Country music, as of 2012, is now the single most lucrative genre of music in North America, surpassing classic rock as the most popular style of music on the continent. Analysts speculate that a rise in the number of new, younger fans has attracted record numbers of fans to a traditionally “old person” style of music. The surging popularity of country music in the past few years has resulted in the popularity of another trend: xenophobia from “true” country music fans to all the bandwagon jumpers of late.
The new wave of country music has also alienated old fans, who are disappointed that many new country songs have become too similar to pop or rock songs. While this might be great for artists, producers, and concert promoters, longtime fans of country music have been up in arms as of late: it’s another classic case of the city kids vs the country folk.
Country, and to a lesser extent, folk music, have been gaining popularity in mainstream society because of the cultural shift towards all things authentic. This can be traced back towards cultural attitudes such as the organic food movement of the mid-2000’s (which has since subsided), and the the current movement for local food sourcing along with the 100 mile diet. Country and Folk music evoke emotions and thoughts of a simpler time, and this gives consumers that sense of authenticity and coolness that we’ve always sought out. Punk music and heavy metal had their heyday of cool in the ’80s, Grunge had the ’90s, and the ’00s had garage rock -although these years were mostly an eclectic mix as the industry underwent massive changes. Since the music industry has once again stabilized, country and folk are the “cool” music of this decade. And true country music fans can’t stand it.
Country folk are fiercely defensive about their lifestyle, as they should be. No cultural group enjoys another one hijacking their culture and traditions. African-Americans had jazz, the blues, and rap/hip-hop; and all three times, there was a lot of friction when white folks decided to steal their music and the culture associated with it. Perhaps you’ve noticed it as well: Bass Pro Shops trucker hats are everywhere; camouflage patterned clothing which has no functional purpose being worn outside the woods being worn by people walking the downtown streets; jacking up your truck for no functional purpose; and putting a fish hook on your hat (probably from Bass Pro Shops) for no functional purpose.
Most customs from the country are heavily utilitarian-based, and it’s insulting to their traditional way of life to do stuff like this. Not to mention it makes you look like a huge poser, which is the opposite of what buying into the “cool” form of music is supposed to achieve. I realize that not everyone who has jumped on the country music bandwagon is guilty of this, but the message remains the same: if you’re going to buy into a new culture, be mindful and respectful of it.
I was raised in the country. My grandparents had an antique farm with 100 acres for me to explore. My neighbour was a farmer (albeit not a very good one), and I literally woke up to a rooster’s cockadoodle-doo every morning. Despite this, I don’t consider myself a country boy. Most of my tastes align with that of people from the city, but I was still raised with a humble nature and appreciation for the outdoors, so whenever I get together with a group of guys from the country, I still get along well with them, and I’ve truly enjoyed the times I’ve spent with them. That being said, don’t think that just because you were born in the city that you can’t or won’t be accepted by people from the country. No one there is looking for a fight, but you have to remember to align yourself with their values. Don’t try to be flashy, quit being so high maintenance, and you definitely can’t be afraid to get a little dirty.
I think the reason why country has become so popular (in addition to the authenticity argument), is that people from the city are depressed with their stressful, cosmopolitan lives, and a country experience offers them some escape from that. You could argue that this is the same reason that we had the cottage boom in Ontario about ten years ago. People needed some escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, and a weekend up at the lake provided that. Values are different, living is much simpler, and money isn’t spent on possessions; it’s spent on experiences.
This is also the reason that shows like Duck Dynasty have caught on so quickly in the last few years. The show is a reflection of the values of people from the country. Everyone on the show is relaxed, easy-going, and they approach most problems from a do-it-yourself perspective. Mental health issues in the country are almost non-existent, because the community is so close-knit. Stressful things such as social status, possessions, and comparing yourselves to your neighbours are not part of the culture. People there don’t care about being wealthy or famous. People are measured by their character and how their actions reflect it. All that matters is a simple life, an honest living, and knowing at the end of the day, your buddies will always be there for you. We need more of that in today’s stress-filled world, but unfortunately, all we’ve been able to take from the country is the music; not the lessons that it preaches.