Mr. Bill George Presents

Why I Hate Country Music

In Music on September 7, 2009 at 4:38 PM

What kind of music do you like?

In my experience the archetypal answer, at least for everyone around these parts is that they like pretty much everything, except for rap and country. Recently, rap has sort of fallen off that list. So why does country music never make the cut? In a society where people are exposed to, and seem to enjoy more and more types of musical genres it becomes difficult for people to say that they are fans of any type of music, so they simply say everything but country? Poor country.

I think, that in my years of listening, I have stumbled upon the reason why I am not too fond of a lot of country music, and I’m guessing that this might apply to a lot of other people as well. It’s not the excess use of peppy fiddle or the strumming of acoustic guitar, both of those I rank up in the awesome category. It’s certainly not the down home vibe that it gives off, as I’m a fan of folk music and it usually carries with it a similar imagery (albeit usually sans cowboy hats). I think it’s the fact that Country, more than any other genre of music, over-utilizes as type of song that simply doesn’t resonate with me. The story song.

Have you all heard the story song before? It starts off on some rainy night when the singer was a kid, or maybe during a conversation with an auto-mechanic or your dad, you enter into a situation thinking one thing or feeling one thing, and thanks to an odd circumstance, or conversation or a bit of imparted wisdom you’re able to get over your sadness, frustration, being cheated by the car dealer and become better or smarter for it. Blech.

I’m sorry Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Brooks, and Dunn. Story songs are stupid. Really, really stupid. They just don’t hit me at all. They tend to start off on a shaky premise, and end up feeling forced and hokey. There are some notable exceptions to this. The Gambler by Kenny Rogers being the first that comes to mind. The Gambler is a story about a man got some advice from a wise poker player about how to live his life. It’s catchy, and it really, really hits me. It’s a story, but it’s a story from a moment in time. There’s no resolution except that the dude was like “Wow, good advice.” Kenny Rogers was smart enough not to end that song with some rhyming version of happily ever after. He didn’t grow and change and go home and kiss his wife because of what “the gambler” said. Plus, I’m pretty sure that the gambler dies in the song, which is always dramatic. Stuff happens, a story is told, and it’s cool! It’s cool because they leave something up to the imagination.

Look country music writers: When we lend you our ears for two to five minutes we’re not looking for a story. We’re not looking for you to smirk and tell us about the time that you outsmarted your friends. Or learned a lot about life, or how you’ve grown as a person. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I would love to hear how you’ve grown as a person, just not in lyrical form. People tune into music in order to feel something, and 5 minutes is far too short of a time to go through conflict and resolution. Just leave it at conflict. Take the song for what it really is, a moment in time, and just belt out how effing miserable you are. Don’t grow, don’t change, don’t rethink your life. I don’t want that. At least not in your music, and if you’ve got a story to tell, please for the love of all that is musically good, don’t end the story. It doesn’t need an ending.

So I guess that’s why I hate (some) country music. How about everyone else? What makes you hate (insert genre here) type of music?

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  1. I too am not a huge fan of the genre*, but for a different reason. I don’t have a problem with songs that tell a narrative, in fact there are some I honestly love (i.e. Bob Dylan’s ‘The Hurricane’). For me, I don’t like country for the same reason I don’t like certain foods. I hear it and my brain says, “no thank you.” I can’t control, rationalize or explain it, that’s just my taste. I have nothing bad to say about it besides it just isn’t for me.

    (*This is obviously a generalization based solely on my past experience. I would never pretend to know everything an entire genre of music has to offer. There could be plenty of music deemed country that I’ve never heard but would love.)

  2. mmm i do enjoy the narrative songs at times. Like the story of the young boy named rocky raccoon, whose woman ran off with another guy, hitting young rocky in the eye.

  3. I enjoy both of those songs as well. The issue isn’t necessarily with the narrative, but with the idea that the story has to be complete, that after all the anguish and suffering, or after all the fun of the barbecue they have to find peace and happiness on the prairie or pack up the coolers. It’s ok to tell a story, I just think that it’s important that the emotional range of the story be relatively limited. Have a cookout, that’s fine, have a breakup that’s fine, tell me all about it. I just don’t want to hear about how it all wraps up. If that makes sense.

  4. Cowboy Troy, the defense rests…

  5. Honestly, I like country music. I’ll admit there are some songs that are just plain awful, but some country songs are incredibly heartfelt and beautiful. However, I am guilty of finding redeeming qualities in all genres of music.

    I find it interesting that the Western culture is often associated with being tough/redneck/insensitive/etc., but their music makes them seem very weak (emotionally). That’s how I feel at least.

    One of my recent favorites is “Birmingham Jail” by Chatham Country Line. It’s more folk than country, but I love it.

  6. Paco, I agree with what you said, and I think you said it very effectively. The story should stay unresolved. Apart from that, as a faithful Jew, I often get turned off by the Christian proselytizing. That’s the major thing. When I’ve heard about a “blue eyes” in the umpteenth song, it’s not an outrageous turn off, but it does raise my eyebrow. However, it has been years since I actually heard an outwardly racist country song.

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