Bro-country

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Bro-country is a subgenre of mainstream country music originating in the second decade of the 21st century that is influenced by 21st-century hip hop, hard rock and electronic music.<ref>Andrew Barker (November 26, 2014). "Despite Detractors, Bro-Country May Be a Bellwether of Nashville’s Future". Variety. </ref> Many bro-country songs, more often than not, are about attractive young women, the consumption of alcohol, partying, and pickup trucks.<ref>Rodman, Sarah (2 November 2013). "For songwriters, a country divide". Boston Globe. Retrieved 24 April 2014. </ref><ref>Bream, Jon (9 March 2014). "Luke Bryan is poster boy for Nashville's new 'bro-country'". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Archived from the original on June 2, 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014. </ref>

The first use of the term was by Jody Rosen of New York magazine in an article published on August 11, 2013. He used the term to describe songs by Florida Georgia Line, particularly their debut single "Cruise". He also named Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Jake Owen to be notable singers of the genre.<ref name="vulture">Rosen, Jody (11 August 2013). "Jody Rosen on the Rise of Bro-Country". Vulture.com. Retrieved 24 April 2014. </ref> Entertainment Weekly also cited "Boys 'Round Here" by Blake Shelton and "Ready Set Roll" by Chase Rice as other examples of bro-country.<ref>Smith, Grady (18 October 2013). "Country brodown: Every truck, beer, jeans, moonlight, and 'girl' reference on the current chart". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 April 2014. </ref>

The genre drew criticism from other country singers; artists who have spoken against the bro-country subgenre include Ray Price, Dale Watson, Jean Shepard, Willie Nelson, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Gary Allan, Brad Paisley, Travis Tritt, Kacey Musgraves and Zac Brown.<ref name="smith">Smith, Grady (1 October 2013). "How country music went crazy: A comprehensive timeline of the genre's identity crisis". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 April 2014. </ref> The popularity of the genre opened up a divide between the older generation of country singers and the bro-country singers which was described as "civil war" by musicians, critics and journalists.<ref name=time/>

Popularity

Florida Georgia Line whose hit song "Cruise" drew attention to the genre

In the early 2010s, the genre began to gather steam, but the song that brought the movement to the attention of music journalists was the 2012 Florida Georgia Line song "Cruise".<ref name="vulture"/> In 2014, "Cruise" became the best-selling digital country song of all time,<ref name="best-selling">Wade Jessen (January 6, 2014). "Florida Georgia Line's 'Cruise' Sets All-Time Country Sales Record". Billboard. </ref> with over 7 million copies sold in the US while also holding a record 24 weeks as the No. 1 Hot Country Song.<ref>Rob, Tannenbaum (14 October 2014). "Rap Whiskey Worship Repeat". Billboard. 126 (34): 44–49. </ref><ref>Paul Grein (September 10, 2014). "Chart Watch: Meghan Trainor, Giant Slayer". Yahoo Music! Chart Watch. </ref> According to Jody Rosen: "We may look back on 'Cruise' as a turning point, the moment when the balance of power tipped from an older generation of male country stars to the bros."<ref name=time>Adam Carlson (October 14, 2014). "‘Bro Country’ Is Still Thriving, Even If Everyone Hates It". Time. </ref>

A number of highly popular albums and songs by singers such as Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton considered to be bro-country appeared in the first half of the 2010s. In 2013, Luke Bryan's Crash My Party was the third best-selling of all albums in the US, with Florida Georgia Line's Here's to the Good Times at sixth and Blake Shelton's Based on a True Story at ninth.<ref name="fox">Sasha Bogursky (June 12, 2014). "Country music is not dead: Give bro’ country a chance". Fox News. </ref> It has also been estimated in research in mid-2010s that about 45 percent of country’s best-selling songs could be considered bro-country, with the top two artists being Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line.<ref>Chris Parton (February 26, 2015). "Bro Country Mashup Guy Confronts Radio Programmers: What Does the Future of Country Radio Hold?". CMT. </ref>

While bro-country was popular with country music fans, programmers and those within the industry grew tired of the genre. According to radio programmer R.J. Curtis: "The real fatigue on it has been with [radio] programmers and the people who have to listen to it a lot and evaluate it — the air personalities and the program directors. The people who aren't really sick of it are the listeners."<ref>Adam Gold (February 24, 2015). "Why Country Radio Still Matters". RollingStone. </ref> Some thought the genre had waned by 2015,<ref>Grady Smith (July 7, 2015). "Rejoice! Bro-country is dying out as new ideas push genre into bolder territory". Guardian. </ref> others however felt that the genre is here to stay and argued that it had expanded in a positive way. According to radio program director Phathead: "The hip-hop, rock and R&B influence you hear in Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett, Brett Eldredge, Cole Swindell and all the others is about to take us to new places, and it's awesome."<ref>Phyllis Stark (August 19, 2015). "Is Bro Country Over... And What Is Its Lasting Legacy?". Billboard. </ref> In Europe, the genre has been nurtured by the French-American musician Douglas Dokker, who teaches a class on bro-country composition at his Black Swan Rock School of Music in Turin, Italy.<ref>"BLACK SWAN - ROCK SCHOOL OF MUSIC - Corsi". www.blackswan-musicschool.com. Retrieved 2017-12-06. </ref>

Criticism

The bro-country movement has been criticized by listeners and music reviewers for its subject matter, namely repeated lyrical themes of partying associated with Friday nights, alcoholic beverages, and trucks, as well as its exclusion of female country artists.<ref>"Women edged out by ‘bro-country’ party song trend?". The Seattle Times. 4 March 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014. </ref> Traditional country fans and artists have expressed the sentiment that bro-country music is a poor representation of country music. One critic who spoke favorably about bro-country was David Horse of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote: "But this music has an appeal not unlike the teen surfing songs of the Beach Boys or the screaming guitar, take-everything-too-far anthems of Bon Jovi and Sammy Hagar...For a young man, the allure of reckless freedom is forever strong. And it’s not just young men. I know I’ve got a 25-year-old bottled up inside my decidedly not young self who still longs for the fantasy."<ref>Horsey, David (12 March 2014). "Are bro-mantic songs taking over country music?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 April 2014. </ref>

The genre was also criticized for being formulaic. Throughout 2014, radio station KTCK (AM) had a regular segment called "Fun With Country Music" hosted by Corby Davidson, criticizing the new form of country music, and produced a checklist of specific items that would be found in these songs: boots, alcohol, jeans, trucks, guns, farm equipment, the word "girl", and rural settings.<ref>McCarthy, Amy (4 September 2014). "The Hardline's "Fun With Country Music" is a Brilliant Skewer of Bro-Country Lyrics". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 26 August 2016. </ref> A video by Greg Todd, an aspiring songwriter, which highlighted the similarities between bro-country songs went viral after being featured by Time in January 2015.<ref>"Mind-Blowing SIX Song Country Mashup!". YouTube: Sir Mashalot. 4 November 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2015. </ref><ref name="sixsongssametune">Brian Mansfield. "Six songs, same tune? Mashup shows country music's similarities". USA Today. </ref><ref>Grossman, Samantha (8 January 2015). "This Mashup Shows How Today’s Most Popular Country Songs Sound Exactly the Same". Time. Retrieved 11 January 2015. </ref> The video combined six songs released between 2012 and 2013: Shelton's "Sure Be Cool If You Did", Bryan's "Drunk on You", Florida Georgia Line's "This Is How We Roll", Cole Swindell's "Chillin' It", Parmalee's "Close Your Eyes" and Chase Rice's "Ready Set Roll". Todd noted the formula as "a tight, mid-tempo backbeat; a quick, two-verse set-up, often laced with clever wordplay and bouncy, lyrical melody; and — bam — the power chorus to bring it all home and keep them coming back."<ref name="sixsongssametune" />

In addition, some also criticized the music's portrayal of women.<ref>McCarthy, Amy. "Bro Country's Sexism Is Ruining Country Music". blogs.dallasobserver.com. Dallas Observer. Retrieved 27 January 2015. </ref> In November 2014 country artist Kenny Chesney, interviewed by Billboard, spoke out about bro-country: "over the last several years, it seems like anytime anybody sings about a woman, she’s in cutoff jeans, drinking and on a tailgate... they objectify the hell out of them."<ref>Sterling Whitaker. "Kenny Chesney Covers Billboard, Speaks Out on Country Songs That ‘Objectify’ Women". Taste of Country. </ref>

In December 2014 Brad Paisley spoke out against bro-country and the lack of females on country radio: "one of my frustrations with radio now is lyrics: [...] there's a lot of stuff on the radio about, you know, put your tan legs on the dashboard and we'll roll around in the truck and go party. It's like, 'Guys, come on!' – and specifically, yes, guys, 'cause there are no girls! We can say something too. There are phrases that are totally cliché that we as songwriters owe it to ourselves to not use again."<ref>Eileen Finan (December 2, 2014). "Brad Paisley on Lazy Lyrics, Nashville's Guy Problem – and Why He Doesn't Think He'll Leave a Legacy". People. </ref>

Response

In response to the criticisms, Blake Shelton said in January 2013 that he did not care about the "old farts" who complained about their songs: "Well that's because you don't buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don't want to buy the music you were buying."<ref name="smith"/> In turn, that sparked a response from Ray Price via his Facebook page: "It's a shame that I have spend Template:Sic 63 years in this business trying to introduce music to a larger audience and to make it easier for the younger artists who are coming behind me. ... You should be so lucky as us old-timers. Check back in 63 years (the year 2075) and let us know how your music will be remembered." Shelton later apologized to Ray Price.<ref name="smith"/>

Zac Brown described Luke Bryan’s "That's My Kind of Night" as the worst song he had ever heard, to which Jason Aldean replied, "nobody gives a shit what u think."<ref name=time /> Aldean also called the term bro-country ridiculous and was bothered to be labeled as such because he did not "feel like it's a compliment," that "it's sort of a backhanded thing that comes from a very narrow-minded listener".<ref>Jewel Wicker (May 28, 2015). "Jason Aldean talks about the 'ridiculous' bro-country label, the Tidal 'misconception' and Hersheypark". Penn Live. </ref> On his song about drinking and trucks, he said: "Yeah, we've had some songs that talk about that stuff. But that's also what we really grew up doing. A lot of us grew up in these little towns where there wasn't a whole lot to do, and we were entertaining ourselves. I can't sing you a song about being a stockbroker on Wall Street, because I don't even know where the hell Wall Street's at."<ref>Chris Willman (September 19, 2014). "Billboard Cover: Jason Aldean on the Curse of Nashville, 'Baby-Making Music' and Dealing With Tabloid Scandals". Billboard. </ref>

Rosen himself was unhappy the way the term bro-country had been used by some as an insult and felt that some criticisms of the genre came from class and regional prejudices and snobbery. He thought that artists such as Jake Owen and Thomas Rhett made music that pushed the genre into "exciting new territory" and said: "All the ways country is flirting with R&B and hip hop, production-wise and otherwise, I think it’s really cool." To Rosen, bro-country has changed country in a positive way, producing an increasing diversity of sound and subject matter on country radio.<ref>Grady Smith (August 17, 2015). "The burdens of 'bro-country', a music critic's term gone wild". Guardian. </ref>

Reactions in music

A number of country singers expressed their criticism of the genre in their songs.<ref>Jewly Hight (July 21, 2014). "Bro Down! 10 Signs Country's Maligned Trend May Be on the Decline". RollingStone. </ref> In July 2014, female duo Maddie & Tae released their debut single, "Girl in a Country Song", which criticized and referenced many bro-country songs, particularly the roles of females within such songs.<ref>Martins, Chris (17 January 2015). "MADDIE & TAE WILL LEAD THE BRO-COUNTRY BACKLASH". Billboard. 127 (1): 41. </ref><ref>Dalfonzo, Gina (7 July 2014). "The Bro-Country Backlash Is Here". The Atlantic. Retrieved 7 October 2014. </ref><ref>Conaway, Alanna (7 July 2014). "Has The Bro-Country "Backlash" Begun? Has the Bro-Country "Backlash" Begun?". Roughstock. Archived from the original on 24 September 2014. Retrieved 7 October 2014. </ref> However, in the same month, country singer songwriter Maggie Rose released her single "Girl in Your Truck Song". In the song she praises bro-country songs, saying she actually wants to be the girl in their songs.<ref>Beville Dunkerley (July 15, 2014). "Maggie Rose Puts the 'Girl' in Bro Country — Song Premiere". RollingStone. </ref>

In August 2014 country artist Brad Paisley recorded a song called "4WP" for his album Moonshine in the Trunk. In the song, Paisley pokes fun at bro-country by joining the trend and heavily relying on some of its recurrent elements. A sample of Paisley's hit single "Mud on the Tires" is also featured in the song. About the song, Paisley said: "In the middle of this bro-country movement, with all this criticism about [the genre's reliance on] the jean shorts and the mud and the outdoors, we do a song that's just like that... but we include a sample of myself from 2003! Which is kind of like saying, 'I have a little license. I kinda did this already'. But it's written so tongue-in-cheek, and it doesn't take itself too seriously."<ref>Andrew Leahey (August 25, 2014). "Brad Paisley Talks Pot, Rock Riffs and Flying With Obama". RollingStone. </ref>

On October 15, 2014 Canadian country music artist Paul Brandt released the song "Get a Bed" as a comedic response to the whole bro-country phenomenon.<ref>"Is Calgary's Paul Brandt getting bad rap for cheeky new country tune?". www.metronews.ca. October 23, 2014. Retrieved September 4, 2015. </ref>

In April 2015, songwriter Brent Cobb, who has written cuts by Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Frankie Ballard and Luke Bryan, released a song called "Yo Bro" which mocks and pokes fun at all of bro-country's clichés stating that it was "inspired by frustration".<ref>"Hear Brent Cobb's Satirical, 'Anti-Bro' Song". Rolling Stone. </ref>

References

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