bro country killing traditional pop Is The Bro-Country Trend Killing Traditional And Pop-Country
The after effects of bro-country, a trend which emerged in 2012 and peaked two years later, have noticeably chipped away at not only country music's credibility but the festival circuit has witnessed decaying returns.
Festival cancellations on the rise bro country killing traditional pop
Beginning last summer, a string of major festivals, including Country Life Music Festival, Thunder on the Mountain Country Music Festival and Country FanJam, were either cancelled outright or the plug was pulled during the festivities.
Then, six months later, New York City's first-ever FarmBorough Country Festival (which launched to moderate success last summer), Dega Jam and Big Barrel Country Music Festival have all been nixed.
Festival organizers issued statements cloaked with vague language like "conditions dictate that we redirect our energy at this time" or "due to circumstances beyond our control, we are unable to [move forward]" without one iota of a real explanation.
So, what's happening?
A post-bro-country world bro country killing traditional pop
Well, bro-country happened, and we are now living in a post-bro-country world.
The scourge of traditional country music and even pop-country had funneled down the radio demographic to such a narrow sub-set of listeners (predominantly the former rock radio audience, comprised of late '20s and early '30s white males).
As a result, a considerable chunk of country listeners were driven away, and subsequently, that has disrupted the live concert marketplace.
Songs like Cruise and Sun Daze (Florida Georgia Line), Boys 'Round Here (Blake Shelton), That's My Kind of Night (Luke Bryan), Redneck Crazy (Tyler Farr) and Take a Little Ride and 1994 (Jason Aldean) perpetuated a thoughtless, alcohol-fueled and often aggressive kind of lifestyle, which soon precipitated down into the festivals themselves.
Violence, rapes and deaths bro country killing traditional pop
At the peak of bro-country in 2014, reports of violence, rapes and deaths at country festivals and concerts rose considerably.
The once family-friendly atmosphere was no longer something you'd want to bring your kids to, or your friends, for that matter.
177 arrests were made during the three-day Stagecoach Festival (April 25-27); 34 concertgoers were hospitalized at a Bryan show (Pittsburgh's Heinz Field on June 21); a man went missing and was later found dead after an Aldean concert (Cleveland's Progressive Field on July 18); and a young woman was allegedly raped at a Keith Urban show (Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Mass. on July 26).
Of course, this string of tragic incidents followed the unfortunate events which took place a year earlier during Kenny Chesney's show at Heinz Field: 73 people were arrested and 150 others treated for injuries.
Can we blame the songs themselves bro country killing traditional pop
But can we really blame the songs themselves for people's poor decision-making?
That's like blaming video games for a teenager shooting up a high school, isn't it? Or is it?
Songs about getting wasted, hooking up and stalking your ex make those actions seem cool, acceptable even.
Hits like Crash My Party (also, Bryan), Get Your Shine On (again, FGL), Chillin' It (Cole Swindell), Drink to That All Night (Jerrod Niemann), Ready Set Roll and Whisper, (Chase Rice), Make Me Wanna (Thomas Rhett), and the list goes on and on and on, are the kind of misogynistic garbage which perpetuates questionable behavior.
Misogyny sex and booze bro country killing traditional pop
"I got that real good feel good stuff up under the seat of my big black jacked up truck," Bryan professes on That's My Kind of Night, and later, "You got that sun tan skirt and boots, waiting on you to look my way and scoot your little hot self over here. Girl, hand me another beer."
Neimann, meanwhile, details over pounding auto tune and electronic vibrations, "My buddy says hey boys I'm buying. The hottest girl in here's giving me the eye and everybody knows, it's gonna be one of those."
Rhett might not be getting drunk on alcohol but he has other things on his mind: sex. "Hop on out and let the tailgate fall. Get drunk on you with no alcohol. If you don't stop, I'm gonna. Girl, you make me wanna," he sings on one of his biggest career hits.
"You know better than to wear that dress. It oughta be against the law. Plain and simple, girl them dimples. Know just how to turn me on..."
Florida Georgia Line, are "feeling lucky," too. On one of the duo's cringeworthy staples, they sing:
Got hooked up with some Kentucky clear
So, slide that little sugar shaker over here and get your shine on!
'Cause you and me be rocking all night long!
If that weren't enough, they are more vulgar and direct about their intentions in Sun Daze:
I'll sit you up on the kitchen sink and stick the pink umbrella in your drink.
Breaking down the lyrics reveals exactly how serious the situation really is: Dire.
Give the public what they want bro country killing traditional pop
But what's even more troublesome is the public gobbled up these songs like catnip.
Florida Georgia Line's signature tune Cruise is the best-selling single in country music history, while their follow-ups such as Sun Daze, Get Your Shine On, Sippin' on Fire and Round Here are all at least gold.
Bryan's and Rhett's string of hits, too, have demonstrated considerable sales power during each of their respective runs (here and here), and that's only the tip of the iceberg. Once the trend seemed to a be a gold (or platinum) mine, aspiring musicians and songwriters fell in line and began churning out their own versions. That's when country music had a problem, a viral problem. But it doesn't stop there.
Headlining country acts like Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan have built their live shows to mirror the stories in their songs and music videos, bringing the "fictional" weekend excursions of booze and sex from the airwaves directly to their fans.
Death and battle scars bro country killing traditional pop
The live show shifted carelessly into a Woodstock-like affair, leaving death and battle scars in their wake.
The sell of alcohol has long been a staple at any concert regardless of genre, but the coupling with country's re-imaging during the bro-country era has set country music up for an undeniable disaster.
What we, as fans, are left with is a genre in crisis, fumbling to find the next trend, the next cash cow to salvage what used to be America's greatest musical art form.
There are signs an authentic artistic revival is taking place. Torchbearers like Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town and Eric Church have delivered some of the best music of their careers recently. They've enveloped modern technology and rock/pop sounds into their material without compromising their identity.
Newer acts such as Maddie & Tae, Brothers Osborne, Mickey Guyton and Mo Pitney dare to remain true to the ethos of country music while also pushing the format forward with thoughtful, often poignant storytelling.
There is a clear imbalance in regard to reported criminal activity at these shows compared to the bros, as well. Does the very nature and theme of the music itself dictate the live concert setting? Perhaps.
Country music is at a crossroads. With bro-country riding on horseback off into the sunset, we can either pick up the pieces and return to the storytelling which makes the music so great, or we can throw in the cowboy boots and dream of better days.
*Note: Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan aren't all bad. When they record songs like Black Tears, Dirt and Drink a Beer, respectively, they are doing the genre good. At the very least, they don't make this writer shove bamboo under his fingernails.
[PHOTO CREDIT: Rick Diamond/Kevork Djansezian/Stephen Lovekin/Daniel Boczarski/Getty]