What makes country uncool?
I’ve spent the better part of my adolescence trying to be cool. I’m not going to hide it; all I ever wanted to do was be a frontwoman and pull off Doc Martens without my legs looking like toothpicks about to break under my weight. There was a solid year where I carried around “Catcher in the Rye” without even reading it. I’ve watched “Almost Famous” close to 15 times. I have a dorm drawer overflowing with band t-shirts to not only prove how annoying I was as a middle schooler, but also my passion for the grit and glitter of rock. I don’t know if I ever actually became cool in the end, because I definitely am not now, but the constant avoidance of what I believed to be “uncool” helped me recognize a set of guilty pleasures I just couldn’t give up. Even though I’ve been a proud proponent of almost every genre from London grime to experimental jazz, there was a large hole in the public aspect of that pride.
Now, I have a confession to make: I like country music.
This isn’t exactly a crazy revelation, but for people who know me (and my undying worship of Stevie Nicks), it may be. But it’s true — I not only like country, it honestly raised me. I can remember watching Shania Twain’s Up! tour DVD with my sister twice a day for years of my early childhood. Even though I barely remember it, my first concert at age six was the Dixie Chicks. I went home this Christmas and found a hilarious photo of my younger self, wearing my mom’s cowboy boots and a tied-up shirt, twirling around with my toy guitar. It made me think about how much I used to love country, singing with my family in the car to songs like “Cowboy Take Me Away” and feeling unbearably happy.
This year, I’ve come back to country in some ways, letting it calm me down when I’m missing my mom or dancing like a crazy person when I need a little relief from the world. But it got me thinking: What really makes something cool or uncool? What’s wrong with badass women like Faith Hill singing about their experiences in love and life, pulling your heart out with songs like “Breathe”? Why can’t I scream Hunter Hayes’s “Crazy” at the top of my lungs on the freeway without weird glances from my hipster friends? Even beyond pure, commercialized country, people are still weird about music that even sounds similar, immediately disregarding genres like roots rock, bluegrass and folk because of country’s reputation.
Look, I can understand where people are coming from when they say they hate the genre in its entirety. There are an increasing amount of bad apples in country music — people who stick to the same routine of beer, red dirt and tan legs over and over again and love to throw in a gratuitous banjo once in a while to spice it up. They’ve lost the soul that makes music good, and essentially pander to their blue-collar audiences while wearing designer clothes and living in mansions. They’re why I stopped listening in the first place. However, if you take a second to think about it, every genre has people like this. The rise of almost machine-made popular music has made a lot of people angry in every sector of the business. All I’m saying is, don’t knock it ’til you try it. It’s easy to avoid entire genres without taking a closer look, but there’s often something awesome hidden within the ugly. For now, I’m going to stick with this pursuit of exploring the uncool, and who knows — maybe I’ll come out of it with some twang.