Country: Music’s great divide

James Wolfe, possibly Castleton's biggest country music fan, poses with his guitar. Photo by Matt Zitwer. 

When stepping through the halls of a Castleton University dorm, a lot of music can be heard. Pass suite 201 of Castleton Hall, and it’s the band Cream. Keep strolling and it’s mostly hip-hop coming out of 205.

But if you walk up the stairs and take a left to 306, it’s country.

Country music has developed into a genre that leaves people wondering if they should like it or not and for most it’s a very obvious answer.




The tone of a country song can change the mood of how a person feels. Mal Smith is a senior who loves that tone.

“It makes me feel good and is a reflection of my life. I think most people who like country, feel like I do,” Smith said.

Country music is now more popular than ever and more hated than ever.  

Senior Jadie Dow is a hater.

“It’s all the same and it’s not impressive at all. I like rock and roll with awesome guitar solos and drumming that actually takes talent,” Dow said.

The in between is hard to find because of the opinions people have on this subject.  The argument has caused a divide between music fans and even other country artists.

In 2013, Zac Brown referred to Luke Bryan’s number one song “That’s My Kind of Night” as, “the worst song I’ve ever heard,” according to Entertainment Weekly.  The comment led many other country artists to take sides. 

Jason Aldean posted on Instagram in response to Brown.

“To those people runnin their mouths, trust me when i tell u that nobody gives a shit what u think,” Aldean said.

Although Aldean’s response was harsh, Brown received support from artists like Allen Jackson, Kacey Musgraves, and Gary Allan.

 This argument has also created a small rift amongst friends. Dow said its tough hating country because so many people enjoy it – including her friends.

“I don’t like country and would prefer to listen to something else. Usually they don’t listen to me,” Dow said.

Country music has always tried to break through into pop and in 1989 it did enough to make it stay.  Artists like Ronnie Milsap and Kenny Rogers started to use more contemporary methods.  This allowed what we know as modern country to become as popular as it is according to an article from

In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Alan Jackson expressed his thoughts about the evolution of country.

“It’s always been that constant pop-country battle. I don’t think it’s ever going to change,” Jackson said.

He also said, however, that country music may be losing its roots.


Recent Castleton graduate Tanner Dana said that country music — both new and old, makes sense to him.

“It’s relatable for me. Growing up with a family that listens to country and being from a rural area is what makes me a fan, but I do think that older country is more real and better than newer country,” Dana said.

Dana also feels that technology has had an effect on country music’s popularity.

“There wasn’t iTunes or YouTube back in the eighties and nineties and stuff like that plays into the popularity,” Dana said.

Dana may be right about the trend between the internet and the popularity of country music. According to, the estimated country albums sold in 1997 were at 652 million units. In 2007, number grew too an estimated 1.3 billion units, partially due to the access of MP3’s.

But because country is fighting to stay at the top of the charts, some artists have forgotten where it once came from.  Blake Shelton has been labeled as one of those artists.

In 2010, Shelton was quoted on GAC’s “Backstory: Blake Shelton” as saying, “Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville are going, ‘My God, that ain’t country!’ Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.”

Country music legend Ray Price replied with distaste toward Shelton’s comments on Facebook. 

“It’s a shame that I have spent 63 years in this business trying to introduce music to a larger audience and to make it easier for the younger artists who are coming behind me. Every now and then some young artist will record a rock and roll type song, have a hit first time out with kids only. This is why you see stars come with a few hits only and then just fade away believing they are God’s answer to the world,” Price said.

Shelton would later go on Twitter to apologize to Price for his comments.

Smith, the student who loves country music, feels that these arguments don’t affect him and doesn’t allow them to feel “any ill intent,” toward non-country listeners.

Garret Clark, also a senior at Castleton, grew up on George Strait.

“It reminds me of when I was little growing up on a farm. Specifically the landscape, most country talks about farming and the scenery,” he said.

A former fan of Luke Bryan as well, Clark said doesn’t like his new stuff, but still listens to his old stuff.

Where country goes from here is a question many can’t answer, but Clark tried.

“I think country will keep progressing and stay a top genre in music,” he said.

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