What is “country?” When listening to songs like “Take a Back Road” or “Boys Round Here”, people tend to get the impression that “country” means small town, trucks, and beer drinking. However, with global warming occurring as well as the increased urbanization of America, trucks and small towns will begin going away. No, small towns will never disappear, but they will become less isolated as the large cities expand. I sit here thinking about what that this means for the future of “country” and country music. Could it be that “country” is really more of a way of life? If so, what is that way of life? Having grown up in Houston, a big city with a huge sports and business culture, I never considered myself “country.” That said, I always envied the lives of people who grew up in small towns and always loved listening to country music. I think Easton Corbin sang about this concept when he sang “A Little More Country Than That.” He sang about being a little more country than “a dirt road full of pot holes with a creek bank and some cane poles.” Either this guy literally lives in the middle of nowhere, or he is talking about his culture. He also sang about not two-timing and playing games because he understands that there is more to “country” than farming and roping cattle.
When I think of “country”, I think of someone with Southern values. I think of someone who works hard for his or her family, but never compromises his or her core morals. I think of someone who, when the times get tough, will fight through the obstacles and will never waiver. In that regard, “country” people live everywhere, regardless of if they grew up in a trailer or drive a pickup. No, I’m not writing this post to make myself feel better or to include more people in the “country” tent. I’m doing this because I see country music moving in the wrong direction regarding lyrics. I grew up listening to country songs, partly because I love the sound, but also because of the for which they stand. When I turn on the radio and “Home Alone Tonight” comes on, I can’t help thinking how this could easily be a song that any pop artist could sing. Sure, many recent songs have featured small towns, but they seem to lack the values that made country music so special to me. I grew up listing to songs that, even if they were a little pop sounding, at least they differed in that I could identify with their messages. “If You’re Going Through Hell” is a favorite of mine to listen to when I experience failure. No, George Strait would have never sung it, but at least it has a message behind it that demonstrates the values my parents tried to instill in me.
I cannot explain why I felt the need to rant about the state of country music, but I hope it shed some light onto why I care so deeply when Sam Hunt’s songs reach the top of the charts. I don’t care about other people’s song preferences, but I do care about the future of the genre I love the most. I think its time we reevaluate what the word “country” means, because once we lose trucks, country music singers will have a hard time differentiating themselves from other musicians.