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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Observer

Hey hey! Ho ho! Radio country music has got to go!

Mid Wallen’s most recent album “One Thing at a Time” shocked the country music stage with 111 minutes and 36 seconds of consummate entertainment, writing and variety. That boy from East Tennessee has proven once again that there is still plenty more subject matter concerning the unpleasant relationships with past lovers and his pleasant relationship with alcohol. Given the current statistics, it is safe to say he will continue to dominate the country music boards this year, as he did in 2021 and 2022. The future of country music rests (in peace) in Mr. Whiskey Glasses’ hands — a future drastically different from past country, which was characterized by uniqueness and an emphasized story-telling aspect. As not to offend the alliance of “Wallenites,” I will not mention that country music is trending toward mass produced, impersonal, catchy — mind you — garbage. 

I must make a few disclaimers. First and foremost, I am not a country hater; in fact, I love country music, which is why the genre’s trends are so troubling that they compel me to the keyboard. Secondly, I intend for the topic of discussion to be legitimate country music (sorry Walker Hayes, Kane Brown and Dan & Shay). Thirdly, I have conducted extensive, topic-specific research through listening to “One Thing at a Time” from start to finish, the entire 1 hour 52 minutes, and in one sitting to substantiate my claims. Finally, though I poke fun at the concept of Wallenite fanatics, I can attest to their existence. I used to know one. 

As I have hinted at previously, my argument is divided into three concepts: entertainment, writing and variety. I will analyze the current state and future trend of country music through the figure of The Tennessean, an apt representative given his consistently high level of popularity. I understand the allure behind him. His recent music is quite entertaining in that it is pleasing to most ears: a Southern-twangy, youthful voice singing of memories of love under the melodic strums of a guitar or cadence of a trap beat. The music is undoubtably catchy. Moreover, I can conceive that people say Mr. 865 is good because his vocals are enjoyable or the song itself gives off good vibes. I cannot, however, conceive that a positive assessment of his current music has claims deeper than mere entertainment. Overall, radio country music platforms entertaining songs that are popular but not necessarily written well. Into this genre, do Mr. Mullet and others like him manufacture on a mass scale mediocre music. 

As for the writing, I will credit the man. He helped write 33.3% of the 36 songs in “One Thing at a Time.” Impressive. Very nice. Now let us see Zach Bryan’s album “American Heartbreak.” He solo wrote 97.1% of the 34 songs; the 2.9% remaining represents a cover of “You Are My Sunshine.” The point is that radio country music, overall, has lost sight of its potential to tell intimately stories with deep ties to one’s sense of home and relationships. At its core, country music is a personal form of storytelling. However, the impersonality imparted by third party authorship so drains any possibility of uniqueness that the derelict template is reasonably applicable and readily available to any singer. What follows then is the competition of singers to vie for the top position of popularity by adding their own flair to the template. If Morgy and other singers of the sort were to write their own music, they would embody the fullest identity of “artist” since they have influence in all aspects of their art. Until then, Mr. Sandy Boots is just a singer.  

The stereotype goes that all country music sounds the same: the same voices singing about the same topics including alcohol, girls, trucks, etc. This assessment is a dismissive caricature, but there is still truth in its suggested motifs. I acknowledge that the variety of subjects that a country song can cover is limited. How is one to overcome this obstacle? Developing new, creative metaphors? No. Engaging in new relationships for subject matter purposes, Taylor Swift style? No. Rehashing ambiguous memories with forged dialogue, but with autotune and a trap beat? Yes! The easy way out is to add variety by injecting incongruous elements of another genre into the music. The hard way out is to be creative or develop new relationships, but that would require thinking and patience. The expedient course takes precedence over the honorable one, and the former is, in fact, rewarded more graciously than the latter.  

Instead of genuine music from artists like Luke Combs, Tyler Childers, Zach Bryan and Chris Stapleton just to name a few contemporaries, we settle for a “cowboy” whose favorite instrument is a MacBook Pro. It frustrates me beyond belief not only to consider this trend of preference but also to witness rise of the Wallenism, of which adherents come from a youthful demographic. Mr. You Proof is, in fact, you proof. He is an inviolate idol, who can say no word or produce no song that will diminish his reputation. The godhead has no obligation to bless his disciples with quality music, a token of love, for he cannot love anyone more than his hometown. History has already shown this. 

It is my most sincere hope that something in this article has respectfully offended you. I want you to disagree with me. I hope you accost me in public or write me a passive aggressive email. It would make my day! My email is jtran5@nd.edu. This is the only way you would actually take time to examine why you consume the media you consume. Have you ever thought deeper about the art form that is music? How can you expand your perception of country music, or any music for that matter? Why do you settle for so much less than what you are worth? Should you consider apostasy of Wallenism? Valid questions might I say.

Jonah Tran is a first-year at Notre Dame double majoring in Finance and Economics and minoring in Classics. Although fully embracing the notorious title of a “Menbroza,” he prides himself on being an Educated Young Southern Gentleman. You can contact Jonah by email at jtran5@nd.edu.


Jonah Tran

Jonah Tran is a sophomore at Notre Dame studying finance, classics and constitutional studies. He prides himself on sarcasm and his home — the free state of Florida. You can contact Jonah at jtran5@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.