Whatever happened to Gretchen Wilson?
You remember her — “Redneck Woman” was huge in the mid-2000s. It used to play at my high school dances. I’m honestly surprised that Gretchen, who had a great backstory and an even greater voice, didn’t become a country superstar.
Or am I?
I listen to mainstream country radio in my car a lot, partly because I work retail and never get sick of country since we don’t play those stations on the sales floor, but also because I like it. Or should I say I LIKED it, because lately what’s coming out of the speakers is less George Strait and more ultra-douchey frat rock disguised as country.
Here’s what you hear on mainstream country radio right now:
1. Luke Bryan singing about trucks, “moneymakers” and moonshine
2. Florida Georgia line singing about trucks, “moneymakers” and moonshine
3. A bunch of other guys with bland, forgettable names singing about trucks, “moneymakers” and moonshine
4. TIM MCGRAW singing about trucks, “moneymakers” and moonshine. TIM FUCKING MCGRAW, the man who gave us such classics as “Where the Green Grass Grows” and “Don’t Take the Girl.” Tim McGraw drank the Kool-Aid, desperate to stay relevant, and is now churning out the same glossy, soulless shit as the younger dudes.
5. Jake Owen rapping. RAPPING. I love rap music, but it doesn’t belong on country radio. They tried it once with Tim McGraw and Nelly and it didn’t work. Cowboy Troy didn’t work.
6. Musicians who failed in other genres who are now trying their hand at country, like the mess called “Dan & Shay” and their song “Summer of You & Me” or whatever. That song is so bad that every time it plays I throw something at my radio. Shame on you, country radio.
Even the male country stars I used to like in the midst of this mess, like Jarrod Niemann, Dierks Bentley, Easton Corbin and Chris Young are releasing shoddy singles to appeal to the uber-bros who apparently run Nashville now. Gone are the good old days! It’s a rare day when you hear Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks or even Toby Keith.
And it’s especially crazy to hear a woman on mainstream country radio. We get a blip of Miranda Lambert once in awhile and occasionally Carrie Underwood caterwauls over the airwaves, but that’s about it. Women aren’t ever played on mainstream country radio, and that drives me nuts.
Think real hard about the history of country music. How many of the figures who pop into your head are women?
There’s Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker, Tammy Wynette, Shania, Reba, Faith Hill, the Dixie Chicks, even first-album Taylor Swift … and I could go on. All we’ve got now is Miranda Lambert; at least, she’s the only one who can truly consider her music “country.” Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift have too much crossover appeal. Kacey Musgraves got a decent amount of play with “Merry-Go-Round,” but I haven’t heard her lately. I would even appreciate hearing Sheryl Crow’s country songs more often; to be honest, “Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely” is pretty good. We need to hear more women on country radio, and the only way to do that is to demand it!
Country songs are about real life things, like divorce, welfare, wishful thinking and wishful drinking.
George Jones and Merle Haggard didn’t sing songs about girls in cutoffs and dropping the tailgate down and mixtapes featuring Conway AND T-Pain. They would never. That’s appalling. The only things you hear about on mainstream country radio are parties, hot girls and a whole bunch of “country” words thrown into the lyrics, grasping at authenticity. But I highly doubt any of these dudes, from schlock-slinger Luke Bryan to trying-so-hard Jake Owen, have ever driven a tractor. You can talk about hay bales and barns and dirt roads, but I’m not fooled.
I hold out hope that all the folks who listen to this dreck and enjoy it will one day decide to actually check out Conway Twitty, or Merle, or even Reba, and then they’ll see the light. And until then, I’ll be here with my Spotify firmly planted on Brandy Clark and the best of Waylon & Willie.