Throughout the years, country music has been perceived to be mostly songs that are gut wreanching, soul crushing and just plain sad. Somewhere along the lines of my dog died, I lost my job and my truck broke down. As a longtime country music fan, I assure you, country music is so much more than that. Shania Twain may have taken the genre to a new stratosphere but those who came before and after her have cemented that country music is here to stay and is better than ever before. If you’ve never heard a single country song in your life before, the now is as good as time and any to giver it a try. Especially with Valentines day just around the corner.
Country music gave us Taylor Swift and we all know how well she succeeded with her heartfelt ballads, storytelling, and generous acoustics. If the world didn’t know what country music was about, Taylor certainly helped to clear it up.
Although country music is synonymous with ballads and story telling, today’s country music goes beyond traditional love and lost. It’s a lesson about life and reality. Growing up in an Asian culture and raised by a single mother, I never had a role model or even an idea of what life would be like for children in my situation. There were only two types of paths for a child in an Asian society. The first, coming from a perfect picket fence wholesome family upbringing. Children from these families will then grow up to be doctors or lawyers. And afer a successful career, the women are expected to marry investment bankers or successful entreprenuers and then live their hapily ever after. The second, would be for children raised by a single mother, similar to my situation. Children in these situations are perceived to have come from a “broken home”. My mother raised me in humble circumstances when I was growing up but she did manage to ensure that we had cable tv in the house so I could see what the world was like outside our little world. She called it our “Window to the world”.
As someone who was deemed to have come from “a broken home”, I had no friends growing up. Most parents upon hearing that my mom was a single mom never wanted their kids to be my friend. As if being raised by a single mother was contagious. I ended up watching a lot of television. And that was where I discovered country music. Back then Country Music Television (CMT) was part of our basic cable lineup. At first, I watched it because the songs were catchy. For me, it was a better alternative to MTV (Yes, MTV actually played music videos back then). I couldn’t relate to the bubbly, happy, and popular “It” girls persona that MTV kept serving on a daily basis. I couldn’t see myself in all the MTV pop stars and I sure couldn’t afford all the merch they were showing on the screen. Remember the Baby G watches that the entire world had to have? yeah, I couldn’t afford that, how about the clear gel shoes that every teen wore? yup, you guessed it, I couldn’t buy those either.
None of this matter though in the world of Country music. It was all about family values. About getting through the day and surviving hardship. In a world filled with pop superstars, money, and popularity, country music was the exact opposite. Country music spoke to me and showed me that the simple things in life mattered most. The please and thank yous mattered. A pair of jeans and a T-shirt will do. Mom’s homemade pie is a cure all. But most of all, it showed me that I wasn’t alone in being raised by a single parent. Country music brought up issues that mainstream pop culture at that time didn’t. It brought conversations to the table such as losing a loved one, being adopted, not being able to pay bills. Country music brought the real world to my home. It brought the reality of my world to my home. I no longer felt like an outsider, I no longer felt like I didn’t belong. Instead, I learned empathy, how to be grateful for what I had, but most of all, I learned how to be resilient, knowing that what I am facing, it’s not just happening to me, it’s happening to so many others out there. Until today, Country music keeps me going, knowing that tomorrow is a better day. Whether you lived in Nashville or Jakarta, we are all facing the same challenges. A father walking out on his family is universal, a mother worrying about bills needs no translation. Everyone is facing a hardship and right now, someone is battling their demons. Country music gives us hope in our darkest day that if we would just hold on and believe, tomorrow will be a better day.
Today, with all the challenges we are facing, and so many of us around the world losing our loved ones to the pandemic, being home alone in isolation and countless other challenges, it’s time we all turn up the volume on country music, turn back the clock to simpler times and feed our souls.
If you’re wondering where to start, here are some songs that are on my playlist and on repeat on a daily basis. They are that good!
The ultimate love song for all ages. Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani is the prime example that you don’t have just one soulmate in life. And in Gwen’s case, you can find love after 40 or even 50. Their love inspires me and countless others. Gwen Stefani went through a very public and painful divorce. So when she found her soulmate in Blake Shelton, just the way they look at each other is undeniable proof that true love and soulmates don’t only happen once in a lifetime. But most importantly, they show that second acts are real. You can have a great come back and find the love of your life after three kids and a divorce. Next level feel good right here!
Who among us has not been in a situation where we are just hopeless, and helpless with that butterfly feeling at the pit of your stomach. We all face challenges that takes a tol on us. Challenges that physically defeats us, and emotionally humbles us. This song is for those moments. Moments where we cry so loud our voices can no longer come out, when we are on our knees saying “I can’t take it anymore”. Wishing that a miracle would happen and an Angel would come down to guide us on our next steps instead of having to fumble on our own. This song is THE song for those moments in life where you just want to break down, in need of a good cry and divine intervention.
Until today I’ve never found a song that is so universal as this one. It’s a story of a girl named Fancy, who grew up in poverty until one day her life changed forever and she had to rely on the kindness of strangers to get by. I know this is a conversation that is not a hot topic in today’s millenial world, but any woman who is not born into comfortable circumstances or into a loving family understands what Fancy is going through. This song shows us that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you had to do in your past that you’re less than proud of. At the end of the day, you are incharge of your fate. Fancy became a very successful movie star and singer and “have nothing to worry for now on 15 years”. She reminded all us that we can be better than our circumstances, where we started in life, does not determine where we will end up. This song is inspirational in so many ways and I find myself listening to it year after year.
I first heard about this song when Oprah mentioned it on her show. This is one of country’s music must listen to classics, winning a Grammy award for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male in 1979. The song tells a story of a man on a train and he encounters a gambler sitting across from him. The gambler says that he can tell the man is troubled, so he gave him some advice based on his skills. Among them is “You gotta know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em. When to walk away, and when to run”. This piece of wisdom can be interpreted in so many ways and in many situations whether it is in a business deal or a love match.
This song is my current obsession. Like OBSESSED! I listen to it the first thing I wake up and listen to throughout the day between other country songs. The guitar is LIT! and the lyrics such as “Been flying solo for so long. Nobody singing the harmony. Up there just me and my shadow. No bass, no guitar, no tambourine. Then I found you like a Melody, You were singing the same key as me” is so relatable to those who have been through a divorce, a breakup or holding out for THE ONE.
If you haven’t figured it out, finding a partner whether it be a boyfriend or husband or significant other isn’t hard. It basically depends on how much you are willing to settle and compromise at the end of the day. But finding someone that sings the same key as you, as who you are in a certain chapter in your life. That is nearly impossible. If you refuse to settle and are waiting for someone who can sing the same key as you and is your Melody. You are not alone.
One of the best songs in country history by Taylor Swift in my opinion. A three-minute song that is basically a mini-movie. The imagery is beautiful with lyrics such as “That ain’t my Merlot on his mouth, that ain’t my jewelry on our joint account. There ain’t no doubt. I think I’m gonna call him out”. Make no mistake, this song is not your average country song. This song is dark. Really dark. But it also brings important conversations to the table such as infidelity, friendship, and ultimately murder. These are real situations that happen every day to women across the world but are not addressed enough. No Body, No Crime reminds us to questions when something doesn’t seem right. Don’t look the other way. Care, get involved, and be curious. Important lessons, especially in today’s society where no one seems to care about anyone but themselves. No Body, No Crime is an eye-opener for sure.