Country is among the most popular music genres in the United States, with a market share of 10.7% in 2000, compared to 24.8% for rock music, nearly 13% for rap/hip-hop, 8% for pop, and just short of 3% for jazz (Benz, 2001). Country music has an even higher popularity rating when music fans are asked about their preferences, suggesting that many people listen to it on the radio rather than purchasing albums or individual songs (Jeffrey, 1998).
Country music arose from a story-telling tradition, with a preference for detailed narrative rather than a narrow focus on a specific issue or a moment in time that characterizes many other genres. The majority of country music songs draw upon the theme of love (often the loss of love), and the only political issues that are usually addressed include patriotism and the stresses associated with poverty, changing family values, or being a part of the blue-collar working class. Simple dualities (good vs. evil, work vs. freedom, criminal vs. law-abiding) are prefered to complex moral gray areas. In older country music, common emotions expressed include, guilt, inadequacy, depression, confusion, and loneliness, and similarities have been found between country and rap music themes in their depictions of violence and underclass realities (Ryan & Calhoun III, 1996).