Country music: it’s much maligned, constantly stereotyped, and it’s the secret to true contentment. Say what? How can cheesy music that’s only about heartbreak and lost love (and dogs) make you anything but miserable? Read on for the full scoop.
It’s well-documented that music has deep, resonating effects on the human psyche. In fact, “the mood of a piece of music tends to induce the same mood in the listener,” according to a study by Lewis, Dember, Schefft and Radenhausen (Curr. Psychol.: Devel., Learn., Person., Social., 14, 29-41.). In addition, each genre of music conjures different feelings for each of us. While these will vary for all people, the underlying lyrical themes of different genres play as much a role as personal taste in this.
I’m going to seriously generalize here, but R&B focuses on themes of love and sexuality, hip-hop focuses on a glamorous lifestyle and street life, pop’s emphasis is on love and heartbreak, and rock lyrics cover everything from disillusionment and alienation to love and loss. So what’s the focus of country music? Being happy with what you have, imperfections and all.
Consider the following lyrics:
“Real love and real life doesn’t have to be perfect/…Love can be rough around the edges, tattered at the seams/Honey if it’s good enough for you, it’s good enough for me”
“Life’s a dance; you learn as you go/Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow/Don’t worry about what you don’t know/Life’s a dance; you learn as you go”
“I never had a dollar that could buy me what I’m feelin’/But I’m feelin’ ’bout as good as I can be”
“When the party’s over and the glitter starts to fade/It’s all about your piece of mind at the end of every day… /It’s only the simple things I believe that matter most in life/I’m more than satisfied, all that I have is all I need”
“I got no money in my pockets/I got a hole in my jeans/I had a job and I lost it/But it won’t get to me… I got the one I love beside me/My troubles behind me/I’m alive and I’m free/Who wouldn’t wanna be me?”
“I’ve got supper in the oven, a good woman’s lovin and one more day to be my little kids’ dad/Lord knows I’m a lucky man”
I could go on for quite some time, since the list is gigantic and ever-growing. The common denominator is the sense of being happy with and grateful for what you have. Seriously, modern country (unlike old school, traditional country which is also awesome in very different ways) is very much about dreaming big dreams while appreciating every moment in the meantime. And it can be quite affecting, too.
When you listen to country music on a regular basis, you’re surrounding yourself with the message that not quite enough is plenty and that time-weathered, unglamorous love is beautiful. Listen long enough–even just in the background–and those messages can really start to sink in. I know it happened for me a few years ago. I love *lots* of genres, but tend to cycle through one main one regularly that will account for about 75% of what I listen to. When that cycle finally went back to country after years of R&B, alternative rock and pop, it clicked. And my level of contentment rose when I turned on the music.
So, why not take control of the messages you’re hearing in the music as an experiment? If we don’t want our values to be shaped by TV and movies, then the music we hear deserves a second consideration as well. Who knows? You just may find yourself feeling like it’s okay to be just who you are, right now in this moment.
If you’re interested in checking out some of country’s best feel-good songs, try the following list out for starters:
- No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems: Kenny Chesney
- My Front Porch Looking In: Lonestar
- Perfect: Sara Evans
- Another Day in Paradise: Phil Vassar
- Who Wouldn’t Want to Be Me: Keith Urban
- Perfect Love: Trisha Yearwood
- Life’s a Dance: John Michael Montgomery
- Ain’t No Crime: Joe Nichols
- I Feel Lucky: Mary Chapin Carpenter
- Isn’t That Everything: Danielle Peck