My Non-Exhaustive List of Crappy and Golden Country Songs

Why Did I Write This Post?

I was introduced to country music in 8th grade.  Before that, my family listened mainly to Christian contemporary, and I didn’t have an interest in exploring other genres.  Pop music just wasn’t my thing.  But then I started volunteering at the nearby zoo, where I worked backstage at the Bird Show every week.  The employees there liked to listen to country, so that was what I heard while I mopped floors, cleaned cages, and played with the star rats.  (Not random rats, they were in the show!)

At first, I hated it, but it grew on me.  I began to prefer it over contemporary Christian artists, who never seemed to put out any new music.  I enjoyed the twangy sound and the ballad-esque stories.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve become a lot more open to different types of music.  My boyfriend listens to rock genres pretty exclusively, and I’ve gained a lot of appreciation for some of those artists.  And of course, I also enjoy the occasional classical or Latin Spotify playlist — my nerdiness has to manifest itself somehow.  But I mainly stick to country.

However, I have a few problems with the genre.  I listen to new country, to be clear, and while the vast majority of it has a great sound, it can get really — and I mean really — trope-y.  I mean, how many times can you rewrite the same hookup-in-a-bar scene?

I guess that is one of the bad things about country, and pop in general — there is so much pressure to put out new music that crappy songs get recorded far too often.  Or maybe the general public just enjoys crap.  (The upcoming election speaks to that theory, I think.)

Regardless, here’s my non-exhaustive list of examples of crappy country songs, and then a redeeming list of some really good ones.  Enjoy!

List of Crap

Why It’s Crap:  I love Cole Swindell’s voice, but this whole song is based around a guy meeting a girl at a club and dancing with her for like 5 minutes and then she leaves.  What heartbreak.  Your future was so full.

Why It’s Crap:  Disclaimer — I’m not a fan of Luke Bryan to begin with.  But this song takes every popular stereotype of a country boy and just smashes them together, and it’s not even that lyrical.

Why It’s Crap:  Girl sees boys, thinks he’s hot, decides she can claim him as her own like he’s the last piece of cake.  If a guy sang this song about a girl, wouldn’t we be up in arms?  Why is it okay this way?

Why It’s Crap:  Like the Swindell song above, this song revolves around meeting a girl at a bar and “falling in love,” except this time he misses his plane back to the States for her.  What?  (Although I have to admit this one is catchy as hell.)

Why It’s Crap:  I think the song title kind of says it all.  I happen to love this song, but it’s definitely a guilty pleasure because all he sees in the girl (that he meets at a bar — where else?) is her body.

Crap Disclaimer:  I switch the station when some of the above songs come on, but a few of them I pulled from my own personal playlist.  Guilty pleasures, indeed.

List of Gold

Why It’s Gold:  It’s a beautiful, moving tribute to children of divorce.  RaeLynn hits hard on things that affect (statistically) half of all children in the U.S.

Why It’s Gold:  Because who doesn’t need some encouragement to follow our ambitions?  This is a welcome break from boy-meets-girl.

Why It’s Gold:  In a genre where boots, trucks, and beer are king, Kacey Musgraves iterates that it’s okay to be different.

Why It’s Gold:  This is an incredibly unique twist on the classic breakup song.  Regular listeners of country definitely did a double take when this first came out, and it’s definitely one worth putting on repeat.

Why It’s Gold:  Country music is filled with themes of jealousy, alcoholism, and depression.  While these themes need to be recognized and sung about, Tim McGraw emphasizes the positive things about human nature, and it’s a tear-jerker for all the right reasons.

If you enjoyed this, let me know in the comments!  I could go on and on with the Gold list, so if this is something you want to see more of, I can make it happen.  Have a great day, y’all!


3 Lessons I Learned From Being a Tutor

Tutors are everywhere in American culture.  Almost everyone I knew growing up, including me, had a tutor at one point or another — music lessons and ACT prep were as common as dirt among my group of peers.  As a society, we are very focused on individual achievement, so it makes sense that we have tutors to hone our skills and make us the best people that we can be.  What we don’t realize is how much our tutors learn from us, too.

I have a (very) little experience being a tutor.  The summer before I started college I taught a beginner flute student, and last semester I was asked to tutor a beginner Spanish student here at Tech.  I knew both would be difficult, but I didn’t realize how inadequate I would feel.  Through teaching, I learned a lot of important lessons about teaching, business, and myself.

1.  Teachers aren’t responsible for output.

I am very results driven.  I love to cross items off lists.  If I spend two hours working on a project and don’t finish it, it bothers me a bit that I can’t mark it out of my planner yet, because if I don’t acknowledge accomplishments somehow, that time feels wasted.  I really had to rethink this last semester when I had my Spanish student.  Foreign languages aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I understand that they are difficult.  But even when I did my best to quiz my student on vocab and explain weird grammar concepts, her grades didn’t improve much.  For the first month or so, this really bothered me.  I felt that I was failing her as a teacher, and thought that maybe I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

I talked to my mom about it, because she has been a tutor for years.  She helped me realize that I wasn’t responsible for my student’s grades.  My job was to do my best, and the rest was on her.  There was only so much quizzing and explaining I could do in an hour a week, and then it was up to her to study and quiz herself.  Teachers can explain stuff till they’re blue in the face, but students are responsible for their own learning.

2.  Boundaries are extremely important

Last semester, I really wanted to be a good tutor.  I wanted to make myself as available as possible, and that desire led me to hold several extra sessions without asking for payment.  Part of this was because, as I said above, I felt bad that my student’s grades weren’t improving, and I didn’t feel that I deserved to be paid.  But this meant that I lost hours of valuable homework time during one of my busiest semesters ever.  By the time I realized I should have been compensated for my time, I had already set a precedent.

If I ever decide to take on another Spanish student, I won’t be so altruistic.  Tutoring, like any other service, is a business, and I needed to separate my own emotions from the service I was offering.  If there is a next time, I need to be sure to mention up front whether or not I’m willing to fit extra sessions in, and need to explicitly mention that I expect to be paid for every session, which most people, I think, would find reasonable.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that every time someone benefits from my Spanish knowledge, I expect to be paid.  I’m more than happy to help a friend with an assignment or read over a paper.  However, this was an instance where I needed to view tutoring as work.  I wouldn’t have taken an extra shift at a regular job for free, so I shouldn’t have tutored for free either.

3.  No one ever stops learning.

When I first took on my flute student in high school, I had 9 years of my own private flute lessons under my belt.  I wasn’t the best player by any means, but I could definitely hold my own in a band or as a soloist.  But when I started teaching my beginner student, I realized there was a lot I had forgotten.

The very first lesson I taught was a disaster.  I had trouble filling up the half hour because I didn’t know what to do or say.  I showed my student a few things, but I realized I didn’t remember enough about being a beginner to teach.  That week, I went back to my own teacher for pointers, and she reminded me of several things to look out for — good posture, finger positioning, and embouchure techniques that had become second nature to me.

This happened with my Spanish student, as well.  I was used to using a lot of different verb tenses, for example, but had to remember how to explain when and why each was used.  I also had to relearn a lot of vocabulary that I had been taught, but had not used in a long time.  Both of these experiences were very humbling, and it reminded me that just being good at something doesn’t make me an expert.  Albert Einstein once said,

If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.

I don’t know if I will ever tutor again.  I enjoyed it, but there are so many other things I want to try to do with my life.  However, my small experience as a tutor has definitely given me a whole new appreciation for teachers everywhere.

Why the Marching Band Deserves Some Love, Too

Last Saturday night, I and a couple friends gathered at my apartment to watch the Battle at Bristol (the UT-VA Tech football game that was held at the Bristol Motor Speedway — UT won, by the way).  I was the one who suggested watching, but I’m not sure why I did, because football on its own isn’t terribly interesting to me.  While I have come to appreciate sports much more than I did in high school, I enjoy the cultural and social aspects much more than the actual event.  I do enjoy watching basketball and hockey, especially if I’m actually at the game, but at football games I sometimes forget that we’re there to actually watch football.  I get distracted watching fans, cheerleaders, and my favorite, the band.

I’m partial to the band because I played flute for a long time (and I WILL pick it up again once I graduate, mark my words).  I was homeschooled, so I never had the opportunity to march, but I wish I’d had the chance.  My mom played trombone in her high school marching band and has always said it was the best part of school.  Of the friends I have who have marched, not one of them has ever regretted doing it, and most of them wish they could go back and do it again.

But of the few football games I’ve been to, no one but band members get excited about the band, and that is seriously a tragedy.  Here’s why football fans should tear their eyes away from their beloved players and take a moment to appreciate the marching band.

  1. Band kids work hard.  To even get into a college band, you have to be relatively good at your instrument and must go through an audition process before you can play with the band.  Then, most bands require their players to arrive at school before the fall semester starts so they can go through a week or two of band camp, which are all-day rehearsals (in the summer, so it’s ridiculously hot) where the band learns both their music for the season and their marching show.  Any band kid will tell you it’s intense, and it’s not uncommon for kids to pass out from the heat.  Just try to tell me that’s not as hard or harder than football players running drills and practicing.
  2. Band = great atmosphere.  Marching bands generate so much hype and team spirit it’s ridiculous.  Can you imagine sitting through a college or high school game without the band playing snippets of pop songs as reactions to plays?  How boring would that be?
  3. Band kids are hilarious.  Have you ever sat near the band and just watched them during a game?  If you haven’t, you should.  Band kids are the best at goofing off while getting stuff done at the same time, and it’s super entertaining.  The drum line at my school likes to play by themselves after the marching show is over, and they have so much fun with it that it makes me wish I was down there with them.
  4. Marching shows are super cool.  Firstly, most schools play pop music for games, which is fun for everyone (especially the band kids, because then they have to turn around and play classic composers in concert band).  Secondly, while they’re playing fun music (by memory, I might add), they walk around in fun shapes and have color guard members throwing flags everywhere and they’re usually wearing funny hats and how is that not so fun to watch?
  5. Band kids are passionate.  After college, marching bands disappear.  Maybe they exist, but I have never heard of a professional marching band.  Kids who march don’t do it because they’re trying to further their careers or gain recognition, they do it because they love it.  Why else would anyone subject themselves to hours of practice in the hot sun, late nights at games, and sore mouths/fingers/arms/backs from doing all those things?

Band is awesome, and more people need to appreciate it, so next time you’re at a college game, just take a minute or two to watch the band.  I promise you won’t regret it.

A Music Note

Someday I’ll think of better puns than this.

Just like I can’t think of good puns, I can’t think of one single person I know who doesn’t like music.  Everyone loves music.  It’s the universal language and there’s literally something for everyone.  Out of habit, I tend to stick with the same few genres, but my taste has expanded since I’ve started college and met several people with very different tastes than mine.  Here’s a glimpse of what I listen to on a regular basis.

First, here are a few songs the boyfriend has introduced me to.  These are songs I never, ever would have listened to if I hadn’t heard them playing on his Spotify first. Continue reading “A Music Note”

Flute? You Still Exist??

Besides a certain few people, there are only a few things I truly love in this world.  One is words.  And the other is music.

I played flute almost all of middle and high school, which equals out to about 9 years.  It was where I made some of my best high school friends and made some of my favorite memories.  Band gave me a sense of belonging that I had never found anywhere else.  But since I started college, I’ve barely played.

Why I Haven’t Played My Flute in Ages

  • No time.  How am I supposed to spend time with my boyfriend and my friends and my family and keep up with my classwork and sleep a little and still find time to play?  (Well, if you would quit watching Netflix, that would probably help…)
  • No one to play with.  While flute solos are wonderful, it gets a little dull just paying for myself after six years of concert band.  (Church orchestras!  University ensembles!  Start a band!  Your boyfriend plays guitar, for Pete’s sake!)
  • My teeth don’t want me to.  When I got my braces put on, it made it difficult to keep a good tone.  When I got them off, it made it even worse.  (Wah, wah.  Like you didn’t know music was hard work.)

The italicized side of my brain, prodded by said guitar-playing boyfriend, inclined me to pick up my flute the other day and play a few scales.  And even though I wasn’t perfect, my tone sounded significantly better than it did the last time I tried, and the last time, and the last time.  I ended my little practice session in a much better mood than I was in when I began.

Why I Want to Start Playing Again

  • I was good.  (Yay, talent and self-esteem!)
  • I know exactly what I need to do to hone my skill again.  (Long tones, here I come.)
  • I spent 9 years learning to play well.  (Waste all that money?  I don’t think so.)
  • It just damn well makes me happy.

Cheers to being happy.  Even if it means work.

Thank Your Teachers

After yesterday, I have a new appreciation for teachers everywhere.

In my last Forpy post, I told you that I now have a flute student, which is awesome because I could use the money.  I was nervous for our first lesson, but really, I thought, I’ve been playing for nine years.  How hard could it be?  I googled some flute basics, because I can never seem to remember the exact mechanics of how a flute makes sound, but other than that — dude, I’m practically an expert.

insert extreme sarcasm

 My student, A, and her mom came around 4.  I welcomed them in, chatted a bit, and looked at A’s flute, a pretty Selmer.  I told her the names of the pieces and showed her how to put it together.  Then I asked her to blow into the head joint, and my (already very minimal) plans fell apart.

She had a beautiful tone for a beginner. When I started playing, it took me a month just to make a sound.  A had had her flute for a week, and she already had this gorgeous tone.  I had planned on spending most of the half hour teaching her how to hold her mouth, but obviously that went down the drain.  Great going, Sarah.  

After that the lesson was a mess.  I gave her a few embouchure tips, and then I sort of said, “Well…”  I awkwardly looked at the clock.  About ten minutes had passed.  I was going to die.

“She does need to learn to read music,” her mom said helpfully (or unhelpfully).

I had completely forgotten about reading music.  What musician forgets about music??  My thought train was so scattered the next few minutes A and her mom must have thought I was nuts. 

Oh, yes, I thought.  Music.  That thing.  Well, A, this is the musical alphabet.  It only has five — no, six — how many letters are there?  Let me count on my fingers.  Do I have staff paper anywhere? I used to…let me kill a few minutes searching for some.  Hmm, can’t find any…notebook paper will do.  Here’s a staff, five lines…this is a treble clef…you know, flutes play in treble clef…here are the space notes and the line notes…isn’t there some kind of mnemonic for learning those?  Anyway, I’m having a really bad time explaining this to you, so let’s just learn how to hold your flute!  Seven minutes to go.  Arrgghhh.

I showed her how to handle her flute properly, then I was at a loss yet again.

“Is there some sort of book she’ll need or anything like that?” A’s mom asked.

Ah, yes!  I wrote down the name of the book.  Then, I gave up on the “expert” front (or rather, acknowledged that it had been given up twenty minutes ago).

“You know,” I said, “you are my first student.  I know I’m not really explaining things the best way, so please [please, please, please] let me know if something doesn’t make sense or there’s anything I’ve forgotten.  I’ll definitely be learning along with you, A.”  It’s sure a good thing I’m giving you a discounted rate.  I really hope you think I’m worthwhile.

“Yes, we’ll do that,” A’s mom responded.  “We literally know nothing about music, so as much detail as you can give us would be great.  Can you write down exactly what she needs to practice this week?”

I did.  There were still three minutes left.  “Well, I really don’t know what else…”

“Can you play a bit for us?” mom asked brightly.  

Sure, sure.  I went and got my flute, explaining that my tone wasn’t great because I had just gotten my braces.  I played a few scales and went into the high and low ranges.  Then finally, finally, the lesson was at an end.

I showed A how to clean her flute, A’s mom and I discussed payments, and I sent them out the door.  Then I shriveled into a crisp of shame.

Ya’ll, teaching is phenomenally harder than it looks.  For one thing, it takes a lot of planning, which I really didn’t do.  (Shame on me.)  For another, it takes talent and practice to be able to explain things in a way that someone can understand them.  I’m afraid I do not have that gift, but I can learn.  (Yes, I can!  I can hear you doubting.)  

I better learn fast, because A is coming back next week.  Man, weeks have never seemed so short.

Dear Nicki

I picked up American Idol in the middle of last season and liked it, so I’m watching it again.  Of the new judges, you, Nicki Minaj, are my favorite.  You are hysterical and sweet.  But I had never really heard many of your songs when I began watching the show, so I decided to have a little search on Youtube.

As a rule, I dislike rap, but I have to admit you are good.  You are creative and have an ear for what will stick in people’s minds, which obviously is a skill that sells.  I wish I could say that I listen to your songs all the time, that I want them in my head.  But that would be lying.

I watched two and a half of your videos before I had to close out my tab.  Perhaps I should have watched more – I realize that since I have heard very few of your songs, maybe I’m missing the bigger picture.  But the ones I listened to were on the top of the charts, and majority rules.  I loved the beats of the songs, and the colors and settings were fun, but the message was tiresome.  Is sex all you sing about?

I know I shouldn’t be surprised, because that is the music industry these days.  Sex is what sells — it is in the country songs, the rock, the pop.  Most other industries are on board, too – clothing, liquor, and television, to name a few.

And the advertising works.  I have found myself thinking, yes!  Give me this which you sing of (or wear, or drink)!  Everything I see makes sex look like the best thing ever.  It’s like I’ll never need anything else, because I’ll be completely fulfilled.  I’ll be hot, I’ll feel hot, and others will be and feel hot because of me.  It looks like fun.

But the other reaction is repulsion and sadness.  I see these music videos, and these clothes, and these liquor ads, and think, Does no one think about anything other than sex?  It makes me want to go live on a mountain by myself and never have sex, ever.  It makes me wonder if it is possible to produce something not about sex that will actually make it to the top of the list.

I do not dislike you, Nicki Minaj. I don’t even dislike your songs.  You are clever and crazy intelligent.  I just wish you would flaunt your mind instead of your body.    


It’ll Give You Goose Bumps!

I haven’t posted anything on here in awhile.  I’ve missed it; I’ve discovered I really love blogging.  But being a full-time student isn’t so conducive to a sewing blog — you have to have time to actually sew, which I haven’t recently.  Ah, well, at least I can still read others’ awesome blogs. . .they keep me in the spirit!

The reason I’m taking a break from writing essays and college applications and more essays is to share a video we watched in church this morning.  The song is by Chris Tomlin — “How Great is Our God.”  I’ve actually never liked his style much, or this song in particular.  But he recently redid the song in a “World” version, which is beyond amazing.  Every time I hear the song, it gives me goosebumps.  This video is a live performance from a Christian conference called Passion.  Watch it.  I want you to have goosebumps too.

Update [9/19]:  The languages in this video are Hindi, English, Indonesian, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Afrikaans, and Mandarin.  When I first heard it I thought there were only five or so.  :)