I watched some of the CMAs last night (one of, I don’t know, four or five country music awards shows held throughout the year). I couldn’t handle a lot of it.
Let me back up a little bit.
First, I’m a country fan (in case you didn’t already figure that out based on my recent concert experiences).
That wasn’t always the case.
I grew up staunchly hating country music, thinking it was whiny, annoying crap. If I heard it on the radio, it was a knee-jerk reaction to change the station. I got this attitude from my dad, mostly, who still can’t stand country (by now, my brothers and I have all gone to the dark side, much to his chagrin).
Then I started dating a Texan, who quickly learned about my musical preferences, and vowed to change my mind.
It wasn’t even hard. He was a contestant in a “Mr. Fraternity” contest right after we met, he sang a Garth Brooks song for the “talent” portion, I watched him sing, I downloaded the song (Callin’ Baton Rouge, if you’re interested. Great song), and that was about it.
I started downloading Big & Rich, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift (this was shortly after she made her debut), Rascal Flatts, Brooks & Dunn, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood. I was so hooked.
For the last six years, country music has had a solid spot on my radio and in my Pandora and Spotify playlists. And since I live in California and most major metropolitan areas only have one country station, and it only plays current country hits, that was pretty much all I listened to. Occasionally I’d delve into some Johnny Cash or Loretta Lynn or Patsy Cline, but for the most part I stuck with current artists.
Over the last couple years I’d make jokes about “Jake Bryan/Luke Shelton/Blake Bentley/Dierks Owen,” throwing in and purposefully mixing up any random male country artists names whenever someone asked what was playing on the radio. Because they all sound exactly the same (especially Luke Bryan and Jake Owen. I cannot tell those two apart for the life of me) and all their songs about the exact same thing — partying with a bunch of hot girls off a dirt road/in a field/on a beach/near a bonfire, dancing on tailgates and then driving their trucks through fields and on dirt roads with those hot girls in their painted-on blue jeans. Every. Damn. Song.
(And these are not new or groundbreaking complaints about country music, I know. Believe me, I know.)
Half-watching the CMAs is just driving this home for me. Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves won Single and Song of the Year, respectively, but I can’t remember the last time I heard any female singer on our local station. It’s an endless repeat of pretty guys singing about their trucks and pretty girls. It’s so boring. There’s no substance. No storytelling (or rather, just telling the same story over and over), which is what makes country country.
And it just kills me because there are AMAZING country acts out there who don’t get a single second of airplay. So please do me a favor and pull up YouTube or Spotify and search for at least one of these artists:
First, Zac Brown Band, who does get airplay every now and then but they don’t seem to have even been invited to this awards show, which is just stupid.
Holly Williams (Hank Williams is her granddaddy and it shows)
Shovels & Rope — I have to just show you this one. I stumbled on one of their videos on YouTube that was part of a playlist, so I just let it go for a bit in the background, and then this song started and halfway through I had to stop the video and start it over. It’s so raw and real.