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Genre Elitism

Michael Quick

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Country Music Ain’t All that Bad

We’ve all been a part of a conversation or two where there has been a discussion of the hierarchy of the musical genres.

Luke Bryan, a popular country artist, singing at the Academy of Country Music Award show (AP photo)

Luke Bryan, a popular country artist, singing at the Academy of Country Music Award show (AP photo)

All too often the participants in these discussions out themselves as being bigoted or, at the very least, close-minded, putting forth such assertions as “I won’t listen to anything that’s played on the radio,” “[insert musical genre] is only for [insert stereotype],” or my personal favorite “all country music is only about drinking and pick-up trucks.”

Take a step back and think about that for a moment. Think about how often you’ve said or heard something similar.

Alright, now I’d like to attempt to paint a different picture.

First, let’s work on “I won’t listen to anything that’s on the radio.” Those who make this argument insist that all popular music is the same, lacks depth, and has very little value to them, whether it be artistic or otherwise.

What this side of the argument doesn’t see is that that’s the point. When you’re driving down the highway on the way to the beach with your friends, do you blast classical music to get in the mood? (I mean, I would, but that’d be more to make my friends mad than anything else). No, you bounce between the thirty-five different Top 40 radio stations, belting your hearts out (often off-key) the whole way there.

Popular music is supposed to be what its name implies: popular. It’s melodically and lyrically simple so it’s easy to remember and participate in.

When you go downtown to the club I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to be dancing, and not scoffing at the musical selection.

Next, we’ve got “music X is only for person X.” This is just downright silly. Music is for everyone and anyone who likes it. You like Top 40s and Country music? Awesome. Jazz and Classical? Cool. Math-rock, Drone, Contemporary Classical, Fusion, and Indie? Nice; we should hang out. Anyone can listen to anything they want to, it seriously doesn’t matter.

Finally, there’s the timeless “all country music is only about drinking and pick-up trucks.” (I know I’m specifically referencing country music, but feel free to extrapolate this out to any musical genre you see fit. “Classical music is boring,” “Jazz is hard to follow,” etc.) First off, this is a huge statement to make. Whoever makes this argument must have an incredibly free schedule, allowing them to listen to every country song, ever. Oh, unless they’re making a false generalization, in which case that’s a fallacy and already invalidates their argument.

But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for a moment. While I will admit, a significant portion of country music does reference similar subject matter, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? It’s similar to popular music in that way. It makes people want to party, only in this instance the influence is more from the lyrics instructions, rather than the beat’s instructions to dance in popular music.

I don’t know how many of the readers of The Charger Bulletin are from areas where a large portion of the population listens to country music, but I can imagine it’s pretty small. And maybe smaller still is the percentage of those readers who have attended a gathering of these likeminded, country listeners.

Well I have. And I’d like to point out that they have fun (albeit, maybe a little too much) and enjoy their music.

It gets them into the party mood like nothing else does. And are you really going to ostracize someone for doing what they enjoy and having fun?

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Genre Elitism