By Marty Dubecky, Staff Writer
I would like to begin with an apology to any listener of modern country music. I would like to apologize because I do not take any pleasure in bashing other’s musical proclivities. I strongly believe everyone should listen to what they like. However, I would also like to share my sympathy with all those who willingly subject themselves to country music. I truly am sorry.
I grew up listening to music. My dad introduced me to the world of music and all it has to offer. After family dinner, we would all get together to do the dishes, and my dad would turn on some tunes.
The music I listened to as a kid ranged. One night could be heavy soul with Norah Jones and Amy Winehouse, while another might be the raucous sounds of early punk with the Clash and Black Flag.
Good music taste and decent music listening habits were instilled in me. By high school, I was armed with a strong foundation in music and most importantly, a desire to listen to as much as I could.
So, I did. I listened to anything and everything I could. With the example set forth by my dad, I grasped onto any genre I could — any genre except country, that is.
Throughout high school, I discovered and explored everything from Ethiopian jazz to ‘90s indie and alternative rock. I listened to classic and new hip-hop, classic rock, experimental electronic music, reggae, pop, punk and more. Of course, there is music that I haven’t listened to, but there aren’t a lot of genres that I haven’t given a listen.
I consider myself both an appreciator and aficionado of music in general. With that being said, I strongly believe modern day country music is about as bad as music can be.
When I am talking about modern day country music, I am referring to people like Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett, Morgan Wallen, Luke Combs, Dierks Bentley and the like. Each song features the same few guitar tones, the same few drum machines or drum sounds, the same tenor voice, the same lyrical content and the same structure.
The problem with modern country is its lack of diversity — diversity both sonically and in the artists themselves. Of the top 50 most-streamed modern country artists on Spotify, six are women and the rest are similarly-aged White men, all of whom use the same sounding music. It has been this way for many years now. Modern country has shown no growth yet and certainly no willingness to grow.
The crux of what makes modern country so bad is its lack of progression. Even the broadest look at music in the last 10 years will show incredible progression.
A closer look at specific genres will display the exact same thing. Pop music now has completely evolved from pop in 2010. Sure, there is still a formulaic feel to a lot of pop on the radio, but at least there are new sounds every once and a while. The only way to distinguish a country song from 2010 and now would be its release date.
Music is built on diversity and progression. Without early rock like Bill Haley, there wouldn’t be early rhythm and blues like Fats Domino. Down the line, early R&B led to soul and disco; disco led to alternative and new wave rock and hip-hop.
The music lineage is a constant progression of completely different musicians with completely different backgrounds taking established sounds and expounding upon them. There is a distinct absence of this in modern day country music.
This isn’t to say all country in music is bad. In fact, some of the best music has roots in country. Marty Robbins, Wilco, Son Volt, Dolly Parton and Taylor Swift are all luminaries in their own, unique sects of country.
Each of these artists and bands either inspired new sounds or created their own. They have similarities, but they are each distinct in their own right.
A comparison to modern country reveals the staid and stale nature that has become of the genre. Instead of lyrics about female empowerment, real experiences of the American West or lyrics with emotional and intellectual depth, modern country does not seem to stray too far from the formula.
Music is so amazing because of the endless discoveries that can be made. As such, modern country is only doing a disservice to its listeners. There are no discoveries to be made in modern country, as it’s all the same and only remains the same. While I am certainly in no position to discount an entire genre of music with such an immense fan base, I can still offer my dissatisfaction as an avid music listener.
Modern country does not have to be so bad. Innovations in sound and subject matter can still be made. But as the trend seems to indicate , modern country listeners always have the opportunity to branch out in the expansive genre of country in music.
I encourage you to give Uncle Tupelo a listen. Harken back to the roots of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. Enjoy a refreshing taste of Folklore. Branch out and have fun; just be cognizant of modern country music’s detriment to music itself.