As the father of a young daughter, husband to a strong wife, brother of an awesome sister and son of a loving mother I’ve been taking in all this “Girl in a Country Song” vs Bro-Country brouhaha with a keen interest from afar. The Bro-Country phenomenon is a fad. A passing fancy no different than the Urban Cowboy, Countrypolitan, Neo-traditionalist, or Hat Act eras. It’s interminable in the moment, but will be gone relatively soon.
The difference in those previous fads and the current Bro-Country one is that those paid deference to women (for the most part–there were sexist elements that were a product of their time). They respected them. They weren’t just booty shorts on a tailgate. They weren’t just compared to a melody or relegated to disrespectful arm candy via the most baseless, brain-dead lyrics imaginable. I can’t fathom Conway Twitty, Charlie Rich, Randy Travis, George Strait, Keith Whitley et al singing about throwing beer cans at a girl’s window, skinny dipping in a river, or stripteasing in the bed of a pickup. Would they possibly allude to those things? Sometimes. But, they’d do it in a very clever manner.
The degradation of women is nothing new in the hip-hop world. The late 90’s/early 00’s was fraught with the same types of disrespect women are currently being shown in country music. Rap music, at large, moved beyond those elements years ago. Nashville is still embracing them (just as they rip off the most corny elements of that terrific, urban artform). As usual, mainstream country is over a decade behind pop culture trends. The Music City taste-makers are reminiscent of the out of touch parents trying to desperately cling to relevance and relatability by using lingo that was cool five years ago. That’s so blingy dope, right kids?
There are many differences between mainstream country and the Texas/Red Dirt/Americana versions we promote and dig on this website and in this music scene. Sometimes that gap doesn’t seem quite as wide as it truly is. One of the elements that provides tangible proof of that creative gap is the manner in which females in general are revered and the way female talent is treated.
Down here, women in song are on equal footing with the guys. In lyrics they aren’t treated as objects, they are the dynamic human beings God created them to be. The girls in our songs are powerful, respected, loved, cherished and above all…real. You don’t find them in daisy dukes popping and locking around a bonfire. You hear references to how special they are. Our music also doesn’t trifle in generalities. The girls in our songs are specific, unique and well drawn.**
They aren’t country Barbie characters shaking it for catfish in a creek. Our songs may not have the same mass appeal as the Bro-Country purveyors, but isn’t it better that ours showcase authentic intellect and respect?
Which brings me to the girls we have down here that aren’t just in the songs, but bring us the songs. Female artists have always had a harder road to travel. While that is no different in Texas overall, the road is not as bumpy down here. I booked and managed Kristen Kelly for three years. During that time she went from dive bars to a record deal. I know how the game works. She had to be twice as good onstage to get half the attention. The band surrounding her had to be the best players around. Getting folks to pay attention was the hardest part of the battle. However, maintaining that interest and reeling them in once they were hooked was the most challenging.
Audiences down here are looking for something fresh. We are a little more forgiving. We want original material. We are equal opportunity supporters. One of the best things about this music scene that I’ve witnessed over the years is its lack of boundaries…musically, socially and culturally. We don’t care where you’re from or what you look like as long as you deliver something that fits in our wheelhouse. If your music is something we term as “good”, we’re on board no matter what.
Luckily for us, we’re in a great time of creative girls with our songs right now. Kylie Rae Harris, Bri Bagwell, The Rankin Twins, Brandy Zdan, Kelley Mickwee, Jamie Wilson, Kayla Ray, Courtney Patton, Haley Cole, Tina Mitchell Wilkins and so many others. These ladies are powerful, evocative, strong, authentic and fresh. They each have their own styles and stand on equal artistic footing down here in the minds of most music fans.
The Bro-Country backlash is in its infant stages. Maddie & Tae’s “Girl In A Country Song” is a cute missive fired against the Bro-Country ignorance, but it still may be a part of a bit too close to the forest to see the trees scenario. It’s going to take scenes like ours. Viewpoints like ours. Artists like ours. Human beings like we have down here to help send it packing. Keep supporting the real women in the songs and with the songs.
**Footnote–That young daughter of mine…this is her favorite song of the moment. She sings along to every word even though she may not understand the lyrical meanings yet. She will get it one day and isn’t that powerful?