Country Music Is Inevitable And Can Save Our American Souls
How in the face of “America Going America,” we can all save ourselves…
Wholesale American resistance to the brilliance that is modern country music is futile. Rap is almost unarguably best now as a Canadian-led ting, and if you weren’t aware, also an ascendant Chinese art. When it’s practiced by Americans these days, it’s a disposable, and largely hypocritical fourth-generation parody of its history. Moreover, it’s largely an affront to what should be our collective, national, and current raison d’etre. Thus, it’s entirely logical to say yes, while it’s oh so much fun to be “Bad and Bougee” like the Migos, there’s something truly ascendant and noteworthy in being a “Space Cowboy” like Kacey Musgraves instead. Dig even deeper, and I’m certain you can find something about modern country — also the music industry’s most sustainable genre — that, once explored can replace the mania that rap hath wrought and create a progressive liberal sense of not how to just “Make America Great Again,” but rather save our collective American souls.
In regards to the graphic that headlines this editorial, a July 31, 2018 Bloomberg article entitled “Here’s How America Uses Its Land” notes that, “[e]ven though urban areas make up just 3.6 percent of the total size of the 48 contiguous states, four in five Americans live, work and play there. With so much of the U.S. population in urban areas, it’s little surprise that these areas contribute an outsize amount to the economy. The 10 most productive metropolitan areas alone contributed to about 40 percent of U.S. GDP in 2016.”
If the above facts are true, then how is it that a country that’s fiscally led by urban “coastal elites” elects a man who the not-so urban and economically empowered rural Midwesterners oftentimes appear to adore? Is there something to the idea that the occupants of 96.4% of this country contributing the remaining 60% of the US GDP in 2016 are actually the ones in control? Statistically it makes sense. However, for liberals so engorged on the liberal mirage of their Obama era freedoms, the idea that math and/or logic would cast midnight upon their oasis clearly appeared inherently flawed.
The backbone of Trump’s election success share demographic and locational similarities to the stereotypical demographics of country music. Roots and perpetual appeal in Appalachia that extend along a similar line of white European immigrants Manifesting their Destiny across America’s plains and rural Southwest, near, around, and beside their one-time enslaved property.
Comparatively, hip-hop started in New York City’s South Bronx, and expanded along the Eastern and Western seaboard to cities including Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Newport News, VA, Miami, Florida, Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. As compared to post-Constitutional Congress America taking 30 years to physically double in actual land mass, it took hip-hop 30 years to sustainably reach all points in between and have a consistent slew of #1 Billboard hit singles not from New York or Los Angeles-based performers. However, as great as the Billboard charting run of St. Louis’ Nelly and his St. Lunatics crew was between 2000–2006, it doesn’t hold a candle to the United States Government’s westward expansion between 1800–1810.
Adjacently, it’s also true that Nielsen, on the back of eight of the top ten most popular artists of 2017 being hip-hop/R&B genre aligned, and the genre experiencing a 72% increase in on-demand audio streaming, proclaimed hip-hop to be America’s new number one genre. This was one year after two terms of Barack Obama’s presidency, one wherein Obama’s adjacency to hip-hop’s swagger and culture was massively important in creating his universal appeal.
However, Spotify streams and Billboard hits clearly don’t lead to ballot box victories for everyone. Hip-hop culture is a globally impacting sociopolitical force for change. But as well, it is also a movement positively created from African-American and Afro-Latino history, as well as negatively inspired by domestic violence, mass incarceration, drug abuse, prostitution, mental illness, socioeconomic depression, and toxic masculinity. Thus, there’s something in Barack Obama embodying the best of these virtues, and inverting the negative tropes upon themselves to represent the hyper-realization of hip-hop culture’s excellence. Comparatively, Hillary Clinton — or possibly any other Democrat running in Obama’s wake for a generation as a Democratic presidential nominee— was, and will be for quite some time, in trouble.
Though winning at streaming and charting, it’s actually not hip-hop, but country — given that it’s historically the music stereo-typically favored by what is currently 90+ percent of the area and roughly 60 percent of the wealth of Americans — whose music and culture may actually be best defining America at-present.
On July 27th, Rob Harvilla wrote for The Outline that country newcomer and pop outlier Bebe Rexha’s Florida Georgia Line collaboration “Meant to Be” was “about to make country music history — but no one in the industry can figure out why.” Well, I have the answer, and an even better question to follow.
“Meant to Be” could be a number one hit country single for 52 consecutive weeks because it’s the best representation yet of what happens when the glossy brilliance of mainstream popular culture and music embraces America at its ugliest core roots. Prior to the success of “Meant to Be,” the election of Donald Trump as America’s president was followed by the massive pop success of Sam Hunt’s hit “Body Like A Back Road.” The song’s lyrical content sounds like the preceding part of a sentence that reads, “She had a body like a back road, so I grabbed her by the pussy.” It’s the most sexist, yet catchy of embarrassing mainstream music moments since we set forth what has become a continuous fetishization of lipstick lesbianism since Katy Perry’s 2008 smash “I Kissed A Girl.”
The connective American tie fusing hip-hop and acceptability politics that led to Obama’s two presidential terms was largely achieved by blending three notions. Foremost, there’s the idea that most urban coastal elites are fine with the acts of widespread philandering and daily consumption of marijuana if exhorted to the acts by Treach of Naughty by Nature or Nate Dogg, respectively. As well, there’s the fact that if the President of the United States was a guy who shared something in common with Treach and Nate Dogg, but had some “coolest dad ever” vibes to boot, he was an electable super-duper star. Also, much like the hip-hop culture in which his core support was largely housed, if he appeared to truly embody these notions, he could have appeal that exceeded far past only four percent of America’s geography.
In as much as less esoteric music listeners would regard country as being wholesale different than hip-hop, Donald Trump is completely different than Barack Obama. Though pop culture and mainstream media largely controlled by the narrative of people shoved into four percent of the contiguous United States would lead you to believe otherwise, Donald Trump actually had the easiest job possible in becoming America’s president. He had to convince people residing in 96.4% of the United States that everything about Obama — from his hip-hop swagger to underpinning support base of a VERY SMALL percentage of the American population, geography-wise, were actually parading around like arrogant emperors sporting new clothes.
The paradigm shift that started with Sam Hunt has now quickly shifted to Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha. As well, there’s EDM mega star Zedd and Maren Morris’ current single “The Middle,” plus Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton’s “Say Something,” and even maybe a lesser regarded country-to-pop collaboration between Miguel and Kacey Musgraves in covering the former’s 2016 single “waves” that makes something potentially quite readily apparent.
America doesn’t want Donald Trump and his conservative movement to go anywhere, anytime soon. Obama’s eight years in office were actually, a statistical anomaly, the most perfect of perfect storms. In response, America, when presented with being afraid of looking past its present, rather looked back into its roots, and found an old white man of European birth. He won by doubling down on plain speaking to the aesthetic and terror of that legacy. In response, though not historically skilled at rhyming words over manipulated sounds, they’ve definitely pick up a guitar and started speaking their truths.
None of this is quite radicalized yet, though. In the video for Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton’s duet “Say Something,” JT programs a pad on an MPC, an automated drum machine that’s at the core of four decades of hip-hop culture. That, when blended with the sonorous folk-soul of Lexington, KY born and Nashville, TN residing Stapleton, is likely enough. Though catchy, that MPC “bloop” is the perfect drip-drop of what the progeny of 3.6% of America’s lower 48 states should sound like against the 96.4% of America that Stapleton, and yes, Memphis, TN born Timberlake represent.
Radicalizing the space? Well, that’s the amazing part. What happens to what Trump wrought when, say, we dig deeper into pop and Barbadian-born American Permanent Resident Rihanna collaborates with African-American country crooner Priscilla Renea to go one step past “Love On The Brain” into Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” or Loretta Lynn “Coal Miner’s Daughter” territory. Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line being on top for 52 weeks in Donald Trump’s America actually makes sense. What lies beyond comes from the same exact roots, but with wildly advanced potential.