Since the term “Bro-country” was coined by Jody Rosen in New York Magazine, critics’ pens have become so enamored of the phrase they have barely been able to stay inked. Rosen’s, The Rise Of Bro-Country defines it as, “…music by and of the tatted, gym-toned, party-hearty young American white dude.” Rosen then cites “Cruise” as perfectly fitting the definition. “We may look back on “Cruise” as a turning point,” he says, “the moment when the balance of power tipped from an older generation of male country stars to the bros.”
“When you show up to write a song, you’re only trying to write the song that you were supposed to write that day,” says Chris Stapleton to Sarah Rodman in the Boston Globe. “If that happens to be a fun, party, drinking beer song that has no other purpose than that, great. You write that song as good as you can write it. But if you show up one day and the gods of songwriting let the words come down from the sky through your hand on a legal pad or a computer then that’s a magical and fun day too, and you try to do that as good as you can do it.”
Frequent co-writers Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark also weighed in, in the Boston Globe article. “The guys who are getting slammed for writing [Bro-country], they probably have a ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ somewhere in their catalog that no one will cut,” says Clark. McAnally adds, “When something works on a huge level, everybody does it. [If] it feels true to talk about somebody being in a truck and that’s the only way to tell the story, then I will reluctantly tell the story that way. But I am getting to the point where that just doesn’t feel good to me anymore. As a listener, I want to be surprised.”
Dallas Davidson defends the Bro-country ethic. “A lot of people are hating on tailgates, and I was having a meeting with my farm manager this morning and we were sitting on the tailgate. Business deals are made on tailgates, virginity is lost. People get sick of everything, but I think a constant is just a way of life.”
Writers with a sense of humor will enjoy 9 Things You’re Guaranteed To Hear In A Bro-Country Song. Elena Sheppard posits country has, ”traded in its gravitas and story songs for a new archetype…the country bros.” She names nine key terms with which to identify songs that are “classic bro-country.”
Entertainment Weekly writer Grady Smith published a Comprehensive Timeline of the Genre’s Identity Crisis that includes comments and accusations from Blake Shelton, Ray Price, Willie Nelson, Zac Brown, Naomi Judd. Smith even evokes a Hunger Games reference calling Kacey Musgraves the Katniss Everdeen of Nashville. Smith, a prolific Bro-country scribe also created the Country Brodown chart listing songs with beer, jeans, moonlight, ‘girl’ and truck references.
Lots of links and tons of ink. But with songs like “Cruise” selling over 6 million paid downloads and staying No. 1 long enough to shatter a Billboard chart record that stood since 1955, frankly I’m enjoying all the attention. It feels like I’m drivin’ my truck in the moonlight through endless summer to get out and tailgate with you ‘girl’.
Pop culture never stays still for long, but when it shines on country music, it’s usually a good thing. Or as author Brendan Behan is credited as saying,
“There is no such thing as bad publicity, except your own obituary.”