Country Blues

This is my confession. This is my warning. And this is my struggle.

Tonight I had dinner in Warner-Robins, Georgia, at a southern comfort-style place. The food was alright, though the green beans left something to be desired (perhaps they absorbed some of my salty demeanor). Playing low throughout the place, over muted basketball games on televisions and families deciding sides for their entrees, was a country and Southern rock station. These genres dominate the radio airwaves in middle Georgia, rivaled only by stations with “praise”, “inspiration”, or “grace” in their name. Even the generic rock station I found bends well into that twangy acoustic territory on a regular basis.

I like those genres pretty well, to be clear, often way more than just that. In fact, some of my favorite artists and songs are within it.(1)Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, Alan Jackson But country in particular rides a fine line for me. Too many mentions of trucks, dogs, women, or beer, and I simply can’t enjoy it much anymore.

Something exceeded that threshold this evening, something that’s been bubbling just below the surface whenever the radio comes on. I’ve finally got the courage to be honest after being blind to it, or in denial.

I knew I was done with these bros after hearing them for the fourth fucking time that day.

I. Hate. Florida Georgia Line.

So much.

Oh my god I’m sick of them.

…But I should back up.

Florida Georgia Line is a duo from the obvious two states that exploded in country popularity in recent years.(2)Their genre on Wikipedia is literally “bro-country”. Their songs and videos are universally about the taboo topics I listed above:

Now it’s nothing new to say all country is the same. In fact, a mashup of six country songs blended perfectly together (if played at different speeds) has been both very popular and generating a critical mass of snark among my friends. Florida Georgia Line is in there, as well.

But what kills me is that I feel like I’ve been betrayed. You see, there’s something I haven’t shared with you yet. It’s something deeply personal, and I am willingly lowering myself to a vulnerable state at this moment. It pains me to share this, but…

I purposefully, knowledgeably purchased Florida-Georgia Line’s first album.

Yes, that’s right. The band that I hate in big, bold letters? I own their first album, and I’ve listened to it several times.

Here’s to the Good Times was on sale for $5 on Amazon, and it seemed like a fun sound of country in those 30-second bites. Hell, they were two guys from around my home, so it felt right to support ’em.

I think we all buy, steal, or generally listen to music for different reasons. Sometimes it’s to get energized, sometimes it’s to focus. It can be to party or to be introspective. Edgy or soft. It can be stretching your boundaries or comfort food.

Florida Georgia Line was comfort food. Their music is monstrously repetitive in theme, tone, and imagery. Could you remember or attach any of the song titles I listed above to their video or lyrics? Was it the one with the Jeep, or the two bikini ladies, or the jeans ladies…? Bacardi black, beer, or fireballs…? I swear their songs are so easily swappable that surely someone’s misinterpreted their music as promoting driving under the influence.

I digress. When I bought their album, I thought it would be a consistent jam, good for when the mood strikes me on a sunny road trip. (That’s about as close as I get to beach parties with my bros.) Maybe I’d long for a twang and have something besides Alan Jackson’s bluegrass album to rely on for consistency. Something for background, where the songs move between one another without much notice.

I do like the grooves they get into sometimes; it’s catchy. And I’d be being unfair if I didn’t point to something that isn’t so horribly uniform, like “Dirt“. The two dudes are very attractive and surely live the part they sing. The videos are well shot and crisp.

But the vapidity of the content just pulls me out. That guy’s voice is unmistakeable and sadly un-ignorable as he tells me to drink up and drive away with a girl. They come on the radio and haunt me with their drinking party jams, over and over. What joy I found in them evaporated soon after I started hearing more than the 30-second Amazon clips. No, those weren’t just uninteresting parts. Those are all the parts. Forever. Everywhere. Always.

They’re those green beans. Stale, yet I have to endure them. …Though I could just be a little salty myself.

Maybe on the good days they can be a guilty pleasure.

Notes   [ + ]

3 thoughts on “Country Blues

  1. Ben

    Hey man, I have been thinking about this exact thing a lot lately. Remember back at Yeah! Burger, when I told you that these day, I just admit I like pop? Well, since then, I’ve been trying to dissect what it is about pop music that can be so good and so bad at the same time. My thought is that it’s basically engineered to be catchy. You’ve got teams of people working together to generate a hit. Their goal is to write a song that you won’t be able to get out of your head, and neither will the 2 million people who go out and buy the album.

    So check this out:

    Republic Nashville, the label that published Florida Georgia Line’s first album, is owned by Universal Republic Records. The guy that produced the album, Joey Moi, has a Wikipedia article of his own. He worked extensively with Nickleback. These guys didn’t just meet in bar, find a common artistic thread, and decide to make music. This stuff is designed, I don’t know if you want to call it scientifically, but definitely through experience, to be catchy as hell. They’re really, really good at it. It’s not an earworm for everyone, but it’s good for double platinum.

    So you’ve got a song that doesn’t really appeal to you on an emotional level, but is written in a way that you just want to bob your head to the beat and keep listening. I don’t know if it’s still art, but that’s pretty damn cool.

    And that’s exactly why you don’t like the rest of the album. There’s nothing deep about the music, but they nailed the formula for a handful of tunes, put in enough extra material that’s thematically similar, and BAM! Album. That’s business.

    1. Ross Post author

      Your point about the album being produced by a man involved with Nickelback makes so much sense it hurts. I was thinking about that comparison often when watching their videos.

      Yes, this is absolutely a case of being over-produced and engineered, even if the duo means their lyrics and what they’re about.

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