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At last, your listicles are up and ready for public viewing. While it’s tempting to keep looking forward, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to look back at some of the incredible work y’all have done in the last few weeks.
When growing up, I never would have considered Houston a community. It has a population of over two million and contains several school districts. In fact, I just met someone my age who said she grew up in Houston and went to the same community center and recreational center that I went to almost every week. However, whenever I leave the city, more so when I leave the state, I bond more closely with people from Houston. We bond over our shared favorite local restaurants and sports teams, and an irrational, yet fairly strong, dislike for Dallas. Houston’s culture may contribute to this. Houston has all the perks of the big city, but with the charm of a Texan town. Yes, we have professional sports and big businesses and too much pollution, but many of our “city things” are infused with a Texas flavor. Saltgrass Steakhouse and Rudy’s Barbecue are perfect examples of Texas chains. They look like classic barbecue or steakhouses; there are just more than two of them. When I came to college, I met so many new people that I almost subconsciously gravitated towards people from Houston. Though I think this happened coincidentally, some of my closest friends at UT right now are from my hometown. Once we established ourselves as the “Houston group”, we bonded with other Texas cliques with our love for country music. Our love for country music does not separate us from other people; it brings us closer to the different groups of people on campus.
Maybe the thing that differentiates us from the other groups is which kind of country music we enjoy. We regularly listen to Zac Brown, George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Dierks Bentley. We think of it as a nice blend of old and new, but not too new. I am not a fan of Florida Georgia Line or Sam Hunt. Hunt is talented, but his music just does not sound like the country music I fell in love with. He also talks too much in his songs. When we go somewhere and they claim to play country music but “Breakup In a Small Town” by Sam Hunt comes on, this makes me long for the days of Strait and Jackson. From what I have seen, the Dallas group listens to more old Kenny Rogers and Conway Twitty and the Austin group listens to the current music. This is a sweeping generalization and based only on a small sample size, but these are just my experiences.
I did not mean to sound snobby or imply that Sam Hunt plays bad music. I just wanted to clarify the difference in country music taste between my Houston based group and some of the other groups at UT. We listen to contemporary country music as long as it still has similarities with the music of the 90’s. Sure, Zac Brown Band and Dierks Bentley have different styles than do Alan Jackson and George Strait, but their styles are closer to the classics than are Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt. Florida Georgia Line just does not sound good to me.
I think coming to the University of Texas forced me to identify more as a Houstonian than ever before. When I lived in Houston, I found smaller groups to shrink the crowd, but now Houston is the smaller group. We love country music in Houston, and my Houston friends at UT love country music just the same.
One community that I take pride in actively participating in is the Conservative party community because I personally agree with the beliefs and actions of that particular group and I like to associate myself as one of them. I believe that country music does particularly figure into that community, as the southern stereotypical musician is more likely to be more conservative than liberal and the morals and actions of many country music stars and their music may cater to more of a socially conservative crowd. Many of the people that also identify as conservative in my social circle do enjoy country music over some other genres, because of its more realistic sounding nature and storytelling instincts. Particular country songs that I enjoy listening to within my community are some feel good songs by artists such as Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, and George Strait, because I have grown up listening to their music and enjoy attending their concerts. Patriotic country songs are also songs I enjoy listening to because they remind me of the importance and desire to preserve the respect for our country that so many people are trying to diminish during this time of immense change. I feel that the patriotic nature and humble attitudes are what may make the community enjoy the simplicity and reality of country music and may distinguish it from other communities. It is very stereotypical for a cowboy to be labeled as a conservative, but in many ways this is most often true. There are, however, plenty of great country artists who do not identify themselves in the conservative community, such as Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. Tim McGraw, an active democrat, infuriated fans with statements condemning President Barack Obama’s actions. At a concert after 9/11, the Dixie Chick’s career was tragically put on the line when the lead singer announced she was embarrassed to be from the same state as George W. Bush. This was a turning point in their career because they seemingly went against the majority of their fan’s beliefs and have since then barely made a comeback within the community. The conservative party naturally turns toward tradition and is somewhat against change, that’s why I feel that the genre of traditional country music is so widely respected in this community because the musical values somewhat embodies the values of a conservative person.
As a college student, one of the biggest choices I’ve had to make was where to work after I graduate. Last year, I was lucky enough to land an internship with a technology company in Silicon Valley, California and get a taste of work life. I was excited to be in the heart of technological innovation, but I didn’t realize was how different the community would be.
The first time it really hit me that Silicon Valley is very different from my home state of Texas was at a company party. The party was “country” themed and I was extremely excited to two-step the night away. Once I got to the party, I realized that this “country” themed party was not what I expected at all. People were wearing comical combinations of plaid and animal print, the barbecue had pineapples in it, the cornbread was dry, and nobody sang when the band played “Sweet Home Alabama”. My coworkers, most of whom were from Asia, California, or the North-Eastern United States, asked me if that was what Texas is actually like. I couldn’t say no fast enough.
One thing that really stuck with me was that nobody seemed to have even recognized any of the country music, not even the pop-country artists like Carrie Underwood or Lady Antebellum. In fact, many of the Americans seemed to actively avoid country music. To them, country music is associated with ultra-conservative hillbillies who spend their days drinking beer and cleaning guns which is definitely not the type of person a liberal California techie can identify with. My other coworkers, who hailed from Korea, Japan, India and China, had never even been exposed to country music before. Even after showing them some of my favorite country songs, they weren’t keen to start listening to country music because the songs weren’t relatable for them. There are almost no Asian country artists and many of the subjects of country music like big trucks, football, small towns, and American patriotism did not resonate with them.
After the party I was feeling very homesick. How could I live and work in a place where so few people share the love of the music I’ve grown up with? Eventually I came to realize that there were many people from different cultures at my workplace who also wanted to share their own favorite music. Even though nobody else could name a George Strait song, we were all able to bond over our universal love for music and appreciation for each other’s cultures.
A community I belong to is my group of friends, best friends to be exact. Despite high school being a place where you discover yourself and your interests, I managed to meet 5 stranger sand they became my best friends. All of us of with similar, yet different backgrounds, nationalities, aspirations and taste.
Each one of us has a distinct music taste. Some of them prefer Spanish music, others like pop while others are into rock, and others like country. Personally, I fall into the category that listens to a little bit of everything. Every time we get in a car, the big debate breaks out, who’s music choice will we be stuck listening to the whole ride? You definitely want to be the one who gets the aux cord, so you aren’t miserable if you hate the other person’s music choice. And I’m sure many people can relate to this. Luckily for my group of friends, we’ve come to be in these situations so often that we now like each other’s music, and although we may not be crazy for the genre, we’re at least able to tolerate it!
The one genre that brings us to agreement is country music. Yes, there are debates over who we think is a better artist whether it be Sam Hunt, Hunter Hayes, Kenny Chesney, George Strait or Johnny Cash, but it allows us to come together and share something. Now that we have gone off to different colleges and cities, we’ve grown a bit apart, but whenever we are together or are logged on to our group chats we mention new music we are currently into or songs we are relating to at the moment.
Since my friends are hispanic, our other friends and family aren’t used to listening to country music. I don’t think that they have anything against the music, but it isn’t something that the majority of the hispanic community is listening to in huge numbers. It sometimes sets us apart from the rest of the group and when we choose country music to play with others, we get a look of bewilderment and a “you like country music?”. The fact that it sets us apart from the rest allows us to come together more because it is something we share with one another. Country songs are about telling stories and being able to relate to one another which is why it’s able to bring my group of friends closer together. Music has the power to make people happy and bring them together, but country songs in particular are about people and different kinds of relationships. And due to this it gives us a kind of bond that we wouldn’t be able to experience in other ways.