Preface: I’m not a journalist & I’m not pretending to be one. I barely consider myself a writer. Maybe late at night, a couple whiskeys in. Also, I’m going to be constantly referring to “country music” in this article. By that, I mean mainstream country.
I’ve read two articles this morning about country music, saving country music, not saving country music, Merle, Chris Stapleton, and more. One of the articles was by Kelly Dearmore of the Dallas Observer. The other was a response by Kyle Coroneos of Saving Country Music. If you haven’t read them, go read them. I’ll start off by saying that I enjoy both writers, & I understand that their styles & motives are very different. Dearmore usually has a more objective & lighthearted tone (as is appropriate for his Dallas Observer pieces), while Coroneos has a decidedly more subjective & serious tone – as he should (he runs a site called Saving Country Music). Now, you can go read both those articles and decide whatever you want – what’s accurate, what’s fabricated, whatever. But the main truth is this: everyone likes talking about “country music”. I’m no different. I enjoy the debate, and I think that discussing it is interesting.
Personally, I think country music is dead. I think it’s been dead for a few years. I feel this way because the genre is almost completely unrecognizable to me now, musically & lyrically. And I think the reason that the debate over country music is so interesting to me is because of the role it held in my life. I grew up listening to 680AM KKYX out of San Antonio. I still do when I’m in earshot. It was the soundtrack to my entire existence growing up. It’s in my blood, and that’s a very real statement that I make with the most upright sincerity. Anytime I hear Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms”, I involuntarily stop whatever I’m doing and listen. I don’t imagine I’m alone in these kinds of feelings. I think country music is a very intrinsic part of people’s lives, and that’s why people care about it so much.
And I think that’s why people get so upset about it. Not because country music is so bad right now (IT’S SO BAD RIGHT NOW), but because it’s being called country music when it’s obviously not. I think that’s the heart of the whole thing – the whole “DON’T CALL THAT SHIT COUNTRY MUSIC. I GREW UP LISTENING TO COUNTRY MUSIC AND THAT’S NOT COUNTRY MUSIC!” idea. And I think that’s a totally valid way to feel about it… Something that is a very real and intrinsic part of your life & who you are is now nearly unrecognizable to you? And it’s being touted as something it’s not? To the masses? Like I said, anger or frustration is a very valid feeling to that phenomenon (and YES, we can argue that that’s been the life of country music since its inception. But I’m not trying to conduct a fucking history lesson, and I don’t have the time to go over the entire ebb & flow of country music’s plight. I’m just trying to talk about right now).
Now, I’m sure some of you may be enraged that I’m saying country music is dead. Relax. That’s just the way I feel. I’m just one guy. I’m not the first person to feel that way, or to say it. At all. And I feel that way more & more as time goes on. And what I mean is this: Imagine if you took a poll across the United States that asked people to list country music artists… It would probably be populated with Luke Bryans & Jason Aldeans, Sam Hunts & The Band Perrys. And I believe that if 90% of the population thinks that Luke Bryan is country music, then Luke Bryan is country music. Thus, the thing we all used to know as country music no longer exists… Which effectively makes it dead.
Sure, there are artists like Sturgill or Stapleton that come along here & there and breathe life into things, but I don’t have any reason to think that their existence has any impact on what country music is or isn’t. Dearmore talks in his article about artists getting touted as “messiahs” of sorts – Sturgill, Isbell, Stapleton, respectively. How new successful artists keep getting all this attention as THE ARTIST that will be the one to turn the tides or right the country music ship. He also argues that none of this matters because we can go find good music that we like at the click of a computer key or mouse. And I think those two ideas are going to eat each other alive. I believe that we are in a time where NO ARTISTS are going to have very strong staying power. We’re in an age of everything, right now, all the time. Here is the life of popular artists right now:
- Artist puts out great record
- Everyone starts talking about it online
- Artist becomes the artist that will correct an entire genre
- Everyone gets bored
- New artist comes along (Repeat process)
That’s some vicious cycle shit right there, y’all. And it’s never going to stop. Never. So how about we quit arguing about it, get off our fucking computers, & go to a show?
If you don’t want to do that, at least go listen to 680AM KKYX.