The ten biggest tropes in country music

Categories: Profiles

Yay! Science!

What makes a great country song? Well, if David Allan Coe is to be believed, the songs require a few things: mama, trains, trucks, prison or gettin' drunk. There's got to be more to it than that, though, right? Like, at least five more things. Country music draws on the same themes so often that it's almost a caricature of itself. Our team of statisticians tackled this quandary and have drummed up a list of the biggest tropes in country music. Hop off your tractors, y'all -- the corn harvest can wait. It's time for some learnin'.

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

10. Religion
True story: The first time I heard "The Night Jack Daniels Met John 3:16" was in a Pentecostal Holiness church in western North Carolina, where it was a part of the official hymnbook. Not all country music is religious (although there is an entire sub-genre of Christian country music), but it is a pretty significant theme. Plus, country music was born from traditional Southern folk and gospel music, so regardless of the modern Taylor Swift permutations, its roots are in religion.

9. Booze
At some point in the recent past, country musicians decided to adopt Jimmy Buffett as their spirit animal. Am I the only one who has noticed the seemingly endless Jimmy Buffett collaborations? Why can't we just send him to his own margarita-and-cheeseburger island already? He'd be happy there. Setting aside the fun-times-vibe/glorified-alcoholism of Buffett & Co., country is still a pretty booze-soaked genre. See: "Wasted," "I Love This Bar," "Pretty Good at Drinkin' Beer." How do country stars get anything done with all that booze guzzling?

8. The South
Okay, okay, okay. I know that technically the genre is "country and Western" music, and that plenty of country stars are from Canada (including Shania Twain), which is about as far removed from the South as you can get in North America. But lest we forget, Nashville, Tennessee, is the country-music capital. Outside of hip-hop, I don't think there's another genre that spends so much time name-dropping states. Songs about Southern life often talk about living in small towns, spending time out on the farm and, of course: leaving home and being sad about it.

7. Patriotism
To be fair, I don't think the pre-9/11 patriotic fervor in country music was quite as palpable as it is today. But with songs like "These Colors Don't Run," "Bumper of My SUV" and "American Soldier," I think we can pretty much call it: Country is the most chest-puffingly patriotic music genre.

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fishingblues topcommenter

David Allan Coe made it famous, but the perfect country and western song {"You Never Even Call Me By My Name"} was written by Steve Goodman and John Prine.  

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