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The Tale Of How Florida Georgia Line Reshaped Country Music As We Know It

Written by camjameson
/ 10 mins read

In popular media, there’ve been countless instances of underdogs facing insurmountable odds to change public opinion of a certain genre, from Trap instrumentation invading all manner of music to become the hottest sound in the industry to once-sidelined pre-teen musicians suddenly ruling the market with an iron fist in the internet age, proving you’re never too young to leave your mark on this world in a big way, but perhaps the most astonishing curveball was how quickly Country music erased its stereotypical redneck image in the early-teens to become one of the most profitable & critically-acclaimed genres of the modern era. For what must’ve been decades, Country existed as this niche genre you only listened to if you were born on a farm or lived in the red-belt of America, every Tom, Dick & Nancy who claimed to be an open-minded audiophile confidently stating ‘I listen to every genre of music…well, except Country, of course’ as if that somehow gained them entry to the cool-kids club; I mean, I can distinctly remember driving with friends on exceptionally long car rides through the more rural parts of California where acceptable radio stations were few & far-between, said companions willingly deciding to listen to the Regional Mexican radio channels if their only other choices were Country or static, illustrating how vehemently people in the noughties kept their distance from the genre for fear of looking like an inbred simpleton who supported the Republican party. All of this changed in 2012 when Nashville, Tennessee natives Florida Georgia Line dropped their first formal studio album Here’s To The Good Times, forever cementing Country Pop as a genre capable of appealing to mainstream audiences with gusto thanks to a focus on feelgood vibes, genre-bending crossover tracks & a less-stereotypical southern charm that actively sought to break away from the hoedown aesthetics of their predecessors – You could undoubtedly make the argument that prior Country Pop acts had already done much of the heavy lifting from 1995 to 2007, as Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson & Big & Rich essentially spawned the whole ‘we get down & dirty but can be sensitive at times’ aesthetic, but as these groups aged & audiences turned ever-more-youthful we started seeing an aversion to cowboy hats & side-mouthed twang since it typically represented old-world ideals steeped in misogyny & hatred, a vibe millennials were having absolutely none of once their voices were formally recognized as the driving force of the internet generation, giving Florida Georgia Line the perfect opportunity to shake up the system with a formula more attuned to modern, sexually-liberated, disenfranchised youth culture. While this saved Country music from imploding upon itself at the start of this decade, the band aren’t without fault as they simultaneously birthed a movement that would almost destroy Country once again come 2018.

One Jam To Rule Them All

If you’re going to talk at any length about Here’s To The Good Times, the obvious kickoff is – of course – Florida Georgia Line’s most prolific success “Cruise,” a song that not only embodies every aspect of their style as a band but also marks the very point in time when Country music became the behemoth it is today. This song broke every existing record for a single of its genre, achieving the title of best-selling song by a Country duo, the first certified Diamond track of Country history & still to this day sitting as the best-selling Country song of all time, an enviable feat considering how lengthy the history of Country music is & how sparse competition was in the genre’s earlier days when it was a mere offshoot of African American-inspired Gospel music – So, with such accolades surrounding the popular tune, just what is it that captured the hearts & minds of millions when so many established artists beforehand could barely garner nearly as much attention? Well, as with all things music-oriented, it all comes down to the duo’s ability to refine known techniques down to their very essence whilst adopting the interests of more-successful genres to gain the trust of mainstream audiences, producing a fairly nondescript Country song with a Power Pop energy that felt decidedly more approachable in comparison to the generally formulaic nature of their contemporaries. For instance, the basic structure of the track consists of a slow-trudging ballad aesthetic we’ve all heard a million times, packed to the gills with plucky banjo riffs, grandiose vocal melodies & an uplifting chord progression not too dissimilar to a Jason Aldean or Tim McGraw joint, but they alter this with subtle hints of modernity through Hip Hop-adjacent percussion sequences that give the tune a harder edge, lackadaisical narrative elements which aligned with the free-spirited party culture of Club-centric audiences & a somewhat frat-like brashness that made the duo appear much more like a bunch of college ruffians than some backwoods romantics, making it clear they were progressive city-dwellers with an interest in current trends. Though that might not seem like a wild departure from the Country norm, Florida Georgia Line commanded audiences with a laidback energy that said ‘hey, we’re just like you & we’re probably not racist,’ disarming the vocal majority of Country opposition by appealing to the sensitive-tough-guy mentality that had arisen following years of Emo music in the mid-noughties – Of course, this is the analyst in me speaking, as I remained a member of the group who absolutely hated everything the band stood for when they first hit the scene, but there’s no denying that their easygoing attitudes & slightly-less twangy Country sound in this number singlehandedly pivoted public reception from ‘screw Country music’ to ‘actually, this stuff makes me feel quite good!’

The Birth Of ‘Bro-Country’ As A Naming Convention

Aside from showing the world that Country Pop had the potential to put a smile on your face in ways it hadn’t before, Florida Georgia Line’s clever utilization of disparate genre techniques also helped them create an entirely new breed of Country as we know it, colloquially recognized as ‘Bro-Country’ music, designated so for its heavy Hip Hop influences, relatively-trivial narrative interests & occasionally hard-hitting Butt Rock sensibilities, becoming the official soundtrack for every chinstrap-bearded, lifted-truck sporting meathead who purchases clothing from Afflicted, Skin or Lucky Brand Jeans. There’s no denying that Country Rock & Hick Rap had expressed these same ideals for years before the duo ever made a splash on the radio, but Florida Georgia Line presented such personality traits in a slightly different fashion that was neither as crass & raunchy as your average Bubba Sparxxx number or wholeheartedly douchey as the Hard Rock anthems Brantley Gilbert had released, producing a balanced middle-ground between the demographics that carried the masculinity listeners wanted whilst applying exceptionally-pristine recording fidelity typically reserved for the most famous Hip Hop acts; This is primarily what allowed them to effectively cross over into the mainstream consciousness as they literally sounded like the industry’s more popular Alternative R&B & Hip Hop acts even if the actual structure of their songs were outlandish – The most specific examples of this Bro-Country identity are songs like “It’z Just What We Do” that not only feature a naming convention clearly inspired by Snoop Dogg’s popular ‘fo-shizzle’ lingo but also rely heavily on digital percussion sequences & lyrical structures common in Mainstream Rap, bragging about their status with lines like ‘lift kit, chrome tips, spit shinin like a diamond,’ ‘don’t forget the Bacardi’ & ‘grab yo phone and get them digits’, coopting the signature streetwise slang of Hip Hop music as much as they can to seem like a group of bad-boys. Similar attributes define other songs on the album like “Get Your Shine On,” “Dayum, Baby” & “Tip It Back,” all of which shamelessly inject elements of Black culture in both name & melodic content to make being a Country fan appear as cool & stylish as Hip Hop itself; It’s not pretty in the least & absolutely reeks of white-privileged cultural appropriation, but it was a novelty at the time that audiences were more than willing to accept if it meant Country was no longer as lame & embarrassing as it used to be, affecting the industry so intensely that 2018 course-corrected to a more classic Outlaw & Honky Tonk aesthetic just to break free of the monotony these tracks had encouraged for years since – Again, the success of this style isn’t necessarily ideal, but it’s nevertheless a shining example of how Florida Georgia Line forever changed Country, increasing its mainstream popularity at the expense of true romanticism & emotional expression in the genre.

Consistency Fuels Success

For all the good, bad & in-between Florida Georgia Line managed to achieve in Here’s TO The Good Times, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the true key to their success, that being their incredible consistency across the album from day one which has led to their continued status as industry-leaders to this day. It’s one thing to hit the ground running with a popular one-hit-wonder right out of the gates that makes you a household name, but it’s another to strike lightning more than once on the same record, showing listeners you intend to stick around for years to come & promising them a level of quality unmatched by associated acts you can rely on, validating future purchases you make with your hard-earned money. Despite all the corniness of the band’s new Bro-Country persona, every single track was able to accrue a comparable amount of downloads, views & likes to their initial breakout tune, setting a gold standard for what Country Pop should sound like going forward; Hell, they even made an almost exact copy of “Cruise” with their third single “Round Here,” essentially shelling out the same grandiose Power Ballad anthem a second time without audiences being any wiser to the deception, garnering another number-one slot on the Country Airplay chart & pretty much writing the model by which future Country Pop bands would incessantly follow & butcher for the next decade, guaranteeing generic artists like Kane Brown & Luke Combs a spot on the roster since the Bro-Country aesthetic was so easy to replicate that anyone could become a star – I may not be a current fan of Florida Georgia Line, their most recent hit single “Meant To Be” with Bebe Rexha haunting my dreams with a vengeance after having to hear it on the radio every five minutes, but damn do I respect the shit out of these guys for how passionately they’ve championed their signature style all this time, never once deviating from their formula in an effort to adhere to modern trends; I mean, they were born of trendiness itself & have always their finger on the pulse of emerging styles, but for the most part they’re still the same artists today that they were nearly a decade ago & to me that’s dedication worth admiring.

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12. Artist Info


Florida Georgia Line (sometimes abbreviated as FGL) is an American country music duo consisting of vocalists Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley. Their 2012 debut single "Cruise", which remains their most popular song, broke two major sales records: it was downloaded over seven million times, making it the first country song ever to receive the Diamond certification, and it became the best-selling digital country song of all time, with 24 weeks at number one, until it was surpassed in July 2017 by Sam Hunt's "Body Like a Back Road". "Cruise" helped to pioneer a style of country music known as "bro-country", which incorporates production elements from rock and hip-hop music, and tends to cover subject matter such as partying, drinking, driving trucks and romantic attraction. Much of their subsequent music has been tagged with the "bro-country" label as well.
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