Country Music and the Problem of Authenticity

British Journal of Aesthetics 63 (1):75-90 (2023)
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In the small but growing literature on the philosophy of country music, the question of how we ought to understand the genre’s notion of authenticity has emerged as one of the central questions. Many country music scholars argue that authenticity claims track attributions of cultural standing or artistic self-expression. However, careful attention to the history of the genre reveals that these claims are simply factually wrong. On the basis of this, we have grounds for dismissing these attributions. Here, I argue for an alternative model of authenticity in which we take claims about the relative authenticity of country music to be evidence of ‘country’ being a dual character concept in the same way that it has been suggested of punk rock and hip-hop. Authentic country music is country music that embodies the core value commitments of the genre. These values form the basis of country artists’ and audiences’ practical identities. Part of country music’s aesthetic practice is that audiences reconnect with, reify, and revise this common practical identity through identification with artists and works that manifest these values. We should then think of authenticity discourse within country music as a kind of game within the genre’s practice of shaping and maintaining this practical identity.

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Evan Malone
Lone Star College


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