Author Archives: Minsu Kim

Remember the Old “Country” Taylor Swift?

I understand that a lot of people have their own opinions, either good or bad, about how Taylor Swift officially went from country to pop as she just released the new album, 1989. For me personally, I have always loved Taylor Swift and will always love her because I think she’s a real prodigy. Instead of talking about the more recent version of Taylor, I just wanted to remind everyone of how she used to be a big country star in her earlier career, and point out some great songs in her country albums. So here we go:


This was the cover of Taylor Swift’s very first album, Taylor Swift. She had signed her first contract with Big Machine Records as a singer-songwriter when she was 14 years old. Taylor for sure made a big impression to country fans from the beginning, as she became the youngest person to single-handedly write and perform a number one song on the Hot Country Songs Chart. I was in high school when this album first came out and I remember every single girl at my school obsessing over Taylor Swift, and even some boys, reluctantly. Taylor was 16 years old at the time, and she was already writing narrative love songs about her own experiences. (Yes, because she’s a genius and again, a real prodigy.) My favorite song on this album was “Teardrops on My Guitar.” I liked the song a lot more in my high school days, and now I don’t know how I feel about it. The lyrics are a bit cheesy, but I still like the melody, the guitar sound and her voice.

A few single albums were released right after, including Tim McGraw and Our Song. Both songs are true to the “country-ness” of Taylor Swift, since they have more country-sounding instruments and lyrics. (Listen to those songs and listen to her newer songs. They’re completely different sounding.) Taylor toured all over the country in support of Taylor Swift, and the single albums kept the teenage girls fans excited while she prepared for her second album, Fearless.


Just like the first album, Taylor continued to write at least a few of her songs by herself, with some help of others, to keep up with the title “country singer-songwriter.” This album was a huge commercial success for Taylor, as it became the best-selling album of the year, and stayed number one on Billboard 200 for 11 weeks. 5 singles spawned from Fearless, and my favorites are, just like many others, “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me.” I can still remember Taylor singing those songs on TV with her guitar and having a baby face.


Speak Now was released in 2010, and this is the album where I think Taylor Swift started showing signs of being “Pop” instead of country. The instruments sound relatively modern, beats are faster, and she was rarely performing with a guitar and boots on anymore at this point. Some songs had definitely more country feels than others, depends on what the listeners would decide what defines “country.” Her lyrics were still her narratives about boy-centric themes and breakups, but I felt that she was more of a grown up than a young teenage girl. It may have been because I was about to be out of high school myself, or because Taylor was then in her 20s and started talking about college boys. I don’t really know. (If you want to know more about this album, click here.)

As she released her next album, Red, her fans admitted that she wasn’t so country anymore, and I don’t really see any true country songs on it, so we will skip it for now. Here is a list of songs (some of them were mentions above) that I selected in reminiscence of the old “country” Taylor Swift:

  1. “Teardrops on My Guitar” – Taylor Swift
  2. “Our Song” – Taylor Swift
  3. “Fearless” – Taylor Swift
  4. “You Belong with Me” – Taylor Swift
  5. “Love Story” – Taylor Swift
  6. “Speak Now” – Taylor Swift
  7. “Mine” – Taylor Swift
  8. “Back to December” – Taylor Swift

Even after Taylor went pop, her lyrics stayed pretty much the same as before, and she still writes her own songs. Hope everyone enjoyed reading this post and loves Taylor Swift as much as I do!


Filed under Country Pop, Women

Rebel’s Honky Tonk!

703918A few weekends ago, I ventured out with a few of my girlfriends to Rebel’s Honky Tonk, which is a country dancing bar on 5th street. (It apparently now changed its name to Rowdy’s Saloon and made a few changes, but I went there when it was called Rebel’s Honky Tonk, so that’s how I refer to the place now.)

I have been to Midnight Rodeo a few years back, which is pretty much a similar concept as Rebel’s, so this was my official second time to get my two-stepping on. As someone who grew up overseas and mostly in the north, Country music has never really been my thing until I moved to Austin for school. My first time to a country dancing bar, Midnight Rodeo, was definitely an experience; I was a little freshman that did not really know much, and this huge dance floor in the middle filled with everyone who already knew how to two-step was too overwhelming.

Since this was my second time to a country dancing place, I already knew what to expect. I remembered to put on my cowboy boots, and started listening to some country songs a few hours before heading out as my “pre-game.”

When my friends and I got there, it was about 10 p.m. and it was not crowded at all. There were a few people on the dance floor, and others scattered throughout the bar, just drinking beer and chatting. The first thing I noticed was that the dance floor was not as big as Midnight Rodeo’s, and there was a huge mechanical bull! My friends and I first got a few drinks and started chatting up, and shortly after, the bar started to get pretty crowded. I could tell a lot of the people there were much older than us, and I spotted some serious cowboys, with their fancy shirts, Wrangler’s jeans, boots and even the cowboy hats.

I think Rebel’s tried to play mostly country songs, with a few modern dancey songs here and there, to please both younger and older people. Since I already made it clear that I don’t know much of the older country songs, there were only a few songs I recognized that night. I can’t remember all names, but I remember singing along to Eli Young Band’s “Drunk Last Night,” and Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel.”

At one point my friends tricked me into going on the dance floor with them, and I attempted to two-step to some country song that I’ve never heard of, and this old-ish gentleman who looked like serious two-stepper helped me out, which was very nice of him. As the bar got more and more crowded, I could see more people two-stepping on the dance floor, and more people using the mechanical bull, overall just enjoying themselves with some good ole’ country music with friends.

I had much fun that night at Rebel’s. I think it’s really awesome that you can see find a spot to get your country dance on in downtown Austin. Being inside and hanging out with people there made me feel like I was in some small town Texas, fully experiencing “the South” – the music, the mechanical bull, friendly people, and the whole atmosphere.


Filed under Austin, Dancing, Live Music

The Ultimate Summertime Country Songs!

People say that country music is mostly for summertime, and I completely agree with that statement. Summertime is all about relaxing under the sun, drinking cold drinks and having no worries. Students are out of school, the weather is warm, and it’s just time to let loose. All of those resonate with themes of a lot of country songs, which make everyone want to listen to country music even more during summer.

Personally, 90% of my summer playlist consists of country music songs. Even if I didn’t actually make an effort to make a country music playlist, country music is playing everywhere I go during summer- in stores, on the radio, at the beach, just everywhere I can think of. Avoiding country music is almost impossible, especially given that I live in the state of Texas. Including Texas, “the dirty South” in general, became home of country music and people in the south are crazy about country music, and I think it could be that summer lasts just a bit longer in south than it does in other regions,

Before I really began to listen to country music, I always thought country music was just slow and had depressing lyrics; obviously, I was very wrong. I now know that many country singers release their albums in summer or around spring break time when the weather is just getting warm, and those songs are upbeat and have fun-to-listen-to or relatable lyrics. On that note, my list below mostly consists of those songs that were made for summertime and quite honestly, even when it’s not summer, I listen to those songs and they just make me happy in general. So, here we go:


  1. “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” & “Anywhere With You” (2011) – Jake Owen. “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” is first number one hit and this was the fastest-rising single in Jake Owen’s career. The album that these songs were in was released in August of 2011. There is no music video for “Anywhere With You,” but and the music video for “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” was taken at the beach, simply depicting the laid-back summer days hanging out by the water during the day and singing and drinking at night.
  1. “Springsteen” (2012) – Eric Church. This song was what made Eric Church known as a country singer nationwide. It was the first song of Eric Church to enter top twenty in Billboard Country Music, and got him nominated for Grammy Awards. The song is about teenage love and the main verse has a catchy, easy-to-sing-along melody. Even though the song wasn’t specifically made for summertime, verses like “stars in the sky,” and “flip-flops and cut-off jeans,” create summer-like images.


  1. “Beat This Summer” (2013) – Brad Paisley. The title of this song already gives away that it is about summertime. This song has a pretty up-tempo and the light guitar sound, which make the listeners just smile. The lyrics are fun, as the song is about a boy meeting a girl on a summer vacation. The music video is also fun to watch; it takes place on a boardwalk, and a little boy falls in love with a girl.


  1. “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” (2002) – Kenny Chesney. This is one of my go-to beach songs, and one of the only few “old” country songs that I listen to. (I usually don’t listen to any country songs that came out before 2010.) The guitar sounds remind me of Hawaiian music, which of course, makes me think of the beach. Kenny Chesney’s “twang” (bizarrely) goes really well with the Hawaiian sounds, and the lyrics are just so laid-back, as you can tell from the title, which makes it more perfect for a beach song.
  1. “Knee Deep” (2011) – Zac Brown Band. The beats are simple yet a fun and even maybe a little bit funky, and the lyrics are well written. I like how it is solely beach-themed and it feature Jimmy Buffett. I find every single verse beautiful, but my favorite verses are, “Sunrise there’s a fire in the sky,” “It’s a sweet sweet life living by the salty sea,” and “When you lose yourself, you find the key to paradise.”
  1. “Cruise” (2012) – Florida Georgia Line. This song is probably one of the most famous modern country songs. Florida Georgia Line became very popular with this song, and there were even remix versions of this song, which also became successful. The two brothers (Florida Georgia Line) make great harmony and this song has a repetitive main verse with a catchy melody, which I think were the main reasons why this song was such a big hit. The lyrics and the original music video were about spending summer days in little country towns with a girl. This song is the best-selling country digital song in of all time in the United States and the remix music video featuring Nelly has over 25 millions views.


Filed under Lists, New Country, Song Analysis