It’s no country music for old men… or anybody really excepting Bud Light-swilling sexists and ambition-challenged basement boys. Welcome to “Bro Country” where trite is right and all is banal!
“Here in Nashville the songwriters keep making Twinkies because lots of people like Twinkies,” Jason LeVasseur, an award-winning performer who has opened for John Mayer, Train, Dave Matthews Band, Ludacris, Maroon 5 and other chart-topping acts, told BLeeve Blog. “Unfortunately, there is no nutritional value in a Twinkie. But they sure are easy to package and sell.”
Here are some lead lines from recent country radio “hits”:
• Hey girl, what’s up? — Old Dominion
• Hey, y’all, what’s going on? Been waiting on this all day long. — Cole Swindell
• Hey, girl, I’m just a small town run around. I get my kicks out on the outskirts of town. — Canaan Smith
• I don’t know if you were looking at me or not. You probably smile like that all the time. — Sam Hunt [talking, not singing, BTW]
But Hunt is actually singing in this, um, timeless anthem: “If you’re gonna be a homebody we’re gonna have a house party!”
Sweet Fancy Moses! Makes me want to pull a John Belushi on the whole lot of ‘em! Even widely accomplished and respected Brad Paisley has caught the bug… but I’m sure Bro Country fans think he’s “crushin’ it.”
John Mayer had this to tweet about one performer/songwriter: “Jason Isbell is the best lyric writer of my generation. He lives at a level where even great writers can only visit.”
And, you guessed it, the former Drive By Truckers band member is nowhere near country radio!
“I don’t think country [radio] artists believe their songs,” LeVasseur added. “The creative process, both musically and lyrically, is based more on market research than art. For the industry and the artist to survive, it is more important to find a song that can sell rather than a unique creative piece. Music and lyrics have the power to help us better understand ourselves. But when the artist who creates the piece does not feel anything for the piece, other than its potential profitability, where does that leave us?”
It leaves us with commercial saviors such as the brilliant Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum and ol’ reliables Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney. And do yourself a favor and dig a little deeper for the luminous likes of Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Knight, Slaid Cleaves and the Blue Dogs.
In his book “A Walk in the Woods,” Bill Bryson describes a prattling, annoying fellow hiker as “awesomely brainless.” Although it was a long, tough slog the author did manage to find his moments of peace and inspiration in the country.
“Here’s your guitar back, Bro Country.”