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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Country music ignores issues in South, but has musical value

    In the last couple of years, I’ve been listening to more country music. Maybe the fact that I moved from pretentious and sophisticated Northern California to the dusty country town of Tucson — which is pretty far south even if not in “The South” — is to blame. I know this is not exactly breaking news, but country lyrics have a blatant pro-Southern bias, which I find annoying. Still, I must admit, just between you and me, that I’ve actually started to like some of the music.

    I used to think country music was always corny, but I’ve learned that some current country hits are musically and lyrically inspired by rock music, which definitely an improvement. It’s nice to hear guitar solos on country radio now that Top 40 stations have officially banned guitar from their airwaves.

    I’m not ready to declare myself a “big country music fan.” If I did, even my poser hipster credentials would be taken away. For the record, I still have a lot more songs by Vampire Weekend than Brad Paisley on my iTunes, but I’ll admit that I appreciate and enjoy some country songs and artists.

    As one current country star is African-American (Darius Rucker) and another has a hit song advocating smoking pot (Kacey Musgraves), it’s apparent that country music today does not always follow cultural and political stereotypes. Then again, there are other formulaic songs that still seem to be checking off a laundry list of red-state stereotypes: small towns, pickup trucks, church, front porches, domestic beer, etc.

    So, although I’ve grown to like some country music, there are still some things that bug me about it. For one thing, the cowboy hat is a Western fashion that country singers from the Southeast stole from the Southwest in order to look cool, despite the fact that there’s more cattle ranching in Arizona and Colorado than in Florida and North Carolina. Fortunately, some country singers today have started replacing the cowboy hat with the baseball cap, which creates fewer questions about credibility. I’ve never heard someone be accused of being all cap and no baseball.

    The biggest thing that annoys me about country music is the regional bias. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like country musicians sing about the South more than other parts of the country. This happens despite the fact that some of the top artists in country music are not even from the South. Taylor Swift — if she still counts as a country artist — is from Pennsylvania. Dierks Bentley is originally a local Arizona boy. The lovely Jana Kramer is from Michigan. I don’t want to upset anyone, but Keith Urban isn’t even from ’Merica! Crikey, that dude is from Australia.

    It seems like many country fans actually live outside the South, and a lot of these folks from the small towns, suburbs and rural areas of the West and Midwest have probably never even visited the South. So why must country music have this tunnel-vision obsession with all things Southern? Why can’t anybody write a good country song about how awesome it is to be from Indiana? Somebody get Ron Swanson on that.

    Maybe the fact that many country singers are not from the South contribute to the way country videos and lyrics idealize life in that region. Tim McGraw sings about the superiority of Southern girls in a song appropriately titled “Southern Girl.” Brad Paisley sings about being reluctant to leave his “Southern Comfort Zone.” Country music videos feature a bunch of good-looking, physically-fit young men and women who seem unburdened by jobs and obligation; they spend most of their time outside participating in recreational activities and flirting with each other.

    The reality of the South, of course, is far different from this image. Mississippi has the highest obesity rates in the country. Mississippi and Alabama ranked as the top two states in infant mortality rates as of 2010. Then there is the minor issue of a history featuring slavery, sharecropping, segregation, poverty, political corruption and economic backwardness. When you consider those facts, the South seems a bit less awesome than country singers claim it is.

    Now, I’m not here to pick a fight with the South. I enjoy college football and barbecue at least as much as the next guy, and our country has enough problems right now without me starting another Civil War. I have no problem with people being proud of where they’re from, even if they’re from south of the Mason-Dixon line. I’m just saying some of these country singers are laying on the Southern pride thing a little bit too thick, y’all.

    Logan Rogers is a second-year law student. Follow him @AproOfNo

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