Country music’s biggest strength, and it’s biggest weakness, is its unapologetic emphasis on a familiar structure that has remained virtually unchanged since its hillbilly origins almost a hundred years ago.
You know the rules: a typical country song has a familiar chord pattern, a distinct melody, lyrics that favor direct imagery over poetic ambiguity and deal with working class and family-oriented values, you get the idea. Country legend Harlan Howard affectionately called this structure “three chords and the truth”, but anyone who finds this structure impersonal and used only as a means to sell sex, trucks, and beer would show you this.
But regardless on where you stand, there’s no denying this structure’s success: almost half of Americans are country fans and, since 2012, it’s apparently America’s favorite music genre. Even in its current pop-rock, New Nashville-influenced embodiment, which was popularized in the mid-2000’s by Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, and later Taylor Swift, modern popular Country music still retains its structure and probably will continue doing so as long as people keep buying trucks and beer.
Joey Hyde, a Country music newcomer who’s gaining some traction with his debut single “Get It On”, does nothing to try and fight this structure, but there’s no reason for him to do so. His upcoming EP touches on all the necessities of a modern country-star in the making, which results in an enjoyable collection of well-written, well-produced songs.
A song with the words “American” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll” in the title? Check. A song about drinking? Check. A song about watching a sunset with that special girl? Check. Crisp production? Check. A solid singing voice with just enough twang to appeal to traditionalists but not enough to turn people off? Check. Good lyrics that are cheeky and relatable, even if you won’t admit that you can relate to them? Check.
Hyde does gets some bonus points though for the few key details that he hides throughout his songs. He references Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side” on my favorite song on the EP “American Rock ‘N’ Roll”, his tongue and cheek video for “Get It On” is better than most overly serious country music videos, and there’s nothing cringe-worthy in his lyrics, a little victory for this genre (there’s nothing here that’s as bad as “She thinks my tractor’s sexy”).
So you could dismiss Hyde for sounding like the young talented country star that he’s becoming, but that would be your loss and your misunderstanding of what country music is about. Plus, this is also an exciting time for country music. Eric Church, with his “Springsteen” song that actually sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song, has led the pack of other country stars like Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, and Sturgill Simpson to make traditional country music sound exciting and fresh again. Right now is the best time for anyone who doesn’t like country music to give it a second chance.
Joey Hyde could very much follow that pack if he wanted to. But no matter what he ends up doing, it looks like we have another potential hit maker on the rise.
Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber