Pop Music

The misappropriation of country music: Kid Rock opened the doors for Mumford & Sons

Country music used to have its own distinct identity, one that was tied to rich traditions of lonesome country roads, hard work, low pay and drinking. These days it's a black hole of insipidity. Following the Grammys, the Lumineers and Mumford & Sons are now reportedly making inroads on country radio. It's not hard to see how this sort of thing has happened. With country's ongoing identity crisis, exemplified by crossover acts like Kid Rock and Darius Rucker being embraced, it seems that any music made with acoustic guitars can be construed as country. The genre kind of brought this on itself, though, by straying from the established template. Continue on for a quick look at a few examples of country's attempts at incorporating the music of other genres. Some, as you'll see, have fared better than others.

See also: - Review: Brad Paisley at the Pepsi Center, 1/21/12 - Review: Miranda Lambert at 1STBANK Center, 3/17/12 - Josh Abbott on the Texas/Red Dirt scene and bringing banjo back to country music

Country vs. Hip Hop

"Dirt Road Anthem" - Jason Aldean

The opening line of this Colt Ford/Brantley Gilbert tune is "I'm chillin' on a dirt road, swerving like I'm George Jones..." Change the George to Mike, and this is a rap song. That's sort of the problem. "Dirt Road Anthem" clearly appropriates the language of hip-hop to discuss a bevy of stereotypically country past times, like driving under the influence and fishing. After the opening, Aldean spits a verse -- albeit somewhat uncomfortably given his enunciation and the challenges of breath control (which are a lot different for an MC than a singer.)

Country and hip-hop share a lot of similarities. Both started out as unique forms of self-expression championed by forgotten peoples suffering under the weight of abject poverty. Both were written off as fringe styles by major labels until after SoundScan revolutionized the science behind the Billboard charts in 1991. And both were adopted by suburban teens thanks to an image of rebellion and authenticity that was later turned into a caricature of itself by corporate influence. This is another signifier of the declining integrity of two formerly proud traditions at the hands of major labels. No one wins.

It's cool that country music isn't stuck in the mud of its pro-segregation ancestry, but this tune is the kind of corporate-crossover nonsense that some one with no ears and an armful of marketing research says is a good idea based on profit margins not self-expression.