One of the few bright spots in mainstream country for so many years (though he’d throw an unfortunate single out there upon occasion), when he released his latest single in March called “Hangover Tonight,” some wondered if the hard-edged 47-year-old had lost his mind. This wasn’t the Gary Allan we all knew, all dressing in crushed velvet suits and doing his best Bruno Mars impression.
the quality of the music of these do-good artists can sometimes be an entirely different story than the quality of their character. Such an assessment is subjective mind you, both on the musical and personal side. But generally speaking, the generosity of a given celebrity and the standards of their music doesn’t always go hand in hand.
This thing was considered ploddingly long in coming and and potentially missing in action nearly a year ago. Now for many Josh Turner fans, the situation has reached a critical mass state, and folks are starting to demand answers. Is Josh and his music being held hostage? At this point, what plausible explanation could be given to justify all the delays?
Over the last couple of weeks, Saving Country Music headquarters has received a fresh new onslaught of emails on the subject of pop country über DJ Bobby Bones—the morning show personality for iHeartMedia’s syndicated network and the single-most name at the forefront of homogenizing American mainstream country music radio. Let’s tackle some of these subjects . . .
It’s one thing to mischaracterize my opinions, or the opinions of Chris Stapleton fans, or concerned country music fans in general. It’s another thing to use the name and visage of a respected country music legend to assert the wrongful and misguided opinions of your think piece, especially when the aim of that think piece is to attack active and concerned country music fans.
Justin Timberlake has officially gone country. Or at least one of his songs has. As radio programmers all over the country were busy Wednesday morning trying to figure out where to stack their reams of payola, a memorandum buzzed out across the wires: “Justin Timberlake’s ‘Drink You Away’—the same song he played with Chris Stapleton on the CMA Awards—is requesting play on your country station.”
Not everybody is happy about all this mainstream success and good times being had by Chris Stapleton and his fans. So for the sake of argument, fairness, and equal time, let’s take an honest, devil’s advocate look at Chris Stapleton, and see if some of this criticism is worthy of wearing the luster off of his CMA wins, and astounding commercial success subsequently.
We already knew that Chris Stapleton was an amazing singer, a great songwriter, and an astounding guitar player. Now the rest of the world knows. And where all of this will take country music is something we can only speculate on at the moment, but it certainly is something to be taken as a very good sign, even if you’re just ho hum on Stapleton, or gaze a hairy eyeball at all those pop country songs he wrote for others.
Usually you have to squint and focus hard to find anything that could be considered classic country on the CMA Awards. This year going in, we already know there will be two classic country performances, and that doesn’t include unannounced songs or surprise guests.
The idea of retiring from playing music seems like such a foreign notion on the surface. We like to think that artists make music because they have to—because it’s all they know and it’s in their blood. Some just happen to make money and get famous from it along the way. Quitting music would be like deciding to quit watching sunsets or eating ice cream with your family or something.
The color yellow was picked to be the primary backdrop for the relaunch. The image of a diamond shaped like a heart was selected as a logo (even though that’s not the way a true heart-shaped diamond is cut), and everyone had visions of a blockbuster #1 single and sold out arena tours dancing in their heads. . . . and since then, “Live Forever” has flopped.
Though the announcement of her debut album is something to celebrate for her fans, it also shows yet again how country music’s females, especially the non-established up-and-comers, are being treated as second class citizens by labels. It is this systematical, logistical downgrading of female performers that is making the struggles of country’s women a self-fulfilling prophesy.
That’s the somewhat anecdotal, but still troubling conclusion of a recent analysis by ‘Billboard.’ Today, the more likely scenario for how a song is written is scheduled meetings in cubicle farms, or collaborations on Skype with individuals who are credited as songwriters, but are better described as producers or programmers. Ideas are thrown out in collaborative form, and then workshopped in a group setting.
The allure of ABC’s hour-long drama Nashville lost its luster for yours truly many seasons ago after the drama got so ridiculous you could see the plot twists coming from a mile away. And the music—though still a decent component—got somewhat sidelined in recent seasons in lieu of keeping the sappy and seductive scenes coming to keep eyes glued on the TV screen.
Heading into the final couple of months of 2015, there may not be a hotter name in country music among critics and distinguished listeners than Chris Stapleton. The long wait for his often-rumored and much-delayed debut album was finally rewarded on May 5th with the release of the Dave Cobb-produced “Traveller,” and fans were not let down.
Sturgill Simpson was sick to the point where he could barely sing. Immediately upon taking the stage, he apologized to the crowd, said he was suffering from severe allergies and would make it up to them at a makeup show on December 7th. And then Sturgill decided to do something unprecedented in country music, and I’m not talking about pontificating on hallucinogenic drug trips in song.
Speaking about his recent signing with Big Machine’s NASH Icon record label, which was set up to create radio support for artists left behind by mainstream country’s current obsession with youth, the once CMA Entertainer of the Year recipient said, “If you’re gonna be heard, you have to get on the radio. The internet alone is not gonna do it.”
If you haven’t heard of Kane Brown, you’re about to, whether you like it or not. You can pride yourself in being one of those country music fans impervious to the buzz machine the industry uses to attempt to reel you in. But Kane Brown is coming, and he will be ubiquitous . . . unless his entire career implodes on itself.
“18,700”: This is the number of albums Toby Keith sold upon the debut of his new record 35 MPH Town, and it got me to thinking, which artists and bands have beat that number in a year of unprecedented ascent in independent country music? 2015 is the year it became common to see one of your favorite independent acts and aging legends compete at the top of the album charts.
A new feature recently posted in GQ goes much farther in describing the conflict between Swift and Big Machine. This wasn’t a simple exchange between Swift and Borchetta. There was an outright intervention going on, with numerous high-level executives doing what they could to assuage Swift into not going pop 100%.