Grace Whitman ’22
A couple of weekends ago, dozens of Providence College students headed to the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts to attend the long-postponed Thomas Rhett: Center Point Road Tour concert. The amphitheater was filled with girls wearing cowboy hats and boys in flannels and jeans.
When it started raining halfway through the concert, the inclimate weather did not send anyone home. Rather, it inspired attendees to sing a little louder, especially during “Die a Happy Man” when Rhett sang, “Then we danced in the dark under September stars in the pouring rain.”
Although this scene suggests the popularity of country music artists such as Rhett, the genre is extremely polarized: it seems that people either love country music or hate it with a passion.
One of the main reasons why some people are turned off by country music is because of the stereotypical themes of many songs in the genre. “Bro-country,” a subgenre of mainstream country music, has come to the forefront of what many people think of when they hear country. Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean, and Florida Georgia Line are perfect examples of artists thriving in the “bro-country” genre. They write about subjects like drinking beer, pick-up trucks, lakes, and women.
Distaste for many of these “bro-country” songs at the top of the country Billboard charts owes to the fact that they sometimes do not convey the most respectful depictions of women. These tracks might spin misogynistic messages with a catchy tune, but they are nonetheless problematic.
One group particularly bothered by these songs is Maddie & Tae, a female country duo. In 2014, they released their debut track, “Girl in A Country Song,” which kick-started their country music career. The song is about how girls are typically portrayed in country music. The chorus goes, “We used to get a little respect / Now we’re lucky if we even get / To climb up in your truck, keep our mouth shut and ride along / And be the girl in a country song.”
The pair was inspired to write the track after observing how women are not typically the main characters in country tunes. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Tae Dye said, “We wanted to go at it from a girl’s perspective, and we wanted to put ourselves in the shoes of this girl. You know, how does she feel wearing these cut-off shorts, sitting on the tailgate?”
Overall, women have less of a presence than men do in country music, and data shows that their songs are played significantly less on the radio compared to those of male artists. According to a report by Mediabase Weekly Country Airplay Reports, “Songs by women received just 10 percent of daily spins in 2019.” Since radio has such a high listenership, this has a profound impact on an artist’s popularity, which means that female country artists are at a disadvantage.
While the country genre is full of songs that have wholesome messages about family values or remaining true to your roots, many people stereotype the entire country genre with characteristics of the “bro-country” category because this type of country music has been thrust to the forefront of the mainstream country music genre. Hopefully, going forward, artists such as Maddie & Tae will work to combat these stereotypes and showcase everything that country music has to offer.