It really almost seems like the age old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Did country’s increased popularity lead to more and more pop influence in an attempt to continue to grow the audience? Or did continued pop influence increase its popularity and make country music “cool”?
And while arguably, the 1980s were the beginning of country’s “cool factor,” in hindsight, that “cool factor” is nothing compared to what it is today. So, while at the time, Barbara Mandrell’s song was a clear statement on the increasing popularity of the music, it’s even more relevant now as country’s popularity increases in spite of the fact that mainstream country becomes less and less country every day.
Listen to some of the lyrics, penned by Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan:
“I took a lot of kiddin', 'cause I never did fit in
Now look at everybody tryin' to be what I was then”
“I was listenin' to the Opry when all of my friends were diggin'
Rock 'n Roll and Rhythm & Blues
I was country when country wasn’t cool”
Interestingly enough, country music, at least in its mainstream form, has more in common with rock and roll and rap then it does with actual country music.
One can’t really say Mandrell’s song was ahead of its time so much as that it has gained relevance over time. It’s the true definition of a timeless classic. Thirty years from now even, one might look and say that the song has gained even more relevance. Or maybe, just maybe, if enough of us care enough about the music, we can take country back to a place where we can love the music despite how much, or how little, popularity it might have. At the very least, this song serves as a reminder of such a time.