One of the reasons we feel so surprised at Americana’s success and so many have been so slow to recognize it is because it has been a slow and steady process. Because of Americana’s model of sustainability, the revolution has been plodding, yet purposeful. And now it’s success is palpable, and measurable by industry-standard metrics.
Publicists for pop star Kelsea Ballerini and her label Black River Entertainment are fawning all over themselves this week for their “historic” achievement of getting the single “Peter Pan” to inhabit the #1 spot on both Billboard’s Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs charts simultaneously—the first time this has ever happened for a female.
To see folks like Florida Georgia Line crest the Top Songs chart is disturbing enough. But to not see any mention of Hank Williams in the Best Artist list has also solicited groans. So let’s run through some observations on these charts to help understand how best to gauge their usefulness (or not), and explain some of the strange wrinkles they evidence.
Americana may not have a definitive, universally-recognized definition. But it now has it’s own classification on Billboard’s weekly album’s chart, which is a new layer of legitimacy for the genre if nothing else. Overall, it appears that the Billboard staff got it just about right.
On Friday (5-13), it was announced that Billboard would finally be adding an Americana chart to their weekly albums chart roster. This is 10 years after the Grammy Awards began to recognize Americana, nearly 17 years after the Americana Music Association formed.
For all the non-country artists, albums, and songs showing up on Billboard’s country charts recently, it was certainly a curious decision by Billboard chart managers to make an example of a poor band from Ft. Worth called Green River Ordinance this week. Despite the insistence of the band, and a clear sonic distinction to their music of country being the primary influence, their new album Fifteen was excluded from the country charts.
For the last couple of years country fans have been questioning how chart managers for Billboard and other entities could listen to certain songs or performers and consider them country in the slightest. Yet here is a band making music that’s more country than it is anything else, and more country than most of what you hear on country radio, and Billboard is denying their admittance on the country charts.
2015 has been back loaded with big events and even bigger releases that have caused renewed interest in the charts used to measure the popularity and impact of music. The problem is, in this here-and-now world, the model for how music is measured is still based around walking to a newsstand on Monday, and picking up the latest Billboard, or waiting for Tuesday when the album charts are updated online.
Artists, labels, and PR firms being able to speak directly to consumers more than ever through the vehicle of social media arguably doesn’t make music media obsolete, it makes it more necessary than ever to help listeners navigate through a crowded marketplace, and make sure they’re not being misled by an industry trying to deal with their own revenue and contraction issue in the digital age.
In 2015, the names and music residing at the top of Billboard’s respective genre charts seems topsy-turvy and misguided. While Sam Hunt and his music that resembles next to nothing country is at the top of the country charts, an artist like Brandi Carlile who does uphold some of those country standards has the top album in rock. A very serious case can be made that those two artists should be switched.
On December 4th, Billboard will roll out new changes to their Billboard 200 album chart, and the effect will be big on some of your favorite music artists, including legends like Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, and up-and-comers like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. The changes will be the first major overhaul to the album chart since 1991.
Once again Kenny Chesney is putting Bro-Country in his crosshairs, and specifically its objectification of women. In a new cover story in the upcoming issue of Billboard, the four-time CMA Entertainer of the Year includes some bellicose language about how country is portraying the gentler sex these days. But is this all marketing, and yet another effort to exploit the growing anti Bro-Country backlash?
In a nutshell, Sam Hunt and Montevallo are not country, and this goes beyond opinion. So what that a couple of songs feature a banjo or a steel guitar. This arguably makes the offense even worse because it proves they know they’re trying to put one over on consumers. For every element someone presents to claim this album is country, I can present fifteen that prove it patently isn’t.
Oh the hilarity country music can sometimes be a party to. Pop country super duo Florida Georgia Line is getting ready to release their second album Anything Goes next week through Country Music Antichrist Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine record label, and this occasion lands them on this week’s cover of Billboard Magazine.
41 years, 26 albums, 11 different record labels, and one Outlaw country legend who had never experienced a charting album beyond a mere blip on the Christian charts a few years ago …. until now. Billy Joe Shaver, and his first album in seven years entitled Long In The Tooth has gone where no other Billy Joe Shaver album has gone before—to the Top 20 of Billboard’s country album’s chart.
Willie Nelson, who just released his latest record Band of Brothers on June 17th though Sony’s Legacy Recordings, has crested at the very top spot on Billboard’s Country Music Album’s chart, landing at #1. It is Willie’s first #1 in 28 years, since his 1986 album The Promiseland. It is also his second-best showing ever on Billboard’s all genre Billboard 200 chart, coming in at #6.
Kentucky native Sturgill Simpson has quickly become a critic’s favorite and a cult hero around the country with the release of his second solo album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, garnering praise from industry critics and rabid country fans alike. And now the emerging country star has another feather to place in his cap.
The cyclical trends of country music, and all popular music have always thought to be tied to a certain extent to the socioeconomic conditions of the time, but a recent study by the American Psychological Association bucks the conventional wisdom that country music’s stereotypical depressing themes come from dealing with tough times. Conversely, when times gets tough, country gets happier.
Johnny Cash is once again the big man in music as his recently-released “lost” album Out Among The Stars has come in at #1 on the Country Albums chart, and #3 on the all-encompassing album sales chart according to Mediabase, with a total of 54,000 copies sold. The sales success will likely result in Cash also cresting Billboard’s country chart…
“Achy Breaky 2” allows us once again to face the new music dilemma of whether a song is successful despite being bad, or because of it, and what this could mean for the future of music. Because of the amount of YouTube views “Achy Breaky 2” achieved, the song debuted at #11 on Billboard’s Hot Rap songs chart, and #16 on the Streaming Songs chart.