The Hodgepodge: Substantive Lyrics on the Rise

It’s no secret that the rise of bro-country was quickly followed by a rise of complaints. Complaints about the shallow party lyrics and themes repeated in song after song from many artists. Well after a few years of party hits dominating the radio waves, we appear to be on the brink of some more depth finding its way into our mainstream country music. It’s not close to being good, but attitudes seem to be shifting and steps are being taken toward a more substantive side of country music. Substantive lyrics are the pride of country music.

Some of the lesser offenders are shifting away from the party themes to something with more story and substance. Justin Moore’s “You Look Like I Need a Drink”, Frankie Ballard’s “It All Started With a Beer”, Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” and Kip Moore’s “Running For You” are all in the top 40 of the Country Airplay Chart. New singles from Toby Keith, Big & Rich, and Eric Church also show commitment to the task of deeper songs. And Love & Theft’s excellent “Whiskey on My Breath” has seen some revival thanks to Bobby Bones.

While some of the biggest offenders of bro country can’t quite get the depth in their songs, I think their attempts, however futile, shows that it’s a trend worth looking at. Sure Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man”, Cole Swindell’s “You Should Be Here” and Florida Georgia Line’s nonsensical ballad in “Confession” are all about as deep as a rain puddle, but I think the success of these songs will inspire more to follow in the depth. If his CRS performance is any indication, Luke Bryan’s next single could very well be the tender love song “To The Moon and Back.” Again, not a home run in terms of depth and substance, but I’d argue it’s the best of the four songs mentioned in this paragraph.

Beyond established mainstream acts shifting their music, we’re seeing several Americana and independent country acts get more attention in the mainstream spotlight. Chris Stapleton’s rise has been well documented by us. Sturgill Simpson signed to a major label and is poised to release an album later this year. Jason Isbell is starting to catch more attention and earning some performance time next to the likes of Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt at an upcoming benefit show for the Country Music Hall of Fame. And if you keep an eye on the articles Taste of Country and The Boot are churning out, you’ll notice that they’re starting to expand their coverage to Americana artists like Whitney Rose, Sam Outlaw and The Black Lillies.

None of this is to say that country music is on the mend or close to being great again, but more and more, we’re starting to see little steps away from shallow anthems. We’re starting to see some more depth added into the popular music. But even with one step forward, country still manages to take a few steps back. Despite promises of deeper albums, Chase Rice and Dierks Bentley’s new singles are terrible, clichéd radio fodder. And Thomas Rhett is poised to follow-up his ballad with “T-Shirt,” which is nothing more than a funky dance tune for him to further rip off Bruno Mars. Who knows what the future holds, but we could be looking at the pieces falling into place for a swing back in the right direction.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Vince Gill’s newest album, Down to My Last Bad Habit will hit the shelves tomorrow.
  • Wynonna & The Big Noise will debut their self titled album tomorrow.
  • Chris King will release his second album, Animal, at the end of the month.
  • Dan + Shay have released a new single called “From the Ground Up.”
  • Lorrie Morgan’s Letting Go…Slow will be released tomorrow.
  • A Thousand Horses announce “Southernality” as their next radio single.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Shot Full of Holes” by Jason Boland & The Stragglers. From their 2001 album, Truckstop Diaries, “Shot Full of Holes” is hard-hitting tale of an imprisoned man who struggles to adapt to life inside of jail then outside of jail. Stoney LaRue also has a recording of this same song on his Downtown album.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

The Temple EP by Parson James. Parson James is a pop/R&B singer songwriter from New York and born in South Carolina. James found some success last year with his single “Stole the Show” and now has released this five song EP. I’m trying to expand my musical variety, and I enjoy pop and R&B music in the appropriate genre!

Tweet of the Week

Windmills’ response to Grady Smith’s tweet is perfect. Thomas Rhett did rip off Ed Sheeran with “Die a Happy Man.”

Two Chase Rice Facepalm Reviews

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Chase Rice fans have a lot of hate for traditional country music. It’s apparently full of whiny twang. But Claire is happy that Chase Rice isn’t conforming to traditional country. He’s doing his own thing by conforming to Nashville’s bro-country/metro-country trend.