Country or Pop? Now You Decide

“Is THAT a country song?”

Well, friends, now you can answer this culturally vital question yourself — quickly, precisely and in the privacy of your own home with our brand-new, patented HICKOMETER.

That’s right! You’re the final arbiter. The last word. The big dog of small distinctions. And about damn time, too, if, like most of us, you’re totally fed up with the maddening drone of scholars and the shrill yelping of self-involved music critics.

Still, the country-or-pop matter is one that must be addressed, for it has sundered marriages, set generation against generation, driven record producers into therapy (and obscenely large motor vehicles) and chased the Country Music Hall of Fame off Music Row. Something had to be done.

So here’s what you do. Match up the lyrics of the song in question to the HICKOMETER (below) and then check off each of the 10 listed traits that apply. The more that do, the countrier the song is. It’s that simple. And that easy.


A true country song:

___ Prefers past to future

___ Speaks well of home and family

___ Counts poverty a virtue

___ Distrusts education

___ Alludes admiringly to manual labor

___ Adopts a victim point of view

___ Views joy as an episodic rather than an ongoing condition

___ Celebrates love; confesses to sex

___ Is riddled with remorse

___ Mentions something rural

For example, the Clark Family Experience’s “Meanwhile Back at the Ranch” is clearly a country song because it not only mentions something rural (the ranch milieu of front porch swing and fishing) but absolutely dotes on it throughout. Reduced to its essentials, it delivers the eternal rube message: City bad, country good.

However, Faith Hill’s “Breathe” — which appears to involve some sort of sleepover and the good fellowship that ensues from it — has not a single reference to farm, family, hard work, deprivation, victimization, nostalgia, guilt, class resentment, moral superiority or any such other loser traits so revered by traditionalists. It wouldn’t be a country song if the principals brought in a Dobro and made it a threesome.

Got it? OK, return to your corner and come out swinging.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to