Is country music becoming more reactionary?

A recent paper in Rural Sociology, an academic journal, examined how men talk about themselves in mainstream country music. Its author, Braden Leap of Mississippi State University, analysed the lyrics of the top songs on the weekly Billboard country-music charts from the 1980s until the 2010s and found that the near-routine depiction of men as breadwinners and stand-up guys has changed.

Over the past decade, more songs objectify women and are about hooking up. Mr Leap’s examination of lyrics also found that masculinity and whiteness had become more closely linked. References to blue eyes and blond hair, for example, were almost completely absent in the 1980s. In the 2000s, they featured in 15% of the chart-topping songs…

Jada Watson, of the University of Ottawa, recently found that in 2000 a third of country songs on country radio were sung by women. In 2018 the share was only 11%. Even the top female stars get fewer spins. Carrie Underwood had 3m plays between 2000 and 2018; Kenny Chesney received twice as many. A report from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that 16% of all artists were female across 500 of the top country songs from 2014 to 2018.

Here is more from The Economist.


More reactionary than this -

Well, that does predate the 1980s. Which almost makes one thinks that maybe the authors are tweaking the results a bit.

I have to assume that there are songs where blue eyes and blond hair lyrics. I fail to understand why this is a problem.

Fewer women country Western singers getting their music played. Hmmm! Could this be free choice of the consumer? If so where is the problem? Let's force the consumer to listen to music they don't choose to listen to... all in the name of diversity of course.

Writers should be allowed to do cultural criticism without hearing "But people like it!" Of course they do, nobody would care about the art in question otherwise.

I don't understand "cultural criticism". Is it a real thing? It actually sounds like whining where the response should be "grow up and get a life". Seriously what is cultural criticism?

It means they can criticize you Anon, but you can't criticize them back. Freedom of the press, dontcha know. Can't criticize the press!

"Free choice of consumers" in reference to the Nashville music industry?

Country music has and continues to be driven by payola.

There's a chapter in Thomas Sewell's The Quest for Cosmic Justice entitled The Tyranny of Visions that applies just as much to communists as you free market ideologues: "The more sweeping the vision--the more it seems to explain and the more its explanations are emotionally satisfying--the more reason for its devotees to safeguard it against the vagaries of facts".

But what else should I expect from political and economic discussions in the comment section of a blog? There is nothing of practical consequence to come of any of these arguments. It is literally just an endless volley of utterly meaningless ASCII characters emanating from badly postured bodies.

If you're going to wreck your physical being sitting in front of a computer screen and engaging in pointless mock battles you might as well be playing a higher quality video game like Overwatch.

Oh, and I get it. The trolls are indeed playing social media as a video game. And much like their counterparts in Final Fantasy, the non-player characters are the ones who don't realize that it's a game. When the best case scenario for engaging with digital avatars in a text-based forum is that you're a fucking troll, we've all lost.

And yes, I am 100% trolling this forum right now.

Your serve!

Shut up about politics

in case the reference is not clear:

+1. And the reference wasn't clear to me since I don't listen to country.

Actually, there is a great deal of marketing research on this topic.

One interesting finding: artists who collaborate across a wider range are more likely to make the top 100. In other words, diversity pays.

Here are some findings:

"According to broad literature in sociology on categorical boundaries, artists who deviate from existing genres are expected to be penalized for violating collective expectations and norms. We find songs featuring other artists actually have a greater likelihood of making it into the top 10 than songs not featuring other artists. Addition- ally, consistent with theorizing about congruency in the co-branding literature, we observe that the greater the difference (cultural distance) between the genres of the artists involved, the more likely the song is to reach the top of the charts. We argue that by combining the expertise of specialists in each genre, as well as comingling audi- ences while still maintaining each collaborator’s original positioning, artists who feature artists from other genres are able to produce more successful songs."

Andrea Ordanini, Joseph Nunes, Anastasia Nanni (2018) "The Featuring Phenomenon in Music: How Combining Artists from Different Genres Increases a Song’s Popularity ," Springer 29.

"we observe that the greater the difference (cultural distance) between the genres of the artists involved, the more likely the song is to reach the top of the charts"

And yet the rap / chamber music commercial opportunity remains unexploited. Someone should tell the ever struggling symphony organizations.

Not a Bobby McFerrin fan, are you? Maybe you don't know classical music. Listen up, man:

No, I'm not a fan (the added vocals might as well be a screeching cat), but then I agree with late Allan Bloom.

Are you an engineer who works with, like, engines? Or are you just an IT guy.

Sir Mix-A-Lot performed "Baby Got Back" with the Seattle Symphony:

Sir Mix-a-Lot is a national treasure and for those unaware, he will be on tour this summer

That was cool and funny! Thanks!

Because everyone wants to hear Prof. Cornell West rap, bro! Perhaps he can team up with TC on an album and call it Marginal--ized Revolution!

More alike than you think, Bro: Country and rap music are more alike than you'd think


Good point. Old Town Road, mixing hip-hop with country themes, is chart topping at the moment. You hear more country songs mixing hip-hop and pop elements to get more play on the pop stations.

There is a bit of a confounding effect here: bringing together artists of widely varying styles is unlikely to happen unless 1) one of the artists is already very popular and/or 2) the collaboration is especially fostered by music industry execs, who are more likely then to push the collaboration. The earliest example I can think of is the Aerosmith-Run DMC collaboration on Walk This Way, which occurred when record execs wanted to break hip-hop through to the mainstream and there was a concerted effort to revitalize Aerosmith's career with the Permanent Vacation album.

+1 for example, The Gourds' were a successful alt-country band for 20 years, but they are only known outside their genre for their outstanding cover of Snoops' "Gin and Juice"

Hayseed Dixie also does a great cover if that song.

Maybe if the Chinese had not been allowed to steal American jobs, Muslims had not been allowed to blow Americans up, if Zionists had not been allowed to bled Americans dry and the Japanese had not been allowed to slander Americans, Americans would not have become so desperate. As I like to say, ideas have consequences.

It is one of the most profound mysteries on earth why sertanejo songs don’t top US country music charts.

Exactly. Sertanejo songs mix lyrism, beauty, elegance and nobility.

For example:

Very beautiful. Unfortunately such a performance would not be popular in the US. American audiences have been habituated to a very narrow range of performance styles. Diets and orchestral performances of popular music are novelties. The same song done in English by, say Paula Fernandes, would shine brightly on US airwaves despite lacking the over-the-top diva delivery US female performers have adopted.
When considering US culture it is sometimes helpful to not ascribe to malignancy what can be explained by sterility. For example, there is nothing comparable to the Art1 channel in the US. The government funded television and radio stations use a lot of British programming to promote submissive docility and to tolerate the contempt of an elite ruling class. Consequently people in the US are typically shielded from musical diversity and good art. Having no experience of it, they have no idea what they are missing. Similarly, most Americans don’t know what good food tastes like because the fascist USDA has regulated the production fruits and vegetables to the point that they cost 4 times what they do in Brasil. Brazilians are generally appalled when they are asked to eat what passes for sausage here. There is nothing comparable here to linguiça calabresa, fumada, or caipira. And don’t even mention pizza. There are many, many contributing factors to why the US is a dull, joyless, perpetually agitated dystopia.

"American audiences have been habituated to a very narrow range of performance styles."
So sad.

"Brazilians are generally appalled when they are asked to eat what passes for sausage here."
Many friends of mine complained about the food in the USA.

The sliced pork franks and olive loaf at a Brazilian breakfast buffet are truly treats that gringo philistines will never understand. Add a half-liter of farofa and a few boiled sparrows and you got the best meal in Itapipoca.

The women of the Sertaõ are the least attractive in Brazil.

No, they are not.

Where are you? Santa Catarina? You don't know nuthin'.

I was born and raised in Espírito Santo, but I live in São Paulo State, the economical heart of Brazil.

No, the women of São Paulo are the least attractive. Everything in São Paulo is the least attractive of its kind in Brazil. A woman of the sertão, once her father kicks her out of the house and she makes it to the littoral, is hot. Unless that littoral is near São Paulo.

Do you expect anyone to be sympathetic about that with this kind of language?

I don't expect Americans to be sympathetic. I expect them to die. They are killing themselves, theybare selling their children into bondage.

"Choose your next witticism carefully, Mr. Bond".

Thiago, who may well be from Sioux Falls, visited Espiritu Santo or read about it and thought it was Brazil.

More sexualized in lyrical content and more superficially focused on appearance follow the general arc of trend toward vacuity in pop music.

Hence more mentions of sexy (to the target audience) blue eyes and blonde hair, even though preferences for those probably haven't changed one bit either way among their target audience. (Preference I don't share, but everyone's got their own thing.)

Doesn't seem "more reactionary" at all. prior's link above shows what you could perhaps call "reactionary", accepting the bias in that framing - content which is at least political and a "reaction" against left wing agitation and protest. There's nothing political in songs that merely describe those features of hair and eye colour, as much as it's predictable that certain folk will get an attack of the vapours at so much as their mention.

The trends described in the OP just seem more appearance and sex oriented.

I was just now finishing up some yardwork outside when 3 boys about 13 or fourteen peddled past, music coming from one of the bikes. I heard only a single bracing snatch of lyric: "the way she talks when she's spoken to."

I looked after them, wondering what on earth could a boy *today* make of the Rolling Stones?

But then I remembered music has splintered and rap music has all the transgression anyone could want, so the Stones are not particularly dangerous in 2019.

I don't know what anyone's supposed to be reacting to, but back to your regularly scheduled programming, I think we were at "her painted-on blue jeans" or "she thinks my tractor's sexy" by the Unreconstructed Southerners. ("Trend toward vacuity" sounds right.)

Not just the Stones:
Lennon / McCartney, Getting Better (but with an apology):

I used to be cruel to my woman
I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved
Man, I was mean but I'm changing my scene
And I'm doing the best that I can (Ooh)

No doubt straight from Lennon's heart.


Seems spot on.

... what kind of Country Music 'lyrics' generate the highest sales volume these days -- or are there too many variables to isolate 'lyrics' from the causative mix?

What's happened is that the popularity of country music has narrowed, as has the popularity of, for example, stock car racing. It isn't that the nation has become more reactionary, it's that the reactionaries have become more narrow. It may appear that the reactionaries have become larger in numbers, but the reality is that as they have narrowed, they have become more conspicuous.

“You’re making a double association,” he went on, ”just because the technique is cliché, doesn’t mean the repetition is.”
“O.K.,” I said.
“The dream, it’s not my dream, its not, you know, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. Your reaction reflects your blind devotion. That’s mostly what I’m trying to get across. It’s JFK’s equal pay amendment. It’s the identity of indiscernibles. Hold on, I’ll go bring some coffee,” he said.
It was our custom to stretch an hour-long lunch into two while the property owners with their shovels were out in full force, though Erik usually spoke about entertainment or politics, he was excited because we finished a surveillance product known as P2P from the survey data of computer-painted advertisements on bus shelters, mall displays, and airport kiosks.
“I do see what you’re saying,” I said, taking my coffee when he came back.
“Look, I’ve been taking Prozac now for about six months.”
“It’s virtuous. Good vibrations. The whole ordeal. I go to this doctor, I’ve seen him, it doesn’t matter—I go through sleep and women , blah blah blah, and one day he tells me there’s a pill that helps. ‘About time,’ I say. ‘I’m at the end of my wits.’”
“That helps?”
“It’s like this cuneiform tablet. Nobody really knows what the fuck it really is. I mean scientists just found the brain receptors for marijuana. It’s called andamide.”
“You’re a drug seeker?”
“Exactly. There’s no explaining why people seek drugs why God supplied drugs. Why they work. I mean really work. Make people do all sorts of things,”

Does anyone listen to lyrics? Really. I love the Blues, but the lyrics are not always kosher. There's a difference between Country Music and Country/ Western Music, and I'm mainly a fan of the second, although the only music I can't ever abide is Polka.

Thank God I'm a country boy.

Wonky academics will never get it.

Is that why you whine about women all thentime?

I guess. Recently, I learned that one can live without them.

Can you live without whining about them?

Living alone wasn't his choice. His incessant whining about Democrats drove them all away. Derangement is real.

But can he srop being a whiner?

Waaaaa! You are heartless.

Your comment leads me to believe you don't know who John Denver is. I think that his argument is a lot stronger with that knowledge, but then again, I'm probably just someone who "whines about women" (While women never whine about men).

Country music has formed itself to the tastes of women in recent decades. According to this site, 77% of the streaming audience of country music is women, and women in general make up slightly more than half of the country music audience.

I have been reading for years that country music AM/FM stations have up to 80% female listeners. Country music comes close to being America's most female popular music, in terms of fandom.

Because line dancing.

Most of the listeners to that crap are women, most women are white, and most white women prefer white men.

Whatever is going on, it's the fault/choice of women.

For comparison, we might want to measure how many hip-hop songs "objectify women" and are about "hooking up?" I suspect that the number is high, but we don't think of hip-hop as reactionary because it's not associated with southern housewives and white guys with shotgun racks.

Bloods in the hood can sing about cap'n cops and slappin' hos and no one cares.

A white dude sings about blue eyes and the sky is falling.

And this is why I can barely listen to rap anymore. The sameness of the lyrics, guns, 'rari's, money, sex. All the same crap. And country? Don't get me started. Also crap.

A pox on both their houses.

Indeed! A pox on both their execrable houses. But ...

There is — or can be — at least a semblance of poetry, and thus poetic truth, in country music. Whereas rap is auditory violence, with violence extolled in the lyrics.

Country music was once described as: “Three chords and the truth.”

Not. You remember what happened with "Girl Crush?"

Great tune, imaginative. Country music listeners were too stupid to even understand what the song meant and country music stations pulled it because it offended their listeners sensibilities. If country was once poetry, it is no longer.

That's because a white guy just can't catch a break.

'Crap' is actually a portmanteau of 'Country' and 'rap'.

it is because they are borrowing the misogynist bravado stuff from hip hop, believe it or not.

for example, many top 40 country songs now include short interludes of really bad "rapping" by the singer.

Is there "good" rapping?

(But I know what you're talking about.)

Given how popular hip hop is among younger white males I also wonder if country music artists are emulating aspects of it to appeal more to them.

Actually, white women are a larger consumer of rap music than white men, and uncoincidentally a much larger consumer of modern country music.

and it still sucks.

only cucks listen to country. alphas listen to rap and hiphop. truth.

I hate country music - I bet the devil plays it in Hell full blast full time. It's enough to make me be good, I promise.

Many women really like that low, twangy male voice with the smoker's buzz. It may be wrong to assume that women's first preference would be to hear women singing about women's problems in women's voices.

Maybe there's a large set of women who get off on a manly voice, with a manly attitude. Maybe its something they'd like to hear more of in their lives.

You bet they like it, especially in the fertile part of their cycle. That's why bad boys do so well in the mating game. When they are done with the Marlboro Man they go back to Poindexter. Marlboro gets the best part of the action and Poindexter pays the bills, changes the diapers of MM's baby, and eventually loses half of his toys.

Your wife didn't leave you because you're lame, she left because we're all animals in heat.

I would also venture that most people's lyrical preferences in pop music are politically and socially to the right of their declared preferences in other areas.

Lots of leftist men love the Rolling Stones, Richard Wagner and other reactionary stuff.

Zionists keep whining about Wagner because they want money. I don't see how the Rolling Stones can be reactionary.

A lot of Wagner’s music is bloviating. His good stuff is good, but most of it is mediocre. Which is why it is better to go to a performance that is a review of his work, not performances of his full operas (with a couple exceptions).

Just as lots of rightwingers like the Beatles. No trend.

Well, if talk of “hooking up” has increased, perhaps country music has become less reactionary, not more.

I guess there is something of importance here. What is it?

With this post and the previous one, the focus is on cultural issues to divide so that the bad politics of conservatives is easier to swallow.

Us versus Them.

Next we'll hear about something from Steve Bannon about the effects of culture on political discourse.

We are a diverse country which has benefited in many ways from diversity.

Odd world view where conservatives are the ones trying to emphasize dividing issues and cultural beliefs within the culture.

You'd think the ones trying to promote cultural diversity and how people within the country believe in different things and are different - the pro-multiculturalists - would be the ones that would most hit that button.

If anything, the usual charge is that conservatives over emphasize homogenity relative to reality (e.g. emphasize that everyone is straight, white, Christian etc.)

Everything is problematical!!!

Amusing that we have reached a point where "becoming more like rock music" is called "reactionary."

I was thinking the exact same thing.

"Carrie Underwood had 3m plays between 2000 and 2018; Kenny Chesney received twice as many."

Not surprising, since Carrie Underwood launched her career by winning American Idol in 2005. Kenny Chesney got a 5-year lead on her. Nice data cherry-picking.

Funny how they don't mention "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" (released 1975, topped the country music charts, covered by multiple new artists, widely known, etc.) These studies are always hilarious because they start by asking "have X group become more Y?" Then they define Y in a much narrower way than the commonly accepted definition such that it guarantees that X has in fact become more Y, and then they use that "data" to allow their own biases to be expressed more freely and with lower social cost. "Studies" like these are the height of intellectual laziness and illustrate far more about their creators than the objects their inquiry.

That's the exception that proves the rule. Nobody else was singing about no blue eyes in 1975. An outlier. Your argument is corrupt, surprising and incisive though it seems at first glance.

My argument is not hampered by the apparent "outlier" status of Willie Nelson in country music. My point is that they cherry-pick data in such a way to allow for the construction of specious models to justify their own social biases. Your claim that Willie Nelson is an outlier is actually not supported by any evidence they give, as they only focus on post-1980's music. So ultimately I guess we won't know until another academic who publishes in "rural sociology" uses "references to blue eyes" as a gauge for how "reactionary" a specific form of media is. Do you not see the insanity behind these studies? What usable models do they produce? What actionable information is generated?

Well, maybe.

"Why don't you love me like you used to do?
Why do you treat me like a worn-out shoe?
My hair's still curly and my eyes are still blue"

1949. Hank Williams.

It's the opposite of pop music - how many male pop stars are there these days? Pop music is all about girl power these days. The only males allowed to break in are the emasculated/metrosexual typesl. Although, I am getting kind of sick of bro country.

Metal has solved the problem by now delivering most lyrics in a gargling, unintelligible growl. (And the male singers are even worse)

What is "reactionary" about "hooking up"? Not being polemical, I genuinely don't understand the connection?

Very Relevant: If you have the chance, go on youtube and search "Bo Burnham - Pandering". Hilarious.

It's a simple reaction and response to the dominance of rap: they are staking out the opposite patch of turf.

> more songs objectify women and are about hooking up

The negrification of country music.

I love country music, but there have historically been some lyrics to genuinely be ashamed of. Maybe things have gotten worse on average, but it's hard to imagine anyone topping Johnny Paycheck in All American Man:

"He took a piece of Adam's rib never gave a thought about women's lib
And He made the masterpiece of His creation
Now just between you and me do you honestly believe
He wanted you to take my place in this nation

American woman why can't you agree
God made man for Himself but He made you for me
American woman why can't you understand
Now all you've got to do is love your all American man"

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