Milking the Demographics in Country Music

Country music has taken on a new direction over the last decade. I’m sure you’ve noticed. It’s rock. Get the right guitar tones mixed in with hard hittin’ drummers and you’ve got a great start on a modern day “country” song. I’m no traditionalist. I’m all for it. Crank it the $%^& up! I love every bar and measure of new “country music.”
But there’s one thing that absolutely doesn’t work for me within the mix, and that is demographically correct lyrics. You see… astute local songwriters have been figuring a lot of stuff out. In particular, they’ve learned that two important things make music profitable right now. One is the mention of brand names, like Chevrolet, Ford, Coke, Jack Daniels etc. And the other, which chaps my hide, is they now know who they’re singing to. Contemporary Country music lyrics are designed from the first pen stroke to appeal to women under the age of 30… the ones still clinging tightly to the prince and the princess fairytale stuff, bless their hearts.
It’s gotten so bad that I’m actually starting to favor and miss those old cheatin’ and drinkin’ songs. Country Music Radio isn’t speaking to men these days. And more importantly, these new lyrics absolutely don’t work with the rock & roll music beds. If you recall, rock and roll didn’t exactly need demographically correct lyrics to make those guitar tones strike a nerve. Jumpin’ Jack Flash, You Ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog, Walk This Way, Get Back, Honkey Tonk Woman and the like didn’t need much more than a smokin’ hot band and a whole lot of attitude. Were lyrics a part of the deal? Yeah. But they were usually unisex and they made everybody smile.
I’m personally and professionally insulted listening to songs with contrived and manufactured lyrics. They piss me off. The lyrics I hear on today’s country radio about some man drawing his woman a bubble bath after a hard day in the workforce make me nauseous. Ladies, let’s take a survey! How many of your husbands walk the walk and do the things these well-carved modern day country heroes sing about? Come on… truth or dare!
I say contemporary country songs are basically little more than romance novels rolled into four-minute songs. And candidly… the lyrics represent the everyday US male as well as Playboy Foldouts represent the everyday American woman. Now… I know what you’re thinking ladies. You’re probably thinking… men have had their foldouts, porn, and whatnot for a long time now! Maybe it’s your time? Well, I’ll roll with that. It definitely is your time on American country radio. You’re certainly being played.
I know my fellow songwriters here in Nashville. They’ve got it in them to do much better. And in their defense, it’s not that they’re selling out. They’re just trying to pay the bills. But I’m just hoping we can get past this contrived stuff and on to lyrics that appeal to both men and women.
Only time will tell what will be on the heels of this milking the demographic era in country radio. I still tune in, mostly because I’m a songwriter and I have to know what’s up. But honestly, if I weren’t… I’d be glued to satellite radio looking for the stuff that’s off the grid.
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