The Hodgepodge: Traditional Country Fans and Urban Country Fans Have Striking Similarities

The Odd Couple - Traditional vs Urban
Traditional country fans and urban country fans. Truly an odd couple.

You know I was going to destroy mainstream country artists for whining about not being able to make the music they want and using their employees’ well-being as excuses for churning out terrible music, but I’ve decided to tackle another problem that has been bugging me for a while. This is a problem that many fans of country music don’t want to face because they may just be part of this problem. One of the biggest issues in country music right now is the growing divide between traditional country fans and mainstream country fans. The absolute extremes of both sides showcases how this genre is essentially busting at the seams: at one end you have the hardcore traditionalists who refuse to give anything mainstream or close to it a chance. On the other end you have casual, radio country fans who refuse to give the likes of Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell the time of day. And guess what? You’re both hurting country music by not opening up your minds more.

Their refusal to open up their minds to either side is why this genre will never be “saved.” It’s why I view it as a silly notion to save country music (at least at this moment). Both sides would have to compromise and find a balance between what each wants. And thing is there’s plenty of balance out there demonstrated by various artists. A perfect example of this type of balance is Maddie & Tae. Here’s a fresh, young duo that makes country music that is rooted in tradition and still keeps it upbeat enough for casual fans to listen to them. Really the women in general seem to find the best balance to appease to both sides. Of course radio has been shutting them out for the most part, even though lately there have been a few more female artists showing up in the top 30 of the airplay chart, such as Jana Kramer, Maddie & Tae and Carrie Underwood. But I’ve come to the conclusion it’s just not country radio that’s been holding back females in the genre. It’s also the under-the-radar sexism that has existed in country music for decades.

Country music has always been male-dominated without a doubt. The female artists have always been held back and overshadowed by the male artists. I first came to this realization last fall when I compared #1 country songs from 1984 and 2014. At that time period for both years, only 10% of #1 songs were from female artists in 2014 and around 17% in 1984. Only a 7% difference in a 20 year gap. The only reason more attention is called to this nowadays is because the drastic shift in sonic changes and the much greater amount of media that covers country music. Country music has always had this problem with playing female country artists and will continue to do so. Why? Well let me tell you the harsh reality: staunch traditionalists can be just as sexist and misogynistic as the bro country and urban country fans.

Both sides will look at each other and it’s like they’re looking in a mirror. Both insist that their preferred style of country music is in the right. Both believe that their current favorite artists are the true evolutions of the genre. Both have a lukewarm opinion at best when it comes to female artists (I’ve seen this just by observing various country blogs and forums). Both love to mock and ridicule the other side. Both sides have posted childish and stupid comments on this very blog. Both sides don’t listen to country radio (streaming vs buying physical media). Both embrace whatever scene they worship puts out (urban country fans embrace every new artist with boyish good looks and a drum machine, while traditionalists embrace every grisly voiced indie artist from the underground). Both sides have a country music “savior” (another silly notion espoused by fan boys). And neither really want to embrace Americana.

Have I been some of these things sometimes? Absolutely. It’s why in recent months my attitude has shifted to taking a more balanced approach. It’s why I’ve given more coverage and will continue to give more coverage to Americana. But at least I’ve recognized it. Hardcore traditionalists and urban fans don’t want to recognize. Now I’m not trying to tell you how to think or what music to listen to at the end of the day. But I’m simply pointing out to those of you that fall under these categories that you are what you hate. The beauty of music is it’s all subjective and we all have a different opinion. You’re free to listen whatever you want and call it whatever you want. But when it comes to the livelihood of a genre and really the value of anything in life, you need to find a balance. Country music needs to find a balance. It needs to find a balance in its sound. It needs to find a balance when it comes to playing male and female artists. And it’s fans need to find a balance. When traditionalists can’t embrace a song like Charles Kelley’s “The Driver” and mainstream fans can’t embrace Jon Pardi and Kacey Musgraves, it’s a clear demonstration that country music is far from solving it’s problems.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Carrie Underwood will release her new album Storyteller tomorrow. I’ll have a review on it early next week.
  • Chris Janson will release his first album under Warner Nashville, titled Buy Me A Boat, next Friday.
  • The Yawpers will release their new album American Man next Friday.
  • Brett Eldredge’s next single will be “Drunk On Your Love.”
  • Keith Urban will be releasing “Break on Me” as his next single. Expect a review on this soon.
  • Toby Keith is releasing “Beautiful Stranger” as his next single. Derek’s review on his new album will be out tomorrow.

Great Music Currently at Country Radio

The very best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly.

Throwback Thursday Song

Reba – “The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia” – This is a true southern gothic classic, originally written and recorded by Bobby Russell. Reba’s cover is the most popular version of the song. It’s definitely one of those songs as a country fans it’s worth listening to if you haven’t heard it before.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

The new album from the a capella group Pentatonix is pretty solid. I was blown away when I came across this group a few years back and still am today. They’re truly a unique and special group of musicians.

Tweet of the Week

Me too!

iTunes Review That Rocks

Thomas Rhett Isn't Country Part 1,584

A slam on Thomas Rhett AND Luke Bryan? That’ll get you featured in the Hodgepodge every time. And the comparison to Gwen Stefani is hilarious.

Thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in below! 

14 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Traditional Country Fans and Urban Country Fans Have Striking Similarities

  1. Scotty J October 22, 2015 / 11:22 am

    I think this is just another example of a wider societal issue. This can be seen in virtually every facet of society from religion to politics to sports to movies to television and music. We have become an ‘I’m right you’re wrong’ culture and sometimes in the more extreme cases ‘I’m good you’re bad’ or even evil society.

    I suspect that one of the major reasons this has come about is the much greater access to information that the internet has provided and also the ability that it gives people to find their own little sub group and burrow in as opposed to the past when we had much fewer options and if, for example, you liked country music well you likely had to listen to the radio and take the stuff you like with the stuff you didn’t. Now that is not necessary.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Derek Hudgin October 22, 2015 / 12:58 pm

    There’s a difference between being critical and close-minded, that’s what those two extremes don’t understand. And as long as there’s two groups of close-minded people directly clashing with one another, then we’re ultimately going to keep straggling along the same path to nowhere. Just because it’s pop-country doesn’t inherently make it bad, and just because it’s traditional country doesn’t inherently make it good.

    Great throwback choice. You can never go wrong with Reba’s classic hits!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Megan Conley October 22, 2015 / 4:58 pm

    Excellent article Josh! Traditionalists who dismiss Maddie & Tae are no better than close-minded mainstream fans who automatically dismiss Jason Isbell. And I’ve noticed the female artist thing among traditionalist and urban fans alike as well. That sadly is one thing they can agree on: women are viewed as somehow lesser artists.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott October 22, 2015 / 10:22 pm

      Thanks Megan!

      Like

  4. Jonathan McGovern October 22, 2015 / 6:55 pm

    Knocked it out the part with this article, Josh! I generally love the music the traditionalist crowd blogs highlight, so I bite my lip when I feel they are overly critical of mainstream artists (sometimes even you guys fall in this category for me, which is fine because you’re right music is subjective), but I agree with you that it’s not good/helpful to blanket all artists in one category or another. Keep up the great work!!! You guys are fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott October 22, 2015 / 10:22 pm

      Thanks for the kind words Jonathan!

      Like

  5. lorenzofloris96 October 22, 2015 / 6:58 pm

    I really couldn’t agree more Josh. I hate when people say “everything mainstream country artist suck” (and sometimes they go on with the even more stupid sentence “well except for Eric Church which is an outlaw”, but that’s another story). A lot of people don’t want to accept that there are still artists putting out true country stuff. look at Diamond Rings and Old Barstools, or to Burning House and Riser. that’s great music being successful in the mainstream, and it’s not necessarily worse than anything on Jason Isbell’s album (which I still haven’t had the opportunity to listen to). people need to open their minds and stop having dumb prejudices.

    lol the tweet of the week got me laughing so hard, then I saw the ‘me too’ comment and I cracked down.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lorenzofloris96 October 22, 2015 / 6:59 pm

      *everything COMING from any mainstream artist…

      Like

  6. Zack October 22, 2015 / 9:35 pm

    Excellent points, as much as the mainstream sucks right now, let’s not forget about those acts who are trying to bring some integrity back into the genre. Dierks Bentley is perhaps the best example of this. Just because he’s mainstream, it’s unfair to say he sucks when really, that’s far from the truth. (On a sidenote, I got a copy of his independent album, “Don’t Leave Me In Love” last week….really good stuff!) Anyway, there’s obviously more than him, I just felt he was the best example. I can’t say I’ve noticed the female thing but I’m sure it occurs. As much as I love reading Saving Country Music, it can be cringe inducing reading some of the comments sometimes, almost as much as dumb pop country fan “reviews”. Even Farce The Music’s parody “Carl Outlaw” is unfortunately representative of some of this community. It’s important to be open minded with everything, not every independent song is gold, and not every mainstream song is a 0, and those who refuse to give things a try are just ignorant. Even that guy Jake Worthington is getting flack for being cliche with his lyrics. We have a traditionalist who’s actually pretty good, and there’s criticism since he doesn’t sound as good as the legends.

    Man I love Reginald Spears! Anyone who bashes Sam Hunt is A-ok in my book! (Btw sorry for any grammar mistakes, I’m typing on the go)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. theknightswhosayni4 October 24, 2015 / 11:12 pm

    I would like to apologize first of all because I know I’ve made one or two of those “childish” comments on this site. I just get way too protective of my favorite artists (Kip Moore, ZBB, Granger Smith, Whitey Morgan, Chris Stapleton, Chris Janson, Jon Pardi, etc.)

    That said, I find myself torn by blogs like this all of the time because I defy this division of extremes. I find myself right in the middle. I love the traditional sound in country music and wish that there was way more fiddle and steel guitar in mainstream music…but at the same time I do like a lot of the mainstream music as well.

    I enjoy the likes of Whitey Morgan, Chris Stapleton, Eric Strickland, and of course the greats like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, etc. and George Strait is probably my all-time favorite artist. But at the same time, I can’t help but enjoy listening to the mainstream pop country as well. I hate what Chase Rice and Sam Hunt have done to the genre, but I can’t deny that every now and then I’m in the mood to listen to a little Ready Set Roll or House Party.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that even though I don’t think there is a better sound than a banjo, fiddle or steel…I do truly enjoy a lot of the radio hits as well. I guess I just defy the divided audience theory.

    Like

    • theknightswhosayni4 October 24, 2015 / 11:13 pm

      Also, I wish there was much more of a mix on radio. I don’t want to just hear the same old mainstream sound, but I don’t want just traditional either. I guess that’s why I listen to my iPod more than anything.

      Like

  8. darkhornet79 November 6, 2015 / 1:20 pm

    Just came to revisit this piece (which was great, by the way!). For the most part, yesterday was a day of celebration of the accomplishments of Chris Stapleton at the CMAs. However, I was quite taken aback by comments I ran across several times: “That ain’t country.” What?! If Chris Stapleton doing a George Jones classic isn’t country, what is it going to take to make you happy? Just unbelievable, some people are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott November 6, 2015 / 1:37 pm

      Thank you! I saw those comments today and it made me think of this post too. Proves my points perfectly. These are the fans you pretty much have to ignore because they will never be satisfied.

      Liked by 1 person

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