Top Themes in Country Music

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Common themes in Country Music

Top themes of modern country music are It’s All Over, Love & Devotion, and The Right Way To Live. These themes are influenced by topics such as love, loneliness, family, values, the hard life, and poverty of the ordinary people, rural life, patriotism, vehicles, and prison.

Top Themes

  • It's All Over, Love & Devotion, and The Right Way To Live are the top themes of modern country music.
  • Most country music themes are formed from topics like "love, loneliness, family, values, the hard life, and poverty of the ordinary people, rural life, patriotism, vehicles, and prison."

It’s All Over

  • Songs with this theme focus on "regret or loss." It's all over is mostly about "the end of a romantic relationship, but could also mean other good things the singer lost by actively screwing it up."
  • Here comes goodbye is a country song about break-up by Rascal Flats, and it was released in 2009. The song made it to number 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
  • Break Up in the End by Cole Swindell is a song that talks about a break-up that is mature and has no hard feelings. It "examines the bittersweet beauty of a relationship, even if it doesn't have a happy ending."

Love and Devotion

  • The "sappy love song," fall into this category. It's usually about undying love and making it when no one thought the world. Such songs are way more popular now than they were 50 years ago. Variants of This theme include themes like "They Said We'd Never Make It" and "Back Together."
  • Bless the Broken Road is a song by Rascal Flatts released in 2004. It was number one on the Billboard country music charts in 2005. It "celebrates the miracle and rarity of true love while also addressing the struggle we endure to find it."
  • Dig two graves by Randy Travis was released in 2008. It is a song about love and devotion and sticking together through thick and thin.

The Right Way to Live

  • This song has a dominant theme of pride and homespun wisdom. Songs with this theme were more prevalent in 2015 than 50 years ago. Variants of this theme include “Things Were Better Back Then, My Rowdy Friends and Me, and Let’s Get Back to Basics.”
  • Follow Your Arrow by Kacey Musgraves was released Oct. 21, 2013. The song encourages listeners to accept themselves and live their lives the way they see fit without worrying about what others think. The song made it to "Billboard Hot Country Songs top 10 in the United States and the top 50 in Canada."
  • Live Like You Were Dying by Tim McGraw was released in 2004. This song encourages listeners to have fun and enjoy their lives and take"the time to absorb the moments spent with loved ones and pursuing the fun and ambitious things." This song was number one for seven weeks on the US Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks.
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Country Music Evolution

Insights summarizing the country music's evolution over the last two decades are about the changing country music genre and style, the dominance of "bro-country" in the early 2000s, the historic downturn of women in country charts, the "autobiographies" being reflected in country music, and the birth of country artists' collaboration with artists from other genre.

1. Country Music Genre and Style Over the Past Two Decades

  • Around the 2000s, according to a country music evolution timeline published by Sutori, influences of pop music and other genres became evident in country music during this time.
  • According to Billboard, the past decade (the 2010s) marked country music's evolution which now embodies different elements of rock, pop, EDM, hip-hop, as well as the traditional-leaning country instrumentation bluegrass and Americana.
  • When modern country singers emerged, they flaunted attitudes and phrases borrowed from the hip-hop beat, but softer.
  • Though guitar, the main instrument used in earlier years, is still prominent, some modern country songs became more defined with the use of a combination of other instruments.
  • Nowadays, the tempo of country songs are faster, with dynamics ranging from soft to loud, and the timbre is powerful with more added elements of music.

2. The Dominance of "Bro-country" in the Early 2000s

  • Early 2000s country music was "hip-hop-infused and male vocalist-driven bro-country" sound dominated.
  • The so-called "bro-country" template consolidated the contemporary country sounds.
  • Genres evolved from the traditional sound to "bro-country" and to a notable trend of "boyfriend country".
  • Country artists and songwriters realized that they need to discover what elements could be added to the "bro-country" sound and what the multigenerational audience would identify with.
  • It later shifted its tone to a more gentle, less brute kind of star: the "gentleman". The sound stripped clean of over-masculinity and artists notably avoided political conversations.

3. Historic Downturn of Women in Country Charts

  • The gender gap is a factor being considered in the country music scene in recent decades.
  • Researchers at the University of Southern California, as noted in the article published by The Business Journals, stated in their report entitled "No Country for Female Artists" that there is a lack of women among songwriters and artists on any popular country music charts.
  • From the top country songs between 2014 and 2018, only 16% of the artists were female. It equates to 5.2 male artists per female artist.
  • The research also found that while the average age of male country artists is 42 and 29 for females, the latter's career longevity is shorter.
  • Some experts attribute the lack of female artists in radios to male programmers who cannot relate to songs about revenge or abuse, thinking that audiences wouldn't want to hear these themes.
  • According to Reba McEntire, a country music icon for over four decades, part of the problem could be cyclical, because the 1990s was women's golden age in the country music and this decade could be men's turn.

4. "Autobiographies" Reflected in Country Music

  • In previous years, country artists are not expected to sing their life in their songs.
  • But recent changes in the country songs in this decade are somewhat including their autobiographies that reflect their life journey or the typical life events that happen to many.
  • Country music is also used recently by country musicians to express social sentiments about some tragic misfortunes (e.g. calamities, massacres, shooting incidents) in the US in 2017-2018 through their songs.

5. The Birth of Country Artists' Collaboration With Artists From Other Genre

  • The last decade brought collaborations with artists from other known genres beyond country music.
  • This initially thought to be unusual collaborations of two different music genres became surprisingly hits that music audiences loved.
  • In their collaborations, the country artists still do what they do, and the other's part is still within their style. But the product reflects their cumulative influences as artists.
  • Overtime, country music artists proved that redefining how country music sounded and behaved (e.g. making flashier music videos, adding backbeats, staging shows with some touch of rock) did not undermine its country affinities.
  • For these artists, it's like coming from a different world. But common threads, their love for music, ties them together to be able to bring a tune that music lovers loved.