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Bro Down! 10 Signs Country’s Maligned Trend May Be on the Decline

From Dierks Bentley’s secretly somber drinking song to Maddie & Tae’s smackdown, we look at the responses to “bro country”

Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley perform at the 2014 Grammy Awards

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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

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Josh Abbott Band Lifts the Veil on Real Small-Town Life

The realistic look at small-town life "I'll Sing About Mine" — with lyrics like "tractors ain't sexy" and "the radio's full of rich folk singing about places they've never seen" — appeared on albums by co-writers Adam Hood and Brian Keane back in 2011, a little before the bro status quo set in. By the time Red Dirt act the Josh Abbott Band released a version of the song last year, it registered as an ornery and, most of all, timely complaint about country singles converting the tangible features of working-class life into romantic come-ons. 

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Eric Paslay Winks at the ‘Girl’

A few years after proving himself as a heavyhitting Music Row songwriter, Eric Paslay decided to toy with the idioms he'd come to know so well in his single "Song About a Girl." Artful in its execution, with a blues-rock undertow to the melody and phrasing of the hook, his deconstruction of formula became a Top 20 country radio hit. 

"This ain't about tailgates," he sings in the opening verse. "Ain't about bonfires/Ain't about souped up cars, water towers/Drowning in a bottle of Jack/This ain't about Chevys/Ain't about money/Ain't about blue suede shoes, coo-coo-ca-choos/Got nothin' to do with that."