Country Music Roundup: Texas Tech study says women in country songs are more objectified than ever

This Week’s News

Finally, a new study proves what many country music fans have suspected all along. Anyone who has ever complained about modern country music’s overly simplistic views of women now has proof to back up their complaints. Maddie & Tae were right.

Maddie & Tae perform at the Austin360 Amphitheater at Circuit of the Americas. Their song "Girl in a Country Song" examines some of the current misogyny in country music. (Suzanne Cordeiro/American-Statesman)

Maddie & Tae perform at the Austin360 Amphitheater at Circuit of the Americas. Their song “Girl in a Country Song” examines some of the current misogyny in country music. (Suzanne Cordeiro/American-Statesman)

A Texas Tech study led by Eric Rasmussen, Ph.D., a professor at Tech’s College of Media and Communication, found that country music songs studied from 2010 onward objectified women more than in country songs studied from the 1990s and 2000s. Among Rasmussen’s findings in “Girl in a Country Song: Gender Roles and Objectification of Women in Popular Country Music across 1990 to 2014”:

Country songs from the last six years compared to decades before them talked more about women’s appearances,

  • talked more about women in tight or revealing clothing,
  • compared women to objects more oftenreferred more to women by slang instead of real names,
  • talked less about women being empowered and
  • talked less about women in non-traditional roles.

As Rasmussen noted in a follow-up blog post on the study, all of the above criteria were true for modern country songs sung by men, but not by women. But, modern songs sung by women were more likely to refer to women as distrustful or cheaters than songs in the 2000s.

In an interview with “Texas Tech Today,” Rasmussen said he blames the rise of Bro-country and pop’s crossover into the genre.

“You hear about crossover country where it has incorporated lyrics and beats and other characteristics of pop,” Rasmussen said. “Country music is not that old, but it’s not steel guitars anymore. It doesn’t have that twang anymore. It’s more pop, more mainstream and the ratings are driving it.”

Rasmussen, a father to four girls, also said he started the study because “research shows this type of music can have an effect on people. If this is the message they hear, they’ll think it’s acceptable and normal, and people normally try to go with the flow and match their attitude to what they think is acceptable in society. But we want to educate people about what’s happening, that the media does have an effect and that it’s not OK to demean women in this way.”

This Week’s Best New Song

Speaking of Bro-country’s detriments, this next artist got his big break with his 2015 anti-Bro-Country song “Yo Bro.” Since then, the artist best known as Dave Cobb’s Cousin has focused on his solo career, writing songs for other artists and working on his debut, “Shine On Rainy Day.” Produced by Dave Cobb, Brent Cobb’s debut is a self-assured throwback to Outlaw Country with a hint of modern, Anderson East-style grooves. You can hear echoes of “Down Home,” Brent’s contribution to Dave’s “Southern Family” project, in the album’s opener, “Solving Problems.”

The whole rest of the album sports a laid-back vibe with just enough light to balance out the rainy day tunes, thanks to a mood set by minimal production interference from Cousin Dave. Hopefully Brent will outgrow the family comparison as his career takes off.

 

This Week’s Worst New Song

Let me preface this by saying that, as far as other “Worst New Song” award winners go, this one isn’t that bad. But it’s sad because it comes from an artist who has become a symbol of the return of traditional country to many fans, and this new single was an album cut that the artist didn’t even want to be released to radio.

Jon Pardi’s “Dirt On My Boots” is a perfectly serviceable pop-country goin’ out anthem, until you compare it to other Pardi songs like “Head Over Boots” and “She Ain’t In It.” Then, it becomes another example of a record label forcing its ideas onto a new artist who doesn’t want to compromise his identity. (To be fair, this cut is one of the few on “California Sunrise” that Pardi didn’t have a hand in writing.) It’s a little disconcerting to hear the man that penned the best George Strait heartbreak song that George Strait never recorded start singing about “hitting the club.”

 

This Week’s Best Country Show in Austin

Lori McKenna is coming to One World Theatre this Thursday at 8 p.m. If you liked Tim McGraw’s smash No. 1 “Humble and Kind,” you have McKenna to thank. She wrote that song, and it was the first solo-written song  to hit No. 1 in four years. It’s featured on her latest album “The Bird and the Rifle.” The intimate setting of One World should prove an asset for the singer-songwriter, who has penned hits for Faith Hill (“Fireflies”), Little Big Town (“Girl Crush”) and Hunter Hayes (“I Want Crazy”), among many others.

Tickets can be bought here and go from $20-$50.

This is the Country Music Roundup, a weekly blog where we’ll give you the latest news in country music releases and local country shows. For a more in-depth analysis of the genre and where it’s headed, check back with our weekly Gone Country blog every week.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or by email: jharris@statesman.com.

 

 


View Comments 4

%d bloggers like this: