Anyone worth the dirt on their hats can tell you country music died with Conway Twitty. Now, in the husk of his genre are men in bought-worn jeans and women in barely any, melodies mashed from previous hits, and lyrics so awful they sound scalped from your average teenager’s diary. The problem is, for something so monumentally ungood and incredibly unhip, I love Bad Country Music.
For those of you without five of your six radio presets dialed to Bad Country Stations I’ll lay it out. Bad Country Songs follow one of four themes: 18, My Girl, His Girl, or Generic Uplifting Good Message (G.U.G.M). The arc is simple, the lyrics simpler: A Good Bad Country Song has you singing the chorus by the second time it comes around, and A Great Bad Country Song has you filling in the verse before you’ve even heard it once. Many song within themes 18 and G.U.G.M. set the scenes of gentler times with porch swings, beat-up trucks, and Hank Williams*. My Girl/His Girl tell the story of love found or lost, years of successful marriage or break-ups that leave him “Redneck Crazy,” or capable of committing some kind of arson. Whether looking fondly upon ones senior year football season, or attending the wedding of the One Who Got Away, the thread that pulls all Bad Country Songs together is the Girl in the Country Song**: blonde or red hair, blue or green eyes, long tan legs, jeans and mothers who keep forgetting to patch them. Also: baseball caps, a love of Jesus, tiny feet for dashboard riding; and whiskey over wine, always.
Now, a note on your author. I have short brown curly hair, and not the “waves of wheat” curls, but the frizzy ones that mimic a Q-tip when it rains. I have brown eyes and legs that resemble those of your average Romanian Champion Discus Thrower. I am also Jewish. And mostly gay. I look terrible in baseball caps, tromp around in hiking boots, and can’t be a passenger in a moving vehicle for more than 15 minutes without getting violently carsick.
In other words, as a Stocky Semitic Lesbian, Bad Country Music has very little going for me. Yet for now, it’s what I choose. It’s to Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban, and Mr. Shelton whom I turn as I roll the windows of my Subaru down, set out on a one-lane dirt road, tractors in my rearview, freedom up ahead, my very grumpy girlfriend in the passenger seat, begging to listen to anything else. At least we both drink whiskey.
*Modern Bad Country’s fascination with name-dropping Hank Williams and Conway Twitty fascinates me. On road trips I often count the references, which easily hit double digits when traversing the Big Sky State.
** I am aware that this is in fact already the name of a super catchy song by Maddie & Tae (which I love).
Becca Starr is a current graduate student in occupational therapy living and playing in Billings, MT. She writes long-winded essays for school and the occasional (Bad) Country Song while hiking. She enjoys menial, unskilled tasks, chasing her best friends around on bicycles, and hunting for huckleberries. She has a prodigious sneeze and a herding dog who’s afraid of laundry. She published a poem “Butterfly Kisses” in her fourth grade poetry collection, which is sadly out of print.