“Bro country” has become a bad word in country music. Defined by its crossover appeal and its lyrics that fixate almost exclusively on drinking, attractive women and trucks—often all three at the same time—bro country was first referenced in 2013 by Jody Rosen of “New York” magazine.
Since then, the term has taken on a derogatory meaning and created a rift in the country music community between younger and older generations. Artists like Tyler Farr, Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean have probably caught the most flak for it.
But something similar has happened to the name “Donald Trump.” At first, a few people noticed what he was doing and laughed him off. As Trump became more mainstream, critics began to feast on his sound-bites like a cow to cud. (I learned that one from Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins’ “Hillbilly Bone.”) Trump, like bro country, has caused a rift within the GOP between moderates and populists.
Interestingly, the same people who support Trump are the people caught up in the bro country debate: white, young-middle aged, working-middle class males from rural and southern areas.
I think Donald Trump is a bigoted demagogue, but I don’t think his supporters are all xenophobic, first amendment-restricting nuts. Bro country lyrics are sexist, shallow, and at times downright obnoxious, but not all people who listen to bro country are sexist and shallow.
The backlash to bro country is absolutely warranted. To illustrate that, here are some exemplary lyrics from the genre that should instinctively cause many fathers—southern or not—to grab a shotgun and scare away the man who sings them.
From “That’s My Kind of Night” by Luke Bryan:
I got that real good feel good stuff,
Up under the seat of my big black jacked up truck,
Rollin’ on 35s,
Pretty girl by my side.
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, yeah!
So according to Bryan, all the girl is good for is looking attractive and feeding him beers while he drives.
“Ready Set Roll” by Chase Rice:
Ready, set, let’s roll,
Ready, set, let’s ride,
Get your little fine ass on the step,
Shimmy up inside.
Just slide girl,
By my side girl,
We can run this town
I can rock your world.
I actually kind of like this song. (Don’t tell my Gender Studies professor.) That said, it is another example of a twenty-something year old male telling a girl to slide next to him only because she is attractive and looks good in his car.
A disclaimer: This is definitely how a lot of guys think, and the problem is not necessarily that they prefer to initiate relationships based on looks—women do that too. The problem is the total lack of a voice for the girl in the song, and the total lack of a voice for women in the genre.
You don’t hear Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood singing about some bimbo beefcake sliding up next to them while they drive away, because in “bro country,” that’s simply not allowed. But even these lyrics, which are sexist, do not compare to the creepy, stalker-level stuff going on in Tyler Farr’s “Redneck Crazy.”
I’m gonna aim my headlights into your bedroom windows
Throw empty beer cans at both of your shadows
I didn’t come here to start a fight, but I’m up for anything tonight
You know you broke the wrong heart baby, and drove me redneck crazy
And there it is. Farr went too far. (If you never read another piece I write because of that pun, I understand.) Sympathizing with the victim of a breakup is fine. Musicians make us do that all the time. But this is on par with the Beatles “Run for Your Life,” in which the song’s writer, John Lennon, sings about how he’d rather see the object of his obsession dead than to see her with another man.
Farr tries to make himself the victim, when in fact he is the one stalking his ex and throwing beer cans at her house. Farr’s message seems to be “women in unhappy relationships should just stay unhappy rather than break their boyfriend’s heart, thereby unleashing his inner drunk Hulk.”
For eight years, a relatively sizable population of white males has been vilified by the media and President Obama.
Donald Trump’s rise has occurred because “white male” has become a dirty word, and that is not a result of politically correct culture. It is the result of the media, and to a lesser degree Obama, putting all conservative white men under an umbrella.
For a year or two, bro country was the most popular subgenre of country music. And therein lay the problem. Because when the backlash to bro country came, people unfamiliar with country music and the rift within it were given an image: That all people who listen to country music are sexist, sophomoric, beer-drinking bros. And who do most Americans think of when they think of country music fans? White, middle-aged men.
Bro country fans represent a very small percentage of country music fans, but everyday Americans saw bro country as exemplary of all country music, and thus of all conservative white values.
Similarly, only a small percentage of Republicans support the Tea Party, but because of unfair media coverage, the GOP’s image was tainted, and to be a white Republican became a de facto crime. (Moderate Republican leadership did not help the situation either.)
Certainly some bro country fans deserve to be condemned, just like some Republicans do. But there are sexist Beatles fans, and obnoxious Democrats. Individuals deserve to be treated as individuals. When they are not, mob mentality is encouraged, and we see people like Donald Trump emerge.
The Trumps of the world only perpetuate the narrative. Trump does not represent all Republicans, and Luke Bryan does not represent all country music fans. Hard-working white men who treat women well deserve not to be grouped under the umbrella of bro-country.
Not all Republicans want to build a wall. And not all country music fans want to throw beer cans at their ex’s houses. But when this becomes the narrative, and backlash is spread to those who do not deserve it and a cycle of increasingly volatile responses kicks off until a breaking point is reached.
We’re seeing that response in politics with Donald Trump. If you thought the first wave of bro country was obnoxious, wait until you see what comes next. The ball is in Tyler Farr’s court. What’s the next step after going Redneck Crazy? Redneck Homicide?