Why are country songs so often complete sentences?
November 11, 2005 3:57 AM   Subscribe

Why are so many country music songs (compared to pop songs) titled with complete sentences?

Sorry, no quantitative evidence for the premise, just a casual observation.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys - Waylon Jennings.
posted by captainscared at 3:59 AM on November 11, 2005

Generalist comment alert.. but is it because the sort of country with those types of song titles tends to be the least progressive and least conceptual or avant garde of musical styles? The storytelling aspect comes into it too. The progressive areas of country music tend not to have this dimension, as the music and lyrics is more conceptual and less grounded in absolute story telling.
posted by wackybrit at 4:57 AM on November 11, 2005

Related question: Why do ska bands always work the word "ska" into their name punnily?
posted by aubilenon at 5:16 AM on November 11, 2005

In a very informal survey of my record collection, I'd have to say that I don't think this is the case. Where have you noticed this?

I took random records from the late sixties to mid seventies; usually every album had 0 to 3 titles that were complete sentences, regardless of genre.

But, I do agree with wackybrit that country music's core is storytelling. If there is a trend that you've noticed, I think it would have been caused by this characteristic.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 5:23 AM on November 11, 2005

Drop Kick Me Jesus (Through The Goal Posts Of Life.)
Hate Every Bone In Your Body Except For Mine
Still Miss You Baby, But My Aim's Gettin' Better

Could these songs have come from any genre of music other than country? And does any other genre so often use the title of the song as its verbatim chorus? I can't think of one.

I think the jokey long titles like these have become a part of the tradition of the music. I can't tell you who it began with (or even what sub genre of country this would fall under), but, as mentioned above, it can be traced back to the genre's strong story telling element.
posted by crumbly at 6:20 AM on November 11, 2005

I think its specifically the word play more than storytelling. The "hook" of a lot of country songs is in some wordplay which illuminates the topic, and the title is the best way to advertise the bon mot the songwriter pulled off. Country songs that don't hang the hook off a turn of phrase have shorter titles (Kawliga vs. I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive)

I used "bon mot" and "illuminates" to describe C&W songwriting. I win the pretentious contest!
posted by bendybendy at 7:16 AM on November 11, 2005

More examples:
Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town
Heaven's Just a Sin Away
Timber, I'm Falling In Love
I Need A Bottle In Front Of Me Like I Need A Frontal Lobotomy
posted by kimota at 8:23 AM on November 11, 2005

Best answer: An answer straight out of Nashville:

As far as I can tell from talking with some of my songwriter friends, it's partly just a convention, and partly a sales tactic.

Stylistically, listen to country radio - you can usually understand every word of every song (as opposed to in rock/pop "what did he say"?) Lyrics are very important in country music. In commercial country music, much more so than in pop, there are many examples of jokey type lyrics, double entendres, and crazy rhymes (whiskey for my men, beer for my horses... and a million others). It's a stylistic convention, but it sells which is the bottom line.

In the country music industry songs are overwhelmingly written by songwriters and then sold to performers (as opposed to performers writing their own material) and so songwriters rely on different tactics to sell their songs. One of which is a catchy title - something which might make an artist or label listen to your tape as opposed to the thousands of others sitting on his desk.
posted by peppermint22 at 8:41 AM on November 11, 2005

I've Got Tears in my Ears (from Lyin' on my Back in my Bed while I Cry over You).

And here's the whole list where that one came from.
posted by nancoix at 11:06 AM on November 11, 2005

Hm, no-one asked if anyone knew any titles like that. Just sayin'.
posted by mendel at 12:29 PM on November 11, 2005

Hm, no-one asked if anyone knew any titles like that. Just sayin'.

So very true. You're still not going to stop me from posting "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer".

But as for the real question, I'd imagine it's the storytelling aspect. Pop songs may tell a story, but it's more about the music than the words; not the case in most country, especially older stuff. I'm guessing that has to do with country being more associated with traditional folksinging, where the goal was to tell a story. (Which, perhaps, goes back to the Ancient Greeks -- like what Homer did? Or am I totally off here?)

Very interesting comment above about songwriters selling songs to performers. I didn't realize that's how it was, but thinking about it, it makes sense with some stuff I'd heard before.
posted by SuperNova at 1:12 PM on November 11, 2005

« Older I need to become a database-design expert ASAP!   |   Help me find a good domain name Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.