It's one thing for music critics, entertainment reporters and trend-spotting bloggers to call out the lopsided gender representation, the shallowness or, more charitably, the witting burlesque of youthful machismo that's lately monopolized terrestrial country radio playlists. Song after chart-topping song lays out a guy's view of what will help him round the bases with an anonymous, tanned girl in cut-offs on a truck bench seat. "Bro country," it is by now infamously known. And hearing too much of it — to the exclusion of other styles of country expression and other voices (women's, for instance) — brought on inevitable fatigue.
The real question was when enough of country’s music makers, gatekeepers and programmers would conclude the trend had worn out its welcome and get behind departures from the template. In country, as in any focus-grouped popular genre, these things take time; somebody scores big with a certain sound, sentiment or song structure, and spawns hundreds of tracks in a similar vein. Add to that country's robust tradition of championing emotional and material markers of down-home identity — here the beat-up 4x4s that double as work vehicles and rendezvous spots and the notion that flirtation shouldn't require anything fancier than a six-pack on ice — and you can see why the format might be slow to veer from singles that are an extension of that lineage.
But there are signs of growing impatience with "bro country," from protest songs to bro offenders taking steps to mature their sound. Here's some evidence that the tide may be turning. By Jewly Hight