I belong to a group of people who tend to have a negative view on the radio. While I listen to streaming at home and satellite radio in my car these days mostly and not to local FM stations as was my habit when I was not listening to audiobooks previously, radio is still something I am willing to defend, even in a year like 2022 where the behavior of many radio genres is discouraging the sort of exploration of music that many of us would enjoy.
One of the more irritating aspects about music today is the way that songs tend to linger forever. It is tempting and easy to blame this on the radio, but from what we see people seem to be streaming songs for longer and longer, and not being very quick to appreciate new songs that come out until they are familiar over the course of months of listening. Given this behavior in call-outs and streaming patterns, we cannot blame the stagnation of music at present on radio companies, because we find the same patterns when it comes to information in streaming and the feelings about songs. For whatever reason, we are living in an age where people are gravitating to what is comforting and familiar and not to what is novel, and that suggests a temperamental conservatism that sees a period of disruption and unpleasant change as being best coped with through holding on to things that are comforting.
One of the most intriguing opportunities for getting familiar with new songs, at least new songs that are good, has been country radio. While pop has started holding onto songs as long as Adult Contemporary and Hot Adult Contemporary always have, country music has retained its role of cycling through a variety of artists, and I have to say that I have enjoyed a great deal of the country music that I have heard this year. That is not to say that most of it has been upbeat–there is certainly a realistic and honest portrayal of difficult circumstances in a lot of the country music that I have heard and liked, a longing for the past, a desire for love despite imperfect relationships, and some explorations of such factors as problem drinking and its repercussions, as well as a discussion of the troubles of seeking a career in music.
This sort of rapid turnaround of songs may be somewhat of a problem when it comes to ensuring that these songs hit the Year End charts, but songs that have some sort of streaming or sales have been able to chart early enough in their runs up the country chart that they have been able to secure Year End spots. And if songs like “One Mississippi” appear to be caught between years, songs like “Buy Dirt,” “You Should Probably Leave,” “Sand In My Boots,”, “AA,” “23,” “To Be Loved By You,” and the like look like they might be able to make the year-end charts on account of getting some truly excellent longevity. And overall, I have to say that is a body of songs I am pretty happy with, and if it is joined by some songs like “Doin’ This” and the like, I would be even more happy to see. When Nashville is a main source of new music, I have to say that is a pretty unusual situation, but it’s not a bad one, especially if the songs are both relatable and enjoyable and provide material for thinkpieces, and that appears to be the case.