Luke Bryan’s Drinking & Driving Speaks to Deeper Problem

luke-bryanCelebrity news site TMZ has posted pictures taken in July of country artist Luke Bryan drinking while driving his truck. In the pictures Luke can clearly be seen enjoying a can of Busch while behind the wheel, keys in the ignition. Because the drinking and driving occurred on Luke Bryan’s private ranch in Tennessee though, the police say there is nothing wrong with what Luke Bryan did, and no laws were broken.

However, paired with another picture Bryan posted in late September of his truck submerged in a pond, and the increasing pervasiveness of lyrics in popular country songs condoning drinking and driving, the incident speaks to a deeper, smoldering problem facing country music and the ethics behind lyrics meant for widespread consumption.

2013 has seen popular country music shed its family friendly identity more than any other time in the genre’s history, fueled by country’s big male stars and their laundry list / country rap style of music. Three of the checkboxes on the requirement sheet of country’s current checklist songs are beer, trucks, and drinking beer while driving trucks. The precedent was set with Jason Aldean’s blockbuster country rap “Dirt Road Anthem” that went on to become the best selling song in 2011.

I’m chilling on a dirt road. Laid back swerving like I’m George Jones
Smoke rolling out the window. Ice cold beer sitting in the console

Luke Bryan’s big 2013 country rap hit “That’s My Kind Of Night” follows a similar lyrical thread.

I got that real good feel good stuff . Up under the seat of my big black jacked up truck
Rollin’ on 35s. Pretty girl by my side
You got that sun tan skirt and boots. Waiting on you to look my way and scoot
Your little hot self over here. Girl hand me another beer, yeah!

Country music has gone from the format of cautionary tales to condoning irresponsible behavior because it fits some skewed vision of party culture. Drinking themes and much worse including murder have always been part of the country music’s thematic pull, but never has reckless behavior that very well could resort in the injury or death of others been dealt with in such a glamorous light, especially when much of the target demographic and appeal of said music resides under the legal drinking age. An average of over 10,000 people die every year due to drunk driving in the United States, and it accounts for roughly 1/3’rd of all traffic fatalities.

If Luke Bryan wants to drive drunk on his own property or crash his truck into a pond, that’s his prerogative. But if we’re spending millions of dollars as Americans to attempt to curb the tide of deaths and injuries by drunk drivers, it would be nice if Music Row wasn’t spending so much time and money endorsing it.