Opinion | It’s OK to like country music


Image via Craig ONeal, Wikimedia Commons

Kenny Chesney during a performance in Jacksonville, Florida

By Jessica Snyder, Senior Staff Columnist

When I was growing up in the semi-rural town of Sellersville outside of Philadelphia, country music was abundant. I remember dancing to Taylor Swift at homecoming, the sound of Kenny Chesney coming from my dad’s radio on the way to go fishing and the drone of Jason Aldean in the stable when I was learning to ride horses.

Not everyone likes country music the way I do, though. For the most part that’s okay, but when it comes to the “I like all music except country” trope, I think it’s an overplayed belief. How can you possibly enjoy most types of music, but ignore the fact that some of these genres have evolved from country? The sentiment can make sense, but I think it’s time to start looking at music as something that is fluid.

I’m not going to try and convince you to be a country music lover, but I don’t think anyone can be — or should be — a rigid country music hater.

Sometimes, I think what turns people off about country music is what it turned into after 9/11. The genre became something that was excessively patriotic, leaning more generally toward Republican views. Country music is often presented as a genre solely about girls, beer, trucks, the American flag and guns.

Not that it matters, but I find that I’m generally left-leaning on the political spectrum. There are other liberals that enjoy country music too, with the term “Y’Allternative” coming to popularity on TikTok. In fact, I found a great Spotify playlist called “You Grew Up With Country Music But Now You’re A Gay Leftist” by Bec Ember from this trend. My point is that listening to country music doesn’t have to align with a political agenda, despite its stigma.

Country music artists have proved this point time and time again, as well. For example, Tim McGraw’s song “Red Ragtop” caught a lot of flak for normalizing the process of getting an abortion and then falling out of love. Dolly Parton, a well-known country music artist, financially supported the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from the beginning. Country music isn’t made for one political party, even though it might seem that way at face value.

With the aforementioned Tim McGraw song as a good example, most country songs tell really rich stories. Songs like “Love Story” and “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift further illustrate this point, telling detailed stories about love and heartbreak. Yes, Taylor Swift was a country artist before she became a pop superstar. Oddly enough, she grew up relatively close to me in Reading, Pennsylvania.

While this won’t apply to everyone, country music is nostalgic. Country music surrounded me at a time in my life where I was just learning about the world. I remember clearly climbing into my dad’s big Dodge truck on hot summer days, listening to country music with the smell of cigar smoke in the air that he told me was to, “keep the bugs away.”

While country music may have originated in the southern United States, it has since spread to every part of the country. Pennsylvania would probably be the last place you would expect to find country music when the genre first came out, but now we have country music artists growing up there. So, “outside of Philly” kids, I know your secret. You probably grew up with a little bit of country music just like I did.

Country music is an undeniably American genre, just as other countries have developed their own respective genres. I know we as Americans like to be embarrassed by our mother country, considering all of the irresponsible things that she’s done since her beginning. But I just don’t think that hatred has to translate into country music.

It’s music, and most people enjoy music. It can be politicized, stigmatized and used as propaganda, but it only has as much meaning as you give it.

I think we should be proud of country music, in some ways at least. The ability of country music artists to tell a story is commendable. The aggressive patriotism that has infiltrated the country music scene in the last 20 years may not be ideal, but the genre can and will be able to heal from this.

The best example of this is some of the more recent developments in country music. Chris Stapleton has begun to meld folk and country music together, marrying two genres that have fed off of each other for decades. Kacey Musgraves and The Chicks continue to make music inspired by country. Morgan Wallen makes pop country — songs that even my friends who don’t enjoy country have heard of.

You don’t have to go screaming from rooftops that you’re a country music fan. But if you ever end up at Tequila Cowboy or Jam on Walnut, and country music is playing, don’t be ashamed to dance a little. Country music is “Something to Be Proud of,” to quote Montgomery Gentry.

Jessica Snyder primarily writes about controversy in art and politics. Write to her at [email protected].