Sporadically, we hear frets and distaste from tenured fans and country stars alike over the direction of today’s country songs.
There’s Alan Jackson commenting on Baltimore Sun that the “ …real country, root-sy, traditional stuff, may be gone.”
Gary Allan, on the other hand, did not mince words calling modern country singers like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood as “…pop artists making a living in the country genre” during an interview with Larry King.
And talk about being bold is The VOICE singer-coach Blake Shelton sparking an outrage among elderly, country-loving folks with his nonchalant remark of “Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music, and I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, “My God, that ain’t country!’
Added to the brouhaha are the appearances of non-country stars during CMT awards not as mere spectators but guest performers. Imagine the confusion when Florida Georgia Line featured rapper Nelly to close the ceremony. It’s like drinking soda instead of bourbon after a hearty meal. Then there’s the regrettable number of rocker Lenny Kravitz which as you might guess, has turned awry before a country-loving crowd.
So what makes a song Country?
Bill C. Malone, history professor and a pioneer on country music scholarship states that first, “country music has been an art form made and sustained by working people,” and second, that most of the musicians and fans were “southerners who carried in their personalities and music the burdens of their region’s history, as well as its many contradictions.”
Or if put to layman’s terms, we can quote WWII honky-tonk star Hank Williams in saying that a “ hillbilly sings more sincere than most entertainers because he was raised rougher than most entertainers.”
It is for these reasons that a teen-aged southerner lamented in her original piece how pop-country lacks substance in contrast with classic country- the supposedly footsteps we take towards a shinier future for country songs.