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CMT Awards Remind Me Why I Hate Country Music

I’ll admit, I don’t know all that much about country music. I know that some of my favorite artists – Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen when he’s being boring – have at least been inspired by the genre, but I also know that people like Tim McGraw make music that sounds like something a neo-Nazi would hum while having his way with you in the prison shower. So, yeah, you could say I’m a little at odds with country music, but up until fairly recently, I’ve been able to live and let live, enjoying my own music while allowing others to enjoy theirs, even if it is just, like, the absolute worst.

That, however, changed fairly recently, when I overheard a local country music station describe its programming as “real music for real people.” Now, I’ve always suspected that some fans of country music believe that the religious conservatism, patriotic values, and vague racism espoused by popular country artists are in fact simply signs that the people who play and listen to this type of music are the kind of blue-collar, hard-working, hard-drinking, Republican-voting folks who make up the backbone of the United States, or at least the parts of the United States that foreign tourists tend to avoid when visiting this nation. But, you know, I’d never heard that sentiment expressed so bluntly: “Real music for real people.”

This begs the question: are those of us who don’t like country music fictional? All my life I had assumed that even though I didn’t spend my days listening to songs about fried chicken, red Solo cups, and putting a boot up the ass of brown people, I did indeed exist, that I was not some figment of my own imagination who in fact was not a real person because my musical tastes prohibited me from being so. True, I don’t drive a pick-up truck, but that’s because I have no practical use for such a vehicle. True, I don’t hunt, but that’s because I don’t know how and wouldn’t enjoy it if I did. True, I don’t drink Miller Light, but that’s because I’ve decided that I dislike the taste of warm, rancid, diseased hillbilly urine on my tongue. If you enjoy that lifestyle, that’s fine, but assuming that I simply don’t exist, that I’m not a real person because you and I are not the same type of people, is about as insulting as. . .well, as your really terrible taste in music is to my ears.

See, country music itself just isn’t my thing, and having heard enough of it to make up my mind, I know that it never will be. I could try to ignore it, but that damn mindset that gets associated with it, that idea that the demographic targeted by this genre of music in fact represents the “real” America, is so ridiculous and infantile that I can’t ignore it. Sure, people who work hard physical labor and who preserve their own religious values – so long as those values don’t infringe on the rights of other human beings, in which case your religion is objectively wrong, because no religion should have “Thou shalt be a close-minded douchebag” as one of its commandments – are often admirable individuals. I know. I spent one summer working a manual labor job, and even though my duties – installing lightbulbs, mowing the lawn, wiping sweat off my brow and looking badass – weren’t all that difficult, I did work alongside people who probably work ten times harder than people who make ten times more money than they do. And I’ve met people who hold onto religion because they actually bothered to pay attention in church and have decided that spirituality has something to offer to them. And I’ve met people who are patriotic because, by laying down their own lives in service of their country, they’ve actually earned the right to be proud of where they come from. They are all wonderful people, worthy of praise they will likely never receive, because apparently God is too busy giving Grammies to hip-hop artists, but not a single of them is more real than anyone else.

(Also, very few of those people listened to country music, but hey, that’s beside the point, right?)

The fact of the matter is, if you’re a human being living on this planet, then you are a real person. It doesn’t matter if you’re a country music fan who spends his free time shooting animals or a classical fan who spends his free time drinking lattes and discussing the merits of some obscure James Joyce novel. You both live equally valid lives, because whatever happened to you over the course of your life brought you there, and neither one of you is more real than the other.

And that’s what I can’t get over about country music. This incessant urge to convince people that those stuck-up folks who would rather listen to literally anything else, ever, are somehow out of touch with the true America. I suppose they grew up learning that America is a chunk of land, bounded on the south by potential illegal immigrants, and on the north by socialist pussies, filled entirely, forever and ever, since God created this Earth, with white people who like to eat chicken and drink beer and shoot guns and convince themselves that owning anything with a Confederate flag on it doesn’t make them a horrible, racist. Ok, well I grew up learning that America was a melting pot, that the American Indians were here first, that it’s the land of opportunity, where you have the freedom to choose to live your life the way you want to live it. That’s a wonderful, empowering message, even to a third-grader who interprets “you can be whatever you want to be” as “yes, you may indeed have a future in the Being Indiana Jones business.” The “real music for real people” message embedded in the minds of too many country music fans – even if only one of them thought like this, and not an entire radio stations with thousands of listeners, it’d be too much – is, however, an extremely negative message, and it displays something hilariously ironic: these people think that it is the liberal-minded elite who are out of touch, but if you are so infatuated with your own value system that you have to think of other people as being less “real” than you are, then you are about as out of touch as it gets.

Live and let live. And stop listening to shitty music.

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