It’s not what Progs don’t know, it’s what they think they know that just ain’t so. This first little gem comes to us from someone named Kelsey McKinney. She is your typical young, done-nothing/know-everything JuiceVox writer:
Country music is supposed to tell a story. The stories that many of the genre’s current leading men tell are filled with short denim shorts, bikini tops, and objectification. In these stories, women are submissive, passive, and exist to be pursued. But the rising women of country aren’t any of those things. Their songs are still lyric-heavy, full of twang, and powerful, but instead of stories about loves won and lost, they’re singing about misogyny and gender stereotyping. They aren’t the first women in country to do so, but they’re certainly leading a new, more direct feminist country charge.
Country music has long been dominated by women as strong as their voices. From the legacy of Loretta Lynn to the belting gunpowder and lead of Miranda Lambert, feminism has been a lyrical undercurrent for many of country’s all-star artists. “My mistakes are no worse than yours just because I’m a woman,” Dolly Parton sings in “Just Because I’m a Woman.” That mantra of equality is matched by dozens of female artists happy to sing about being strong, capable women.
For political feminist commentary, just listen to Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill,” Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” or the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl.” Listen to Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” or Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder & Lead.” Sure there have been some very notable and popular exceptions such as “Stand by Your Man” by Tammy Wynette, but some people have made the case that even that has feminist undertones. In fact, songs about equality and respecting women have been a staple in country music songs written by men as well. Feminist themes have always lingered in the background of country music, but today’s up-and-coming female artists are bringing it to them forefront — and acting as an antidote to a misogynistic trend among their male country colleagues.
Wait . . . what? I was actually nodding my head there for a minute, then that last sentence threw me.
But wait! There’s more!:
When exactly country veered substantially away from equality is hard to peg down, but the rise of “bro country,” as coined by music critic Jody Rosen, certainly set the genre off-course. Bro country is a catch-all term for the Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean brand of white-boy, pick-up truck-driving, light-beer-drinking music. These are songs about acquiring women and getting drunk. A perfect example is “Cruise”, by duo Florida Georgia Line. The chorus goes like this:
“Baby you a song
You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise
Down a back road blowin’ stop signs through the middle
Every little farm town with you
In this brand new Chevy with a lift kit
Would look a hell of a lot better with you up in it”
Car: check. Lady: check. Goals accomplished. In a 2013 University of South Carolina study of country songs that have been Billboard Top 40 hits, researcher Anna Rogers found three of the twenty songs she analyzed implied that “men should try to get sex from women, no matter what the circumstances are.” Those songs— including Kenny Chesney’s “Out Last Night” and Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup”—are bro-country hits. It’s this objectifying form of country music that is changing the way young female artists approach the genre.
Since when does a single NYC music critic get to redefine a whole genre of music?
That classic country vocal style wasn’t just ornamental. It stood for a masculine ideal, for stoicism and resolve in the face of hardship. It bespoke country’s devotion to realism, to songs about Saturday night’s hootenanny and Sunday morning’s moral reckoning, not to mention the kitchen-table truths of Monday through Friday. Country has always been pop’s most mature genre. If rock strives to “hold onto 16 as long as you can,” as Mellencamp once put it, country aims for the opposite. Young country singers have learned to project gravitas beyond their years, singing songs about home and hearth and other grown-up stuff.
Bro-country breaks with that tradition. Hubbard, 26, and Kelley, 27, pay lip service to “little farm towns” and pickup trucks and such. But what they care about is getting drunk and laid. The titles tell the story: “Tip It Back,” “Dayum, Baby,” “Party People.” For Florida Georgia Line, it’s always Saturday night—here’s to the good times, all the time. You could call Florida Georgia Line country’s first boy band.
Bro-country isn’t monolithic; the bros come in different flavors. The king of the genre is Luke Bryan, country’s top male star. In March, Bryan went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with Spring Break … Here to Party, a collection of songs about getting wasted at oceanside keggers. There’s less Daytona Beach on his new album, Crash My Party, due out this week, but in general, Bryan stands for bro-country’s gentrifying impulse, shifting the scene of the party from the honky-tonk to the frat house. Jake Owen looks like a bland pretty boy, but he has better songs than Bryan or Florida Georgia Line, and in hits like “Alone with You,” he slips in some interesting shades of vulnerability. Jason Aldean comes on like a rough-and-tumble outlaw, but don’t be fooled by the Stetson: Look to the leather choker and the pocket chain. Zac Brown is a woolly jam band bro, the singer of choice for that corner of frat row where the Hacky Sack flies beneath billowing ganja smoke.
It’s easy to make fun of bro-country, but in at least one respect it’s cosmopolitan. Listen to Bryan, Aldean, and Owen, and you’ll hear a surprising sound: hip-hop. In concert, Bryan has been known to break into “Baby Got Back” and “Rack City.” Aldean raps, after a fashion, and had a No. 1 smash with “Dirt Road Anthem,” a collaboration with Ludacris. In “Summer Jam,” Owen serves up an appealing half-rapped, half-sung version of the frat-boy beach-bum fantasy.
I don’t see anything in there about misogyny. What I do see is three different people (McKinney, Rosen and Anna Rogers) demonstrating some profound ignorance about Country music, along with its performers and fans.
Country music is one of the oldest American music genres. It is older than Jazz, R&B, Rock and Hip Hop. It’s older than radio and phonographs. It has its roots in Old World folk music brought to America by immigrants, especially the Scots-Irish who settled in the Appalachians during the 18th and 19th Centuries. It has always had multiple strains ever since Country fused with Western to create a new genre. It has influenced and been influenced by other music genres, most notably Rock music.
As the country has changed over the years so has Country music. It has evolved a long way from the early years of the Grand Ole Opry back in the 1920’s. Some times it’s upbeat, and some times it’s sad. Some times it addresses important political and/or social issues, some times it’s devoutly religious, and sometimes it’s just for fun.
Like a lot of art it is emotional. There are lots of songs about falling in love, and lots more about heartbreak and love lost. There have always been songs about drinking and pretty girls. References to smoking marijuana have become fairly common, including several involving Willie Nelson. That may come as a big surprise to people who associate Country music with social conservatism.
Now let me change trains for a bit. I found this nugget of ignorance written by Amanda Marcotte at Salon, but it could have just as easily come from the shallow intellects at Vox:
Ever since the second wave of feminism kicked off, women—straight women, anyway—have been darkly warned that embracing sexual liberation and demanding equality in their relationships would only bring them misery and doom. We’re told that unless we marry young and try not to be picky about our partners, we will face certain lifelong loneliness. We’re told men will never accept us as equals and that if we get too much education or make too much money, we’ll be left on the shelf while men pursue women who aren’t too threatening.
We’ve even been told it’s fatal to the sexual health of a marriage to allow the husband to do his chores, with conservative gender warrior Lori Gottlieb arguing in the New York Times that women don’t really want men to do their share, and you can tell because our libidos supposedly dry up at the image of a man holding a broom. You may think you want feminism in your personal relationships, the dour reactionaries of mainstream media warn, but you’ll be sorry if you try it, ladies.
Well, it’s all nonsense, as a new series of reports from the fine folks at the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) demonstrates. Collectively titled “After a Puzzling Pause, the Gender Revolution Continues,” the reports find that Americans are growing fonder of egalitarian relationships, both in theory and in practice. Conservatives have long held out hope that Americans would taste equality and find it bitter, electing instead to run back to traditional gender roles. Instead, researchers find that while there is some ebb and flow in American attitudes about equality, the general trend has been toward more equality, with an uptick in recent years. Oh, and our sex lives are not actually sadder because men have learned how the vacuum cleaner works.
This may make Ms. Batshit Crazypants Marcotte’s head explode, but studies show that conservative Republicans report higher rates of sexual satisfaction than liberal Democrats. Anyone who has lived on a farm knows that farm kids learn about the birds and the bees at an early age.
The people at Vox and Salon have some really weird ideas as to what conservatives believe and the lives they live. This is common feature in the all the articles I cited up above. The only term for it is bigotry.
Anyone who thinks conservative women are sexually repressed doesn’t know conservative women. The same thing for anyone who thinks that conservative women are all meek, submissive housewives.
Every single one of those “bro-country” artists that McKinney was talking about has legions of female fans. Those women will laugh at you if you try to tell them they are being oppressed by The Patriarchy. Most of them own guns and know how to use them.
They like men, but they won’t take no shit off of them.
It’s getting late and this post is already too long so I’ll stop here.