Country conflict

Country music does not deserve the bad rep it gets


Several acoustic guitars and banjos are on display at the museum of country music in Nashville, Tennessee. Country music tends to be controversial, but is better than its reputation.

I couldn’t tell you the exact moment I started liking country music. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you, “I’ll listen to anything but country music or rap;” I firmly believed that country music was annoying and cliché and trashy. And I held my ground behind this viewpoint for years, until I was recruited to write a story for this website – a spring break binge, a compilation of TV shows, movies, songs, books, just things to do to take up time over spring break. The way it was laid out, there were a designated number of spots for certain genres under each category, and when I got to country music, I was at a loss. After consulting another staff member, I had my five songs – but the story also involved writing a sentence about why each song was worth listening to. So I made a playlist – one that jumped from heavy metal to acoustic to, of course, country music. And I can’t recall exactly when it happened, but at some point over spring break, I found myself speeding down a highway singing along to every word of “Somewhere on a Beach” by Dierks Bentley. I don’t know what it is about that song – maybe the fact that I had just gone through a breakup and it’s about getting over an ex, maybe how upbeat and catchy it was, maybe just the fact that I’d listened to it so many times by this point – but something about it just stuck with me. It started out ironically, of course, but it started to turn into a genuine love of country music. And that’s okay.

Country music tends to get a bad rep – probably because it’s well-known for its overused lyrics about girls and beer and trucks combined with how contrived popular music tends to be

and listened to by a demographic of people in cowboy boots who drive pickup trucks and hunt in their free time – but this isn’t necessarily always the case. Especially living in St. Charles, right between city and farmland, country music has become relatively stigmatized because it’s so associated with the “hick” stereotype so many of us are trying to shake off. But this desire to be seen as cultured and suburban causes people to miss out on a good thing. Sure, people have their tastes, and some people simply do not like country music, just like some people don’t like heavy metal or indie rock or any other genre you can come up with, but country music specifically seems to have this passionate hatred behind it that I have come to suspect is more than just disliking the genre itself. It’s more about disliking the labels that come with country music; even since I started listening to it, I’ve had more than one person look at me with disgust as they say, “you listen to country music?”, even friends who hear it come on while they’re in my car and tell me they can’t be friends with me anymore, albeit jokingly.

This is about more than just disliking a genre. Trust me, I’m nowhere near the biggest country fan. When I say I like country music, people ask me about what they call “good” country, meaning the oldies, the classics. When I say I like country music I mean horrible modern pop-country – songs like “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”, “Red Solo Cup”, songs by artists like Keith Urban or Luke Bryan. Not because they’re good by any means, but because they’re catchy and mindless. It’s not about liking country music – it’s about liking music, regardless of genre, because it’s fun. It’s about being able to let go of your predispositions and have a good time. Everyone knows someone who just can’t seem to do that; you take them to parties and they just stand in the corner, arms crossed, complaining because the music’s not good enough for them. And everytime I see one of these people, it just makes me want to scream, “Let go! Stop caring so much! Just have fun!”

Liking country music, for me, is about being able to do just that: have fun. Because I used to be that person, arms crossed, looking down my nose at everyone having a good time around me. But this summer, singing along to horrible country music in my car every day, I had the best time I can remember having in a long time, because I just let go of my inhibitions and had a genuinely good time without worrying about what anyone else might think. And that’s more the message here. I don’t care if people like country music or not, I care about if other people care about me liking country music. Because country music is awesome – not because of its lyricism or instrumentation or anything else that typically makes “good” music, but because it’s just fun.

Since I started listening to country music unironically, I found myself enjoying life itself more. I started saying “yes” to more propositions, getting out of my comfort zone, not caring about whether someone was judging me or not. And that’s how life should be lived: unapologetically enjoying the things you enjoy because they’re fun, not because they’re good or important or however else people tend to judge the few things they don’t stick their noses up at. I don’t want to live a pretentious “that’s not good enough for me” kind of life; I want to live a country music kind of life. I want to continue speeding down streets with windows down and bad music all the way up. I want to continue being carefree, continue having fun while I still can. I want to keep loving country music.