Yet another big name country star is speaking out about the current state of country music. This time it is RCA Records’ Jake Owen who is out promoting his new single “Days of Gold” ahead of the release of his upcoming album of the same name December 3rd. On that album is a piano and pedal steel-driven ballad called “(We All Want) What We Ain’t Got,” and when talking to Rolling Stone about the song, Jake said:
“We need more of those kinds of songs in [country music]. “We need more songs than just songs about tailgates and fuckin’ cups and Bacardi and stuff like that. We need songs that get ourselves back to the format that made me love it . . . [like] when guys like Randy Travis released songs like ‘He Walked on Water’ – songs that meant something, man!”
Jake Owen is referring to the current trend amongst mainstream country males to depend on very obvious and simplistic songwriting formulas that simply refer to artifacts of country life, known to their detractors as checklist, or laundry list country songs. His reference to “cups” may be a specific dig at Toby Keith’s recent hit “Red Solo Cup.”
Jake Owen joins a growing chorus of artists decrying country music’s current direction, including Alan Jackson, Kacey Musgraves, Gary Allan, and most notably Zac Brown who recently called Luke Bryan’s current #1 single “That’s My Kind Of Night” the worst song ever. But as it has been asserted about some of the other recently outspoken country stars, Jake Owen’s criticisms seem like a case of the pot calling the kettle black, and certainly even more so than that case could be made about Zac Brown or Gary Allan.
Jake Owen acknowledges he’s not always been the deepest of performers in the same Rolling Stone interview, saying, “I’ve definitely had moments in my career where I’ve released songs that were not necessarily the most, you know, in-depth-written song, or maybe it was a party anthem. I wanted to start adding more validity to my music.” But a few seconds into Jake’s current single “Days of Gold” and you don’t hear validity, you hear hypocrisy compared to his recent statements, however much substance the other songs of his upcoming album might have.
“Long truck bed hop in it, Fire engine red like her lip stick
Out here we can let it go, But just me and my good friends
Jug of wine little sip, Out here baby you just never know”
There seems to be little or no trouble for country music’s stars to spy the problem of constantly calling on the same tired formulas for hit radio singles, but they don’t seem to be inclined or empowered to do anything about it. It’s very likely Jake Owens’ new album will include songs with more depth, just like many of the albums of country’s top male stars do. But in a music world dominated by singles, song downloads, streams, and viral videos, it is unlikely the public will hear them en masse as they will a song like “Days Of Gold.”
Pot, meet kettle.