Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Haters, Evolution, and Chinese Food

This is what Hank thinks of your silly arguments

      With the latest albums by Jason Aldean, Chase Rice, and Florida-Georgia Line drawing heavy amounts of criticism despite topping the charts, the bro-country supporters have been out in full blast, defending their music ad nauseam. They make claims of “evolution” and “if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it” and of course, the “country music doesn’t have to just be about lost dogs, lost wives, and broken-down trucks” argument. If you dare to share your opinion on the music, you get called a bully, an old man, or “close-minded”. There are so many accusations and proclamations with absolutely no truth and value in them that it can be very frustrating to even talk to these people. So, I’ve decided to deconstruct all of the tired, old arguments that the bro-country defenders drag in one all-encompassing post: Haters, Evolution, and Chinese Food.

      Haters: The new generic form for every fanboy with hurt feelings to sling at commentators. You don’t like Florida-Georgia Line’s new single? Hater. Think Waylon and Hank are better than Luke and Chase? Hater. Want country music to stay country? Hater. The term “hater” is the lazy man’s way of saying “I can’t argue with you intellectually, so I will try to hurt your feelings because you hurt mine”. Guess what? I don’t criticize artists or songs to hurt feelings. I do it because I feel that country music deserves better, and I want to help like-minded people sift through the garbage until they find the solid country gold they are looking for. If I happen to hurt your feelings, that is more of a statement about yourself than myself. If you think Sturgill Simpson blows, I will disagree and I will argue you on that point. However, nowhere in that debate will I have my own personal feelings hurt, nor will I like Sturgill any less. My own status as a fan of Sturgill Simpson is in no way related to how you feel about him. When you get red-faced and angry because I don’t like your favorite song, it tells me that your fan status does depend on others. As in, if it isn’t cool, you won’t like it anymore, so you have to fight to keep it cool. That is probably an unfair assumption, but it is how you come off. The hater argument is usually tied in with the jealousy argument. You don’t like the artist? Well, they make millions every day, you are just jealous you can’t do it. That argument is frustrating, because it couldn’t be farther from the truth. I have never been in that situation, but I can promise you that I would never sell out my beliefs for any amount of money. That’s why this site is hard on artists that are popular and idolizes some that don’t sell as well. If popularity and money were all that mattered, this would be a Taste Of Country love-fest full of meatless articles of fluff that blows smoke up artists’ butts. There really is no way to prove this argument one way or the other: you can’t prove I’m jealous, I can’t prove I’m not, so why bring it up? Yes, the hater/jealousy comment might be the most ignorant of the ignorant arguments.

      “Country music is just evolving! It can’t be all hay bales and lost dogs like it was in the 50’s! You think anything that isn’t Johnny Cash or Hank Williams sucks! Get with the times man!” Hooo boy, I love this one. First of all, look up what evolution in music really is. Evolution involves adding elements of other sounds and themes to keep country fresh and relevant. It still maintains the foundation of the original music. For example: Johnny Cash adding his “boomchickaboom” sound and folksy lyrics to the country sound (still maintaining that sound) is evolution. Randy Travis taking the classic steel guitar and fiddle arrangements but with better production quality and more modern themes than his predecessors is evolution. Sturgill Simpson, Shooter Jennings, and Eric Church adding electronic and modern rock elements to old school acoustics and storytelling is evolution. The biggest thing is that evolution moves forward. Taking hip-hop and pop sounds that were outdated 5 years ago and calling it country is no evolution. Rap has been around a long time. Simply rapping in a country song isn’t “evolving” country, its combining two things to make something else. It isn’t country, and it isn’t rap. Lyrically, the storytelling of Hank Williams is timeless. So is that of Cash, Haggard, and Kristofferson. More modernly, the stories told by Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, and Reba McEntire have proved to be timeless as well. Each of these artists sang things that were important to them, and meant something to them. When you take music like that and dumb it down to a one size fits all party, how can you possibly call it evolution? It’s just music by common denominators. Hank Williams and Alan Jackson never thought “what is my demographic most likely to purchase?” they thought “how does this make me feel?” And while we are on the topic, name me all these “lost my dog, lost my wife, truck broke down” songs I hear about. Do they exist? Absolutely. And I love them. But there was so much more. Hank also sang “Hey Good Lookin’”. Cash had “A Boy Named Sue”. Haggard had “Rainbow Stew”. Waylon had “Good Ole Boys”. Alan Jackson had “Chattahoochee”. Randy Travis had “Better Class of Loser”. George Jones had “White Lightnin’” . All of the greats had fun songs mixed with heartache songs and story songs. The best part about this argument is that country music has NEVER been more single-minded in its entire existence! Of all the dumb arguments that can be made for bro-country, this is the one that is easiest to debunk, yet it is one of the first ones the fanboys go to. Mindboggling.

      Let’s say there is a Chinese food restaurant in my town. I love it. I go there for lunch every day, I’m friends with the workers, and I know the menu by heart. Chinese food is my favorite. There is a McDonalds next door. They do way better business than my Chinese food place, because Chinese is an acquired taste, while McDonalds appeals to the masses. The burgers are greasy, hastily thrown together, but they taste so good in a hurry. I have no problem with the McDonalds. I have visited and ate there many times in the past. But, my heart lies with my Chinese place. One day, the owner of the Chinese place tells me they are going to sell burgers along with their regular menu to attract some of the McDonalds crowd. I’m a little uneasy, but hey, more people will be able to enjoy this awesome food with me. Slowly, I notice a lot of my favorite Chinese menu items disappearing. More and more McDonalds-like items are popping up. They have Chinese sounding names, some even have some Chinese ingredients, but they are just burgers through and through. Eventually, there is little to no Chinese food left. The sign on the building is the same, but all the food I loved is almost gone. I complained to the owner, begging him to keep my favorite Chinese foods on the menu. “Keep the burgers!” I said, “but leave the old stuff too, so we can all enjoy this place”. I was told that “McDonalds burgers are the evolution of Chinese food”, “you are just a hater”, “we are making a ton of money now, so the food must be better”, and to “go eat somewhere else if you don’t like it”. I went without Chinese food for a while, until I found a little place outside of town. The food was just as good, if not better, but I had to drive out of my way to get there. Plus, all my friends will not stop talking about my former favorite place, even though none of the menu is even there. The Food Network ends up rewarding my place with Chinese Restaurant of the Year, despite the menu change, due to the high number of sales. My new place is gaining some ground, and enough people are going there that my old place actually brought back one or two of my old menu items, but they are just for show. The burgers have taken over.

      That is country music these days in a nut shell. Asking for a return to tradition is not a knock on pop music or change. Country music was just fine the way it was. It didn’t need to be a one stop shop McDonalds for mass-consumption. Many traditional country fans didn’t mind when the Rascal Flatts and Shania Twains started popping up, as long as our traditional guys were right there with them. Now, there is no balance, and we are bitter. We are angry, and we have a right to be. So, if you like bro-country, listen to it. Enjoy it. Nothing I can do or say will change your personal preference. But, do me a favor. Stop calling it country. A Big Mac is not General Tso’s Chicken, even if it comes in the same box. Stop telling me to accept the evolution. It isn’t evolution, it is replacement. Stop incorrectly labeling my old songs as close-minded and one dimensional, when like it or not, you must admit bro-country is the most one dimensional music of all time. Stop calling me a hater, because you sound like an 11 year old girl. Most of all, quit getting your panties in a bunch when we don’t like your songs. Guess what? We don’t like any of them. Guess what else? We aren’t going to stop complaining. We were here with country music long before your trend took off, and we will be here long after it fades away. Show some respect. Keep It Country, Kids.

 "Murder On Music Row" -George Strait & Alan Jackson

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