We have a problem.
I hoped and prayed for it, but it seems that what we’ve taken to calling “bro country” is here to stay, at least until the tides change and some new country trend appears. I hope that isn’t “hick hop.” Cross your fingers.
The problem is bro country in general – it’s bad. Let’s keep EDM and rap and Auto-Tune out of country music. It doesn’t belong there. And it means that country radio is entirely male-dominated; I hear Luke Bryan, Joe Nichols and Blake Shelton ten thousand times more than I ever hear Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves or even Carrie Underwood.
But the worst part is the way women are portrayed in these songs. They’re there with tan bare legs and feet, tiny bikini tops and painted-on jeans. They’re there so Blake Shelton can rhapsodize about everything he wants to take off of you, from letting your hair down to yanking your turquoise heart necklace off. (For some reason, bro country artists are super preoccupied with women letting their hair down. What if I like ponytails?)
Women in country songs are just the catalyst for the men to drink and party and flirt and shoot tequila. They’re compared to Fireball shots, riding along next to Chase Rice in his jacked-up truck. They’re sex objects, not people — they’re calling out “Hey girl,” demanding you shake your money maker and give them some sugar. And for what? The girls in country songs are wearing low-cut tops and giving Big & Rich boners on the dance floor. Tight tank tops, painted-on jeans, bare legs swinging off the gate of a pickup … every song that comes out of Nashville right now is rife with cliches like this. I’m sorry, but have you ever MET a real country girl? They wear work boots, bad jeans and camo sweatshirts. They wouldn’t be caught dead in cutoffs and a bikini top, cause you can’t get any work done that way.
When I listen to mainstream country radio, as I do all day because nothing else comes in on my kitchen radio that I enjoy (and sometimes I get George Strait or old Alan Jackson, which keeps me hanging on), I hear these things and I think, God, modern country radio is so radically different from my beloved classics in more ways than one. But it’s especially different in the way women are portrayed.
Conway Twitty’s song “I’d Just Love to Lay You Down” describes not only Conway’s sweetheart in her current young and lovely state, but has Conway saying that even when she’s old and grey he’ll still love her. He even says that she turns him on in her faded flannel nightgown in the morning, which sounds like the least sexy garment ever. Randy Travis, too, professes to love his lady when her hair is grey. There’s reverence and respect for women in these songs. Listen to, say, “The Chair” or “Carrying Your Love With Me” by George Strait and compare that to “My Kinda Night” by Luke Bryan. The men of classic country radio are sweet and romantic, far from the douchey frat brothers who populate the airwaves today. Sure, we still get the sappy country love songs, but they don’t feel authentic the way they did.
That’s why this new song “Girl in a Country Song” by Maddie & Tae, who are TEENAGERS, is so refreshing. It’s cute. It’s funny. They sing about how shaking their moneymakers ain’t ever made them a dime, and how uncomfortable they are in their tight cutoffs and bikini tops. They manage to convey how ridiculous country radio has gotten without harping or nagging or coming off too righteously. It’s perfect timing – at some point, the bro train has to slow down and hopefully Maddie and Tae will help.
It’s kind of teenybopper and twee, but I don’t care. I love it. And I love hearing women on the radio, especially if they’re trying to point out how poorly women are treated in country radio today.
Listen to it here: