Yee How (Did the Cowboy Trope Become Popularized?)
by Erin Christie
As an infamous individual on the now deceased Vine once said, “Yee yee,” a country bumpkin cattle-call that has resonated with audiences since broadcast over the Internet. And resonate, it sure did. Scrolling through your Twitter timeline as of late, it would likely be impossible not to witness a swarm of riotous “yee-haws” and images of e-girl-style pink cowboy hats. And this brings about an important question: since when did the cowboy trend become the pinnacle of cool?
“Where did this trend truly begin?”, one might initially ask. In the past, weren’t we mocking trailer-truck driving, horse-riding, southern gems for their then unconventional lifestyle and fashion, as opposed to proudly brazening the descriptor “cowboy” for ourselves?
With the release of Mitski’s fourth studio record, Be the Cowboy, during the early fall of 2018, music listeners took a collective reexamination of their consciousness, opting to sport bedazzled cowboy hats and vintage cowboy boots as opposed to last season’s camo pants and FILA Disruptors.
The only difference between what is being embraced as “yee haw culture” versus what is actually “cowboy”-like is the fact that what’s becoming trendy isn’t reminiscent of standard mid-west memorabilia. Mitski’s record, for example, is a far cry from country; instead, the album rests on the Japanese-American singer-songwriter’s melancholy, indie-infused roots. She sings of devastating heartbreak and loneliness but does so in a way that depresses, and also comforts. Her raw emotional outpouring speaks to the darkest parts of the psyche: we, too, want love and validation and for somebody to kiss us like we’re in a movie. Maybe her utterly “relatable” content and masterful composition is what made Be the Cowboy truly popular, and the cowboy trend simply followed suit, a symbol of the lonely hearts club?
“Mitski released her treasured album, Be the Cowboy well ahead of our present yee-haw cultural dominance,” writer for Vulture, Dee Locket, says, and that’s a statement not lacking in truth. Her article, entitled, “The Battle of Mitski and Mac Demarco’s ‘Nobody’ Songs Is Truly Something to Behold,” brings about an interesting and recent controversy between artists Mac Demarco and Mitski, such having solidified the trend’s uprising. Whether Demarco actually spends a majority of his time under a rock and truly missed Mitski’s album of the summer, we’ll never know. What we do know, though, is that his upcoming release, Here Comes the Cowboy (2019), brings about a bad sense of deja-vu (noting that the lead single is ALSO entitled “Nobody,” as Mitski’s had been). Another player has entered the ring: despite doing so in a manner that borderline infringes on Mitksi’s rights as an artist, Mac following in her footsteps makes it clear that the cowboy movement is here to stay (if this controversy doesn’t kill it first).
Aside from Mitski’s personal prominence in the popularization of spurs and lassos, it can also be said that country music—or more so, country pop—is making a promising comeback which only furthers the cause. Emphasized by Kacey Musgraves’ massive Grammy wins at this year’s Awards, country music is far from the makings of social alienation anymore. Instead, it’s almost encouraged. Her debut record, Golden Hour, is far removed from “your grandma’s kind of backwoods twang,” as Helen Holmes of The Observer notes, but is rather, delivers country in a much more current, stylish package. Preaching feminist, headstrong values and encouraging young women to be true to who they are, all whilst channeling country sensation Dolly Parton, Musgraves has contributed a massive role in country’s re-branding.
Alongside Musgraves’ claim to the throne, Miley Cyrus’ return to her country roots as of recent, Beyonce’s country-inspired powerhouse anthem, “Daddy Lessons,” and a resurgence of online memes have made it known that a large part of the mainstream is donning ten-gallon hats and proud of it.
As opposed to country’s once hyper-masculine, gun-slinging persona, it’s transformed into something much easier to swallow, adorned with rhinestones, a little irony, and a quirky, yet cute cowboy trope that one can harmlessly enjoy.