“Hollywood With a Touch of Twang” – The Death of Country Music

August 19, 2010

This article will be a bit of a departure from what I normally write about (politics and other things that matter), but I feel I need a break. At any rate, this has been nagging me for quite a while.

Country music had its proud roots in the 1920s and ’30s. It gained popularity from the ’40s to the ’70s, and has remained a part of American life, particularly in the South since then. Now, however, country music is dying a slow death.  It is moving slowly but steadily and ominously away from the dock of twanging steel guitars and fiddles into the dark and diverse sea of pop music and rock ‘n’ roll. 

It is my opinion that country music is now all but in its death throes, disfigured by slowly changing opinions of increasingly careless people. Nowadays, aspiring singers seem to think that all they need to do to be a country singer and, therefore, sing country music, is cultivate a Southern accent, pull on cowboy boots, and don a battered hat. As this new “country music” gains popularity, more and more will flock to get a slice of the pie, burying old, proud country music even further underneath glitter and electric guitars.

However, few of these budding stars or starlets, or even those that are old hands at the music game, seem to care much for the roots of country music and what made it so unique in the first place. As I said before, what passes for country music now is more light rock or pop than country. At times, it seems the only requirement for a country band is that someone in the band play a fiddle. How else do you get away with calling the music of a band like Emerson Drive country music? (And yes . . . every band I reference I have personally heard on “country” radio stations).

I can’t deny that this irritates me (“No, really?” you say, “You’ve only tried to make country music sound like Macbeth II for the last five minutes.”) I can’t deny that I grimace when I hear one of Big & Rich‘s admittedly awesome guitar solos and realize someone somewhere considers this country music. I flinch whenever I hear the latest Rascal Flatts hit and realize they sound like the next .38 Special or Lynyrd Skynryd. Is all country music turning into southern rock?

No. Of course not. It’s far too busy turning into pop music too. Take Taylor Swift, who, while by anyone’s definition is quite talented and rather gorgeous, has the gall to call what she sings country! Don’t you tell me that’s country . . . compare it to this here-yesterday-soon-to-be-adios pop princess: Demi Lovato. Not much difference, is there?

More examples? You want more examples that county music is going to the dogs (or at least to pop and rock ‘n’ roll)? Alrighty then: Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Kellie Pickler, Miranda Lambert, and the list goes on.

But so what? Why does all of this matter?

It doesn’t really. The arts, of which music is of course one, have always changed and evolved, and old stick-in-the-muds like me are always around to complain bitterly at each stroke of the evolutionary brush. It’s just what we do. 😉

For the steel guitars no longer cry
And the fiddles barely play
But drums and rock ‘n’ roll guitars
Are mixed up in your face
Ol’ Hank wouldn’t have a chance
On today’s radio
Since they committed murder
Down on music row

– George Strait, “Murder on Music Row”