Some of the best and most frustrating months of my life were spent pursuing songwriting in Nashville, and like all transitions, it came with its ups and downs. But one of my biggest disappointments was seeing firsthand the current state of popular country music. If you flip on top 40 country radio, you will legitimately struggle to differentiate one male country song from another, a problem I have never seen more expertly demonstrated than it is with this video mash-up that proves all country songs sound the same. Bless whomever made this, because my frustration needed to be shown to the world, and now it has.
I remember the exact moment when the painfully homogenous nature of country music songwriting started to bother me: Last June, I went back to Nashville for a songwriting workshop. It was full of mostly girls, some of them as young as sixteen. A few successful songwriters came to speak to us in a Q&A session, all of them men. (Songwriting is a field dominated by men, if you didn't know.) One of their nuggets advice? Paraphrasing from memory here, but basically: "Stop just writing songs that appeal to women, because that's not what is successful on the market right now. If you want airplay, you're going to have to learn to be able to write for men."
He really thought he was being helpful, but all he did was infuriate me. Here were these young girls rapt with attention, clearly about to take his terrible advice and squelch their unique songwriting voices, and for what? So they could write another brainless song about another damn tailgate party to the exact same three chords as every other song on the radio right now? So they could aid and abet the Country Bro Movement that respects trucks more than they respect actual women?
I will say now what I should have said to that loser songwriter's face then: You're wrong. And you're also lowering the IQ of every radio listener when these songs hit the airwaves. Instead, at the time, I let him go on mansplaining country music to a room full of Next Taylor Swifts and LeeAnn Rimes and Kacey Musgraves, a mistake I will never make again. I mean, hopefully I'm never put in a position to have to listen to such bleak, misogynistic nonsense, but if I am, I plan to speak up. Because nothing about this trend—nor what it says about sexism in songwriting—is okay.
I can pinpoint the exact moment I was Officially Done with country radio, and it was a few months ago:
Of course, I say all of this now because I'm out of Nashville and I don't give one flying flack about what anyone there thinks of me. But the women who are still there? For the love of God, do not cave in. Do not write about trucks and painted-on jeans if it is just to please the men of the world. Your own unique experiences are worth so much more than another bro song. Besides, if anyone is going to seize back country radio from these brainless tunes and restore country music to its former glory, it's gotta start with us.
I will add that I met many talented songwriters in Nashville, male and female, who had radio success that was well-deserved. But even they were overshadowed by songs like Blake Shelton's "Sure Be Cool If You Did," Luke Bryan's "Drunk on You" and Florida Georgia Line's "This Is How We Roll," all of which are, unsurprisingly, included in this TERRIFYINGLY ON-POINT mash-up.
Image: Getty Images; Emma Lord/Facebook