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Tennessee’s Most Country Music Cities, According to Country Lyrics

Nashville may be the world’s country music capital, but it barely made this ranking based on the content of actual country songs.

Randy Nelson

Content Manager

116 articles, 53 comments

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Home to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, TN is widely recognized as the world capital of country music. Surely no one would argue with that… right? Well, given our findings when we set out to determine where America’s real Sin City was—it wasn’t Las Vegas—we thought it would be fun to let other cities in the great state of Tennessee vie for the country music crown by pitting them against one another based on criteria that really matters: the content (read: lyrics) of actual country music.

We’ll get to the process we used in a moment, but first we have some news that is sure to strike a sad minor chord with Nashville’s residents: It was only No. 9 on the list. Topping the charts at No. 1 was your new country capital of Tennessee—Chattanooga. Here’s the full list:

1. Chattanooga
2. Knoxville
3. Maryville
4. Cookeville
5. Jackson
6. Oak Ridge
7. Cleveland
8. Franklin
9. Nashville
10. Columbia

How in tarnation did we arrive at that? You’ll have to join us for a spell and keep on reading as we lay it all out below.

How We Did It

We’ve been doing our Big Deal Lists here on the Movoto Real Estate blog for a while now, but we’ve never done one like this before. Since the focus of this ranking was so deeply rooted in a genre of music, we figured that we’d let the songs themselves decide which criteria we’d score each city on.

That means we had to figure out what the music was trying to say. So, we took the lyrics of the top 10 country songs from the past five years (2008 through 2012) and created a word cloud from them, where the most frequently used words (out of about 15,000 total) were the largest. We couldn’t base criteria on very common words like “we” and “you,” so we grabbed the 10 most used nouns and adjectives from the cloud instead.
country-wordcloud
We then had to attach criteria to each word. This was a lot of fun, but also not exactly easy. For some, we went quite literal; for others, we tried to stick with what the lyricists probably meant by their words. The 10 words and associated criteria we ended up with were:

  1. Love (marriage rate)
  2. Girl (percentage of female residents < 14 years old)
  3. Man (percentage of male residents > 18 years old)
  4. Baby (people per bar)
  5. Crazy (people per psychiatrist)
  6. God (people per religious organization)
  7. Home (people per home)
  8. Heart (people per cardiologist)
  9. Honey (percentage of married households)
  10. Southern (how far south the city is)

We know what you’re thinking: We’re crazy (the fifth most-used word!). We’d just like to point out that we are the Lighter Side of Real Estate, and we do use Saturday Night Science. In other words, while we can be serious, we still like to have fun—so we hope that’s what you get from this ranking.

Speaking of ranking, a little about how we did that. Essentially, we surveyed the 25 most populous cities in Tennessee based on the criteria above, then ranked them from 25 to 1 with a lower number being better. Then we averaged out their scores over all 10 criteria to get a final Big Deal Score—the lower it was, the better, as well.

Everything we did was based on the city’s borders, so metropolitan areas weren’t considered. Medical and retail data came from Yelp, while demographic data was taken from the U.S. Census (2010) and American Community Survey (2005-2010).

With that opening measure done, let’s get to the chorus of this song—why we picked our criteria.

Marriage Rate (“Love”)

Source: Flickr user Josep Ma. Rosell

Source: Flickr user Josep Ma. Rosell

We figured that there are few more cut-and-dry ways to say you love someone than to marry them—something that more people are thankfully getting to do across the country. So, we decided to look at the marriage rates for the 25 cities we surveyed.

Clarksville, TN came in first, with a marriage rate of 10.9 per year per 1,000 residents. Jackson, TN was second at 8.5 and Maryville, TN was third at 8.3.

Percentage of Young Women (“Girl”)

We went literal with this one. Sure, when country crooners call their special gal “girl,” it’s a term of affection, but the lyrics we went through were also being sung by women talking about things that’d happened when they were young. So, we decided to look at the percentage of female residents under the age of 14 in each city.

Spring Hill, TN has a population of girls of 14.43 percent. In second place is La Vergne, TN at 13.09 percent and third is Brentwood, TN at 12.09 percent.

Percentage of Men (“Man”)

Another literal pick, but actually an even easier one to make. Male country singers really like to call themselves “man” a lot. So, we went with the percentage of male residents over the age of 18—men.

Cookeville, TN is the most statistically manly of Tennessee’s biggest cities with an adult male population of 40.29 percent. Johnson City, TN (ahem) is second at 38.42 percent and Knoxville, TN is third at 38.25 percent.

People Per Bar (“Baby”)

Source: Flickr user Ryan Harvey

Source: Flickr user Ryan Harvey

Now, we could have gone literal with this one, too, but we’re pretty sure all the times country singers call someone “baby,” they don’t mean “infant”—at least we hope not. So, we thought about it and decided that the place someone is most likely to be called “baby” is at a bar. Y’know, like “hey, baby, can I buy you a beer?” Thus we looked at the number of people to bars in each city.

Knoxville, TN has the most with one bar for every 2,033 residents. Nashville, TN is second with one for every 2,507 and Cookeville, TN is third with one for every 3,382 people.

People Per Psychiatrist (“Crazy”)

We were pretty surprised by how many times the word “crazy” is used in country songs. We figured that with all these people being driven crazy by others, or doing crazy things, they should probably seek some professional psychological help. So we found out how many people per psychiatrist there are in each city. The lower, the better—and the less time you’ll spend in the waiting room.

Knoxville, TN has one psychiatrist for every 1,789 people who live there. Second on the list is Columbia, TN with one for every 2,312 people, and third with one per every 2,747 residents is Maryville, TN.

People Per Religious Organization (“God”)

Country singers aren’t shy about mentioning the Almighty in their songs, and we figured that this was a pretty straightforward criterion to look at. To rank the cities by this word, we found how many people each has per religious organization or place of worship.

Knoxville, TN was out front again with one for every 42 residents (religion is pretty popular in Tennessee, we found). Cookeville, TN is a very close second with one per every 43, while Chattanooga, TN ranked third with one for every 52.

People Per Cardiologist (“Heart”)

Source: Flickr user Bradley Loos

Source: Flickr user Bradley Loos

We feel for the people in country songs from the past few years—and beyond. These folks are always pouring their hearts into things, getting their hearts broken, feeling their heartbeats… basically, there’s a lot of heart stuff going on. Who better to handle that sort of thing than a cardiologist?

Johnson City, TN has the most heart docs per capita with one for every 1,070 residents. Franklin, TN placed second with one per every 1,358 folks and Jackson, TN was third with one for every 1,762 people.

Total Number of Homes (“Home”)

This one was about as literal as they get. When a country artist sings about home, they’re talking about… a home. It was up to us to find how many homes (we’re talking anywhere someone could live, and thus call home) there are in each city per capita.

Knoxville, TN is the most home-y, with one for every 1.96 people. Kingsport, TN ranks second with one place to live for every 2.05 residents, while Chattanooga, TN came in third with one for every 2.08 people.

Percentage of Married Households (“Honey”)

From literal we hit the opposite end of the spectrum with the word “honey.” We thought about figuring out how many beehives or honey producers there are in each city, but we wanted to challenge ourselves a bit by getting philosophical. Just who is likely to use a pet name like “honey” with their loved one? Married folks. So, we looked up what percentage of households in each city are comprised of married couples.

Brentwood, TN placed first with 82.4 percent of all households being occupied by married couples. Collierville, TN came in second at 73.6 percent and Germantown, TN was third at 72.1 percent.

Southern Latitude (“Southern”)

We went around on this final criterion. Would we try to somehow measure overall “Southern-ness?” Find out how many Southern food places there are in each city? Nah, we decided that being Southern was all about being… southern. As in latitude-wise on a map. So we looked up each city’s longitude and the lower, the better.

Collierville, TN at 35.0419 north latitude is the southernmost of the 25 cities we looked at. Next is Chattanooga, TN at 35.0456 north latitude, followed by Germantown, TN at 35.0867 north latitude.

End of the Line (Dance)

If you’re a big country music fan looking to settle down somewhere that embodies your favorite genre of tunes, look no further than Chattanooga, TN. Nashville may claim to embody country, but if you ask us they’re just whistlin’ Dixie.

For the full ranking of the top 25 cities, check out the chart below.

(click to enlarge)

Country Cities Ranking

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posted on: August 15, 2013
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