Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Getting buzzed on frat country

Posted By on 02.11.14 at 02:48 PM

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It's been a while since there's been a legitimate country smash on the pop charts (Taylor Swift doesn't count; neither does Pitbull), but the bottom half of the Hot 100 stays consistently full of the stuff. Unlike the large format, largely female-fronted, post-Shania stuff that defined country's last big stranglehold on the pop charts, the most successful stuff now is relatively modest and easygoing, less glammed-up rock star and more low-key, handsome small-town guy in a beat-up baseball cap and a flannel whose idea of fun involves keg beer and a friendly Jagermeister shot-off. In short, the country equivalent of a frat boy.

Frattishness, an element in country music since at least as far back as Kenny Chesney, has become inescapable, and sometimes seems to have become its default mode. Frat-country practitioners, almost entirely male (duh), often sing about the pleasures of small-town living, monogamy, faith, and other rural conservative values, but their most successful—and honestly their best—material is both lyrically concerned with getting a buzz on with a bunch of friends and designed to be listened to while doing exactly that. It's about as cheery and fuzzily affable as a redneck with a couple beers in him, but not so many that he starts getting mean.

Right now two outstanding examples of frat country are hanging out together on the low end of the Hot 100: Jerrod Niemann's "Drink to That All Night" at number 76 and Jon Pardi's "Up All Night" right below it at number 77. Both are exuberant odes to partying, rowdy but nonthreatening, unlike traditional country songs about alcohol, which tend towards the bipolar and often end with the protagonist committing a felony. (Not that this type of country song doesn't exist anymore.)

They're also unabashedly pop. "Up All Night" boasts a cheery, infectious beat with an undeniable country swing that sounds like pure gold for line dancing. "Drink to That," with its 4/4 beat, Auto-Tuned vocals, and massive hands-in-the-air chorus, sounds like something Miley Cyrus could kill. If you were ever curious if there was a countrified, dude-oriented equivalent to the Girl Party Anthem, this is it.

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