Friday, May 10, 2013

Is Country Music the New Rap?

Country music is known for its down-home southern pride. The music you crank up on a warm summer day while driving down the highway or maybe while sitting on your front porch sipping some sweet tea. The typical words you associate with this genre of music could be tractor, trucks, beer, or maybe even Jesus. Words that most likely won’t pop into your head would be sex, misogyny, and gender stereotypes. That’s more hip-hop and rap, right? False. County music is just as guilty for incorporating these themes into their songs. However, the context in which country music does it may just be what keeps it out of the spotlight unlink other genres such as hip hop and rap. 

I’m going to preface this essay by saying that I am a huge county music fan. You’d be hard pressed to find a Miranda Lambert, Johnny Cash, or Eric Church song I can’t sing along to. It’s what I grew up on, a genre that calls me home. I won’t lie when I say the songs I critique and pick apart contextually are the songs I listen to and love. But that’s what intrigued me and brought me upon this critique. Every morning, while getting ready, I put Spotify on and crank some country jams. However, on this particular morning, I had just read an article about misogyny in hip hop music and had that on the brain. You know when you learn something and then you just start using it in every aspect of your life? Anyways, this theme that was running through my head started picking up some of the same context clues I had just learned. “Drunk on You” by Luke Bryan had been the song playing.

The song starts out slow, setting the scene for what I picture as this big bonfire hang out in the country on a hot summer night. To paint a better picture, as stated by Matt Bjorke, a country music critic, the song is “certainly something the college-age fans will downright love and relate to as they live in the moment.” Then the chorus rolls:

“Girl, you make my speakers go boom boom 

Dancin' on the tailgate in a full moon 

That kinda thing makes a man go mmm hmmm 

You're lookin' so good in what's left of those blue jeans 

Drip of honey on the money maker gotta be 

The best buzz I'm ever gonna find 

Hey, I'm a little drunk on you 

And high on summertime” 

Let me tell you, if you’re a college age girl, you’ve seen Luke Bryan, and hear this, you’re swooning. But why? When actually listening to the lyrics of this song, they are rather explicit. Luke Bryan is downright asking for sex from this woman at the party. But the way he puts it, the rhetorical devices that he uses help to cover up the pretty explicit content in his song. For example, “girl you make my speakers go boom boom” clearly is expressing that he is turned on. But when he uses onomatopoeia it comes off as a more abstract idea and makes it more romanticized that just saying “hey girl, you turn me on.” In the chorus, although this may be a bit extreme, he turns the woman into an object of sexual desire. When asked what his lyrics such as “What’s left of those blue jeans” and “drip of honey on the money maker” mean, Rodney Clawson, a co-writer of the song replied, “Exactly what you think it does.”

Throughout the song, there are little phrases tossed in like “mhmm” and “good god almighty” which amplify this idea of wanting this woman, especially when it follows a line like “every little kiss just drivin’ me wild.” This whole song is basically amplification for being turned on by a woman. Although he uses a metaphor when explaining it, drunk on you, it’s pretty obvious that he is wanting her. The climax of the song, and maybe Luke’s literal climax to put it explicitly, continues as such:

“Let's slip on out where it's a little bit darker 

And when it gets a little bit hotter 

We'll take it off on out in the water” 

If I didn’t have you sold before on the whole sex thing, I hope I do now. I don’t know if it can be said any more explicitly than “we’ll take it off on out in the water.” Clearly the man in this song has won his woman over with his sexual lyrics and led her out to the water.

So why doesn’t country get a bad rap for having such sexual lyrics? Countless times I have heard rap and hip hop, sometimes even heavy metal, getting scolded for its lyrics. But country music gets praised and is believed to be this family friendly genre, one that you can turn on in the minivan with 3 kids in the back seat. But after listening to this song, maybe that is something we need to rethink.

According to the Billboard Country Music Summit, 42% of the population is a country music fan, which breaks down to 95 million country music fans in the US. 48 percent of those who like country music are male and 52 percent are female. Country music is a growing genre and is having to compete with larger genres such as rap, hip hop, and pop, all of which are known for having more sexual content. So is this country music’s way of keeping up with the Jones’s? In order to market their music, maybe there is pressure to keep the content hyper sexualized, like everything else in the media. I mean, if we’re being realistic, sex is everywhere, from music, movies, TV shows, and books. Every entertainment media is slowly becoming sexualized to fit our new age culture. So maybe instead of blaming a certain genre for its content, maybe we need to relook at our culture and see how we shape what we listen to. Country music may use certain rhetorical devices to make it not so language explicit, but it’s still there. No matter if its rap or country, you are going to hear sexually explicit content.

Meg S.

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