In Country Music, The Economy Often Dictates What Is Popular

We talk about why country music goes through stylistic cycles of what topics are popular in the mainstream.

These days, as the current days of our lives always do, seem to be skewed towards the here and now and that oftentimes make people think that country music needs some sort of ’saving’ or the rightening of the ship. But to know why country music seems to be party, party, party these days, look no further than how the economy is doing.

In the past 30-40 years, the types of songs played on your local country music radio station probably had more to do with how you were doing than you might’ve realized. Think about it. In the current “party country” era, a major reason for the type of song played on radio stations is that people want to feel good and escape from their daily struggles of life.

What about the 2000s, you say? Well, post 9-11, the USA was a bit of both. The economy was by and large OK in the early part of the decade but by the end of the decade, it wasn’t. So, once that happened, country music’s songs got relentlessly party-centric and escapist. Even as our economy has started to improve for most citizens, country music’s core audience has remained entertainment-focused and of the “escapist” mindset. The world just scares a lot of people and with the divisive nature of politics and other issues, people just want to be entertained and taken away from their lives.

In reality, the country music audience has always preferred their music to be light and fun. It’s just that the “best” or most-awarded country songs always were songs like “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “The Dance” and “The House That Built Me” types of songs instead of a “Friends In Low Places” or a “Cruise,” even if fans later remember the fun, good time Charlie type of songs in the long run.

The simple truism is this: The average country music fan listens to music to be entertained or goes to a show to leave the reality of the world, even the harshest realities, behind them for a couple hours of good time fun. It’s even more true in the times when things are ‘down’ in our economy and as we turn to a better economy, the critics of the “yo and bro” country songs may soon get their wish to hear weightier songs like “Burning House” or whatever the next great country song may be.