A couple years ago, I was on vacation with a buddy and his family. It was him and I in the front seats of the rental car, 2 or 3 of our 4 kids in the back. Some vapid, self-important pop song was playing on the radio. The lyrics became inappropriate on some level (Sorry, can’t remember the details). My friend turned to me and said, “That’s why I only let my kids listen to country music.” To which I thought, that is the last type of music I want my kids listening to, at least in its current iteration. I frowned but said nothing. I could not (and may not be able to now) articulate why deep in my core country music was problematic.
Before I set my unconditioned mind on this task, let me say up front, I am not talking about how the music sounds, or the talent level of the musicians, or how hard they work, or any of that. I have found many a country song to be entertaining and fun. Heck, full disclosure, the above-mentioned friend and I, as single men, frequented the esteemed “Cancun Cantina” for 2 full years, on the regular. It turns out I was mostly looking for girls, and there was a club dance side to boot, but heck y’all, a lot of those two steppy lyrics are downright catchy.
Oh, and I also wanted to say that there are issues with all kinds of music as the issues of society permeate ourselves through our art. And in that mess, there are always groups or artists that see through the chaff and produce elevated levels of consciousness. So, what is wrong with Country Music!?
I asked this very question at a wedding a few months ago. The table I was at had some country music fans, but multiple gin and tonics rendered me stupid… I mean fearless. The responses were telling. (Everyone was nice and uncomfortable. My wife walked away.) I must have mentioned race on some level because the first person said, “What about Darius Rucker?” Hmmmm, let’s mention the exception to the rule then act like this fixes everything. The next comment was “Well, hip hop is misogynistic.” I never mentioned rap, but I guess this is where I wanted it to go (not to rap, but to race). I just said, “I have issues with the misogyny in hip hop, but I want to talk about country music.” Heck, everyone has issues with the misogyny and violence in hip hop. Rap is purposefully provocative and “dangerous.” Country is considered “wholesome.” It is a scary type of wholesome.
It is so white. Everything comes from somewhere. There is a reason for the violence in music, and the sexism in songs. It all has an origin. Country’s purpose is whiteness. It is purposeful whiteness. What can we do to get only white people together for a concert, and without excluding anyone, make sure pretty much only white people show up. First throw in some serious (extreme?) patriotism. The more American flags the better. Make sure you talk about doing right by yourself and handling your business. In other words, the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps/we live in a meritocracy trope.” Make sure every 10th person or car/pick up has some rendition of the “Stars and Bars” visible. Oh, and in recent times, make sure you have your DT or MAGA hat or sticker. That is one confident person of color (POC) that can walk into this delusional whipsaw and come out unscathed.
Let’s be transparent. I associate country music with the republican party and its ideology. I can NOT get my conservative friends/family to have a conversation on race. I would take an irrational conversation whereby I could at least say my piece. They won’t talk about it. (Yeah it could be my approach, but I swear, I think I am being chill.) They mumble something about the whites being the victims. WHAT?!? I stopped going to Cancun Cantina when people started referring to the club side as N***** Music. Wow, white people actually say this in public when there are no POC around and feel like all the white folk will agree with them. I had no idea. It was time for me to abandon my foray into country music. I switched to a much less controversial music. Spanish – El Zol, 107.9 baby. Lucha! Lucha por los derechos de los inmigrants – Cabron!
Ok, I am all over the place, and I don’t know if I have cleared up much with my train of thought flow. To conclude, I think country music is permeated with whiteness and protecting white privilege. It perpetuates the mindsets of people who don’t understand globalism or privilege. It reinforces blind patriotism and the myth that we live in a meritocracy. It feeds into racial tropes. For these reasons, and more, I think it is one of the most dangerous types of music out there.