Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Country Music & women

Country Music
On the wrong track?

There has been a lot of criticism of country music recently. Prominent artists, as Kenny Chesney, who has scored seven no. 1 billboard albums and dozens of hits, criticized in an interview with Billboard recently country music would 'objectify the hell' out of women. Also, many complain that songs have become more and more simple, sexist, stereotypical and appealing only to a masculine, conservative audience. Moreover, women are said to have a very bad stand in country music. Last but not least, The Guardian even went as far as claiming country music would suffer from a low self esteem, trying to catch viewers by letting pop artists as Ariana Grande perform at the CMA awards.

Country music does have a problem with sexism. There is a new style of country music, called 'bro country'. Bro country songs are mainly about parties, drugs and girls in cutoff jeans. Girls are riding shotgun and doing what the men tell them to do. Examples?

Girl you know you're the life of my party
You can stay and keep sippin' Bacardi
Stir it up as we turn on some Marley
If you want you can get on Harley
I sit you up on a kitchen sink
Stick the pink umbrella in your drink

Sun Daze, Florida Georgia Line

Yeah, when I first saw that bikini top on her
She’s poppin’ right out of the South Georgia water
Thought, "Oh, good lord, she had them long tanned legs!"
Couldn’t help myself so I walked up and said
Baby you a song
You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise
Down a back road blowin’ stop signs through the middle
Every little farm town with you
In this brand new Chevy with a lift kit
Would look a hell of a lot better with you up in it

Cruise, Florida Georgia Line

I took Florida Georgia Line as an example, because they are said to be the frontrunners of the bro country movement. But also other popular artists as Luke Bryan jumped on the bandwagon, as with the popular 'That's My Kind Of Night'.
Additionally, female singer RaeLynn has evoked a debate with her debut song 'God made Girls'. What do country girls think about gender-equality and emancipation? The lyrics are stunning. They do enforce traditional expectations on a woman. Is this the way country girls are raised?

Somebody's gotta wear a pretty skirt,
Somebody's gotta be the one to flirt,
Somebody's gotta wanna hold his hand so God Made Girls

Somebody's gotta be the one to cry
Somebody's gotta let him drive
Give him a reason to hold that door so God made girls

God Made Girls, RaeLynn

Mainstream country has nowadays a strong focus on trucks, Friday & Saturday nights, small towns and alcohol. Alcohol has become a prevalent topic of country songs, as in 'Sunshine & Whiskey', 'Bottoms Up', 'Drunk Americans' or 'Drinking class'. And yes, indeed, mainstream country music has become very simple. It talks mainly about those very stereotypical topics. This has made country predictive but boring. Mainstream country hits may be something for good ole boys on a Friday night, but nothing meaningful any more.

Is country heading in the wrong direction? Is the time finally over, where country was kind of special, connected to cowboys, melancholy and our longing for the freedom of the American badlands?

The first thing to say is that country music has probably not grown that much more sexist or man focused within the last years or decades. It has always been a Southern phenomenon and its audience has been mostly white and conservative. Those people are an audience that cares about traditional values, as the family, and who have a clear idea of the roles of men and women. But our society does now support feminism and gender-equality. And country music has missed this trend in a way.

Country does have a problem with sexism and does not appreciate its female artists. It needs a paradigm shift.

Country music needs a greater diversity of topics, a greater range of artists and especially more female artists. There need to be a change in the landscape of country. Less bro-country, more genuine country music.

There are many good female country artists out there who remain unappreciated. For example, Cassadee Pope or Maggie Rose have got a lot of approval for their albums. However, they had difficulties making it to the charts. Maybe because the lyrics challenge the conservative conceptions of the audience.

Nevertheless, not everything is lost and some artists show where country music could be going. They bravely challenge countries' conceptions. First of all, there is Kenny Chesney who complained about sexism. But also the well-known artist Jake Owen is going on new routes with his recent song 'What we ain't got'. However, most importantly, women are rebelling against their current role in country music, with success. Kacey Musgraves won the CMA award 'Song of the Year' with 'Follow your Arrow', a song that complains about people that are always bitching about woman, no matter what they do. The new female due Maddie & Tae scored a top 10 hit with 'Girl In A Country Song', a song that is, in a humorous way, criticizing the bro-country trend.
And there are still other artists who do genuine country music, without sexism or stereotype-bashing, as The Band Perry, Lady Antebellum or Justin Moore. They do country music that focuses on freedom, loneliness and always a bit of melancholy. Qualities that have ever characterized country music.

Country music is not lost. But it needs the turnaround. It is time to give the neglected but sophisticated a chance.

Editor's note: This article should not offend any country artists in any way. The author is personally a great fan of country music, ESPECIALLY of Georgia Florida Line and RaeLynn. But maybe, because he is so, he wishes that there is a bit more variety in mainstream country. First of all, because he would love to hear more talented artists. But also because he thinks it would help countries' reputation a lot.

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