We all remember Freshman Orientation, that intimidating, awkward rite of passage that every Domer must go through upon arriving to campus. In a weekend full of forced interaction, the best way for everyone to get to know each other is through a series of icebreakers. One of the more popular icebreaker questions is, “What is your favorite kind of music?” Sounds harmless, right? It can be, but there is one answer that I heard more than once during my Frosh-O (and I’m sure was used the last two years as well) that I absolutely cannot stand: “Anything but country.”
If you are one of those people (and I know you are out there), you’re in good company. A friend of mine is a DJ on WVFI and when I asked her what she was going to play on her radio show, she told me, “anything but country.” So I have just one request for all of you haters and naysayers out there: Just give it a chance.
I know what it feels like to be a hater. How? I was one of you. In fact, I even used to tell people that I would listen to anything but country. But the truth was, I never even tried. I never turned to the country station on the radio, never listened to a CD and sure as hell never went to a country concert. I just assumed that it was for backwoods, gun-toting southern folks and that the music was slow, sappy and stupid. I had my mind made up.
But then, I came home this past summer and started working. My job involved a lot of me driving around in my car by myself, and when I was in the office, I was there by myself a lot, too. Sitting in silence for eight hours is a surefire way to make yourself go crazy (seriously, don’t try it), so that was not an option. I needed music. The first week, I listened to the top-40 radio station, but after I heard each of the eight songs they had on repeat what seemed like 100 times each, I got really sick of it. I needed to find something new, something I had never heard before that I could get into. Right on cue, my best friend handed me a three-disc playlist of country music and just said, “Trust me. If this doesn’t get you into country, nothing will.”
I took the discs, skeptically, but figured I had nothing to lose, so I popped it in my car’s CD player the next morning. And what I found in that playlist blew away every preconceived notion I had of country music. It was upbeat, creative, occasionally hilarious and incredibly entertaining. Within a week, I was hooked, and by the end of the summer I was dressed in a plaid shirt, boots and a cowboy hat belting out “Celebrity” at a Brad Paisley concert.
Country music is awesome for a number of reasons. The instrumentation is unique and fun and it is perfect for sitting on the beach, or just chilling anywhere with your friends over the summer after everyone gets back from work. People don’t realize the number of talented guitarists that play country music nor do they appreciate that some of the fiddle solos are mind-blowing (plus, what other genre of music uses fiddle?). It truly is the optimal mood-setter for any kind of group gathering.
What makes country, however, is the lyrics. Unlike like a lot of popular music, the lyrics in country songs have real meaning and aren’t just as an addendum to the beat. Country songs are generally about one of four things, all of which are equally awesome: love, family, partying and being an American. With apologies to Maino and T-Pain, I don’t know anything about being a soldier, a rider or a ghetto survivor, let alone all the above. I can’t relate to that kind of music. However, I have gotten my heart broken, like in Brad Paisley’s “Letter to Me” and I am proud to support every “American Soldier” alongside Toby Keith. We all have been at parties with wild guys like Montgomery Gentry’s “One In Every Crowd” and everyone looks back on going “Out Last Night”, just like Kenny Chesney does. You get the feeling that these songs are sung by real people who have had the same experiences as you. You can relate to these guys. It’s comforting.
So for everyone that thinks about saying that you listen to “anything but country” the next time anyone asks, just do me one favor before you do. Give it a chance.
Andy Ziccarelli should’ve been a cowboy. He is a junior majoring in civil engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.