Magazine article Variety

Boys' Noise Buoys Biz

Magazine article Variety

Boys' Noise Buoys Biz

Article excerpt

No one can quite agree where "bro-country" started, and most of its primary practitioners are hesitant to embrace the label. Nonetheless, the sudsy, party-hearty, hip-hop inflected, Ft. Lauderdale-fetishizing style that has seen the likes of Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Jake Owen and others notch chart-topping records over the past two years, is a subgenre that's thriving. And despite the hand-wringing it may inspire in country purist circles, it may go a long way toward sketching out the future of Nashville pop.

When the Oxford English Dictionary looks for a primary source for the term, it will likely zero in on New York Magazine music critic Jody Rosen, who popularized the label in a 2013 essay about Florida Georgia Line's "Cruisin'." To Rosen, the new breed of male stars made a clean break with much of what distinguished a country male vocalist, particularly the "devotion to realism, to songs about Saturday night's hootenanny and Sunday morning's moral reckoning, not to mention the kitchen-table truths of Monday through Friday." For the bro singers of contempo Nashville, the hootenanny has been moved to the frathouse, where the kegs are tapped all week.

While "Cruisin'" was bro-country's bellwether - registering a record-setting 22 weeks at the top of the Hot Country chart - its patron saint is likely Bryan, who notched two No. 1 albums in 2013. Though even he has expressed discomfort with the bro tag, a glance through his album titles - "Tailgates & Tanlines," "Crash My Party" and this year's EP, "Spring Break 6 ... Like We Ain't Ever" - leaves little doubt where his interests as a songwriter lie.

Country's he-man brigade has seen little slowdown in sales over the past few months, with Shelton's "Bring Back the Sunshine," Aldean's "Old Boots, New Dirt" and Florida Georgia Line's "Anything Goes" all topping the album chart one week after another.

But with this success has come some substantial criticism. Country purists have by and large been horrified by some of the stylistic promiscuity on display - Zac Brown broke with Nashville's typical code of conduct when he referred to Bryan's hit "That's My Kind of Night" as "the worst song I've ever heard" - and different groups have taken issue with the actual promiscuity in the lyrics.

In classic Dolly-and-Tammy fashion, newcomers Maddie & Tae notched a 2014 summer hit with "Girl in a Country Song," which skewers the ornamental role played by women in bro-eountry anthems with ruthless precision. Even Kenny Chesney, a real-life former frat brother who once bridged the gap between Garth Brooks and Jimmy Buffett, targeted country's objectification of women in a Billboard interview earlier this month, saying: "Twenty years ago, I might have written a song like that - I probably did. But I'm at a point where I want to say something different about women."

It's debatable whether these lyrical themes are anything new; after all, goodtime country drinking songs are as old as "White Lightning," if not white lighting itself. …

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