“It Ain’t Hip to Sing About Tractors or Trucks”

The Traditional Sound of Country is Beginning to Transform More into Pop Music

country_to_popThere has always been a certain stigma attached to country music, that it’s uncool because of its twangy sound and subject matter. To quote country singer Brad Paisley’s hit single “This is Country Music,” “It ain’t hip to sing about tractors, trucks, little towns, or mama. Yea that might be true.”

However, in the next line Paisley makes no apologies. “But this is country music, and we do.”

Despite the pride for the genre that Paisley expresses in this tune, there has been movement in Nashville recently.

Record labels are now signing acts that are willing to stray from the traditional country sound and record songs that could best be described as a hodgepodge of elements taken from other genres.

Many artists now utilize an electric guitar sound, which is not always bad. But many have also adopted the same generic, computerized cadences used in rap songs, and some even use hip hop elements like AutoTune.

Because of this shift, the line between pop and country is now more blurred than it has ever been before.

Current country artist and judge on NBC’s The Voice, Blake Shelton, angered fans of traditional country.

In an interview for a Great American Country television special called Backstory: Blake Shelton, Shelton was very blunt, calling these fans “old farts” and “jack****s.” In response, Willie Nelson renamed his 2013 tour the “Old Farts and Jack****s Tour.” Pure genius.

In an interview on, Kenny Rogers, one of the first successful country crossover acts, stated “sooner or later country music has to decide whether it’s an art form or a business.

If it’s a business, welcome anybody that sells records. If it’s an art form, get rid of everybody that doesn’t sound like Hank Williams.” Clearly Nashville has made its choice.

Today, it seems all that is needed to qualify someone as a country singer is for them to mention Budweiser, a girl and/or a lifted Chevrolet Silverado in their song.

No matter how simplistic the lyrics are or how much it sounds like every other pop song on the radio, as long as the album turns a profit, that’s all that matters.

One of the things that made traditional country so popular, and that often gets lost in the sound of fiddles and steel guitars that some people find equivalent to nails on a chalkboard, was that the songs had heart.

The lyrics were intricately woven together so that they told a story. Country legends like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings are still popular today because their songs have deeper meanings that people can relate to.

Despite this, it appears that this pop country movement is here to stay. But while this trend may help sell more albums, it will continue to alienate a large portion of the “old farts” and “jackasses” that prefer a more traditional sound.

Although Paisley’s song describes what country music has always been, this new brand doesn’t quite seem to fit that mold. So while modern country tries to be what the old stuff has always been, it would probably be fair to say that this isn’t quite country music.