Why I Can No Longer Listen to Country Music Radio

I know that country is often the music genre that people love to hate, and I frequently hear people say "I listen to everything...except country," but I have long been a country fan. I grew up in the South, and I was raised on Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, and George Strait. I love country. At least, I love this kind of country. Country is not inherently bad. It is a uniquely American art form that grew out of the mixing of cultures that occurred in the rural South. When a Patsy Cline song comes on the radio you can tell it is a country song, despite the lack of a discernible southern drawl, because of the style of the music.

In recent years, country music seems to have lost its way. It has become more mainstream, and you can now hear songs on country stations that include rapping and the word "badonkadonk." For the most part, it is musically indistinguishable from anything you would hear on a top 40 station. So how do the current country artists let you know that you listening to a country song? They tend to over-do the Southern accent, name drop other country singers (Johnny Cash and Tim McGraw seem to be particularly popular for this), reference Southern place names, and throw in gratuitous mentions of beer and pick-up trucks. This is annoying, but not unforgivable. What has really triggered this post is the recent trend of artists legitimizing their country status by advocating for Christian dominionism. It has become a country badge of honor to promote the erosion of the wall of separation between church and state.

This morning I heard a new song by Big and Rich called "That's Why I Pray," which includes the following lyrics: "My neighbor lost his house ’cause he can’t find a job, Don’t you dare pledge allegiance, don’t you dare speak of God." Now let me ask you: when is the last time you heard of somebody being discriminated against or losing a job because she/he said the pledge of allegiance? I have NEVER heard of a single instance of this. What I have heard are numerous stories of people being harassed for opting out saying the pledge. I recently heard Jessica Ahlquist speak about how the pledge itself was used to harass her when her classmates would turn and yell "Under God" at her. And this vitriol is not reserved only for us non-believers, but for believers who are opposed to swearing oaths. The fact that Christians, who make up an overwhelming majority of the country and receive countless unearned privileges, continue to see themselves as an oppressed minority is baffling.

Another recent hit that got under my skin is Toby Keith's "Made in America." In this song, Keith refers to raising traditional American family on "King James and Uncle Sam," as if the two naturally go together." This apparent longing for good ol' days of McCarthyism is incredibly disturbing, and the fact that this was a massive his is even more disturbing. The chorus proclaims "he ain't prejudiced," but methinks he doth protest too much. Incidentally, this song also references saying the pledge of allegiance in school every day even though it "isn't cool." Because apparently picking on pledge-sayers has become a major problem in our nation's public schools...

Finally, current country songs seem to echo the virtues of remaining uneducated. Montgomery Gentry's "Where I Come From" preaches the virtues of small-town life, inducing the lyrics "Don’t let those faded overalls fool ya, He made his millions without one day schoolin." While it is certainly possible to become a millionaire without a single day of school attendance, it is not likely. I also see no reason to promote the idea that education is superfluous. Even if you manage to succeed in spite of it, why should ignorance be celebrated? (I also find it interesting that this song presents as desirable regular church attendance and fighting in the parking lot) One more song I want to mention is not quite like the others in that it was not a major hit and it is not from 2012, but it certainly fits this trend. Pat Green has a song called "Poetry" that includes the line "I can't explain a blessed thing, not a falling star or a feathered wing." He goes on to conclude that "of course we were created." An argument from ignorance set to music. Perfect.

All of this makes me very sad, partly because these messages are spawning massive hits and partly because said hits are crowding out the kind of music I used to love. So if you need me, I'll be listening to Patsy Cline on my iPod on repeat.


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Comment by Tammy S on September 7, 2012 at 12:18pm

LOL Micheal, I'll have to check out this "God Isn't Real" artist and Taylor, I  love that Loretta Lynn song that's fantastic!

As for the 9-11 songs, Oy vey, no kidding! What about that lackey loser of a song "God Bless the USA," makes me want to choke-a-(insert your favorite descriptive explicative here) nearly as bad as Wind Beneath My Wings being played at every funeral and wedding! I'm one of those who enjoys all genres of music, but clap trap like this makes me want to poke my own eardrums out with sewing awls!

Comment by dr kellie on September 7, 2012 at 11:40am

Taylor, I think the same thing frequently.   If you want to hear some classic god country, try the 9-11 songs.  Sick!

"The Pill" was banned by many regions and radio stations, btw.

Comment by Taylor on September 7, 2012 at 10:34am

Michael, that song is horrible! However, I do find it particularly ironic because I am an atheist who is also an addiction counselor. I help people get clean without Jesus! Anyway, just to show what country music has been capable of in the past, here is one of my favorites by Loretta Lynn:

You wined me and dined me when I was your girl
Promised if I`d be your wife you`d show me the world
But all I`ve seen of this old world is a bed and a doctor bill
I`m tearing down your brooder house `cause now I`ve got the pill

All these years I`ve stayed at home while you had all your fun
And every year that`s gone by another baby`s come
There`s gonna be some changes made right here on Nursery Hill
You`ve set this chicken your last time `cause now I`ve got the pill

This old maternity dress I`ve got is going in the garbage
The clothes I`m wearing from now on won`t take up so much yardage
Miniskirts hotpants and a few little fancy frills
Yeah I`m making up for all those years since I`ve got the pill

I`m tired of all your crowing how you and your hens play
While holding a couple in my arms another`s on the way
This chicken`s done tore up her nest and I`m ready to make a deal
And you can`t afford to turn it down `cause you know I`ve got the pill

This incubator is overused because you`ve kept it filled
The feeling good comes easy now since I`ve got the pill
It`s getting dark it`s roosting time tonight`s too good to be real
Aw but Daddy don`t you worry none `cause Mama`s got the pill
Oh Daddy don`t you worry none `cause Mama`s got the pill

Comment by Michael Eppers on September 7, 2012 at 8:05am

Sorry Tammy, I should have waited until later ;) Here is a warning: Never google Country Songs with the word god....it will ruin your digestive system.

But there is Robbie Fulks with a country song called "God isn't real" 

Comment by Tammy S on September 7, 2012 at 7:39am

Michael I think I just threw up in my mouth a little! Eww... seriously it put me off my breakfast!

Comment by Michael Eppers on September 7, 2012 at 7:33am

There is a song called "The little girl" by Michael Montgomery that will make you scream. Here are the words.

Her parents never took the young girl to church...
Never spoke of His name...
Never read her His word...
Two non-believers walking lost in this world...
Took their baby with them, what a sad little girl...

Her daddy drank all day and mommy did drugs...
Never wanted to play or give kisses and hugs...
She'd watch the tv and sit there on the couch...
While her mom fell asleep and her daddy went out...

And the drinking and the fighting...
Just got worse every night...
Behind their couch she'd be hiding...
Oh what a sad little life...

And like it always does, the bad just got worse...
With every slap and every curse...
Until her daddy in a drunk rage one night...
Used a gun on her mom and then took his life...

And some people from the city took the girl far away...
To a new mom and a new dad, kisses and hugs everyday...

Her first day of Sunday School...
Her teacher walked in...
And a small little girl starred at a picture of Him...
She said I know that man up there on that cross...
I don’t know His name but I know he got off...
Cause he was there in my old house...
And held me close to his side...
As I hid there behind our couch...
The night that my parents died.


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