These 10 country songs prove the genre may be deeper than you think.
Country music takes a lot of flak for being one-dimensional, cliche and predictable, but it’s not all pasture parties and cheating spouses. In fact, a lot of artists use their work as a platform to discuss certain issues that are important to them. These songs can get controversial and turn listeners off, but they don’t do it without accomplishing their goal of making you listen first.
Here are 10 songs that talk about tolerance in some form or other, whether it be minding your own business, thinking about what you say, or just being kind in general, these songs teach us how to live peacefully with one another.
10. “Heart Like Mine” – Miranda Lambert
“Cause I heard Jesus He drank wine
And I bet we’d get along just fine
He could calm a storm and heal the blind
And I bet He’d understand a heart like mine”
This rebellious ballad typifies Miranda Lambert’s style. It’s unapologetic about who she is as a person, and makes the (implied) statement that if Jesus loves her, so should you. So she has a tattoo, so she drinks and smokes a little, so what?
9. “They Don’t Understand” – Sawyer Brown
“Maybe we should stop and take a little time
‘Cause you never really know what your neighbor’s going through”
This song recounts the urban legend about a woman on a city bus who is not controlling her children. When confronted about it, she explains that they’ve just come from the hospital where her husband died. Apocryphal or not, this song encourages compassion for one another, pointing out in the lyrics that we never really know what another person is going through, so we should be kind and reserve judgment.
8. “Invisible” – Hunter Hayes
“There’s so much more to life than what you’re feeling now
Someday you’ll look back on all these days
And all this pain is gonna be invisible”
At 23, Hunter Hayes is exactly the right age to have experienced the pain of internet bullying, which is a relatively new form of torment. In the late 2000’s, there were a lot of stories of teenagers who, under a barrage of constant bullying via text messages and social media, had committed suicide. The tragic stories started snowballing, and, in 2010, the “It Gets Better” project was founded in response to the crisis of teen suicide. This anti-bullying ballad speaks along those same lines, letting kids know there is life beyond high school.
7. “Hey Bully” – Morgan Frazier
“It would be so easy to hit back at you
Use my pain to hurt you too
Oh, but if I do nothin would change
I would be a link in your chain”
“Hey Bully” is a one-sided conversation between bully and victim that invokes the sadness and confusion that accompanies inexplicably being picked on. “Why? Why you wanna make me cry?” Frazier asks of her tormenter. The song ends with the victim deciding to take the high road instead of participating in the cycle of abuse.
6. “Don’t Laugh at Me” – Mark Wills
“I’m fat, I’m thin, I’m short, I’m tall
I’m deaf, I’m blind, hey aren’t we all?”
Mark Wills’ calls upon society for compassion in this 1998 emotional hit. It targets not only schoolyard bullying but prejudice against the homeless as well. When describing a homeless man, Wills tells the story you don’t know when reading the cardboard signs on the street corner. “I lost my wife and little boy, someone crossed that yellow line, the day they laid them in the ground is the day I lost my mind.” “Don’t Laugh at Me” delivers a paradigm shift for anyone who may think they know it all.
5. “Biscuits” – Kacey Musgraves
“I’ve never gotten taller making someone else feel small
If you ain’t got nothing nice to say don’t say nothing at all”
This song by country sweetheart Kacey Musgraves gives some sage advice on minding your own business, keeping your mouth shut and not spreading vitriol amongst your neighbors. The chorus is especially noteworthy, making a fun, country play on words, “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy”.
4. “Nothin’ Grows in Shadows” – Jake Owen
“Hey fathers, screamin’ at your kids from the bleachers
saying ‘quit actin like a sissy, suck it up and win’
maybe you ought’a stop and think about what you’re teaching
yeah you talk about a loser, I dont think it’s them”
Jake Owen takes on the parents of the bullies in his 2013 admonishment. He also admits some guilt himself, in the last verse singing “Well, I ain’t sayin’ I ain’t been a shadow myself, a dark cloud that rained on somebody else,” and goes on to explain that the doctor who saved his mother’s life when she was sick with cancer was someone he used to bully as a kid.
The song was written by Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins and Doug Johnson. It’s unclear as to whether or not the story about the bullied doctor is a true story or merely a lesson, but either way it leaves an impression on the listener that you never know who you might need in your life.
3. “One of These Days” – Tim McGraw
“One of these days I’m gonna love me
And feel the joy of sweet release
One of these days I’ll rise above me
And at last I’ll find some peace”
This song from McGraw’s 1997 hit album Everywhere is sung from the point of view of a repentant bully as he recalls the people he wronged and the consequences his mistreatment had on their lives. In the end, the singer realizes he feels self-loathing and longs for forgiveness. The video for the song is shot inside a church. McGraw, wearing all black amidst the stained glass windows, creates a somber mood for the redemption song.
2. “All Kinds of Kinds” – Miranda Lambert
“Now some point a finger and let ignorance linger
If they’d look in the mirror they’d find.
That ever since the beginning to keep the world spinning
It takes all kinds of kinds”
Miranda Lambert must have an accepting heart to end up on this list twice. This song describes several fringe elements of society from circus performers to cross-dressing politicians and passes no judgment except upon those who would find fault with others and none with themselves.
1. “Follow Your Arrow” – Kacey Musgraves
“Can’t win for losing
You’ll just disappoint ’em
Just ’cause you can’t beat ’em
Don’t mean you should join ’em”
Ever the consummate philosopher, Kacey Musgraves also makes it onto this list twice with her anthem “Follow Your Arrow”. The lyrics lament humanity’s constant criticism of one another and sends the message that you should live for yourself instead of trying to please everyone else. The song has been called everything from anti-Christian to revolutionary and has equal amounts of detractors and supporters. Despite the controversy, it won Musgraves the Song of the Year award at the 2014 CMAs.