Even country music is falling apart

You can’t help but hear country music just about everywhere in Texas, so this article on its recent deterioration caught my attention. Evidently, it’s a genre in which the West’s slide into Gomorrah is being reenacted in microcosm, with a small core of traditionalists (typified by the likes of the Zac Brown Band, Kacey Musgraves, and older giants like Alan Jackson and Willy Nelson) who honor the names and customs of their elders fighting a losing battle against vulgar, impious, pornography-peddling sellouts mindlessly aping the degeneracy of the zeitgeist. This latter faction is as populous as it is protean, incorporating elements of rap, pop, and even techno that are totally alien to the genre; its unifying elements seem to be the demographic characteristics of its rulers (white frat-boy-look-alikes such as Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Blake Shelton, aided by youthful blondes like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Kimberly Perry) and their near-universal tendency to populate their music with overwrought references to dirt roads, pickup trucks, and endless video montages of nearly-nude women dancing in the same.

The key battles of modernity are being fought everywhere, and lost everywhere.

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27 thoughts on “Even country music is falling apart

  1. Alan Jackson, Zac Brown Band? Not knowing the other but Willie Nelson, I wouldn’t consider the latter traditional in regard to country music; otherwise, I completely agree. It’s torturous.

  2. Country music isn’t of great significance in the creation of a civilization, but when things fall apart and the centre cannot hold absolutely nothing can escape the decadence which follows.

  3. “fighting a losing battle against vulgar, impious, pornography-peddling sellouts mindlessly aping the degeneracy of the zeitgeist. ”

    Yes I’ve noticed American culture is very pornified. It’s mainstream and totally respected for women to go into the stripping business. In my homeland (India), Hooters wasn’t even able to open a single restaurant because they couldn’t get non-prostitute Indian women to be the waitresses, whereas in the States, “Hooters’ girls” are the pride and joy of their families!

    So my question is: what’s up with that?

      • As an outsider, he has an interesting point of view. If people were only able to comment about the groups they belong to, commentary would be poor and one-dimensional.

      • Goodness, really? So, it must follow that Westerners aren’t allowed to make judgments about Indian culture? How very relativistic of you.

        His observations are spot on, as well.

    • Sadly, all true.

      My question for you is:
      As a native Indian you’d know this far better than any of us, how fares your homeland these days (in the culture wars)?
      Also, is it true that in India, Indian Catholics are viewed as generally liberal and loose? I have heard this from an Indian friend of mine, though I have no idea if it’s true or not, it may have just been his opinion…then again I did once see mention of it on a wikipedia page on Indian Catholics (its no longer there).

  4. I’m not a country music fan, so my opinion isn’t worth much. It does seem that the older country music grew out of the hardscrabble lives of people who actually lived in the country, regularly drove on dirt roads, and routinely drank in honky-tonks, whereas the new country music is produced and consumed by people whose knowledge of country living, dirt roads, and honky-tonks is limited to what they learned from country music. Sometimes this new music is performed as parody, sometimes as simulacrum. That’s the culture of Texas in a nutshell, isn’t it!

    As I said, my experience of country music is limited to what I heard driving across America’s wide open spaces, late at night, trying to stay awake, in the days before tape and c.d. players. That experience left me with the impression that country music was just as immoral as rock ‘n roll, but that in country music the immorality was always slathered over with sentimentality. The song would be about fornicating in a motel room, but lust was always ennobled into something spiritual and the sordid scene was depicted in soft-focus.

    • ” That experience left me with the impression that country music was just as immoral as rock ‘n roll, but that in country music the immorality was always slathered over with sentimentality. The song would be about fornicating in a motel room, but lust was always ennobled into something spiritual and the sordid scene was depicted in soft-focus.”

      Well, that soft-focus is still preferable to the blatant f-word (and other foul slang) that is commonly used in rock and rap today, don’t you think?

    • Also, a quote from the aforementioned artist: “Everything comes from God. So when I write, it is my gift to Him. It is my interpretation of what He gave me, the circumstances that I drew the material from. So when I get done with a song, it’s not for my fans. It’s certainly not for the industry, the trophies, the accolades and the plaques. It is straight from me to God.”

      No wonder he’s shunned by the mainstream.

  5. “Even Country Music …” Ha, ha.

    My wife would be quick to inform you, I’m sure, that during the entire course of our marriage (including our courtship and short engagement), which spans the better part of 30 years, I have always and consistently frowned upon her learned “appreciation” of Country Music. The genre may well be in the process of deteriorating along with everything else, but I can recall from way back songs glorifying marital infidelity, among other things; songs that even predated my time. (full disclosure: I have an affinity for ’80s Rock, which my wife despises.)

  6. Well, I was _going_ to say that if you like nice country, you might consider getting interested in southern Gospel, otherwise known as white gospel, because one of its (many, many) different strands is a strong country element. However, I have to qualify this, because someone I spoke to who knows a great deal more about such genre questions than I do informs me that the country strain in southern gospel is too melodic and insufficiently raw to be considered a true classic country sound, that in a sense it is more similar to 90′s country, which a real aficionado would not be interested in. So there’s that. Still, if what you want is a country sound that is not trashy, then there is much in southern gospel that would interest you. Also, if you like bluegrass, there are bluegrass elements there as well. (Though again my expert friend tells me that the bluegrass in Gospel has been Nashville-ified.) On that note, as it were, here is a very talented gospel group, the Isaacs:

    http://lydiaswebpage.blogspot.com/2013/09/walk-on.html

  7. Recent? I’m baffled. Back in the 1970s, the bracing, beautiful thing about country music was how joyfully, in-your-face, not-mainstream-Hollywood-barf-culture it was. Is there anything more repulsive to SWPLs than the best TV show ever, Hee Haw? (Yes, I know, Hee Haw made compromises with this culture) Even Lawrence Welk, another shining star of TV excellence, produces smaller screams of outrage.

    It was more than that, of course. Country music is the direct descendent of anglophone roots music: the traditional, popular, oral-tradition music of the English. It came to the US from the north border area of England and settled in to the Appalachian mountains, from AL to ME. So well was this tradition preserved there that when scholarly interest in this music peaked in the early 20th C, English scholars found it useful to travel to the US for it.

    Country music is “real” and “authentic” to the extent that it sounds like this older musical form (which sounds sort of like Bluegrass or Irish fiddle music) and to the extent that it has minimal black influences. As with everything in American pop culture (Were any black people wearing “disco sucks” t-shirts in the 70s?), race is about a millimeter below the surface in the old vs new country debate.

    Previous commenters are right that country has always been bawdy. It follows English roots music in this. Roots music was, in part, the music of the tavern and of frequently sketchy and sometimes itinerant musicians. So, the fight has not featured Classic Country on the side of bourgeois, Christian values and New Country on the side of prurience. Rather, it is a cultural battle between a traditional but peripheral, white, “hill people” culture and the central, lowland, negrophilic “city people” culture. It is Knoxville vs Memphis, waged on the battlefield of Nashville.

    By the late 1980s, Knoxville had lost. Nashville became just another outpost of the Hollywood machine. What was the name of that all hat, no cattle clown of the 90s? Oh yeah, Garth Brooks. Here is how Wikipedia describes his oeuvre:

    Brooks’ integration of rock elements into his recordings and live performances has earned him immense popularity. This progressive approach allowed him to dominate the country single and album charts while quickly crossing over into the mainstream pop arena, exposing country music to a larger audience.

    The radio format known as “Young Country” or “Hot/Hit/New Country” is the one which promotes the destruction of the Country genre, and it came into prominence in the early 1990s as well.

    The article Proph links is just documenting the latest step downwards. The “good guys” in that article seem ridiculous, trying to defend their 90% Hollywood style of country against the evil upstart 95% Hollywood country.

    On the bright side, there is plenty of Bluegrass to be found if you want it. There is a Sirius radio station devoted to it. Some Bluegrassy music even has popular appeal, Alison Krauss being the most obvious example.

    • Heh, so the genre is even more an eerily accurate simulacrum of the present age than I’d thought: it’s neocons fighting liberals over which modernity will triumph while a tiny relic of anonymous trads cling bitterly to their fiddles as they sink into the mire of history.

    • The radio format known as “Young Country” or “Hot/Hit/New Country” is the one which promotes the destruction of the Country genre, and it came into prominence in the early 1990s as well.

      That’s interesting because when Garth Brooks was making a hash of country music, Nirvana was doing the same with pop. 1990-91 seems to zero in on the point of no return.

  8. A good site to keep up with what’s good in country music is savingcountrymusic.com. Trigger writes about a lot of really good musicians who haven’t made it on country radio but who are still out there playing good country music just trying to scrape by and make a living.

  9. I turned on the country station a few weeks back. It was playing bubblegum pop but one of the lyrics had the word ‘cowboy’ in it.

  10. If you want to hear good country music these days, you need to go to the ‘outlaw’ stuff, like on SiriusXM’s ‘Outlaw’ channel.

    Now, it’s not particularly moral, but it’s gritty and real, without slick Nashville polish. Stronger songwriting, better playing, more satisfying to the ears, better storytelling…

    Check it out if you want to hear the good stuff being made today.

    • The problem with alt-country is that it’s purely an art tradition, divorced from any sort of living rural culture. It isn’t surprising that those playing and listening to it are all thoroughgoing liberals.

      • I don’t know that alt-country and outlaw country are exactly the same, but in any case, someone like Corb Lund is the real deal; grew up in rural AB, near Brooks, before moving to Edmonton in high school years. Still has roots there, too; all his family, in Mormon southeastern AB.

        There are others just as authentic in the ‘outlaw’ category, even though there are others who are definitely urban in origin.

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