Tindra Thor and Ketil Thorgersen: A Whiskey Lullaby – Functions of Alcohol in Country Music Lyrics.

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Tindra Thor, Senior Lecturer in Media and Communication Studies, K3 and Ketil Thorgersen, Senior Lecturer in Music Education, Stockholm University.

The title of the seminar is A Whiskey Lullaby – Functions of Alcohol in Country Music Lyrics.

This will be an online seminar, carried out through Zoom, and it will take place on Wednesday, April 21 at 10.15-12.00. Please join here: https://mau-se.zoom.us/j/69746621063?pwd=RTRFYWFTQk1wcjF1RmVyT0ZRL0dmQT09.

Below is an abstract for the seminar.

It is Saturday, September 9th 2017, and we are watching a family television show on Norwegian Public Broadcasting (NRK) – “Stjernekamp” [“Star Battle”]. The show concept is having artists performing songs from different genres. Tonight’s genre is country music, a genre we only know superficially. The first five artists all make decent performances and the mood in the sofa is good when the artist Aleksander Walmann enters the stage. At the end of the first verse, and to our surprise, tears are running down both our faces as he sings about lost love and how the lovers in the song “put a bottle to their heads and pull the trigger”.

Country music is a genre where lyrics are considered important. Studies about country music lyrics often point to the importance of lyrics to set the stage and that some topics are typical for country music lyrics such as lost love, loneliness, childhood memories and nostalgia,  and that they construct a closed narrative that rarely comments actual events in the real world (Jaret, 1982; Neal, 2007). One tool that is being used to construct narratives with these topics is alcohol. Alcohol has been shown to be particularly common to describe unhappy love, pain and anguish, loneliness and failure – or on the other hand enjoying life and comfort (Connors & Alpher, 1989).

In this study we turn our focus to the different functions of alcohol in country music lyrics and explore the purposes and meanings of alcohol in the genre from 1990 up until today. Through a mixed methods approach, we have, first, quantitatively analyzed songs and album songs nominated for Country Music Awards (CMA) (N=1291). The qualitative analysis includes the songs where alcohol plays a particularly important part. The lyrics will be analyzed through a narrative analysis and explored through the theoretical concepts of myths (Barthes, 2009); liquid modernity, and retrotopia (Bauman, 2017).

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