What I Am Really Saying When I Say “Country Sucks,” part 1

In response to complaints about his Entertainment Weekly list of  the best country albums of 2013Grady Smith posted the following explanation . . .

I was inspired to make this supercut after posting my 10 Best Country Albums of 2013 list for EW. A few commenters told me that my choices weren’t mainstream enough, and I thought, ‘Well, yeah, because so much of what’s on the radio these days sounds exactly the same!’ So I decided to make a video to prove my point.

I hope country fans will stop settling for this derivative junk. I love a dumb party song every once in a while (including some of these!), but when they’re the only flavor available, they get old very, very fast. Here’s to better music in 2014.”

. . . and video documenting new country’s reliance on the same repeated cliches:

Of course, this is nothing new. Steve Goodman and John Prine highlighted old country’s cliches in the song “You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” though their spoof was more loving than Smith’s. This song, which is commonly referred to as the “Perfect Country Song,” became David Allan Coe’s first top ten country hit:

I would like to think that these rigid conventions support and rationalize my deep antipathy towards country music as a genre, that they provide evidence that country is simple, even simplistic, as are its fans by extension for accepting such, to use Smith’s own criticism, “derivative junk.” However, I doubt any genre could hold up to this type of scrutiny. Aren’t pop, hip hop, goth, punk, emo, R&B, heavy metal, etc., equally defined by their conventional subject matter and the conventional way in which it is presented? In fact, isn’t it those very conventions that define genres as genres?

And Smith is not dismissing all country music. Quite the contrary, as he easily found ten albums to put on his list of the best. Instead, he is dismissing mainstream country for being so formulaic, which is an issue that every genre faces. The mainstream of every genre relies on convention, while “alt” practitioners seek to balance those conventions with innovation (which, if adopted by enough others, may become new conventions).

So if it’s not the fact that country music is formulaic that bothers me, what is it about the particular formula that I find off-putting?

to be continued . . .


5 thoughts on “What I Am Really Saying When I Say “Country Sucks,” part 1

  1. Pingback: What I Am Really Saying When I Say “Country Sucks,” part 2 | Societe Anonyme Inc

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