I listened to the podcast last night and thought it was pretty enjoyable. I didn’t really agree with his conclusions, but the journey was interesting.
The thing Gladwell overlooks though is that country music writes mainly about sadness because that’s the convention. When it’s churned out out of expectation like that and by writers writing hundreds of such songs, are sad lyrics with homely references to familiar places that the narrow intended audience will be able to latch onto anything more than a gimmick to hook in that audience?
He come dangerously close to making the point that more detailed lyrics are more interesting than more generic ones - which doesn’t really tell anyone anything.
He also overplays the importance of the lyrics and underplays the importance of the instrumentation and arrangement I think. For all that the lyrics in mainstream country may be more unusual in imagery or specific, the songs are very generic and conservative in every other respect. It’s all just a vehicle for the words - I’m not sure any song can be described as great when it’s so similar to hundreds of others around it.