This summer I got into country music. Specifically, Modern Country, which is intensely pop-crossover, incorporating elements of and at times indistinguishable from Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop, and Dance music. It was weirdly coincidental, I came across the video for This Is How We Roll in a hotel room in Vermont, and like that same week 101.7FM changed format from Electronic Dance to Modern Country, and thus was born the soundtrack to my summer of 2014. “Dude, country music sucks!” you say. Well I’m telling you, Modern Country is just as good and often better than your average Pop song. “Well, pop music sucks too!”. Oh yeah? I’m willing to bet you have a Lady Gaga, Adelle, or Daft Punk song on your ipod, you like that stuff, so you should really give this a try. Tune your radio to 101.7FM The Bull, with an open mind and sense of humor, I promise you’ll hear at least one song you like. It will remind you of your favorite pop song, but with a touch more banjo and in a southern accent.
1. “This Is How We Roll” - Florida Georgia Line. This is what started it all for me, this song rocks, it’s the epitome of what they call Bro Country, which are songs about partying, drinking, and girls. What got my attention is that this guys are pretty much rappers, which I did not expect to find in country music. There’s actually a subgenre of Country Rap, it’s often referred to as “Hick Hop”, which is so funny you gotta love it. Florida Georgia Line really push the southern drawl to a point it becomes caricature, but their song “Cruise” is the Best Selling Country Song Of All Time, so there you go.
2. “Bartender” - Lady Antebellum. This is great straight-ahead modern country, the jilted lover theme is probably the most common of women singers, which is a little unfortunate as a stereotype, but this track is just so good it can really define the genre.
3. “Drink To That All Night” - Jerrod Niemann. I love the autotuned rapping leads into this song, it really shows the dance/pop/electronic influences on modern country.
4. “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” - Thompson Square. This is one of the most classic-sounding country songs on this mix, it harkens back to the days when they sang sweetly romantic songs about couples falling in love. Not all Modern Country is Bro, dude.
5. “Leave The Night On” - Sam Hunt. Honestly, most songs are from a guys point of view, sung to a girl he’s infatuated with, in a good old fashioned, wholesome kinda way. This track is one of the better examples.
6. “Mama’s Broken Heart” - Miranda Lambert. The bass line and snare drum on this track are SO FUN, it’s got such a bouncy carnival feel to it, and the writing is spot on, her sense of rhyme and lyrical rhythm are so natural. Classic set up of a jilted woman with anger management issues.
7. “Bottoms Up” - Brantly Gilbert. Another song about partying and drinking, but I like the darker, laid back instrumentation and vocal style. This isn’t a full-throated party anthem a la Florida Georgia Line, there’s a cool intensity to this track I find really distinctive.
8. “Girl In A Country Song” - Maddie & Tae. In most Modern Country, all girls are so gosh-darn pretty, blond hair and long tanned legs in them daisy-dukes, slide up on here in the passenger seat of my truck. A ridiculous cliché, and everybody knows it, I’m sure country music fans have the same wry self-awareness of their music that us Goths do. I mean really, we don’t _actually_ have any desire to wear capes, mope around in graveyards, or drink blood.
9. “What Was I Thinkin’ “ - Derks Bently. This is a rollicking great song, one of the few country songs with any kinda of vague story set-up. I miss that, country music used to have lots of stories, Kenny Rogers “The Gambler” and “Coward Of The County” remain some of the best story-based songs in all of country music, nay, all music across all genres. But anyway, this song is still super fun.
10. “Play It Again” - Luke Bryan. While most Modern Country is sung by guys, about girls they want to get with, there’s always a total non-threatening crushy aspect to it, it’s so not macho or threatening in any way. This song exemplifies it best, the guy is totally smitten with this amazing girl, she’s the one who takes an active interest in him, and he’ll do anything to keep her happy. It’s sweet. And Luke Bryan has such a great voice, that’s him in the feature guest spot on This Is How We Roll.
11. “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s” - Tim McGraw. This track is different from all the others, it’s not about partying, or boy meets girl, or a breakup; it’s a softly powerful meditation on life, and the roads we find ourselves on, and where we ultimately want to call home.