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There’s a feud going on in this country, and for once it’s happening outside the Beltway.
A civil war is raging in country music between those who yearn for the traditional sounds and those who favor the emerging, thumping beat of hick-hop tunes known as “bro’ country.” The term, coined by New York magazine’s Jody Rosen, describes songs that depict long summer nights filled with red Solo cups and girls in painted-on jeans riding in jacked-up pickup trucks.
Now, some country artists and their fans are complaining that the current generation of country singers are selling their souls to bro’ country, just to sell records.
George Orwell said, “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” So instead of continuing the cycle, let’s recognize that the bro’ country movement is merely an extension of country music, not its death knell.
Thanks in large part to the bro’ country sound, country music has never been more alive in the United States. It surpassed classic rock to become the most popular genre in America in 2012, according to a study from the NDP Group. The study also found that 18- to 25-year-olds are twice as likely to say they are fans of country music.
While country artists like Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw have reached across the music divide and gained popularity with non-country fans, bro’ country artists are attracting millions who would never have tuned in to a country station in the past. Recognizing the growing popularity of the sound, Rolling Stone magazine has just created a new website, RS Country, along with a special country edition of its magazine dedicated to country music news.
The best way to measure fans’ support or disdain for new music is by looking at sales. The bro’ country anthem “Cruise,” by Florida Georgia Line, has become the best-selling digital country song of all time.
Luke Bryan, the leader of the new music movement, had 2013’s third best-selling album after Justin Timberlake and Eminem. Florida Georgia Line finished sixth, beating out the likes of Beyoncé and Drake. Blake Shelton rounded out the list at No. 9, leaving Jay-Z at the bottom of the top 10.
Country artists have long incorporated other genres into their music, like rap. Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue,” Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” and the Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” all come to mind.
Music evolves and changes across all genres, so why shouldn’t country music, too? Not every country song is going to be a “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” but that doesn’t mean there is no place for a fun-loving bro’ country tune.
As a New York City native who has Hank Williams Sr., Florida Georgia Line and Miranda Lambert on her iPod, I say to my fellow country music fans:
Before this feud goes any further, let’s not forget what country music is all about. It's the long, strong voice of the working people telling tales of their pride in hard work, good values and love of the USA.
Hey, Nashville! Isn't this town big enough for both camps?
Sasha Bogursky writes about country music, celebrity news and faith for FOXNews.com. She also has a column titled Faith & Fame that explores how a strong belief system helps some performers navigate the pitfalls of the entertainment industry. Follow her on Twitter @SashaFB.