Country music acceptability criteria

Hipster country abides by ABK: Anything But Kenny

Rilo Kiley
  • Rilo Kiley

Dear Hipster:

My boyfriend and I made the trip up to Stagecoach this year, and we are still stoked on it. So much fun! I guess we don’t look like typical country fans, so people (most of whom I could call hipsters, if not to their faces) often act all surprised when we try to talk about how great the festival was, as if they think we are joking. Why do hipsters hate country music?

— Jenn

Actually, that’s a common misconception. Hipsters don’t hate country music, they like hating country music because it’s quite easy to feel musically superior to Kenny Chesney fans. That said, there are certain conditions under which hipsters are allowed to enjoy country music without risking hipster credibility:

Country Recorded Before April 12, 1989

If pressed, most hipsters will qualify their disdain for country music as specific contempt for contemporary country music, a genre that most hipsters (despite the fact that they will never claim to be outright country fans) agree began with the release of Garth Brooks’s debut album. The major exception to this rule is if the song in question is “Friends in Low Places,” which can be genuinely enjoyed by anyone.

The Artist in Question Is Potentially Not Country

In the late-2000s, bands such as My Morning Jacket, Rilo Kiley, and Wilco managed to straddle the line between hipster indie rock and mainstream country, such that both camps can stake a valid claim to the artists’ “genre-bending” (to use the most horrifying term imaginable) styles. Hipsters are allowed to have liked these bands at some point in the past.

The Artist in Question is Named “Johnny Cash”

"You Never Even Called Me By My Name"

1975 live performance by David Allen Coe

1975 live performance by David Allen Coe

The Song in Question Lovingly Mocks Country Music

At which point it can be enjoyed by hipsters, albeit ironically. See “You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” by David Allen Coe.

As you can see, these guidelines provide ample room for hipsters to accept any given country song, provided the right argument can be made for it, preferably in internet blog comment form.

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