By Josh Schonfeld
If you’re anything like me (and you probably are, since you’re reading this pop music blog right now), you avoid country music like the plague. You instantly judge a person when you discover their dirty country secret and you change the station the minute a country crossover comes on your supposed pop radio station. I was like this for many years, and still am for the most part aside from a few exceptions. But there are pop songs in every genre if you just know where to look. Here is my guide to country music for those of us who hate country, just in case you ever get in a situation where you’re stuck with a country listener on a long road trip.
“Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” – Luke Bryan
Luke Bryan is basically just a pop singer with a southern accent and is easily the most palatable country artist of today. He’s also incredibly good looking, which doesn’t hurt. “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” plays out like the whitest hip-hop dance song you’ve ever heard, but that’s okay! The fast-paced verses paired with a strong kick drum beat lets you forget that you’re in the middle of a brodown and you’re the one booty poppin’ during the line dance. Also, he rhymes “squirrel” with “girl,” which is just incredible that he could find a way to do that in a totally valid way.
“Barefoot Blue Jean Night” – Jake Owen
As we all know, I can never turn down a good cheerleader stomp and the chorus to “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” is no exception. While I’m not a fan of bro-country, especially not the generic mad-libs the subgenre is today, this is one of the finer examples of it. The song makes any summer night a little more American as you’re tossing back a beer and sitting around a fire pit with your denim-wearing friends.
“You Broke Up with Me” – Walker Hayes
I’m not sure why this on the country charts since this is more Andy Grammer than Garth Brooks, but so what, who cares? This song’s got a swagger around it that’ll get you swingin’ in no time. The sing-song melody matched with the quick-wit lyrics make for a fun journey through a break up/make up situation. The pre-chorus is poetic genius akin to Ed Sheeran as he spits out, “Darlin’, you can’t crash my party with your sorrys and ‘what are wes’” and “I ain’t even fixin’ to listen to your guilt trippin’ / You’re forgettin’ girl, you made your bed and didn’t want me in it.”
“Here You Come Again” – Dolly Parton
Who doesn’t love Dolly Parton? Not only can she belt out a universally-loved country pop song, but she’s also one of the nicest human beings on this planet. “Here You Come Again” hit #1 on US Country Songs as well as #3 on the Hot 100, beginning her ascent into superstardom. While the song has a pop melody, Dolly made sure to stay true to her country roots by demanding they add the steel guitar and some twang to her voice in case anyone wanted to debate her on the matter.
“She’s in Love with the Boy” – Trisha Yearwood
“She’s in Love with the Boy” is everything good about country. After listening to this song, I finally realized why people could stand to listen to country music by choice. It’s because of the storytelling that country artists are able to achieve with their lyrics that set the genre apart from the others and this song is the perfect example of that. The role reversal at the end hits a crescendo better than any high note could while the rest of the chorus allows for some fun sing-along lyrics, especially for us New Englanders who aren’t used to those who “ain’t worth a lick” or got “the short end of the stick.”
So there you have it! Of course, there’s plenty more where that came from such as Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, Shania Twain, etc., but I didn’t feel like writing a novel so I picked the five most pop-leaning tracks that still held the integrity of country. If you still hate country and are looking for some new music to clean your ears out with, check out The PoP Explo$ion’s Spotify playlist below!