We have Thomas Rhett to thank for this.
According to the New York Times, he’s one of the ones responsible for releasing a ballad strong enough to pull country music up out of the bro-country waters. It’s his “Die a Happy Man” that got the genre to start putting the pick-up trucks and bikini tops in the past. And it came in the nick of time.
The story is about the changing of the guard lyrically, and about the kinder gentler men behind those less superficial songs.
“They are the men next door, promising undying affection and emotional stability — a cliché, perhaps, but one more appealing than the last,” the story says, calling that batch of artists the gentlebro (Remember that, because it’s bound to be a household name in no time. That’s the power of the New York Times).
Other gentlebros included in the article are newcomers Brett Young (“In Case You Didn’t Know”) and Adam Craig (“Just a Phase”), plus the established guys like Blake Shelton (“I’ll Name the Dogs”), Kip Moore (“More Girls Like You”) and Brett Eldredge (“Wanna Be That Song”).
They are the ones, the story says, who are the kindlier new generation of male country singers who ooze respect, charm and more.
But even though the gentlebro term itself is new, the idea is not. I know that kind and gentle country is what made me fall in love with the genre. Initially with the O.G. modern gentlebro, Randy Travis, in the ’80s. Then with Vince Gill in the ’90s. And with Garth Brooks from his debut in the late ’80s until right now.
Even Kenny Chesney, who sells out the same arenas as some of the bro-country acts, started out with a softer side. Long before he asked us if we thought his tractor was sexy in 1999, he had six Top 10 hits that could classify him as a gentlebro.
And Dierks Bentley is savvy enough to maintain the perfect balance between bro-country and gentlebro country, by toggling back and forth with the singles he releases. His sentimental “I Hold On” was followed up by “Drunk on a Plane,” and his hopeful “Riser” was followed up by “Somewhere on a Beach.” That’s how Bentley has done it since his 2003 debut, and it’s what will keep him from being pigeonholed as one or the other for the rest of his career.