is a pretty much unlimited outlet for good, sometimes lesser-known music. Try Confederate Railroad, Whiskey Myers or Turnpike Troubadours, not to mention Johnny Cash, George Jones, Hank Williams (and decedents), Marshall Tucker, George Strait, Alan Jackson or the hundreds of other great artists. The Texas Country/Red Dirt scene is also a relatively unknown — on a national scale — source of great country music.
Major current mainstream artists like Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Kenny Chesney, upon closer examination, still go past the grisly pop purgatory they’ve been relegated to. All of these artists have less pop-friendly songs on their albums that have a real country feel. Round Here, Amarillo Sky, Tailgate Blues and Back Where I Come From, respectively, are well-known songs that don’t fit the same vibe that could put them in Bieber Hell. Look at the lyrics, and those songs are all in a traditional country mold.
That doesn’t mean lyrics are the only factor in the credibility or merit of a song. Wagon Wheel is the perfect example of this. How did that go from the de facto Greek national anthem to one of the biggest pop songs of the year? Presentation. Get rid of the string section, add a poppy feel and some back-up vocals from Lady Antebellum, and you take a pure blue grass song (indirectly co-written by Bob Dylan) into straight pop.
Ultimately, it comes down to time and place. As great as it is to sit back with a few beers and a Bocephus record, there is a time and a place for lighter, more party-oriented music. Yes, somebody should smash the speakers if Rascal Flatts comes on during a tailgate. That doesn’t mean it makes much sense during a party to explain to a girl the lyrical genius of Ronnie Van Zant.
There is a disturbing trend of awful pop country garbage now. There always will be. It’s up to the listener to find good music and the right situation. Along with all the easy ways now to find it, there is an underrated amount of good music just below the mainstream.
Country music is as strong as ever. There’s just a lot of shit trying to cover it up.