Everywhere we turn, there are signs that the tide is turning in country music for the better. Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson are turning the tables on the awards shows, a new generation of traditionalists like William Michael Morgan and Margo Price are finding surprising traction. But it’s not all rosy.
Florida Georgia Line
Screw me, but I just don’t have a strong opinion about this thing one way or the other. Sometimes that happens. If you think this song and video is amazing, then awesome. If you think it’s stupid, I can see that perspective too. In the end it’s kind of a wash for me.
I think I liked Florida Georgia Line more when their music was worse. Now they’re writing songs about getting married and hanging out with their parents, yet still with much of the same manic, douchebag production and stupid rapping vocals of before, and the entire enterprise just comes off like a sad whimper.
Florida Georgia Line reportedly refused to allow uniformed police officers backstage, including at one point threatening to cancel their performance if their demands were not met. This sparked an outcry from both law enforcement professionals and other individuals working the events, and eventually led to a public outcry.
One of the big questions for country music in 2016 is if Florida Georgia Line and other Bro-Country acts will be able to extricate themselves from their destiny of being shuffled into the dustbin of history as the Nickelbacks of country, or if they will show up with some more depth to at least delay the inevitable.
Clearly this trend of cross genre collaborations is only going to deepen, so with a servant’s heart and a sincere desire to help the collaborators and interlopers with their “country” efforts, Saving Country Music has constructed a pocket reference field guide to help these cross-genre collaborators navigate through their country music experience.
It was late Saturday night, early Sunday morning, roughly midnight Central time, and a press release was sent out across the wires from the Kenny Chesney camp. It seemed like a very strange time to send out a press release, but Kenny Chesney’s peeps had a story they wanted to get out to the public, or more specifically, a story they wanted to be out ahead of.
iHeartMedia über morning show DJ Bobby Bones apparently has a new enemy. Or actually, two of them, in the form of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelly of the Bro-Country super duo Florida Georgia Line. Though on the surface you might surmise that Bobby Bones and Florida Georgia Line would be brothers in arms, that’s apparently not the case.
Christian music may be the way some labels and producers see a way out of the Bro-Country jungle that is mired in criticism for its low-brow content and (at times) immoral bent, yet at the same time continue to broaden the appeal of country by adding a new demographic to the audience in Christian listeners.
When mainstream country artists start talking about how their upcoming music is going to be more mature, you can be assured this is a harbinger that it will be anything but. Even if you do get a deep song, like we did with Florida Georgia Line’s debut single the last go ’round, “Dirt,” it ultimately didn’t make a hill of beans worth of difference by the time their full album Anything Goes arrived.
The lead single to Chase Rice’s new record is done, finished, finito, dead, and game over according to radio insiders. And the results do not paint a very pretty picture at all for the performer. After a big promotional push by Rice’s label Columbia Nashville, all that his song “Whisper” could muster on the radio charts was a whimper before limping off into the night virtually unnoticed.
So often in modern country the task of songs is to reaffirm the importance of country songs to the listeners. There’s songs about songs, songs about radio, songs about songs on the radio, songs about what it means to be country, songs about what a country song should mean, songs about love, songs about songs about love, and songs about songs about falling in love when a song about love or country comes on the radio.
New Theory: Many 3rd tier mainstream major label country stars are nothing more than musical dumping grounds for all the excess songwriting material left over at the tail end of a dying trend. That’s about the only explanation for the relentless onslaught of outdated and terrible material you’re exposed to on Randy Houser’s new album “Fired Up.”
Hypothetically, whether a given song is released to mainstream country radio as a single or not shouldn’t affect the listener’s judgement upon the song itself. And in many cases, it doesn’t. A song is a song, and it should be considered on its own merits. There are exceptions however, like when a song is exceptionally bad, like many of the country radio singles over the years from Luke Bryan.
As Bro-Country was on the rise, think pieces all across media questioned the sustainability of such shallow music. And it turns out they were right. Florida Georgia Line and others brought throngs of new fans into the country fold, but they weren’t there to stay. Listeners moved on to the next craze, and even when country’s footprint was growing, it wasn’t growing at such a clip that it could sustain all the festivals . . .
Believe it or not, there’s even a deep history for more lewd comedy that would happen in country music under the covers. Roy Acuff, the “King of Country Music” cut dirty songs when nobody was looking, and so did other early country legends, some under assumed names. These recordings were like the peep shows of music in the early days, passed around at beer parlors or in the back rooms of studios.
Ben Hoffman, Dave Cobb, David Allan Coe, Florida Georgia Line, Folk Uke, Grand Ole Opry, Roy Acuff, Shel Silverstein, Steven Tyler, Sturgill Simpson, The Beaumonts, Vince Gill, Ween, Wheller Walker Jr.
Chase was sure saying the right things, as are a lot of the Bro-Country acts who are now acknowledging the flight of interest in the bastardized style of country music. But words are cheap, and actions speak louder. And it didn’t take long for Chase to break his promise that his next album would be “all” about depth.
Purported country music “viral star” Kane Brown is now a major label artist. And if you thought your acid reflux got a workout when you watched Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt up on stage claiming to be country singers, Kane Brown is guaranteed to kick it up yet another notch. The lesson of Kane Brown is that you can cheat to get ahead, and you don’t have to pay any dues or prove yourself in the marketplace.
So what in the hell are well-versed country and Americana fans who finds themselves in stiff opposition to folks like Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt supposed to feel about ol’ Isbell sharing the stage with these turkeys? I’ll tell you what they should feel, they should shut up and be happy because it’s yet another sign that the good stuff is breaking through, and is getting its deserved due on Nashville’s biggest stages.
The country music Outlaw movement didn’t happen overnight either. It took years and years of gnawing away at the obtrusive oligarchy that had set up shop on Music Row to get to the point where many of the genre’s most prominent stars could call their own shots, and the music could finally open up to new ideas and fresh faces.
Billy Joe Shaver, Bobby Bare, Brandy Clark, Chris Stapleton, Dave Cobb, Florida Georgia Line, Hillbilly Central, Holly Williams, Jason Isbell, Jessi Colter, Jon Pardi, Kris Kristofferson, Luke Bryan, Merle Haggard, Miranda Lambert, Mo Pitney Williams Michael Morgan, Southern Family, Sturgill Simpson, Sugar Hill, Thirty Tigers, Tompall Glaser, Wanted The Outlaws, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Zac Brown