Country music remains one of the most popular genres in U.S. American society but is historically under-researched compared to rock, rap and other styles. This article extends the social science literature on the genre by examining themes of masculine identity in popular country hits of the current century. A content analysis of 35 top country hits from the last 15 years of the Billboard
charts reveals three key masculine archetypes: the lover, the family man and particularly the country boy, which is the dominant masculine image within the last few years of the genre. Together, the three create a life-course narrative where the rambunctious country boy will eventually settle into monogamous heterosexual romance, with marriage and fatherhood presented as the ultimate achievement of successful manhood. A fourth, lesser, archetype, the roughneck, presents an “arrested development” version of the country boy, fully-grown but rejecting the social and familial responsibilities of the other archetypes. These narratives simultaneously challenge some aspects of hegemonic masculinity (urbanity, white-collar labor) while reinforcing others (whiteness, heterosexuality).
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