Saving Country Music

Metro-Politan: Country Music’s New Cancer
August 20, 2015 – 03:00 pm
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The-King-the-Mice-and-the-CheeseIn 1965, the Canadian-American children’s book author and illustrator Eric Gurney published a book with his wife called The King, the Mice, and the Cheese about a Arabian monarch who loved cheese, but was nearly run out of his palace by all the mice his cheese fetish attracted. So he called on his wise men to advise him on how to get rid of all the mice. The wise men suggested getting cats who could chase all of the mice away, but soon the cats became a problem in themselves. So the wise men then suggested dogs be brought to the palace to chase away the cats. Then lions were brought in to chase away the dogs, and eventually elephants to chase away the lions, all replacing the previous menace before them, but leaving the king altogether unhappy with his increasingly undesirable palace mates.

It’s a similar story for country music and it’s recent history of chasing hyper trends. Just as you begin to applaud the dying arch of one awful earache, another one emerges. First it was teen pop and the rise of Taylor Swift to the very top spot of the genre, symbolized by her 2009 win for Entertainer of the Year at the CMA’s. The next menace was country rap, symbolized by Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” becoming the biggest country single in all of 2011. Then country rap gave way to Bro-Country—the most dominant torment to country music arguably in the genre’s entire history. Now what looks to depose Bro-Country as the next malevolent hyper-trend? For the lack of a universally-recognized term for it at the moment, let’s just call it “Metro-Politan.”

Drink-to-That-All-Night-Jerrod-NiemannYes, you know I’ve been secretly jealous of New York Magazine writer Jody Rosen ever since he bested my term “Laundry List” to articulate to readers what is now recognized by even the Cambridge Dictionary (in whatever infantile stages) as “Bro-Country, ” so I thought I’d try my hand at some unilateral neologism myself. In reality though, what you call it and why is pretty inconsequential compared to what the effects could be of this abhorrent vogue. EDM-infused urban dance country—destined just as its predecessors to to burn flaming hot for 18 months to two years before being relegated to the the dust bin of history and a laughing stock—is country music’s new preeminent pestilence, and it needs to die.

Metro - Originating from and being indicative of an urban locale. Commonly referring to a male that is hyper sensitive about his appearance and hygiene, but is a heterosexual that frequents urban clubs and listens to music indicative of said clubs.

-Politan - Comes from the Greek word “polis, ” meaning city or city-state. A suffix with history in country music, once used in “countrypolitan” to describe the refined sound of 60’s and early 70’s country music meant to appeal to a more urban and well-healed audience.

Metro-Politan - A subgenre of country music with absolutely no material ties to country, simply using the mainstream country genre as a convenient delivery system for EDM/R&B/Dance-inspired music.

…or something like that.

*Alternative – Metro-Sexual

What, it’s not catchy enough? Doesn’t snap off the tongue? Too easily-confused with the word “Metropolitan”? Well then screw it, call it whatever you want. But you know what I’m talking about when I say Metro-Politan: This Sam Hunt bullshit.

Yes, you can point to some other early culprits who dabbled in mixing dance club rhythms with country window dressing before. Look no further than the reigning Grammy Album of the Year winner Beck and some of his work in the 90’s. But the man responsible for bringing this most unfortunate trend to the forefront of mainstream country music initially was Jerrod Niemann.

The doughy, semi-successful country star was looking for a spark to his quickly sliding career, and decided to take a chance on a song called “Drink To That All Night, ” and it paid off in spades. You would think that a song that offered so little of anything country, and that was so obviously a beast of the EDM/Club Dance world, would be a hard sell to the country music constituency, but no dice for Jerrod Niemann’s detractors. The song traced a slow but steady ascent throughout 2014, eventually becoming a #1, and birthing a new generation of copycats like a Northeast blizzard does autumn babies.

But the thing about Jerrod Niemann and “Drink To That All Night” is that it immediately tipped the hand to the fickleness of the Metro-Politan trend. Though the song delivered renewed attention to Niemann and marks the greatest success of his career, that success was incredibly short-lived. The follow up single “Donkey” was hoping to capitalize even further on Jerrod’s new dance club angle, but it might go down as the worst song in the history of the genre, and was dead on arrival at radio. But Niemann had done his job. He was the EDM canary sent down the country music mine shaft, and he had returned healthy—at least initially. That’s all the country music producers needed to know, that the pliable country music public would find the approach palatable as long as it was done in a very polished way. Humor and histrionics, not so much.

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