Beer, Guns and Equal Rights: In Defense of Country Music

Published 2 months ago -

Teresa Prytko

Arts & Entertainment and Opinion Editor 

When I tell people I like listening to country music I usually get the same response; “oh I hate country music, I’ll listen to anything, but country music.” Where did it get this bad rep from? 

One of the things I often hear is that country music is only about “trucks, beer and girls” which definitely has truth to it, but it also covers many other topics such as soldiers dying while in combat in  “If You’re Reading This” by Tim McGraw. You might not have any involvement or association with the U.S. Army, but I’m sure you can empathize with the idea of losing a loved one in such a tragic way. 

There is also “Most People Are Good” By Luke Bryan which literally has the lyrics “I believe you love who you love, Ain’t nothing you should ever be ashamed of.” This whole song in general has a message of love, and shows that country music can be just as inclusive as any other genre. 

Many associate country music with conservatism because of its tendency to show disdain for authority and alignment with working-class ideas, but many might be surprised that country music has quite a lot of inclusive themes in its music containing themes of economic justice, prisoner’s rights and evening questioning the role of women in society, according to The Aggie. Johnny Cash in particular was seen as quite radical, according to The Aggie, he once performed at Folsom State Prison and empathized with the prisoners there, something that drew up a lot of controversies. He also performed in front of Richard Nixon in 1972 where he voiced his critiques about the Vietnam War and also stood up for the rights of Native Americans. 

Women have had a powerful voice in country as well, in the 70s Dolly Parton brought up the topic of women’s lives in the workforce in her song “9 to 5” and Loretta Lynn talked about how birth control helped her regain control of her life in her song “The Pill” which was banned from many radio stations, according to the Washington Post. More recently in 2014, Maddie & Tae released “Girl in a Country Song” where they expressed frustration with girls often being portrayed as sex objects by many male performers. There are many more country songs with feminist themes, a whole article could be written on this subject alone. 

Although it might not be as evident, there are feminist themes in both traditional and modern country music. Many believe that is it the men who sing about the same thing, beer, guns and girls (girls in a derogatory way). However, there are many men who have also discussed feminist themes in their music. “If You Told Me To”(2015) by Hunter Hayes discusses consent, “Irma Jackson” (1972) by Merle Haggard is about the difficulty of being in a bi-racial relationship, “Karate” (2013) by Braid Paisley is about domestic abuse, “Red Rag Top” (2002) by Tim McGraw hints at an abortion. 

There is also a distinction to be made between contemporary and traditional country music. There are many country fans who say that contemporary country is not “real” country and has become more pop-influenced. Well it is true that the pop-country subgenre has emerged, it does not mean that it is not “real” country, it is only different. Some artists who can be considered pop-country are Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert. Other subgenres of country include Americana, bro-country, country rock, country neotraditional/alt-country, outlaw country and more. Americana artists include Johnny Cash, Kasey Musgraves and Tyler Childers (although he has rejected this label), some bro-country artists are Luke Bryan and Morgan Wallen, country rock includes Neil Young and the Rascal Flatts, artists like Zack Bryan and Reba McEntire have been considered be to neotraditional or alt-country and outlaw country contains artists like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. 

So next time you think all country music sounds the same, listen to “Beer in Mexico” by Kenny Chesney and then “Jolene” by Dolly Parton or “Would You Go With Me” by Josh Turner and then “Breaking More Hearts Than Mine” by Ingrid Andress. 

If you are looking for some good songs to get into the genre, I will recommend some of my favorites. “Just to See You Smile” by Tim McGraw, “Change Your Name” by Brett Young, “Happy Instead” by Zack Bryan, “So Small” by Carrie Underwood, “Stay” by Sugarland, “Stay With Me (Brass Bed)” by Josh Gracin, “Chasin’ You” by Morgan Wallen, “Abeline on Her Mind” by Buddy Jewell, “I Told You So” by Keith Urban, “Better Man” by Big Town, “What’s In It For Me” by John Berry, “Smile” by Uncle Kracker, and there are definitely more where those came from. 


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