Bo Burnham’s Make Happy comedy special came out on Netflix in the late spring of 2016. June 3rd, 2016, to be exact.
It’s a great special and Bo is a phenomenal comic, but it was his comedic commentary on the current state of country music that really drove the whole thing home for me. Calling out the buzzword-laced pandering of what he called “Stadium Country,” Bo tipped his cap to great songwriters like Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson, before launching a full-blown assault on the shallow pop-country garbage that continues to plague the charts even today.
“I think some of the greatest songwriters of all time are country artists, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, you know? And if you’re writing honestly, that is art, and I would never bash that. The problem is, with a lot of modern country music, what is called stadium country music, the sort of Keith Urban brand of country music, is that it is not honest. It is the exact opposite of honest. Where instead of people actually telling their stories, you’ve got a bunch of millionaire metrosexuals who’ve never done a hard days work in their life, but they figured out the words and the phrases they can use to pander to their audience, and they list the same words and phrases off sort of Mad Lib style, and every song is raking in millions of dollars from actual working class people.”
Now don’t get me wrong, the tide is turning. We’ve seen songs with greater depth pushed to country radio recently, artists that lean more traditional (Combs, Pardi, McBryde, Midland) have exploded onto the country music scene, and artists like Tyler Childers and Cody Jinks have risen into the national spotlight, but a quick look at the country radio charts, and you’ll see that in many ways, Bo’s “Pandering” still hits the nail on the head.