“That isn’t country.” How many times have you heard a song and had someone with you say that? Probably anytime artists like Luke Bryan have come on. The truth of the matter is no artist is safe from this, as even Kane Brown doesn’t think Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard is country. Here at “Beats, Beer, and Bonfires” we aren’t going to try to decide what country music is because the reality of the genre is that it isn’t one genre anymore. Ryan Upchurch and a few others have recently created country rap. Luke Bryan is probably the king of pop-country. Justin Moore recently has turned to a traditional 90’s sound. That is only the tip of the iceberg, as bluegrass, Texas, outlaw, and Americana are all subgenres under the country umbrella. To judge if a song is country here, we are looking for just a straightforward thing. Does the song tell a story related to the everyday blue-collar worker? This might seem like a simple thing to accomplish; however, it is something that a lot of artists miss the mark on right now.
First off, people will be pissed off sometimes on this site. Artists such as Luke Bryan, Cole Swindell, and Florida Georgia Line will be recognized as country artists. This does absolutely not mean we are calling them George Strait because that isn’t the case. The case is that as gimmicky as some of their songs can be, they do attempt to make music that can be related to blue-collar folks. (More to follow) This doesn’t mean that everything on the radio today is country. For example, Dan and Shay don’t make songs for blue-collar people; they make it for pop radio. (See more about this here) We aren’t going to produce articles that slander the names of artists we don’t think are country. Dan and Shay are amazing singers, but they aren’t country. That’s why we are making separate sections for separate subgenres. Wanna read about George Jones but not Morgan Wallen? Then just go to the classic country section. The reality is that we can’t drive the genre, but we are going to separate what we think is good from what we don’t like. It’s up to you to separate the content you like and read that.
Now that we have decided what is and isn’t country, we will determine what are and are not good country songs. “Chillin it” by Cole Swindell isn’t a George Strait song. We recognize that, but if you have never driven in your pickup truck with the windows down jamming to that song, then you haven’t listened to it the right way. This is a country song that is a jam. It might be checklisty and pander to a specific audience, but that’s ok because sometimes those songs are what we need in life. “Dirt Road Anthem” is a country song with a rap in it, but around a bonfire, it is what you want to hear. No one ever says this, so I am going to; ITS OK TO LIKE COUNTRY JAMS. Sometimes you aren’t in the mood for a song like “Hurt” by Johnny Cash because you don’t want to be sad. Music needs balance, and many of the best jams today are the ones that people often say isn’t country. So finally, this is someone saying, go out in your truck, crank up whatever your guilty pleasure is (Mine is Thomas Rhett), and jam out because it is ok.
The other part of country music, and the ones that all the people who claim nothing else, but this is country, is the real storytelling songs. My current favorite example of this is “Maggie’s Song” by Chris Stapleton. If you have ever had a dog that you love die, and you want to have feelings, go listen to “Maggie’s Song.” Another example of this “Die from a Broken Heart” by Maddie and Tae. It has all the elements of an excellent traditional country song, from the instrumentals to the heartbreak story and the detail in the writing. These songs are designed to make you feel closer to George Strait than Florida Georgia Line. “Remember When” by Alan Jackson is a love song. Still, it isn’t a song like “Worship you” by Kane Brown, which is just over the top and is about putting a girl above religion. Jackson sings a song about nostalgia and the natural growth of a relationship. He tells a story about two people growing up together, getting married, breaking each other’s hearts, and mending that. Then they have kids, grow old together, and are celebrating life. That is a country love song.
Country music is different for every person, and that is what is up for you to decide. Do you think that Ryan Upchurch, rapping about growing up in rural America, is country, despite hip hop beats and delivery? Do you believe that nothing is country after the turn of the century? Do you agree with me and think that Luke Bryan is country, just not cut from the same cloth as the widely regarded greatest country artists? We are not here to tell you what is and isn’t country; we are here to support the music and artists we love. Right now, country music is at a historical crossroad, and the artists that audiences really stream online, and support are the ones that might start the next country music generation.