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Country music in the second half of 2013 is going through some of the most historic changes the format has ever seen, with hip-hop influenced songs, albums, and artists dominating the charts, female artists being excluded like never before, and a litany of songs with laundry list lyrics or that are purposely written to be stupid garnering the lion’s share of attention. The ever-present erosion of what the term “country” defines has never been greater, and the charge of preserving the roots of country music has never been more dire.
As a symptom of all the change and upheaval, big-time artists are speaking out about the direction of country music like never before. We’re not talking about the usual suspects of country criticism like Dale Watson and friends, we’re talking about artists at the very top of the mainstream country food chain. Over the last three months, an average of 3 artists per month have spoken out about the direction of country—an overwhelming number when you consider these bouts of outspokeness would usually happen only a few times a year. And there’s no reason to believe this trend won’t continue.
So below we have aggregated a timeline of some of the music world’s top artists speaking out against the direction of country. In all likelihood, this timeline will continue to grow.
Speaking to American Songwriter, Kacey Musgraves said:
“My voice is undeniably country, and I love country. Do I love what itâs turned into? No, not all the way. Itâs a little embarrassing when people outside of the genre ask what I sing and I say country. You automatically get a negative response, a cheese factor. My favorite compliment ever is when someone says, ‘I hate country music but I love your music.’”
During an in interview with Rolling Stone, Tom Petty said:
“Well, yeah I mean, I hate to generalize on a whole genre of music, but it does seem to be missing that magic element that it used to have. Iâm sure there are people playing country that are doing it well, but theyâre just not getting the attention that the shittier stuff gets. But thatâs the way it always is, isnât it?
But I hope that kind of swings around back to where it should be. But I donât really see a George Jones or a Buck Owens or any anything that fresh coming up. Iâm sure there must be somebody doing it, but most of that music reminds me of rock in the middle Eighties where it became incredibly generic and relied on videos. I donât want to rail on about country because I donât really know much about it, but thatâs what it seems like to me.”
When asked by GQ what music trend needed to die out immediately, Kacey Musgraves said:
“Anyone singing about trucks, in any form, in any song, anywhere. Literally just stop â nobody cares! Itâs not fun to listen to.Â I thought dubstep was cool for two secondsÂ -Â but that can go away now too. It sounds like a malfunction of some kind.”
Kacey also said when asked what the best-dressed men in Nashville are wearing these days, “Nothing by Affliction. Just burn the warehouse down. Itâs just douchey and really gaudy.”
While speaking with Reuters, Sheryl Crow, who just made a move to the country format and released a country album called Feels Like Home, said about her country move:
âThe country format is more pop than pop was when I came up two decades ago,â
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Alan Jackson said:
“Right now, it seems like itâs gone. Itâs not that Iâm against all thatâs out there. Thereâs some good music, good songwriting and good artists out there, but thereâs really no country stuff left. Itâs always been that constant pop-country battle. I donât think itâs ever going to change. What makes me sad today is that I think the real country, real roots-y traditional stuff, may be gone. I donât know if itâll ever be back on mainstream radio. You canât get it played anymore.”
During an interview with Larry King, Gary Allan was asked if Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood were country, and he said:Â
“You know, I would say no. I would say theyâre pop artists making a living in the country genre. I also feel like we lost our genre. I donât feel like I make music for a genre anymore, and I did, you know, 15 years ago. But I think since the Clear Channelâs and the Cumulusâs and the big companies bought up all the chains, now itâs about a demographic. You know, so theyâve kind of sliced everything up, feeding it to the public in demographics.
“Like if you want to get to the young kids, you put it on the alternative station. Weâve sort of ended up in thisâŚweâre nicknamed the soccer mom, like 35 to 45 year-old woman I think is what our demographic is. So itâs very different. You used to be able to turn on the radio and you knew instantly it was the country station just by listening to it, and now youâve got to leave it there for a second to figure it outâŚ. To me, country music is still Monday through Friday, and popâs about what happens on the weekends.â
Gary Allan later clarified his statements, saying his words were taken out of context, and that he appreciated country radio and everything it had done for his career.
When speaking to Barbara Beam ofÂ 93.7 JR FM in Vancouver, Canada, Zac Brown said:
“I love Luke Bryan and heâs had some great songs, but this new songÂ is the worst song Iâve ever heard.Â I know Luke, heâs a friend. âMy Kind Of Nightâ is one of the worst songs Iâve ever heard. I see it being commercially successful, in what is called country music these days, but I also feel like that the people deserve something better than that. Country fans and country listeners deserve to have something better than that, a song that really has something to say, something that makes you feel something. Good music makes you feel something. When songs make me wanna throw up, it makes me ashamed to even be in the same genre as those songs.
“If I hear one more tailgate in the moonlight, daisy duke song, Iâm gonna throw up. Thereâs songs out there on the radio right now that make me be ashamed to be even in the same format as some other artists. You can look and see some of the same songwriters on every one of the songs. Thereâs been like 10 number one songs in the last two or three years that were written by the same people and itâs the exact same words, just arranged different ways.”
When speaking to “The Barnyard Show” on 92.5 in Connecticut about why there is so few women on the country music charts, Sheryl Crow said:
“I do think that in the last ten, fifteen years art has gone the way of commerce. Whenever thereâs money involved, then you figure out whatâs going to bring in sponsors, and whatâs going to resonate with people and whatâs going to sell records….Iâd love to see that change.”
When talking to Rolling Stone about his new album, Jake Owen said:
“We need more songs than just songs about tailgates and fuckinâ cups and Bacardi and stuff like that. We need songs that get ourselves back to the format that made me love it . . .Â [like] when guys like Randy Travis released songs like âHe Walked on Waterâ â songs that meant something, man!â
When speaking to Country Weekly about country rap, Toby Keith said:
âYou hear the hip-hop thing start kicking in, and you start going, âIs that what we gotta do now to have a hit?â I donât know how to do that. Is that what I need every one of my songs to sound like now?…You start playing [deep songs] to a twenty-something audience, and itâs like, âNaw, man, there ainât no mud on that tire. That ainât about a Budweiser can. That ainât about a chicken dancing out by the river. That ainât about smoking a joint by the haystack. Thatâs about somebody dying and sh-t.ââ
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