Carrie Underwood recently won a Grammy for her song about baptism and keeping the faith, “Something in the Water”, solidifying country music’s relationship with Christianity even more. Underwood often sings about her faith: her debut single was “Jesus Take the Wheel”, which was another huge hit with audiences. She is a prime example of a country music star that rose from humble beginnings to fame, albeit through American Idol, but has kept her morals about her. She often cites her religion and devotion to God in her interviews and songs.
But why are country music and Christianity so tied together? I think it is because of the genre’s connection to the South, which is the Bible Belt of America: an area where religion is deeply engrained in many aspects of life. Country music markets itself as being the music of the people, and most Americans, particularly in the South, are religious, so this music speaks to them. Another reason is that country artists are usually normal people who are authentic, and fame doesn’t really change them a lot. So if they were just southern religious people before having hit songs, then they still will be once they are famous. Unlike artists like Katy Perry, who were raised religious but shed that part of her life in her songs, artists like Carrie Underwood continue to integrate her faith into her multiplatinum songs to show her fans she is still the same Oklahoma girl that won American Idol.
Some country songs deal with faith directly, while others sing about faith in more subtle ways. They sing about the values of Christianity, like when The Band Perry sings in “Better Dig Two” about a girl fully committing herself to her husband by saying she’ll only wear white on her wedding day to him. Other artists sing about their wives of many years, like Brad Paisley’s “Then” exemplifying a healthy marriage, songs that are a far cry from other genres, which have songs about promiscuity and adultery. This way of putting religion in songs is definitely more common because sometimes audiences don’t like songs with strong religious references, to which Carrie responds “if you don’t like it, change the channel.”
Country music is by no means gospel or even music that would fit in the Christian genre of music, but in many songs there are religious themes due to the close spiritual ties between the genre and the church. Many artists glorify God overtly in their songs, such as Rascal Flatts with “Bless the Broken Road” and Big & Rich with “That’s Why I Pray”, while others sing about exemplifying His teachings in songs. Due to country’s roots in the south, it and religion are definitely linked.
3 Responses to Religion in Country Music
Madison, you made a very good point that many country songs have religious views tied into the lyrics. However, you said that country songs exemplify healthy marriages instead of adultery, yet country music started as songs about cheating and broken hearts. Honky-tonk music originated in bars where artists and fans were involved with prostitution and cheating. People like Carrie Underwood and The Band Perry have definitely integrated religion into their most popular songs, but I’m not sure if the south, religion, and country music have direct ties just because of the rich and diverse past of this genre. Also, many artists such as George Strait and Carrie Underwood have maintained a “true to self” image, but other artists such as Taylor Swift have changed their true self drastically to meet the needs of a broader audience. Although I agree with you on many of your statements, I think that certain stereotypes shouldn’t be tied to country music because of the diverse background and history of how country music has developed over the years.
I definitely think you make some points that are spot on about the relationship between religion (particularly Christianity) and country music. The fact that the main audience of country music is also the heart of the traditional Christian population in this country could certainly play a role in these religious lyrical decisions. However, I think that it is difficult to speak about the country music genre as a whole because the umbrella is just too wide. While it may have a few more artists singing about their religion than other genres, there are still plenty (I would even say the majority) of songs that sing about getting drunk, picking up women, or any other topic that is debatably as “wrong” as what other genres are accused of singing about. I think people like Carrie Underwood should be applauded though. Whether you agree with her songs or religious views, her authenticity and willingness to sing whatever she wants and believes should be respected. As you mentioned, there are very view artists that are able stay as true to themselves as Carrie.
I agree that religion is a topic that is sung about quite a bit in country music, especially with artists like Josh Turner for example. However, I also agree that a lot of country music is about adultery, lying, killing, and other things that could be considered sinful. Strictly business though, even though the topics polarize each other, it helps people build a deeper connection to different songs. If you are a deeply religious person, you might not connect to “Before He Cheats”. And if you couldn’t care less about religion, you might not connect to “Something in the Water”. Carrie Underwood can now have both religious and non-religious listeners, because she has something to appeal to different opinions on things. And the songs the listener does connect to, they most likely have a deeper connection to the topic. For example, I connect to Josh Turner’s “Me and God” more strongly than “Firecracker”.