Hip-Hop is a contentious form of artistic expression to some, and that stamp of controversy is generally accepted by the mainstream – though some would argue that times are changing. Country has its taboos, too, but seems to avoid the major scrutiny that Rap faces on a regular basis.
That makes no sense, though. Country Music as a form of self-expression is very similar to Hip-Hop. It’s reflective of the dysfunction of everyday life, uses dialect that not everyone understands, and is popular, but still has outsiders saying, “Who buys this?” It has a perspective that not everyone can identify with, and has been seen, at times, as [gasp] “offensive.”
Therefore, Country Music should be considered just as controversial as Hip-Hop. But it isn’t, and that begs the question, “Why not?” Here’s a list of five prevalent themes in Country Music that should have to be explained with “Parental Advisory” labels of their own!:
Alcohol: For as many Hip-Hop records as there are about marijuana use, there are just as many, if not more, Country songs about alcohol consumption. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “more than 37,000 annual U.S. deaths are attributed to alcohol use alone.” There isn’t even a category for deaths caused by marijuana use with the CDC because no one has died just from that. Need proof of Country’s obsession with liquor? Check out Taste of Country’s list of 100 Best Drinking Songs. 100? Wow.
The Confederate Flag: Country Music and Southern Rock have been associated with the Confederate flag. Lynyrd Skynyrd has used it in their live shows for decades. And more recently, Kid Rock and Trace Adkins have come under fire for their support of it. Understandably, it is a very controversial piece of symbolism. While some claim it is a reflection of Southern pride, there is also no denying its representation of a time and place associated with slavery and oppression.
Emotional Exploitation: Country music seemingly exploits grief more than any other genre of music. For example, after the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, eight Country songs about the tragedy and the war that followed charted (out of many that were released). To be fair, the songs were fitting tributes and expressed appropriate sentiments. However, there is a big difference between using music to bring people together during a tough time and taking financial advantage of tragedy. But considering that these songs were released and charted in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2007, one can’t help but think that it may be a bit more of the latter than the former. “South Park” got it right when they parodied Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”.
The Lowest Common Denominator: A memorable moment this past year, in terms of politics, was when Republican Rick Santorum spoke at Washington D.C.’s “Values Voters Summit” to a conservative audience. He said, “We will never have the media on our side, ever, in this country. We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.” The general consensus in the Country Music world was that Mitt was the man for President in 2012. Isn’t it fair to question what values powerful influences like Country Music and Mitt Romney really support?
Lack of Diversity: One of the many admirable things about Hip-Hop is its ability to grow. Country, on the other hand, is still very much about what was and not what is. This is not only reflected in the lack of racial diversity at Country concerts when compared to Hip-Hop ones today, but also in the attitude of its listeners. Hip-Hop may be guilty of curse words, misogyny, and violence, but those are somehow less threatening than the narrow, cursed ideas that are in the undercurrent of lots of Country Music that reaches the masses (see Hank Williams Jr.). Because of technology and the global economy, the world is a smaller place now, and minds need to expand in order to accept the always-evolving times we live in.
What do you think? Does Country need to be called out for being just as controversial as Hip-Hop? Share your thoughts in the comments section!