From the moment I saw that this was a class I knew I had to take it. I was really excited to be able to spend a whole semester discussing country music. Every time someone asked me what classes I was in I loved to tell them Rhetoric of Country Music because most people would get super jealous or be surprised that this was even a thing. I’ve always enjoyed country music and since I needed another rhetoric course what better way than to spend it learning more about a topic I was very interested in. This class has taught me to look at the bigger picture, whether that be about a specific song, an artist, or the industry as a whole. Behind every decision there is much more work and thought than often assumed. This class also allowed me to see and understand how others perceive certain artists and songs and how everyone interprets things differently. From the day I found out about this blog I couldn’t wait to start exploring some of the lists options, as this assignment gave me a reason to go to concerts, go dancing, or be a tourist. However, as usual I procrastinated and kept telling myself next week. So the three events outside of class I’m going to talk about are not as cool as I planned but I have viewed them differently than if I had not ever taken this class.
First off I want to talk about the CMA’s. I usually try and watch all the music award shows just because they are usually funny, involve some sort of drama, and feature some great performances. This year was different not only because of our class but because I watched it in my boyfriend’s apartments with two other guys commentating. (Their opinions were quite different.) Like I said above I wasn’t let down because Carrie and Brad did make me laugh, the Blake and Miranda drama was clear, and I got to see some great collaborations and performances. The biggest headline of the show was of course Chris Stapleton; I mean between the awards and his performance with Justin Timberlake his career was changed forever.
Three things I noticed while watching this show as opposed to other years was how the live performances are planned as a way to draw the most viewers across all ages, music preferences, and genders, how who votes on the awards affects who wins, and how hard it must be for a music genre to try and please everyone. I have always been one to whine every time I see the performers list and it features a pop singer and a country singer. It always upset me to see this mix because I obviously wasn’t watching this for Justin Timberlake or Fall Out Boy but this year after discussing I class the changes in types of subgenres in country music and how important growing fans is I saw things differently. I also paid more attention to how the voters of each award affected who won…if the CMA’s were a fan based voting show I believe things would have been much much different. For example: I highly doubt Stapleton would have left with as many awards as he did. My final point ties into the above 2 in a way as for any music genre from its origins there have been changes but overtime some changes can make or break the industry. Those who work in the industry are constantly trying to find a way to stay current while also not losing those who have been a fan for many years. I always think of the music industry as being fun and easy but now I see how much more it really involves.
Second, I watched Urban Cowboy. I probably would have never picked this movie on my own but with some insistence by my boyfriend we watched it. Urban Cowboy was made in 1980 so as you can imagine its not filled with all of todays pop culture slang and special effects. Its simple and to the point. This movie was interesting to me as it is based around a local honky tonk known as Gilley’s in Pasadena, Texas. As I am from Fort Worth, Texas I never knew until I saw this that Gilley’s wasn’t originally located in Dallas. This movie helped share with the rest of America what the country style involved. The main characters worked hard during the day to party hard at night and on the weekends. They were mostly middle class, they two stepped, drank beer, had big hair, boots on, tight jeans, and weren’t afraid to start a bar room brawl. For me it was quite shocking to see Travolta playing a cowboy as I often mentally just see him playing his role in Grease. This movie reminds of how living in Texas has shaped how I perceive the cowboy life and how music strongly music strengthens the image of cowboys and country life. I grew up around a place similar to Gilley’s known as Billy Bob’s so as I watched this I saw how even with some of the technological changes the Billy Bob’s I go to today is still similar to that of 1980. Yes, most of the people who attend today aren’t “real cowboys” but they still portray the character. Because I took this class I was able to think further than just what happens in the movie about how country music has kept the honky tonk alive, as well as kept people wanting to live a cowboy lifestyle no matter where they’re from.
Last, I wanted to share my experience of a date event my sorority has known as Barn Bash each fall semester. I went to this event last year as a freshman, but now as a sophomore after spending a semester in our class I saw it a little bit differently. So you know what Barn Bash is, its a night that the girls in our sorority ask guys to come with us to a western venue, dress in boots and western wear, do some two steppin’, eat barbeque, and if your old enough do some drinking… This year our event was at Star Hill Ranch, a popular event venue out in the hill country about 40 minutes west of Austin. The venue itself is set up like a little town on a dirt road made up of old buildings from across central Texas. It has a chapel, multiple little house buildings, a reception hall, windmill, a little convenience store/saloon. Here in Texas it is very normal to have events that are western themed; like us multiple other sororities or groups have similar country style events. After having our class I realized how important Texas is to country music and the country image. Being a native Texan, even from Fort Worth, I can’t imagine not regularly seeing people in boots, women with big hair, local two stepping joints, and the like. This year, looking back on the event I am very thankful to be from a state where this a thing, where we can walk out on a dirt road, look at the stars, and then get out on the dance floor and do some two stepping while singing some George Strait.
I am very thankful to have taken this class and broaden my perspective on country music and its importance and relationship to my own life!