Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the opinions of The Houstonian.
“God is great, beer is good, people are crazy.” This song by Billy Currington perfectly sums up country music and the messages it sends. Many point at rap as being offensive, misogynistic, and pandering to a certain set of people. Country music is perhaps guiltier of this, and has racist, sexist, and elitist undertones.
Country music perpetuates the world in which most whites, specifically Trump supporters, seem to live: white, southern, blue collar, and Christian. Country has become a voice for most white people, typically those of the Republican party and many racist people thereof.
Reoccurring iconography in country music are alcohol, religion, trucks, women (in many regards), and nationalistic symbols. Many songs in country hit on one or more of these points regularly. There is not a lot of variance in this genre. There are many song titles which sum up the narrow ideas within the genre: “Drink a Beer”, “Whisky Lullaby”, “Drunk on a Plane”, and “Country Girl (Shake it for Me).”
Many people who were not a fan of country music were pulled in by its patriotic themes after 9/11. Toby Keith released his scathing, emotional response called “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue.” In the song, he talks about how we will find Osama Bin Laden and “stick a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.” Alan Jackson also released a song after 9/11, in which he reflected on the day. Daryll Worley released a song called “Have You Forgotten?” where he instructs listeners not to forget how they felt that day.
It seems offensive to pander to people’s emotions and make money off a terrorist attack. However, patriotism and nationalism are an important theme to this genre.
In the song “Chicken Fried”, the Zac Brown Band sings, “I thank God for my life and for the stars and stripes. May freedom forever fly, let it ring. Salute the ones who died, and the ones that gave their lives so we don’t have to sacrifice, and all the things we love, like our chicken fried.” While much of this seems great, the subliminal message is that we must support the Republican party and be Christians to love our country.
Obviously, many country singers are from the South. Some artists have even created fake accents to become successful. Many songs seem to just name southern states and describe how great the south and southern culture is. However, that is coming from a white perspective.
The south is the poorest, least educated, most segregated, and most racist region in the nation. To pander more to southern culture, songs also mention football, cars, NASCAR, hunting, and fishing. The south also has a severe issue with alcohol, so much so that many counties are ‘dry’ counties where alcohol cannot be sold. Again, this goes back to the issue of poverty and hopelessness. To glorify alcohol and continue the culture of drinking, many songs are about beer, whisky, and partying. The music never deals with the issues alcohol creates though. The south has the highest rate of domestic violence and crime in the nation, much due to alcohol.
Tobacco is also frequently mentioned. Cigarette and chewing tobacco sales are also the highest in the south. This is traditional due to the south producing tobacco, but also the lack of education on risks. Many alcohol and tobacco ads feature country music or themes. Perhaps the music gets ad revenue for mentioning alcohol, specifically when they refer to Jack and Fireball.
Finally, many songs talk about getting drunk on Saturday, going to church on Sunday, and then eating fried chicken after church. Obesity is also highest in the south.
Women are one of the most common motifs in country music. Country music perpetuates traditional gender roles, such as moms being caretakers of children and home bodies. The other role women take on in country music is as sex symbols. This is seen in songs such as, “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy”, “Guys Can Get Drunk and Hookup, but it’s Different for Girls”, “Every Inch is a Mile, I Take it Slow as Fast as I Can”, and “Stewardess is Somethin’ Sexy.” The latter is not only offensive for objectifying women, but also referring to a flight attendant as a stewardess, terminology which was disbanded in the 1970’s. Country songs also frequently refer to how women’s lips taste, such as sangria or honey.
Country music has become a vessel for the Republican party to send messages to men and women on how to live. For men, they must be a typical “red blooded American” who swigs whisky and drinks beer when he’s not chewing tobacco and driving his big, diesel truck. The men must also hunt and fish to not be a wuss, with songs making fun of “latte drinking vegetarians”, i.e. stereotypical liberals. The men must be men of God, but most importantly, must be white. Women should be objects for men’s pleasure and then make babies and take care of the home.
Many point to rap music as a scapegoat for country music’s downfalls. However, rap has featured women as strong and the leaders of families. Yes, it can be very misogynistic and offensive, but so is country music. The main difference is that many who listen to rap do not lead the lives sung about, as most who listen to country do, and worse.