2014 was a year of great flux in country music. Where 2013 was dominated by public feuds and outcries by many country performers about the direction of the music, 2014 became the year things began to be done about many of the problems plaguing the genre. With Bro-Country as the battleground, the fight to return some balance to the country format began to make headway, and many of the initiatives launched in 2014, and many of the partnerships made and trends started may affect country music in profound ways in the coming years. Meanwhile 2014 was also a particularly violent year when it came to concerts and beyond, and saw the emergence and re-emergence of artists who will be very important to country music moving forward.
Following are the eleven biggest news stories of 2014. PLEASE NOTE: These are chosen and the order picked by two major factors 1) The importance of the story 2) The amount of traffic and interest in the story evidenced through analytical data on Saving Country Music, sometimes aggregated over multiple stories on the same subject if they exist.
Click on the orange, underlined fields to be taken to the specific stories.
#11 Legendary Artists Setting Records on Billboard’s Albums Charts
As artists whose fandoms represent one of the last bastions of the public that actually buy albums, legendary performers like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and even Billy Joe Shaver set records in 2014 on Billboard’s album charts. Unfortunately new chart rules will likely put a damper on the fun for 2015, but the year that past saw older artists receiving renewed recognition.
Willie Nelson’s Band of Brothers album became his first #1 in 28 years, and his highest showing ever on Billboard’s all genre Billboard 200 chart, coming in at #6. Dolly Parton’s May release Blue Smoke gave Dolly her first Top 10 on the Billboard 200 of her entire career when she came in at #6. She also charted at #2 on the Country Albums chart. Johnny Cash’s posthumous release of his lost album Out Among The Stars also saw surprising chart success, debuting at #1 in country, and #3 on the Billboard 200. And Billy Joe Shaver charted for the first time ever, with Long In The Tooth coming in at #19 on the Country Albums chart.
#10 The Wayne Mills Autopsy Report Released
The autopsy of slain country music artist Wayne Mills was released, revealing that the star was shot in the back of the head from a far range by bar owner Chris Ferrell, who is currently awaiting trial on 2nd degree murder charges. The autopsy revealed Wayne Mills had also sustained multiple injuries as part of the incident. Wayne’s 4th and 5th ribs were broken, and he had abrasions on his forehead, temple, scalp (unassociated with the gunshot), and contusions on his chest, arms, forearms, left thigh, and right knee.
The summary of the autopsy states,
Autopsy findings are significant for an entrance gunshot wound on the posterior parietal scalp with fragment exit and injury to scalp, skull, and brain. A bullet is recovered in association with this gunshot wound. Associated injuries include scalp, subdural, and subarachnoid hemorrhage, fractures to the right frontal and parietal bones, cortical and white matter contusions of the brain, and hemorrhage throughout the wound path. Other injuries include abrasions of the left side of the forehead, left temple, posterior occipital scalp, and abdomen, left-sided rib fractures, and contusions of the lateral chest, arms, forearms, left thigh, and right knee. Evidence of therapy and tissue procurement is noted.
The cause of death is a gunshot wound of the head, and the manner of death is homicide.
#9 A Drunk Toby Keith Blows Show in Indiana
On September 13th, Toby Keith made a tour stop at the Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana just outside of Indianapolis on his “Shut Up & Hold On” tour, and according to many of the concert goers, Toby was too drunk to perform, put on a terrible show, and some fans demanded their money back. A cavalcade of attendees took to Twitter and Facebook to complain about Toby Keith forgetting words, and generally stumbling through his performance.
Later video emerged of Toby Keith stumbling through a rendition of “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue.” Keith can be clearly heard heavily slurring his words and at times trailing off, until at the end of the line, “So we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our heads,” he descends into an inaudible garble, inspiring the videographer to exclaim, “Oh God!”. Toby Keith and his publicist refused to acknowledge the incident despite it becoming a big story on local Indianapolis news channels.
#8 Male Country Stars Come Out As Gay
Country star Ty Herndon—known for his handful of mid 90′s hits such as “What Mattered Most,” “I Want My Goodbye Back,” and “Living In A Moment”—came out as gay on November 20th, making him the first openly gay male country music star in the mainstream in the history of the genre. Herndon says one of the things that motivated him coming out was seeing Kacey Musgraves win the CMA Song of the Year for “Follow Your Arrow,” saying that he welled up in tears at the win. “I felt so proud of my city. I hope that trend continues; I pray it does.” Ty’s decision also motivated former child country star Billy Gilman to come out as gay in a five minute video.
However one of the most interesting narratives to come out of the coming out announcements was just how much of a non-story it was. Aside from being the lead story on Entertainment Tonight and touching off mild interest on the internet, the announcements seemed to come as a shock to very few, and didn’t stimulate the type of vitriol some expected from the traditionally conservative music format. It still take a more active and mainstream male country artists coming out while he was still commercially relevant to see if country has finally moved on from its perceived gay stigma.
It was also revealed in 2014 that Brandy Clark was gay, but she took a more subtle and respectful approach to the sensitive subject.
#7 New Hank Williams “I Saw The Light” Biopic Announced
It was big enough news that the long-awaited biopic covering the life of Hank Williams was coming, and that the producers were setting out to make it the definitive movie work on the Hillbilly Shakespeare based off of Colin Escott’s acclaimed biography, with fully-licensed rights to use the original music for the film from Sony ATV. But then as the cast began to be revealed, and specifically that British-born actor Tom Hiddleston would be the one portraying Hank, controversy brewed about the selection of a non-Southerner, especially with Hank’s grandson, Hank Williams III, who publicly criticized the casting.
Then when a video was released of Hiddleston singing some of the Hank Williams songs he’s expected to perform live in the film at a festival with mentor Rodney Crowell, the controversy started anew. Nonetheless, the movie rolled on, shooting in Shreveport, Louisiana beginning in late October and lasting for about six weeks. With a release date roughly scheduled for late 2015, and big expectations for the film as a potential Oscar contender, I Saw The Light might be one of the biggest news stories of 2015 as well.
#6 The Rise of Sturgill Simpson
The rise of Sturgill Simpson could be classified as meteoric, and his dramatic ascent in 2014—from being picked up by Zac Brown Band as an opener, to playing Letterman and The Tonight Show, to being put at the top on many end-of-year lists and receiving a Grammy nomination—is virtually unparalleled in the modern country music world for an independent artist. His 2014 album Metamodern Sound in Country Music has captured the imaginations of many, and given them hope about the future of the country genre. And maybe most importantly, Sturgill Simpson has made fans wonder where he might be headed in 2015 and beyond.
#5 The Return of Garth Brooks
When the best selling artist in country music ever, and the 3rd highest-selling artist of all time comes out of retirement after 15 years away, it is going to cause some reverberations, and that’s exactly what Garth Brooks did when he officially announced a new album and a world tour at a July 10th press conference in Nashville. But Garth’s return hasn’t been all triumphant and pretty. It started off with a debacle in Dublin, when five planned shows were cut down to three by local authorities, resulting in Garth Brooks canceling all of the scheduled performances for which an entire custom-made video presentation and stage setup had been procured and shipped to Ireland on 18 semi-trailers.
Subsequently the sales of Garth’s comeback album Man Against Machine started off fairly lackluster, though being the savvy marketeer Garth Brooks is, sales have stayed strong through the Christmas buying season and are beginning to accumulate into decent numbers. Meanwhile despite Garth’s first single “People Loving People” flopping on radio, he’s selling out live shows left and right, and regularly for multiple dates in the same location as people flock to take in the live Garth experience.
Garth’s return has not been without its setbacks and shortcomings, but his presence has still been felt strongly throughout the country music world, and he promises to remain an important figure in the genre moving forward.
#4 SCM Declares Florida Georgia Line’s Anything Goes the Worst Album Ever
Though maybe not a big “story” in the greater country music world, it was the most-read story on Saving Country Music in history, and by a wide margin, being liked and shared on Facebook over 75,000 times, tweeted nearly 700 times, receiving almost 500 comments, and being viewed nearly 500,000 times.
“Anything Goes can slay all comers when it comes to its heretofore unattainable degree of peerless suckitude. In a word, this album is bullshit. Never before has such a refined collection of strident clichés been concentrated in one insidious mass. Never before have the lyrics to an album evidenced such narrowcasted pseudo-mindless incoherent drivel. Never before have such disparate and diseased influences been married so haphazardly in a profound vacuum of taste, and never have all of these atrocities been platooned together to be proffered to the public without someone, anyone with any bit of conscience and in a position of power putting a stop to this poisoning of the listening public.
“Not to get all old man on your ass, but most of the time I don’t even understand what the hell these dudes are saying. Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard have their own language, partial to the most grammatically-challenged and stupefying vocabulary lurking in the dankest sewers of the English dialect, but not residing firmly in any specific one of them so no truly proper translation can be obtained. It’s like Pig Latin for douchewads—understood by them and them only. And only with the perfect deficiency of brain cells will their concoction of Ebonics, metrosexual douche speak, and stagnant gene pool rural jargon become anything resembling coherent to the human ear.”
#3 Violence, Arrests, Medical Issues, and Death at Country Music Concerts
The summer of 2014 at country music’s mainstream concerts became one big rolling narrative about fights, arrests, hospitalizations, rape, stabbings, and even two deaths, all which occurred in a few short months during the height of country’s outdoor concert season. It almost felt like the media was embellishing all the violence with the way each week was punctuated with a new headline. “55 People Were Arrested, and 22 Hospitalized” in what local authorities characterized as a “mass casualty” event at a Keith Urban concert in Massachusetts on July 26th. Once again an annual event in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field resulted in huge amounts of trash, as well as many arrests and hospitalizations, even though the event the previous year had drawn large amounts of negative media coverage for similar problems.
Three people were stabbed at We Fest in Minnesota, a woman was gang raped at Michigan’s Faster Horses Festival, a drunk driver ran over a police officer at a Jason Aldean concert in Hartford, and amongst a myriad of other disturbing reports at country concerts, a man was found dead in a dumpster after Jason Aldean’s Cleveland concert, thought to be the cause of over intoxication, and another man died at a Hank Jr. concert after he was shoved and his head hit the concrete, though it was later determined it was likely by accident and not foul play.
Meanwhile the artists were not immune from injury themselves. Luke Bryan had three stage falls in 2014, Garth Brooks had two, Tim McGraw violently slapped a woman who ripped off a portion of his jeans, and Dustin Lynch got hit in the face with a full can of beer. 2014 was eventful at country concerts to say the least, making many wonder if it is the depravity in the music leading to such behavior. Without question 2015 will be one to watch to see if the country concert issues improve, or worsen.
#2 NASH Icon & The Impending Country Radio Format Split
Who would have ever dreamed, even at the beginning of 2014, that we could be faced with a scenario where the radio format for country music would be splitting in two, and this action would see the return of many of the older names and songs so unceremoniously shuffled to the side in the mainstream format in recent years? Heretofore the trend has been for country music to become more young, and more current every year, shoving older artists and music aside, even when they continue to prove their commercial viability. Research from radio analysts had been telling country radio for years they were shooting themselves in the foot by abandoning more classic-sounding music, and finally in 2014, they began to listen.
Two huge entities, not traditionally considered friends of traditional country music in Cumulus Media and Big Machine Records, joined forces to launch NASH Icon—a new radio format that includes older country music alongside newer music, and a record label that is looking to add new life to the careers of forgotten artists. Meanwhile simply the idea of NASH Icon stimulated other radio stations to adopt a more “classic” country format. Garth-FM (later The Hawk) was launched, and so was Hank FM, and many other country stations oriented towards older country music, fueling speculation that the movement will eventually stimulate a split of the country format. Furthermore, the NASH Icon affiliate in Nashville is consistently beating its mainstream competitors, including Bobby Bones’ home of WSIX.
Now Cumulus is even planning to add a NASH Classics format. Though none of these stations might be the cup of tea for the most hardened of traditional country listeners, it is a step in the right direction, and breeding a renewed love in more classic-sounding country music we haven’t seen in years. The impending radio format split might very well be the biggest development in the effort to save country music in many years.
#1 The Rise and Fall of Bro-Country
2014 started off with so-called “Bro-Country” as all the rage in popular country music, and ended with Bro-Country still somewhat relevant, but heavily on the wane and declining to a whimper while an anti Bro-Country tune in the form of Maddie & Tae’s “Girl In A Country Song” shattered all manner of records by becoming a #1 hit on country radio.
In late September, Saving Country Music wrote an obituary for Bro-Country, saying in part,
“On Monday, September 22nd, the subset of American country music known to many by its nickname ‘Bro-Country,’ died at its home in Nashville, TN. It was three-years-old. Bro-Country is survived by its family and close friends, including Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, Cole Swindell, Chase Rice, Thomas Rhett, Dallas Davidson, and dozens of other lesser-known country music artists and songwriters. Though the specific cause of death has yet to be ruled on by the local medical examiner, preliminary findings appear to show that Bro-Country had been exhaustively over-utilized over the last few months and years until it finally passed away from overexposure. Bro-Country’s death is definitely being considered the result of ‘foul play.’”
Photo via Air Works
Spinal Tap, eat your heart out.
On Eric Church’s current arena tour, there’s been a special guest making a surprise appearance at each show—a giant multi-story inflatable devil that blows up and towers over the crowd with shimmering eyes and skin on fire. It is conjured during the rendition of Eric Church’s song “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Prince of Darkness)” off his recent album The Outsiders.
Nicknamed Lou C. Fer, the big blowup Satan was designed by a company called Air Works based in Amsterdam who specializes in “inflatables that don’t look like inflatables” and prefer you call their creations “air sculptures.” “LED lights make his burning eyes glow, and UV paint effects give him a fiery feel,” says the company about the particular air sculpture making an appearance on the Eric Church tour, but some are calling the air sculpture inappropriate for a country show, unethical as a symbol of Satan, while some feel it’s just downright tacky.
When Eric Church’s tour made a stop Saturday night (12-13) at Birmingham, Alabama’s BJCC Arena, one concert goer was not impressed by El Diablo making an appearance. “From one of the biggest music lovers: Eric Church, you have some great songs and I have been around since your ‘Workplay’ days, however your concert in Bham tonight was disheartening,” said Allyson Protho. “A ginormous Satan…. No thank you…Children were at that concert… That should be enough said right there.”
The Alabama resident echoes the concerns others have voiced about the appearance of Lou C. Fer over a string of recent concerts based on religious concerns, and about an artist who’s name dropped Jesus numerous times in his songs, including the hit “Like Jesus Does.” But others have a problem seeing a big Satan prop that smacks of the heavy metal world make an appearance at what is supposed to be a country music show.
Underscoring this point, an early 90′s episode of The Simpsons guest starring the fake metal band Spinal Tap featured the band worshiping a big inflatable Satan doll hovering over the stage. The scene was meant to illustrate how out-of-touch the band was by launching the menacing inflatable. Church’s deloyment of a massive Satan sculpture could also be compared to the now notorious moment Garth Brooks put on a harness and flew around Texas Stadium like Peter Pan. Though such theatrics might be welcomed in the rock world, they’ve been thought for decades as crossing a line in country, and even many of today’s country music mega concerts stop short of featuring such histrionics.
In fairness to Eric Church and Lou C. Fer, the devil in this instance isn’t being worshiped, he’s being offered up as a symbolic representation. Though hard to see in many of the pictures of the inflatable from concerts, the picture of the balloon outside in the daylight from Air Works clearly shows it’s wearing a “Nashville” belt buckle made of an upside down pentagram, symbolizing the greed and malfeasance of the country music business and Music Row. So unlike Spinal Tap, Eric Church isn’t attempting to prove how cool he is by allying himself with the Prince of Darkness, but putting himself in opposition to the evil country music scoundrels. This truth may not stave of a child’s nightmares who might attend one of these concerts and see the massive sculpture, but it definitely is a difference in representation.
However as has been pointed out about Eric Church before, it’s ironic that a man that works completely within the Music Row system, is signed to a major label, regularly performers and is honored at major country music award shows, has made millions of dollars within the mainstream system, and once called Taylor Swift a “dear friend” and collaborated with Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan recently, would attempt to pass himself off as an “Outsider,” or as the antithesis of the evilness of Nashville. One could make the case that Eric Church maintaining this stance is even more of a devilish maneuver than most of Music Row’s activities, and is simply an element of marketing. Other Nashville residents also may quarrel that the evils of mainstream country don’t blanket the entire city, and Eric Church’s should be more selective with his symbolism.
Most Eric Church fans in attendance seem to be impressed when the inflatable sculpture makes its appearance. After all, since they paid to get in, they’re more likely to sympathize with Church’s perspective on things. But just like Garth’s flight over Texas stadium, or Taylor Swift’s first CMA for Entertainer of the Year, or the time Ludacris rapped with Jason Aldean at the CMT Awards, Eric Chruch’s devil may symbolize not just Nashville’s evils, but yet another watershed move towards the erosion of what makes country music different from other genres.
Or maybe Eric Church is just carrying on the tradition of The Louvin Brothers.
Photo via Air Works.
Cody Johnson is country. There’s no denying that. But there’s a mantra around Saving Country Music which states that just because something is real country, doesn’t mean it is real good. Just as if something isn’t real country doesn’t mean it’s real bad. People tend to be fans of music first, and then their loyalties break towards certain genres. And even though most of the business conducted around here centers around country music, the underlying loyalty is to music with soul, not just a certain sound.
I’ve received more requests to comment on Cody Johnson’s music in 2014 than any other artist. Meanwhile my status of staying mum on him has caused some to question whether I actually care about country music, others to question the legitimacy of of flying the “Saving Country Music” banner, and still others have come out saying point blank Saving Country Music must be a fraud for not discussing the Texas singer. Most requests are punctuated with caps locked proclamations of how Cody Johnson is REAL country, which over the years has unfortunately become a marker for music that tries really hard to prove how country it is, while leaving things like taste and originality behind.
Cowboy Like Me is country, yes. This is a Texas artist who grew up in Huntsville and was home schooled and spent much of his time hunting, fishing, and singing at church. Cowboy Like Me utilizes as much or more fiddle and steel guitar as any album released in the last year or so, and Cody’s singing style features a sharp twang punctuating songs dyed in themes of country life.
Cowboy Like Me also features a lot of loud, Stratocaster-style cliché rock guitar, formulaic themes and movements, rising choruses indicative of commercial-oriented music looking for radio play, incessant references to how country Cody Johnson is no different than what can be found on the latest albums from Florida Georgia Line or Jason Aldean, and possibly most disappointing, what sounds like one of the most egregious deployments of Auto-Tune I’ve heard this side of George Strait’s final concert album.
All of this combines to make Cody Johnson and Cowboy Like Me a mixed bag at best, and not wanting to be the bearer of bad news or the one to break the heart of a Cody Johnson fan, I felt avoiding him, especially when there’s so much other music out there to talk about, was probably the best course of action. Because overall, Cody Johnson is not the enemy, he’s an ally. If I turn on my radio, I sure as hell would rather hear Cody Johnson coming out compared to whatever Music Row is peddling, or if I’m in a bar filled with music fans, I’m going to gravitate toward Cody Johnson fans way before the people in Florida Georgia Line T-shirts. But in the face of criticisms for remaining so quiet on this artist, here are my opinions, open and honest, be damned the popularity or reception of them.
I wonder if Dale Watson, Jason Eady, or even Marty Stuart would label Cody Johnson REAL country. When the most striking characteristic of your music is overdriven arena rock guitar and the Auto-Tune is so obvious, it leaves little that is REAL or country except for some of the buried instrumentation and the lyrics. Cowboy Like Me makes a headlong effort to prove how country it is, and for many ears, it worked. But if I had to label this music, I would call it commercial country: More country-sounding than Music Row material, yet still with many of the same sonic hooks and lyrical tropes indicative of the mainstream world.If you give a cowboy a truck on a Friday night He’ll pull a $100 bill from a coffee can Spray the mud off of them tires Drop $20 in the tank, save the rest for beer So all you girls in here need to know this
And as much as Cody Johnson fans like to paint him as the scrappy underdog independent artist who needs support from places like Saving Country Music, he’s won big endorsement deals from Bud Light, Wrangler, and other corporate sponsors. Hey, good for him. It’s great Cody has found a way to support himself with his music. But just like many elements of his sound, Cody Johnson’s independent status is not exactly what it’s sold to be.
One of the redeeming points for Cody’s music can be found in the writing of his songs. Where some of the bigger numbers not only feel quite cliché, they also feel very stuck in the mid to late 90′s as far as style—not modern enough to feel relevant to today, but not classic or traditional enough to appeal to that crowd either. Meanwhile some of the lyrical hooks and payoffs fall flat, like the line “Even My pain is hurtin’” from the song “Hurtin,’” as if this poor attempt at a double entendre is something to be considered “deep.” Nonetheless, songs like “Bottle It Up,” “Holes,” and even the opening numbers of “Dance Her Home” and “Me and My Kind” are decently-written songs, even if they do have that 90′s-era cheese as a character trait.
Some will vehemently deny that there’s any Auto-Tune on this album whatsoever, and even if this is true, the engineer on this project should still be fired from how ultra-polished and digitized Cody Johnson’s voice sounds on the finished product, whatever enhancements were employed during the mixing and mastering process. Please understand, I’m not criticizing Cody’s prowess as a vocalist whatsoever. By all accounts, whether fronting a band, or going out on stage with just an acoustic guitar, Cody Johnson can send hearts stirring with his voice. But during too many moments to list on this album, the sharp-edged mark left by audio enhancement drains any life in the performance or lyric, and really erodes any authenticity this project tries to convey. Some listeners won’t be able to hear the enhancement, but Cody’s first verse on “Me and My Kind” might be the most blaring example of Auto-Tune, or some other perfecting filter I’ve ever heard on a studio album.
Cowboy Like Me is too polished, too perfect, too pandering to radio to get too excited about as a vehicle to save country music. Should people be embarrassed for liking Cody Johnson or this album? Of course not, because in the end it is undoubtedly a better, healthier country music option than most of what Music Row is serving for dinner. But I would be lying if I said I thought Cowboy Like Me was a good album, or even REAL country.
1 Gun Up for some well-written songs ideas and some good country instrumentation.
1 Gun Down for all the rock guitar, cliché country lyrics and modes, and Auto-Tune.
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2014 has been a year of great flux in country music, with some legendary successes by independent artists and new mainstream artists, and the shuffling out of other artists and the fumbling of what once were legendary, high flying careers. Here’s a run down of the five biggest winners and losers in the greater country music world in 2014.
PLEASE NOTE: Calling someone either a “winner” or a “loser” in no way should be taken as a ringing endorsement or an absolute admonishment of any artist, organization, or the music they are a part of. It’s simply meant to illustrate the trends they’ve been a party to, and the decisions they have made in the last calendar year.
WINNER – Scott Borchetta
The only question now is what slows Scott Borchetta down? It’s his Music Row-based independent label that is responsible for the biggest blockbuster album not just released in 2014, but in the last decade plus in Taylor Swift’s 1989, and that doesn’t even delve into the rousing success of Brantley Gilbert, Florida Georgia Line, and lot of his other artists in his expanding empire which now accounts for five total imprints and a ridiculous roster of commercially-successful talent. Add on top his recent partnership with American Idol which will bring Borchetta out of the shadows to become a prominent figure in pop culture, and we may be looking at the most powerful man in the recording industry, if not now than in the coming years.
WINNER – Sturgill Simpson
What can be said about Sturgill Simpson that hasn’t already been said before? The man has been on an absolute tirade in 2014, defying all the odds for an independent artist. After releasing what has become one of the most universally critically-acclaimed albums in recently memory in Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Sturgill played Letterman and Conan, was picked up on the Zac Brown Band tour, won Emerging Artist of the Year from the Americana Music Association, and now has been nominated for a Grammy. On his current headlining club tour, he’s selling out every single night and causing incredible local buzz. His next tour will have to graduate to the theater level, and we may even she Sturgill on a major label moving ahead, whether he wants to or not, simply to accommodate the demand. He’s still many steps from being a household name or receiving mainstream radio play, but he’s captured the imaginations of many fans as an artist who can take the independent spirit to a mainstream-caliber level.
WINNER – Brandy Clark
The reason Brandy Clark’s ascent is even more spectacular and promising than Sturgill Simpson’s is because she’s doing it within the Music Row mainstream system. She’s now signed to a major label, and is being named as a nominee for major industry awards like Song of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA Awards, and Best Album at the Grammy Awards. What she doesn’t have as of yet that fellow songwriter and critical darling Kacey Musgraves has is a presence on mainstream country radio. But with a major label now behind any future projects, this becomes even more of a possibility. And wherever you stand on the contentious “gays in country” issue, you can’t help but give Clark credit for integrating the format in the most passive and respectful way. And even more promising is that you get the feel Brandy Clark has years of upside potential ahead of her in the industry.
WINNER – Brantley Gilbert
What has Brantley Gilbert done right in 2014? Why would this Bro-Country knucklehead be characterized as a “winner”? Because while you weren’t looking he quietly has amassed the most loyal fan base in mainstream country music this side of Carrie Underwood, and has the towering sales numbers to prove it in an environment where such sales numbers were thought to be in the past for a second-tier country star. Brantley’s Just As I Am has sold over 640,000 copies. That’s more than the recent albums from Florida Georgia Line and Blake Shelton combined, or more than the albums of Keith Urban and Brad Paisley combined. Gilbert has sold nearly twice as many albums as Florida Georgia Line’s Anything Goes, 3x the amount of Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley’s recent releases, and 4x the amount of Brad Paisley’s. Many gave sideways glances at their televisions when Brantley Gilbert was given the American Music Award for “Favorite Country Album,” but by definition, it was deserved. Brantley is the mainstream star with grassroots support, and with that kind of structure, he’s become country music’s great underrated commercial powerhouse.
WINNER – Sam Hunt
In an industry where launching a female artist seems nearly impossible these days, country music’s rising male talent faces the opposite problem of an overcrowded field at the top. But songwriter Sam Hunt, who decided to saddle up with Shane McAnally and attempt to become country music’s EDM superstar has done just that with the mega single “Leave The Night On” and surprising sales for his debut album Montevallo. Where another, more-established country artist in Jerrod Niemann attempted to go EDM with and have a very successful #1 single in “Drink To That All Night” to back it up, Niemann still only garnered album sales of 14,000 for his latest release. Meanwhile Sam Hunt saw a debut week of 70,000 sales, and subsequently has seen strong reception for his country/EDM concept, including surprisingly from many critics. A charmer who can actually speak well for himself who hit on an idea that however vomit-inducing for country music’s traditional listeners has resonated with the wider public, Sam Hunt has revealed himself right out of the gate as a long-haul country star we’ll be hearing about for years, like it or not.
LOSER – Garth Brooks
Without question Garth Brooks has proved his touring muscle did not atrophy one bit during his nearly 15-year retirement. But what was supposed to be the biggest comeback in country music history has fallen completely flat in regards to album sales, radio play, and overall cultural impact. The selection of singles and the rollout of Garth’s new album was critical, and the momentum and intrigue surrounding his comeback couldn’t have been fumbled any more, resulting in sort of a “ho hum” reception from consumers. He can still sell out five consecutive concert dates in 30 minutes, but without any radio support for his new music, and his insistence on attempting to create his own trends instead of catering to the new era of media, he’s put himself at a distinct disadvantage. Take out the touring success, and right now it is “Machine” one – “Man” zero.
LOSER – Jerrod Niemann
If you want a cautionary tale of what not to do with your country music career, look no further than this once critically-lauded artist who decided to go all techno and appears to be paying the price for his country music transgressions. When the EDM-landen single “Drink To That All Night” was cresting #1 on country radio’s Airplay Chart on its way to certified platinum status, it was all high fives in the Niemann camp. But since the release of the second single from his latest album High Noon called “Donkey,” Niemann has been hard to find. Where “Drink To That All Night” apparently walked right up to the line and titillated the country music public enough to become successful, “Donkey” crossed over it, and now the question is if Jerrod Niemann will ever be able to recover. His latest dreckish single “Buzz Back Girl” doesn’t appear to be making any buzz at all, stalling at #35 on Country Airplay. All the attention for “Drink To That All Night,” and the album High Noon only sold 14,000 copies upon its release. Those are Sturgill Simpson-like numbers with no major label, no name recognition, and no radio play. Subsequently High Noon has only sold around 60,000 copies at last count. Meanwhile the high-production video for “Donkey” apparently showing Niemann awe-struck by the size of his own genitals remains on the shelf.
LOSER – Blake Shelton
Forget that NBC’s The Voice most prominent judge has won the CMA Award for Male Vocalist of the Year for now five years straight, there has never been an artist who has been so quizzically ensconced as the face of the genre who has delivered so little in regards to commercial or critical success, or cultural impact. Shelton’s 2014 album Bringing Back The Sunshine might go down as the biggest dud of the year. As of this moment, it has only sold just shy of 208,000 copies. Compare this with Brantley Gilbert, who has never even been nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year, and has sold upwards of 640,000 copies of his latest release. And because of his commitments to The Voice, Blake Shelton’s touring revenue is also paltry compared to his peers. At this point, Blake Shelton is more famous for being famous, not for country music.
LOSER – The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA)
Bluegrass. Sweet, wholesome bluegrass. One of the most inspiring, inclusive, sustainable scenes in not just country, but in the greater music world, with festivals, children’s workshops, prestigious awards, and worldwide appreciation for the artform. But somehow in 2014, this environment of togetherness and organization has been shattered by unbelievable turmoil in the IBMA’s Board of Directors. The not-for-profit first showed signs of problems when the board gave their Executive Director Nancy Cardwell a vote of “NO Confidence” and moved to replace her the very week after what appeared on the outside to be a very successful 2014 IBMA Awards and World of Bluegrass gathering in Raleigh, North Carolina in October. Now there has been multiple resignations from the Board, many open letters back and forth to and from IBMA members as the drama that can fester in a music “scene” emerges for all the public to see in all of its confusing ugliness.
Bluegrass, and even the IBMA will be fine in the long-term, and maybe there were some systemic issues that needed to be addressed in the recent and ongoing turmoil. But from of all places, the bluegrass world gave us an example of what can happen when behind-the-scenes drama overrides the passion for the music.
LOSER – Brad Paisley
Every artist faces that moment where their commercial relevancy begins to slip through their fingers, and 2014 was that year for Brad Paisley, and in a big way. Earlier in the year saw Paisley touring around with no name for his tour, no designs on the sides of his buses and semi’s, in a symbolic marker of his lack of direction in his undeniably-successful, but twilighting career. He came out of the gate with his new album Moonshine in the Trunk already complaining that of all things, the flack he received for the song “Accidental Racist” had somehow torpedoed his career, and the sense of bitterness from what is supposed to be mainstream country’s happy go luck superstar tarnished the sentiment of a man that won the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year just four short years ago. Sales for Moonshine In The Truck have been abominable for an established, mainstream star, coming in at 107,000 at last count. Every artist faces the eventual fall from prominence, but Brad Paisley’s has been especially precipitous.
The downward spiral for mainstream country music continues as evidenced by the following list of some of the most horrible offerings of 2014, though it is interesting to note that many of 2014′s “Worst Songs” selections were released in the first half of the year, and some even in late 2013 but did not rise into the greater consciousness until the change in the calendar. The second half of the year has been pretty light in bad songs, so maybe we are seeing a changing of the tide. Nonetheless, with how terrible these selections are, you could consider this not only the worst songs of 2014, but arguably a list of the majority of the worst songs in the history of country music.
To qualify for this list, the song had to be released as a single. And with such a crowded field, only the worst of the worst were selected. Feel free to share your most vilified songs of 2014 below.
PLEASE NOTE: As Saving Country Music has threatened many times (and then reneged on), the era of “rants” is coming to an end, unless something is so egregious there is no other way to address it. That doesn’t mean there won’t be spirited and pointed (& sarcastic) criticism where it’s called for, but we will proceed in the future under the philosophy that an opinion is more convincing when it is explained to someone instead of screamed at them. So cherish this style of rhetoric while you can.
Brantley Gilbert – “Bottom’s Up”
“In this the season of giving, can we all at least come together as one, regardless of sex, race, orientation, creed, religious, political or social status, or cultural background, and swallow our collective differences, hold hands in the common bond of humanity in a rising chorus of hosannas, and all universally decree that Brantley Gilbert is the biggest douche ass to ever suck air on planet Earth?
“Such a gift from heaven it has been to not have Brantley terrorizing us with new music for a good long while. But apparently Brantley was just resting up, refining his putrid exploration into the very innermost reaches of human vanity and self-ingratiation to then unleash upon his trashy fans with the sweet residue of methamphetamine glistening on the edges of their inflamed nostrils, the purest form of raging narcissism ever witnessed in Western Civilization in the construct of his new diarrhetic single ‘Bottoms Up,’ and it’s accompanying video.
“At one point in the video, three women are surrounding Brantley, rubbing their hands all over him. But these girls aren’t copping a feel, their feverishly searching for Brantley’s beleaguered genitals that have taken the form of two acorns flanking a Vienna sausage that then fled up into his abdomen like a rodent scampering into its hole—the result of a tireless regimen of prolonged steroid abuse; hence the nonstop, headlong pursuit of this song and video to compensate and dramatically oversell Brantley’s manly prowess and masculine superiority.” (read full rant)
Cole Swindell – “Chillin’ It”
“Cole Swindell is the most not-having-any-bit-of-soul-or-culture human being I think I have ever observed on God’s whole creation. He’s the human equivalent of a piece of bleached white bread with the crust cut off, served with a glass of room temperature tap water. He’s more milk toast than Caspar, and more boring than a bowl of vanilla. It’s like a thermonuclear holocaust of culture and personality-scrubbing destruction swept over Cole Swindell while he was swimming in the very fissile material of the root detonation agent, leaving a man that is so vacant of anything interesting or distinguishable that he is the utmost purified and scientifically-verifiable essence of Miriam Webster’s unabridged definition of ‘generic’ that could ever be procured as an example or proffered as evidence.
“’Chillin’ It’, just like Cole Swindell himself, is the refined, filtered, and homogenized version of something that was rapaciously trite and disappointing to being with. The first thing that pops in your head when hearing ‘Chillin’ It’ is that it’s pretty blatantly Florida Georgia Line’s ‘Cruise’ version 2.0. Except somehow, inexplicably, Swindell discovered how to do them even one worse by engineering something so aggressively vapid that labeling the song ‘bad’ even seems to bestow this spiritless, prosaic waste of effort with more personality and distinction than it actually contains or deserves.” (read full rant)
NOTE: Was released officially in 2013, but didn’t rise to prominence and become a multi-week #1 until March of 2014.
Tim McGraw – “Lookin’ For That Girl“
“Apparently the once high-flying country star has been inadvertently inoculating himself with inebriating bronzer agents from his incessant chemical tan treatments that have now seeped into his blood stream. And combined with an undiagnosed eating disorder that has rendered McGraw’s figure to that of a 55-year-old Venice beach female body builder succumbing to a lifetime of melanoma, Tim has robbed precious nutrients from his gray matter, stupefying him into such an absolute scientifically-infallible vacuum and void of self-awareness that physicists want to employ it to see if it is the ultimate key to tabletop fusion. ‘Lookin’ For That Girl’ isn’t a cry for relevancy, it is a barbaric yawp, a banshee scream, a cacophonous ode to the onset of monoculture and wholesale mediocrity.
“The icing on this urine-drenched urinal cake topped with cigarette butts, spent gum, and used inside-out prophylactics oozing their venereal slurry out on the diarrhea-infested floor is the fact that through the entire drum machine-driven song Tim McGraw is singing through an Auto-tune filter turned to 11. T-Pain, eat your top hat-wearing heart out. I’ve been saying for years now that Tim McGraw is more machine than man, but not even I could have predicted this unmitigated rejection and headlong flight from anything analog or authentic. Hell, why do we even need a human to sing this fucking song? We should just have one of those iRobot floor cleaners sing it. At least that way it would be on hand to swab up the hurl this monstrosity will invariably evoke from enlightened music listener’s disgruntled guts. And like an iRobot incidentally, ‘Lookin’ For That Girl’ will also freak the everliving shit out of your dog.” (read full rant)
Jason Aldean – “Burnin’ It Down”
“‘Burnin’ It Down’ is a Casiotone piece of impersonal electronic awfulness in which any sign of true human inspiration or involvement has been so antiseptically replaced in lieu of animatronic tones and absolutist perfectitudes, the term ‘soul’ has been completely and forever banished from being associated with this robotic piece of misanthropic pap. This isn’t a song, this is some guy with a MacBook Pro creating an electronic sound bed to send over to Aldean’s studio so he can overlay his Auto-tune’d vocals and call it good. As Tom Petty would say, ‘You put your name on it, but you didn’t do that.’ Even the guitar tones have been been so exhaustively massaged by 1′s and 0′s they sound like the warning signals emitted from a Star Wars protocol droid right before it explosively self-destructs. A kitten aimlessly careening across a Korg keyboard in a catnip stupor could make a more compelling composition than this.
“Sorry Jason Aldean, but this song isn’t sexy, it’s creepy. They should exhume Barry White and make it the sole goal of the international scientific community to revive him for the exclusive purpose of kicking Jason Aldean’s ass for this song. What does Aldean know about sexy time anyhow? Aldean ain’t got the moves like Jagger, he’s got the moves like Grimmace. Mating couples won’t find “Burnin’ It Down” sexy unless they get equally horny for the annual return of the McRib. This song is a awkward as a hard on in a Speedo. ‘Burnin’ It Down’ isn’t for intimate couples, it’s for lonely women to get all lubed up with in anticipation of an intimate encounter with Clyde the battery-powered hammerer.
“The best part of this song ran down Aldean’s pasty inner thigh and ended up as an embarrassing stain on his $700 sheets. He should have worn a rubber instead of inseminating our ear holes with this public health audio pandemic. No, that burning you feel in your genitals isn’t from erotic allure, it’s because this song is the audio equivalent of a pussing venereal onslaught.” (read full roast)
Florida Georgia Line (w/ Luke Bryan) – “This Is How We Roll”
“Like one of those stationary rides in the front of Wal-Mart for toddlers, ‘This Is How We Roll’ makes a lot of noise, has a bunch of flashing lights, bumps up and down a little bit, but in the end, goes absolutely fucking nowhere. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers soundtrack has more sincerity, depth, and nutritional value than this explosion of diarrhea in country music’s bikini cut man briefs.
“An environment of sexual perversion and sheer stupidity permeates ‘This Is How We Roll’ and its respective video from stem to stern, including a scene near the start of the video with a dollop of hussies having consensual sex with a Kenworth. I sure hope these chicks have their Tetanus records in order. And then of course we have Tweedledee and Tweedledum from Florida Georgia Line riding on top of the semi like Teen Wolf, with the same display of doltishness and disconnect with self-awareness many mid 80′s movies like Teen Wolf were horrifically beset with.” (read full rant)
Jake Owen – “Beachin’”
“What’s going on here folks is now that Kenny Chesney has been put out to pasture by the country music powers that be, somebody has to step up and fill the void for swaying, stupid, sand between the toes sonnets of suburban escapism for 40-something women with skin Cancer on their shoulders to hold their Corona Lights high in the air to and scream ‘Whoooo!’ while breathing in the smoke of their Home Depot citronella tiki torches … Now Jake Owen and others are stepping up to fill this void of what apparently is a must-have staple of the American country music radio dial.
“As much as hearing even the opening stanza of a corporate country beach song can make a distinguishing music listener pucker harder than trying to down a cheap Mexican beer without lime or salt, Jake Owen and ‘Beachin’’ makes this exercise even more excruciating by featuring him rapping, yes, rapping the verses … yo yo. And to this end, Owen delivers what has to be the worst white boy rap performance that has ever been proffered to human beings for public consumption that isn’t meant to be taken as ironic. I guess his voice is supposed to be all low and sexy, but the ultra-monotone and lifeless pitch makes Charlie Brown’s teacher sound like Loretta Lynn. Is the term ‘Beachin’’ supposed to be a lyrical hook that delivers some sort of payoff? Because it’s about as unfulfilling as Daytona Beach when you’re dreaming of Cancún.” (read full semi rant)
Maggie Rose – “Girl In Your Truck Song”
“I think we have just unearthed the biggest cultural abomination that has ever been classified as “country” music in its 70 year existence. No, I’m not talking bad, awful, terrible, or any other such adjectives. Even those words would seem to instill this embarrassment with a dollop of undeserved respect. Truth be known, there are songs that officially sound worse than this one out there for sure, or that are more stupid either purposefully or inadvertently. But the degree of slavitude and cultural backsliding celebrated and edified in this song is as abhorrent as it is alarmingly calamitous, and hovers only very slightly, and uncomfortably so, above genuine calls of gender downgrading and the erosion of sexual equality in American society, bordering on downright pleas for date rape. I pray that I have the strength to steady my hands enough to coherently compose just how angry this song makes me.
“From the heartfelt yet respectful concerns of some for how young women were being portrayed in country songs, to downright calls of sexism being perpetrated in country music from the ‘Bro-Country’ takedown of the genre, sincere worry was already being transmitted from many sectors about female’s devolving role in the country music format. Now this alarming trend takes a gigantic leap forward (or backward, as it were), as a young woman voluntarily puts herself directly in the path of the misogynistic and materialistic locomotive that is modern day country music by pleading with her overbearing beau captor to allow her to become the subordinate piece of meat that is portrayed in all the worst hits of the ‘Bro-Country’ era…As one studious observer on Twitter pointed out to me, women in country music have now become so marginalized, Stockholm Syndrome has set in. When Rolling Stone Country talked to Maggie Rose about this song, she said, ‘There are females embracing that role that all these men are writing about.’” (read full rant)
Florida Georgia Line – “Sun Daze”
“At this point, Florida Georgia Line has settled quite nicely into being the great American sedative of our generation. Just as producer Joey Moi did with Nickelback before them, this music affords a vacation from self-reflection or truly beneficial thought. ISIS is beheading people in the Middle East and engaging in horrific genocide, the economic disparity between social classes continues to increase and has never been more pronounced. But that’s okay, you can put on the latest Florida Georgia Line single and all the girls are hot, all the guys get laid, and libations and narcotics are at your beck and call. This is the type of vacationary audio lubrication that keeps the engine of corporate America purring along just fine. Don’t get down; get high and buy shit.
“’Sun Daze’ is a reversion back to the stupid-ass beach bum singalongs—aka the same garbage Bro-Country replaced. Hell, ‘Bacardi’ and ‘flip flops’ are much easier to find things to rhyme with than ‘tailgate.’ Screw that we’re actually heading into the Winter, it’s always sunny in shitty country music la la land. (read full semi-rant)
Jerrod Niemann – “Donkey”
“‘Donkey’ is an uprovocated ass raping of the ears, and if any Niemannites come here preaching to me the virtues of this song because ‘country music must evolve,’ I will personally take a pair of donkey balls and use them to tea bag each and every one of their bedroom pillows when they’re not looking. “Donkey” isn’t just bad, it defines the catastrophic trainwrecking of the entire human evolutionary timeline. 800,000 years of homo sapien progress brought to a screeching halt because one pudgy douchebag wants an arena-sized “country” career before his pubes turn gray. “Donkey” is a harbinger for a dark age for arts, entertainment, and intelligence that humankind is on the precipice of plummeting headlong into.
“The worst song ever? I’m tired to doling out this distinction only to have to offer a revision every six weeks when some other pop country asshole finds a new gradient for rock bottom, but Jerrod Niemann’s EDM-encrusted, braying ass certainly deserves to be in the discussion for that most disgraceful of honors.” (read full rant)
- Billy Ray Cyrus – “Achy Breaky 2″ (disqualified for being released simply for shock value)
- Sam Hunt – “Leave The Night On” (not as much bad as incorrectly filed in country)
- Cole Swindell – “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight” (read review)
- Chase Rice – “Ready, Set, Roll” (still deserves a proper rant)
Defendants of the adverse trends corrupting mainstream country music will give you many reasons why the trends aren’t really adverse at all, including that if you don’t like the music, you should simply exercise your right to not listen, and that the music isn’t necessarily affecting behavior so in the end it’s harmless. But part of the problem with popular country music these days is that it is so effusive throughout society. You turn on a college football game or watch a wrestling broadcast, and there Florida Georgia Line is singing the intro or taking you into a commercial break. Country is now the most popular genre of American music, meaning it’s being piped into grocery stores, being played at schools, and is ever-present in cars being driven by moms and dads all across the country as their kids sit in the back seat soaking it all up and singing along to catchy songs with simplistic rhythms and repetitive themes perfect for getting stuck in the heads of youngsters.
Compounding the problem is that just a few short years ago, country was one of the safest places on the radio dial for parents with small kids in the car. Think about the “soccer mom” effect that country music was cultivating in the late oughts, when artists like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Rascal Flatts were dominating the country airwaves. Country radio was full of fluffy pop country songs that parents could feel fine, if not proud of playing in front of their kids compared to the filth pervading Top 40 radio at the time.
Now the entire radio field has been reversed, even though parent’s presets may still be on the country station. Country is where the perverse sentiments of popular culture have come to roost, and the endless droning in songs about drinking, drug use, materialism, and misogynistic views towards women are nearly required to get your music at the top of the country charts. It’s been theorized by Saving Country Music that part of the reason for this trend is a backlash from the mid-00′s when the rising sentiment became that country music was becoming woosified. That’s when you had artists like Eric Church, Jason Aldean, and then later Brantley Gilbert and Florida Georgia Line beginning their ascent, purposely focusing on many non family-friendly themes and constantly trying to prove how country they were in their lyrics.
However we got here, country music is now a haven for filth on the radio, easily giving pop and even hip-hop stations a run for their money. And as mom and dad find their own personal preference on the country station, the themes in the music get incessantly pumped into the young skulls riding in booster chairs and holding sippy cups in the back seat. It’s not that drinking themes haven’t always been present in country—you could argue they’re one of the foundations of the genre. It’s more about who they’re being played to and in front of, and how these themes are being portrayed (glamorous instead of cautionary). Even if you choose to avoid the music yourself, you can’t help but worry how it is affecting society as a whole when so many young people are being subjected to this music.
This was illustrated just about perfectly on Friday (11-21) by CBS Evening News reporter Steve Hartman when he took a deeper look into how his two young kids were computing the lyrics of country songs in their developing brains as they sat and listened to popular country music in the family motor carriage.
Steve Hartman’s conclusion? “I’ve got some sobering news — Nashville is alcohol-poisoning the minds of our young people,” he says in his report.
Hartman goes on to illustrate just how deeply popular country’s drinking themes have burrowed into his two son’s brains as they recite titles and lyrics to popular country songs effortlessly. Hartman turns his blame to Kix Brooks, the host of the syndicated American Country Countdown, where apparently the majority of the Hartman kids’ exposure to popular country music comes from as they listen to the weekly show on the way to swimming lessons. So papa Hartman took the kids to Kix Brooks’ studio and asked the man himself what he thought about the trend of drinking songs in country, and Kix initially drew a blank, illustrating the sort of “deer in headlights” moment many parents feel when faced with the reality that what their kids are listening to might affect them adversely in the future.
Reporter Steve Hartman did a good job of explaining how kids listening to popular country songs can be a good teaching opportunity for parents to explain the ideas behind responsible drinking, etc., but it may be a little too much to expect this from most busy parents who listen to popular country song’s party themes as their own form of escapism. And as Hartman says, these lessons were something he was hoping to avoid until “after 1st grade.”
And Steve Hartman can’t be painted as some modern country hater or alarmist. After all, he was voluntarily listening to the American Country Countdown himself, and many in the industry, including Big Machine Label Group CEO Scott Borchetta have seen their own dilemma with so many drinking songs, saying in December of 2013, “Everybody in Nashville must be drinking 24-7. We’re a bunch of drunks down here. There’s too much, to be honest with you. We can’t keep talking about Fireball and Coors Light and having the tailgate down, etc.”
Of course all of this is anecdotal. There’s no direct data corroborating that five-year-old’s are hitting the sauce too early because they listened to Little Big Town’s “Day Drinking.” But it does illustrate how when people show concern for the themes of country songs, even if they’re not inclined to listen themselves, they’re concerned that it could be having adverse effects on society as a whole. Like teachers in a madras, with a lack of variety, these popular country songs drive home the same themes over and over until it can be recited effortlessly by impressionable minds. It also make one wonder if the underlying reason is to make young consumers for country’s principal advertisers, like the Joe Camel effect of 2014.
Hartman’s report only deals with the drinking aspect of popular country songs, but really you could do a similar experiment dealing with sexual themes, possibly with very young female listeners. This all doesn’t mean these songs are patently evil. Music made for adults who (hypothetically) have the ability to rationalize what they’re listening to and not let it affect them adversely is fine. But just like drinking itself, the music should be consumed by an age-appropriate audience, and as with all things, in moderation. However mainstream country at the moment is on the drinking song binge of its life, even if the substance of the songs is slowly improving, and the question remains if it’s having an effect on the behavior of listeners, or if it will shape the behavior of listeners in the future.
On Monday, November 17th when Garth Brooks appeared on Access Hollywood promoting his upcoming tour dates and the release of his new album Man Against Machine, he was pretty loose lipped about his hatred for certain elements of music technology, and how it has taken a lot of the power out of the hands of artists. This philosophy is what is behind the country singer refusing to release his music to iTunes and streaming services, and is the theme behind his “Man Against Machine” album title and opening track. Brooks has set up his own iTunes rival called GhostTunes which allows artists to sell their music however they want, including as whole albums or in bundle packages.
When Garth was asked what he thought about Taylor Swift’s public feud with Spotify, he responded,
I think a lot of people are going to start following. (If) music starts standing up for itself, it’s going to get a lot better. And you know guys, there’s some big friends of ours in music that we need to stand up to to. I mean, if iTunes is going to tell you how to sell your stuff, and it’s only going to go this way, don’t forget who’s creating the music and who should be doing the stuff. And I’m telling you, the devil? Nice people…YouTube. Oh my gosh. They claim they’re paying people a lot, but they’re not paying anything either. And people get millions and millions and millions of views and they don’t get squat. Trust me, songwriters are hurting, so I applaud Ms. Taylor, I applaud everyone for standing up for the songwriters because without them music is nothing.
Garth then talked about a meeting he had with YouTube where he tried to persuade them to completely remove anything having to do with him from the format. None of Garth’s music or videos can be found on the video giant, but live videos from concerts, etc. have made it on the service from his recent concert appearances.
You can’t get out of it. I had a sweet meeting with them. They were all fired up. They were the sweetest, and they’re all like twelve. They’re the sweetest kids. So young. And so I got the first question, “How do you get out?” And silence. You don’t. You don’t get out. Thanks for our wonderful someone judging on this one on the government. But yeah, it’s totally backward right now. But music, if the artists will just keep hammering away, unify, stick together, then music will become the king again, which is where it should be. Music should always be first.
YouTube has just launched its own subscription service to rival Spotify and other streamers, after a prolonged period of trying to negotiate for music rights from organizations representing independent artists and other publishers.
Whether it’s ultimately successful for Garth Brooks or not, he appears to be bound and determined to do music his way and fight against the current in the way technology is serving music to the public. But with Taylor Swift, and now Jason Aldean and Justin Moore pulling music from Spotify, Garth Brooks is no longer alone, and country is the genre emerging as the one leading the charge.
Have you ever wondered who actually listens to those awful songs they play on pop country radio? Here are the six primary Archetypes, or as Music Row refers to them, the “target demographics” that make up the audience of the pop country world.
PLEASE NOTE: This is a revised version of the original 6 Pop Country Archetypes published in 2011. The new version takes into consideration country music’s changing demographics. Basically, pop country has become even more of a bastion for sexism and troglodytes.
The Objectified Pop Country Girl
She thinks being condescended by country’s hot young Bro-Country stars is sexy. She used to like female country artists like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, but now she is mostly obsessed with male singers, and bases who her favorite acts are at any given time strictly off of who is the hottest. Shirt tied in the front, daisy dukes, boots, bronzer, blonde or heavily-highlighted hair under a cheap Panama Jack straw cowboy hat, she’s an automaton of patriarchal rule wanting to present herself as the perfect country girl to be talked down to just like the ones portrayed in Bro-Country songs. Technologically inept and “so totally going” to every mainstream country concert that comes through town, she is the economic catalyst still keeping corporate country alive by buying deluxe edition CD’s and $350.00 front row tickets on the secondary market. She lives to put her hands in the air and scream when the band tells her to. She won’t dance with you at the honky tonk, but as soon as the DJ starts playing hip-hop, she’s out with her seven friends in the center of the dance floor, twerking and taking selfies. Her face is buried in her phone.
Tight spandex-blended T-shirt, designer jeans, backwards baseball cap, and a Medusa of wallet chains clanking from his waist, he’s the bullseye of Music Row’s target demographic. Those rips in his jeans didn’t come from running barbed wire, but a 70-year-old Laotian woman working at an Armani factory making .36 cents an hour. On UFC stats and Florida Georgia Line lyrics, he’s a expert. He shaves his testicles so his panty-cut underwear won’t chafe, and he treats women like objects. He likes to listen to laundry list country songs about dirt roads and pickup trucks, but his idea of “roughing it” is not dousing himself in Axe body spray before hitting his suburb’s corporate country bar. Don’t mess with him or his frat buddies or they’ll call you a fag right before vomiting in the bushes. He wants to show you his tribal tattoos.
Morbidly obese, woefully unemployed, and draped in whatever his local Wal-Mart stocks in XXXL, he thinks he’s a gangster, but instead he’s just an overweight loser land locked in a small town in America’s breadbasket. If you don’t like Big Smo or Bubba Sparxxx, you’re clearly a dumb, city-dwelling Yankee liberal who drives a Prius and doesn’t get what it’s like down in the South. He got a title loan on his 1994 Grand Am so he could get a tattoo of an alien smoking a joint on his neck. He would move to a bigger city, but he doesn’t have the gas money to even make it to the county seat, and besides, the real gangsters would kick his ass within five minutes. He likes to snort Dr. Scholls foot powder and pretend it’s cocaine because he can’t afford meth. He knows a guy in LA that he sent his demo to, and once he hits it big, he’s getting the hell out of this town. He knocked up some girl that works at Dairy Queen just so he could bitch to his friends about his “baby mama drama.” His problems are everyone else’s fault.
The Red-Blooded ‘Merican
He can’t wait for Armageddon to come so he can start mowing down Muslims unilaterally with his stockpile of guns and ammunition hoarded before the Obama Administration makes all guns illegal and enacts Sharia Law. You’re damn right he likes Toby Keith, and only REAL country like Justin Moore and Jason Aldean. Any opinion that is in opposition to his will be spun into an insult to American troops in combat. He swears he knew the Dixie Chicks were commies way before everyone else did, but he had the plump one sign his Stetson in Sharpie in 2001 (he keeps it hidden in the bottom shelf of his gun safe). He’ll shoot at you if any portion of your tire touches his property line when you’re making a U-turn out on the highway, and if you’re one of them towel-heads, he’ll shoot to kill. He thinks Garth-era printed button up collared shirts are still hip.
The Adult Contemporary Divorcee
Three grown kids, thrice divorced, she’ll elbow a legion of glitter-faced pop country girls out of her way to get eye level with Luke Bryan’s crotch as he does “The Move” on the edge of the concert runway, hoping he waxes out yet again and her ample bosom pads his gorgeous fall. Fueled by boxed wine and Lean Cuisine, the older men of mainstream country such as Tim McGraw and Keith Urban make up the cast of her sultry romance novel-style fantasies that she lives out during elongated bubble baths and bunkerings in her queen-sized bed with bon bons and ice cream pints. Celebrity gossip that surrounds her favorite country stars fuels her obsession, especially stories of heartfelt Cancer deeds and kindness towards animals, reinforcing her misguided view that these artists are altruistic heroes as opposed to plastic personas making calculated publicity stunts. She obsessively posts pictures of her cats/dogs on social media and lives in a mess of animal hair.
The Windshield Cowboy
Always sporting a brand spanking new F-250 truck or bigger, he needs this heavy equipment as a middle management quality control paper pusher in a cubicle farm located in white flight Suburbia. He listens to songs about dirt roads, but’ll be damned if he takes his baby off the blacktop and gets a brush scratch in the paint. Similar politics and mindset to The Red Blooded ‘Merican, but instead of spending his weekends target practicing, he’s towing his bass boat, ATV’s, jet skis, or other recreational vehicles to the lake. Similar to the The Wallet Chain Douchewad, his material objects mean everything to him. He believes owning a truck is a validation of manhood, and whoever is in that rice burner in front of him is ignorant and weak and better get the hell out of his way. He’d like you to think he owns a ranch, but a rancher’s wage wouldn’t even pay his truck’s interest. No, he cannot use his truck to help you move next weekend, he has to wash his truck. He likes songs about trucks.
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Turnabout is fair play, so a revised version of The 6 “Other” Country Archetypes is on the way.
As said by Saving Country Music in the review for Taylor Swift’s new 1989 album, “It is the most relevant, most important album released in country music in the entirety of 2014, let alone in music overall…even though it’s not country….Thinking otherwise is vanity, and ill-informed.” Now we are seeing this play out as a host of country artists have pulled their newest albums from Spotify, following Taylor Swift’s lead of leaving the streaming giant, and making country music the genre leading the Spotify exodus.
Taylor Swift’s 1989 was never released to Spotify, and this is being given credit by many in the industry for Swift putting together the best sales week for any album since 2002—in a rapidly-depreciating sales environment mind you. Now her former country music bunk mates are following suit.
On Monday, Jason Aldean pulled his latest record Old Boots, New Dirt from Spotify—a big loss for the company from one of country’s biggest stars, and one who has set streaming records. Old Boots, New Dirt set a new record for best-ever debut week for a country album with more than 3.04 million streams. Aldean and his label have yet to speak publicly about the decision.
Subsequently, Brantley Gilbert, whose 2014 release Just As I Am has been receiving surprising sales numbers, has also been pulled from Spotify. All that remains on the streaming service is his single “Bottom’s Up.” Gilbert shares the same label as Taylor Swift. They both operate under Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group.
And another Big Machine artist, Justin Moore, has also scrapped his latest album, 2013′s Off The Beaten Path from Spotify. This has put both Spotify, country music fans, and the entire industry on watch to see what country artist may be next to diss the music streamer, while there has yet to be any major names from the pop or rock worlds make similar moves.
It also should be pointed out that another big release, Garth Brooks’ Man Against Machine will not be making it to Spotify, though we’ve known for a while the superstar would be going his own route with GhostTunes. Nonetheless, it is another landmark release from a country artist that won’t be featured in the service. As country music continues to dominate the overall music marketplace, these developments can’t be good for Spotify.
One wonders however what material gain Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, and Justin Moore expect to land by pulling their albums from Spotify now. Will this move stimulate higher physical and download sales like it did for Taylor Swift? That hardly seems likely, since most core country fans will have already either purchased the album, or streamed it on Spotify previously.
Something else going under-reported about the Spotify exodus is that it is not happening to music streaming overall. For example, Taylor Swift’s 1989, and all the other country albums pulled from Spotify still remain on the streaming service offered by Beats. The issue is not necessarily streaming in general, but with Spotify specifically, whose free option and minimal payouts was causing controversy way before the Taylor Swift decision.
Taylor Swift explained to Yahoo why she decided to pull her music from Spotify.
all I can say is that music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free. I wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal this summer that basically portrayed my views on this. I try to stay really open-minded about things, because I do think it’s important to be a part of progress. But I think it’s really still up for debate whether this is actual progress, or whether this is taking the word “music” out of the music industry. Also, a lot of people were suggesting to me that I try putting new music on Spotify with “Shake It Off,” and so I was open-minded about it. I thought, “I will try this; I’ll see how it feels.” It didn’t feel right to me. I felt like I was saying to my fans, “If you create music someday, if you create a painting someday, someone can just walk into a museum, take it off the wall, rip off a corner off it, and it’s theirs now and they don’t have to pay for it.” I didn’t like the perception that it was putting forth. And so I decided to change the way I was doing things.
Spotify responded to Taylor Swift, saying they have paid out over $2 billion dollars to music makers.
“Taylor Swift is absolutely right: music is art, art has real value, and artists deserve to be paid for it,” says Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. “So all the talk swirling around lately about how Spotify is making money on the backs of artists upsets me big time…We’re paying an enormous amount of money to labels and publishers for distribution to artists and songwriters, and significantly more than any other streaming service.”
Spotify also says that without their service, Piracy would become an issue again. “Here’s the overwhelming, undeniable, inescapable bottom line: the vast majority of music listening is unpaid. If we want to drive people to pay for music, we have to compete with free to get their attention in the first place.”
However Taylor Swift’s rebuttal has been that there needs to be an overhaul of the cultural mindset revolving around music. When her album 1989 leaked online, her fans confronted people downloading the album illegally, asking why they would want to steal someone’s creative work. Judging from the sales of 1989, the pirated leaks did little to hurt overall sales, though this might not be the case for other artists.
Meanwhile the Spotify watch is up for country music and beyond. Who will be next to vacate the streaming service, and are we seeing a brand new era emerge in how music is bought and sold?
Mostly known by industry types as a songwriter whose pen to paper has resulted in some very memorable cuts, including the recent Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers duet “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” one of the most recognizable songs from ABC’s drama Nashville called “Don’t Put Dirt On My Graves Just Yet,” and even some songs from bigger names such as Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum, Caitlyn Smith steps out from the songwriting shadows to release a seven song EP full of wide ranging emotions, slickly-penned sentiments, and spectacular vocal performances worthy of wider attention.
When you talk about an artist known as a songwriter first, you tend to look for the strength in the lyric. But Caitliyn Smith is very much a multi-tool performer, and her vocals can rival any in country music’s top tier, and she’s a great musician as well. Her style is very sensible—country pop in the traditional sense, with rising choruses, juicy melodies, and familiar themes of love, loss, and hope. But similar to how Caitlyn Smith songs are the ones artists and managers gravitate toward when they’re looking for something with more body beyond a smash radio hit, instilled in all of Caitlyn’s work is a sincerity, authenticity, and the ends of country roots sticking out from the surface.
Though it may be a stretch to call this Everything To You EP traditional, the amount of banjo on this album is surprising, and really comprises the sonic base for a few of these songs. And I’m not talking about the six-string version of the banjo with a Stratocaster head stock and flames painted down the side, these are songs bred from inspiration, not formula, even if a few songwriting hands were employed before calling them finished. Fiddle and mandolin float in and out as well, as does some heavier guitar riffs when the composition calls for it. But really the focus of Everything To You is squarely on Caitlyn, her songs, and her voice, which is where it should be, and this is where this album will build its greatest consensus amongst listeners with country sensibilities.
Everything To You starts out with the driving “Fever” with its two-part chorus and towering requests for Caitlyn to immediately hit top-register notes and nail them, which she does with ease. This leads into the more subdued and acoustic “Dream Away”—an empowering testament about sticking to your dreams; something Caitlyn can speak about from the experience of being a small town girl from Minnesota desiring to be a songwriter and now singing along to some of her co-writes on the radio.
“Wasting All These Tears” takes a more somber pitch, almost like a jilted Taylor Swift song from earlier in her career, then the autobiographical “Everything To You” immediately shifts gears to a more happier tone. “Grown Woman” finds Caitlyn evoking the common “I’m a woman, hear me roar” attitude we’ve been hearing often from mainstream women, while the yearning and wrenching of “Novocaine” cuts at the listener’s emotional stability. The album ends with the thankful and sweet “All My Lovers” about Caitlyn finding her way to her husband.
Though Everything To You never turns you off, it never really takes any chances either, or sails into the uncharted waters beyond the familiar harbors of co-write country. The songs all seem to authentically emanate from Caitlyn’s life story and this feels like a very personal album, but you can’t escape the feeling that you’ve heard a version of some of these songs before. Slick arrangements, production, and instrumentation make Everything To You accessible, though not necessarily challenging. However Caitlyn Smith and Everything To You very much embody the idea that there are artists out there with mainstream-caliber chops who if just given a chance could shift country in a more substantive, and even sustainable direction.
2013 was considered by many to be the “Year of The Woman” in country music from the concentration of forward-thinking and nourishing projects proffered to the public by females who could nip at the edges of the mainstream, but still find friendly ears in the independent world. Caitlyn Smith may be a year too late to be considered in that class, but she belongs with the other ladies of country music leadership trying to keep at least a modicum of respect in the genre, even if those women struggle compared with their male counterparts in chart performance and cash flow.
Before Garth Brooks decided to go with “People Loving People” as his first single after coming out of retirement, another song on his new album called “Tacoma”—written by Caitlyn Smith and Bob DiPiero—was scheduled to be the return single. Only stands to reason “Tacoma” will be released as a single eventually, and with the timely release of this EP, it very well may deliver an extra bit of interest to a well-deserving and hard working songwriter with a voice worthy of much more than the audience listening song pitches on demo tapes.
1 1/2 of 2 Guns Up.
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With the rise in popularity of country music recently comes a rise in both the demand and prices for concert tickets. And with so many sold out shows and high-priced tickets comes the opportunity for counterfeiters to take advantage of fans looking for entry to see their favorite artists. Counterfeit concert tickets are on the rise in country music, and fans are being taken advantage of more than ever before as they resort to the secondary market and rely on sites like Craigslist to get tickets.
27-year-old Geoffrey Dean Minton from Tampa, Florida is currently sitting in the Hillsborough County jail on $20,000 bail after being arrested on Tuesday (10-14) on six counts of grand theft, eight counts of possessing forged documents, and two counts of communications fraud. The charges stem from a sting local police set up after Minton sold at least two separate parties counterfeit tickets to Luke Bryan’s concert at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Sept. 28, according to tampabay.com.
Both parties who purchased tickets from Minton on Craigslist took pictures of his drivers license and noted his license plate during the purchases that were originally set up through a Craigslist ad. “If these are fake, I’m going to find you and you’re going to pay for this,” Chris Vazquez, one of the frauded patrons told Minton at the time of the purchase. Sure enough, when Vazquez arrived at the Luke Bryan concert, just like another concertgoer Marvin Mendez who purchased four tickets from Geoffrey Minton for $400, they were told they were counterfeit.
This prompted Tampa police to set up a sting for the Jason Aldean concert on Oct. 10th at the same Tampa venue. Officers arrested Geoffrey Minton in a CVS parking lot where he set up a meeting with a local ticket broker as part of the sting. He was found with eight counterfeit Jason Aldean concert tickets in his car. Police know of an additional five victims of Geoffrey Minton’s counterfeiting, but think there could be as many as a dozen.
Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean have been country concert counterfeiter’s favorite artists, due partly to the fact that their sold out shows send floods of fans looking for tickets on the secondary market that are willing to pay top dollar.
On Saturday, September 6th, West Springfield, CT police arrested two men for allegedly selling counterfeit tickets to the Luke Bryan concert at Hartford’s Xfinity Theatre. At the time, the concert was sold out. A man sold a family four tickets for nearly $700. Since the tickets were made of card stock, were perforated, and had bar codes, the family wasn’t worried. But with the sophistication of today’s counterfeiter’s, seeing is not always believing.
This summer’s tour with Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line also faced counterfeiting issues. On August 29th, a New York City man by the name of Cy Ismeal Rivera was arrested at a mall in Albany, NY for selling fake tickets to the Jason Aldean / Florida Georgia Line concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Police contacted the man on Craigslist and offered to purchase six tickets. When they met the man at the local mall and confirmed the tickets were counterfeit, they arrested him on charges of first-degree “scheme to defraud.”
The Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple Sr. later posted on Facebook, “Attention!!! This is a warning to those of you who feel the need to jump on those $10 buses and travel from downstate to the Capital District to try and prey upon us ole’ country folk here in upstate…..our investigators will find you just like we did today when your friend travelled up here to sell my investigators fake tickets for Jason Aldean. Dozens of people have been scammed to date, and we now have the subject responsible!”
On May 28th, three people were arrested in Farmville, North Carolina for selling counterfeit tickets to a Luke Bryan concert in Raleigh on June 7th at the Walnut Creek Ampitheatre. Greenville, NC residents Michael Corrigan, Martin Luna Jr. and Russell Brooks were charged with obtaining property by false pretense and felony conspiracy.
In September of 2013, four people were arrested at a hotel in Green Tree, NY for selling fake Luke Bryan tickets to a concert at the First Niagara Pavilion. According to Green Tree Police Chief Bob Downey, the counterfeiters were selling tickets at a price of $300 for two, and $600 for four. After one group of individuals bought counterfeit tickets from the sellers on Craigslist and realized they’d been duped, they arranged to purchase more ticket and brought police with them. Four men from the Bronx were arrested. “Some of the equipment that we found in their possession was indicative of a counterfeit-making operation,” Police Chief Downey said. A total of 20 people were believed to be scammed in the operation.
Scalping and scamming are symptoms of the high demand for country concert tickets at shows that sometimes sell out within a matter of minutes. Eric Church has been actively taking on scalpers during his current concert tour, warning them “Don’t even mess with us.” Meanwhile the desire to keep ticket prices down and make sure everyone gets a seat is the strategy behind Garth Brooks’ current world tour where he’s played as many as eight concerts in the same location, including multiple concerts on the same day. The idea is simply to to flood the market with tickets so scalpers and scammers have limited demand. Because of this, the price for Garth tickets on the secondary market has been staying closer to face value for many of the concert stops.
In March, Ticketmaster posted a notice to fans of how to spot counterfeit tickets. “With many high-demand shows throughout the summer, it’s important for us to remind you about counterfeit tickets,” the ticket selling giant said. “We have heard heartbreaking and devastating stories from fans that didn’t make it into a big show and were turned away at the door with counterfeit tickets. We don’t want this to happen to you!”
Silly me for thinking that the experience of having his home ripped apart by his own selfish actions, and his entire life smattered across tabloid covers would elicit at least a slight recalibration of priorities for Jason Aldean, or for goodness sakes, at least stimulate a few moments of introspection or something close to the semblance of a deep thought. But instead what we get with Old Boots, New Dirt is a doubling down of Aldean’s errant behavior. The album is the singer breaking free of the repressive sexual bonds of marriage and country music’s rigid moral regime to reclaim his wild 16-year-old post-adolescent oats at the age of 37. On Old Boots, New Dirt, Jason Aldean proclaims the world his oyster, and presents such a flaunting of the human id, even Charlie Sheen would cock an eyebrow and give it a nodding approval.
Bad mouth Jason Aldean’s previous accomplishments all you want, but heretofore his career has been defined by the defiant spirit of interior America’s lost populous—disenfranchised and forgotten in the age of technology as they unflinchingly continue on with their way of life inherited down from generations. It was the rumination on water towers and wondering what if they could talk, the troubling thoughts at watching grain silos slowly run empty and fall into disrepair just like the towns that sit in the shadows of them. It was starring at the dirt underneath your fingernails every evening and the age slowing cracking across your face, while you brood in the same house your grandparents lived in. And yes, it was even driving down dirt roads, swerving like your George Jones, with memory lane up in the headlights, and pondering your place in this fast-changing world and the intimidating passage of time.
Now what do we get from Jason Aldean? A simple enumeration of his sexual conquests one after another, with very little respite.
“I knew the minute that I picked you up, it was gonna be a wild ride,” the very first song “Just Gettin’ Started” starts off. “You kissed me like you couldn’t get enough. Barely made it out of your drive.”
The second song “Show You Off” unfolds just about as you would expect it to. “I just want to show you off. Drive them all crazy, watch all the boys hate me. This ain’t so wrong, come on.” This is what passes for Aldean being “sweet.” This leads into the lead single from the album, the already much maligned and ultra-sexualized “Burnin’ It Down,” …and on and on from there.
And all of this is punctuated with these softcore-style bubbly, smooth jazz R&B electronic sex beats that are the sonic foundation for this album. Jason Aldean has apparently morphed into the country music equivalent of the classic Saturday night Cinemax lineup—showing just enough skin to get you somewhat steamy-feeling, but not conveying enough of either truly revealing material or depth of story to leave you either satisfied or fulfilled. It’s all froth.
Old Boots, New Dirt sees Jason Aldean doing what he did with “Dirt Road Anthem,” which went on to become a landmark moment for rap in country music. Where artists like Jerrod Niemann and Sam Hunt tried to push country music aggressively towards an EDM era, Aldean and his production team understood that to truly take the idea mainstream, you have to smooth off the edges and homogenize it so when you serve it up en masse to the public, they don’t gag as it is getting shoved down their throat. That was at the heart of the success of “Dirt Road Anthem,” and that is what’s at play here. Country rap had already been around for years, but Aldean figured out how to make it palatable for white America’s corporate country consumer. “Burnin’ It Down” (which has been widely successful) and Old Boots, New Dirt do this for country’s new EDM/R&B era.
This all begs the question of what mainstream country music is going to do next since it’s burning through genre bending ideas at about one genre per year. Before we know it, someone will be figuring out how to work polka into pop country (and god knows it would probably be an improvement). But for now, EDM/R&B country is likely to be very financially lucrative for Aldean and others.
There are a couple of moments where Jason tries to evidence some vulnerability and depth on this album. “Tryin’ To Love Me” seems to talk about reflecting back on relationship fights and understanding that the conflict was really coming from love and not spite, and could be taken in the context of Aldean’s recent marital troubles as something true to his personal experiences. But of course this is immediately followed up with “Sweet Little Somethin’” that makes the sentiment behind Maddie & Tae’s “Girl In A Country Song” feel so very timely, and songs like “Laid Back” and “Tonight Looks Good On You” are every bit as awful as their titles imply.
The second half of the album is a little better though, and ends with the best song, “Two Night Town,” which is so classic and well-written, it’s a shame someone like Aldean had to cut it and bury it as a final track. But it is too little too late for this epilogue to Aldean’s era of enumerating the simple virtues of the Heartland ideal and the everyday injustices perpetuated against it through the march of time. Old Boots, New Dirt is Jason Aldean’s Benedict Arnold moment. It is the moment the corn farmer’s son comes home wearing a flat-brimmed baseball cap and listening to Wiz Khalifa. It’s inevitable, but still somehow a shame—not because Wiz Khalifa is evil necessarily, but because it symbolizes the end of an era. Once upon a time, this was something that made for good Jason Aldean songs.
Two guns down.
Just over two months since the body of 22-year-old Cory Barron was found by a landfill worker in New Russia Township, OH after the young man had gone missing at Jason Aldean’s July 18th concert at Progressive Field in Cleveland, and friends and family still don’t have any answers as to the circumstances surrounding his death, and maybe never will. It is believed that while at the concert, Cory somehow gained access to a garbage chute at one of the top levels of the ballpark and fell five stories into a dumpster. The dumpster was then transported days later to the landfill where the body was discovered. But just how and why the young man ended up in the garbage chute remains a mystery.
Last week the long-awaited autopsy report from the Lorain County Coroner was released to the public. Dr. Stephen Evans found that the cause of death was multiple blunt force impact from the five story fall, and that Barron died immediately. But what he was unable to come up with was any conclusive evidence of why the fall occurred in the first place. According to the autopsy, there were no signs of foul play, and no signs that the fall wasn’t accidental. Dr. Evans says he is “less than happy” that the autopsy did not provide and more conclusive results.
“We’ll never know the circumstances of how he wound up in the trash chute,” says the Lorain County Coroner. “I wish I had that for the family.”
The autopsy also concluded that there was alcohol in Cory Barron’s system, but because of the time that lapsed between when Cory died and the autopsy, it was not possible to conclude Barron’s blood alcohol level at the time of death. However according to police, the concertgoer was “extremely intoxicated” when he disappeared. The information about Cory Barron’s level of impairment came from police interviewing friends of the Bowling Green State University senior who were also attending the concert. Cory disappeared around 9:30 PM after visiting some friends in a different section of the concert from his assigned seat. He never returned, and in the following days a full search for the man turned up nothing.
According to Action News 19 in Cleveland, sources say that Cory may have also engaged in an argument with another man or group of men right before he disappeared. They also say the only way someone could have accessed the chute was to crawl into it. However a complete investigation by homicide detectives has turned up nothing, and police say they have obtained no new evidence in the case since the body was found. Unless something miraculous turns up, it is very likely the specifics of Cory Barron’s death will remain a mystery.
After the news of Cory Barron’s death was made public, Jason Aldean posted on Twitter, “My sincere condolences go out to Cory Barron’s family and friends. My heart is heavy for you all and you are in my thoughts and prayers.” Barron death came during a period this summer when the amount of arrests and hospitalizations at country concerts was making headlines and stirring debate about what impact country music’s new party atmosphere might be having on behavior.
Recently Jason Aldean spoke to Rolling Stone Country about the problems at country concerts, saying,“You want people to come out to your show to enjoy it and everybody to wake up the next day and talk about what a great time they had. You don’t want somebody to come to the show and never make it home. Unfortunately that kind of stuff is out of our hands. People are adults and are responsible for their own actions. You come to a show and plan on drinking, get a driver. Call a cab. That’s things that adults should just know. We can’t make people do that stuff.”
Trust me when I say if you go ambling through American college towns, you won’t find anything resembling a dearth of string bands with a bunch of young men and their banjos and fiddles stomping and shouting on stage. What you will find a dearth of are these bands that are actually worth listening to, at least outside of the context of a drunken college town barroom. It is in that spirit that I present to you the Whiskey Shivers and their brand new self-titled album that enlists the speed we haven’t heard since .357 String Band, The Dinosaur Truckers, and early Trampled By Turtles, yet entails a completely different vibe from the dark or emotional mood of those efforts.
The best way to describe The Whiskey Shivers is as a bluegrass party band. Oh but don’t worry you Stanley Brothers and Bill Monroe bluegrass Bible thumpers, they’re not going out of their way to call themselves pure bluegrass, and there’s a lot more to their show than just a party. What makes the Whiskey Shivers special though is it just seems like five guys on stage having tons of fun while you get to listen in. It’s this vibe they bring to the building that leaves cadres of rabid fans behind at every stop.
The Whiskey Shivers have been around for a few years now, and the Austin-based band has some national tours with bigger names such as Scott H. Biram, Larry & His Flask, and Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers under their belt. They played at Stagecoach this year right beside artists like Jason Isbell, to as high as Eric Church and Jason Aldean. They appeared at ACL Fest last autumn. And the whole time they’ve been building up a grassroots fan base from their infectious and fun live shows.
What the band was lacking heretofore was a really good record to represent the energy they ignite on stage for the folks who wanted to take the Whiskey Shivers home with them. The few homespun offerings available at the merch table over the years had a lot of spirit, but did not do their live show justice. So for this effort they solicited the services of rising Americana star Robert Ellis as a producer, and set out to make what they hoped to be their definitive studio album that would set them apart from the string band hordes. I’m happy to report this album does just that.
In fact this album doesn’t just capture what the Whiskey Shivers do live, it elevates it. The wild-eyed and dirty sound of the band is what makes them so lovable, but that also leaves room for improvement in composition and arrangement that could elevate their game that much more. That was the trick for producer Robert Ellis—get these boys to behave just a tad, clean up and arrange those five-part harmonies properly, cinch up those licks a little tighter, etc., but do this all while not polishing away the magic at the Whiskey Shivers’ core. And in turn this could also improve the live show from the band by being that much more mindful of arrangements and boundaries.
Just a look at the Whiskey Shivers’ multi-cultural lineup and you see this isn’t you’re typical string band. Some consider fiddle player Bobby Fitzgerald as the frontman, but really each player brings something unique to the table that is important to the Whiskey Shivers’ magic. Where the band had originally leaned on covers, all but one of the songs on this self-titled album are originals, allowing each member to have their voice be heard.
Though some of the songs on the album still feel like they’re trying with some degree of difficulty to capture the live feel in the recorded context like “Been Looking For” and “Hot Party Dads,” many of the songs came to life in a way the live show could never afford. Their droning spiritual “Graves” is one of those songs that feels immediately timeless, and you could see this being embedded in some big Hollywood movie, or even have one built around it. The trapping of a band that relies on speed is they tend to be known for speed and speed only, but in songs like “Friends” and especially “Pray For Me” they show they can thrive in the mid-tempo, and adding the steel guitar texture to the latter turned out to be a really savvy call. And though you wouldn’t traditionally consider the Whiskey Shivers as super pickers or compositional masters (this is no Punch Brothers, but that’s the point), the last song “Swarm” illustrates a lot more depth than some may expect from this project.
Taming the beast without destroying its wild wonder is what this self-titled LP accomplishes, and it should frame the Whiskey Shivers as one of the string bands worthy of more wide, national recognition as young band on the rise.
1 3/4 of 2 Guns Up.
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On Monday, September 22nd, the subset of American country music known to many by its nickname “Bro-Country,” died at its home in Nashville, TN. It was three-years-old. Bro-Country is survived by its family and close friends, including Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, Cole Swindell, Chase Rice, Thomas Rhett, Dallas Davidson, and dozens of other lesser-known country music artists and songwriters. Though the specific cause of death has yet to be ruled on by the local medical examiner, preliminary findings appear to show that Bro-Country had been exhaustively over-utilized over the last few months and years until it finally passed away from overexposure. Bro-Country’s death is definitely being considered the result of “foul play”.
Though the exact date of birth of Bro-Country has never been specifically determined, many place its origins in early 2011 with what was initially called “checklist” or “laundry list” country music. Regularly listing off mundane artifacts of country living such as ice cold beer, pickup trucks, tailgates, dirt roads, hot girls, cutoffs, moonshine, mud, and many other country calling cards, songs like Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” and Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” went on to become some of the biggest country music songs during Bro-Country’s life. The name “Bro-Country” wasn’t coined until August of 2013 when culture writer Jody Rosen’s dissertation on the subject described Bro-Country as a, “tatted, gym-toned, party-hearty young American white dude.”
Florida Georgia Line’s song “Cruise” very much typified Bro-Country’s life and legacy, and when the single became the longest-running #1 song in the history of country music, the troubles for Bro-Country began. Predictions of Bro-Country becoming a hyper trend that would grow old prematurely began to spread, and so did public dissent about Bro-Country in what became known as the Season of Discontent. Things began to look especially bleak for Bro-Country when Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta said in December of 2013, “There’s too much, to be honest with you. We can’t keep talking about Fireball and Coors Light and having the tailgate down, etc. So we’ll task our writers and artists to dig a little deeper.”
In 2014, enemies of Bro-Country began to emerge from the country music industry itself, and anti Bro-Country songs like Maddie & Tae’s “Girl In A Country Song” were released to radio, exacerbating Bro-Country’s health problems. Even Bro-Country proponents who had recently given a rosy prognosis for its future, like Sony Music Nashville’s CEO Gary Overton who once said Bro-Country’s demise was “nowhere in the foreseeable future” is now saying “There’s a saturation point.” New albums from Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney purposefully avoid Bro-Country. In some ways it seems fitting that Bro-Country would pass away on the last official day of summer, since the party themes and good times of Bro-Country seemed to be perpetually stuck in the year’s warmest months.
Of course there will be some who will not be able to come to grips with the death of Bro-Country, especially many of Bro-Country’s friends who made lots of money during Bro-Country’s life—many of the same people who refused to acknowledge the problems Bro-Country was facing in the first place. There will be people who attempt to carry on Bro-Country’s legacy by singing about the things Bro-Country loved like beer and tailgates, and they may even find some success in the short term. But eventually they will have to face Bro-Country’s death, or be like the mullet-wearing uncle stuck in the glory days.
Bro-Country is scheduled to be buried in the rubble of the historic RCA Studio ‘A’ building set to be bulldozed on Music Row in Nashville. And in Bro-Country’s memory, an edifice to gentrification and homogenization will be erected in the form of a 147,000 square foot condominium complex on the location.
R.I.P. Bro-Country, you smelled extremely manly.
Though we’re still only a few months removed from George Strait’s final show as a touring performer, it’s pretty safe to say that the record breaking concert will go down as one of the biggest concert events in the history of country music, especially for an event centered around a single performer. From shattering the indoor attendance record, to all the special guests, to the circular stage, to the songs and performances themselves, country music may never top what happened on June 7th, 2014 as a farewell to a legendary country performer.
When it came to how the show would be sold to those who couldn’t attend, we knew to anticipate that commercial interests would be considered heavily in the deal. When a selection of the performances from the concert were broadcast via CMT on August 29th, it was no surprise there was a heavy dose of Jason Aldean, Sheryl Crow, and other performers that could attract eyeballs to the broadcast, even though they would also attract the ire of some of George Strait’s traditional country fans. And the same could be expected for the album The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from At&T Stadium when it was released on September 16th.
But what nobody could anticipate is that a George Strait album would be the vehicle for the most excessive, and most blatantly obvious use of the pitch correction software known as Auto-Tune that I have ever, ever heard in the history of recorded music, barring projects purposefully using Auto-Tune as a special effect. The use of Auto-Tune on The Cowboy Rides Away is egregious, and embarrassingly obvious to the point where I can’t believe that a project like this would ever be released for public consumption, especially when such a legendary performer, and such a legendary event, are involved. This is outrageous. It is an abomination. And whomever is responsible for mixing in and mastering this Auto-Tune hatchet job should be marched into someone’s office, forced to listen to King George’s masterful vocals getting transmogrified by 1′s and 0′s like lambs to the slaughter, and then be unceremoniously fired. Then a new version of The Cowboy Rides Away sans the Auto-Tune should be offered to anyone who spent good money on this album. And all this should be done posthaste.
What the hell were they thinking? Who approved this? Who believed that they could slather such excessive Auto-Tune on this project, and people simply wouldn’t notice?
Beyond the deceit that the use of Auto-Tune presents in itself, it is especially difficult to employ in this particular context where you have a live performance, and a performer who doesn’t use Auto-Tune on a regular basis. George Strait sings at times with a cadence that Auto-Tune can’t keep up with. Many times he purposefully sings by beginning a note out-of-tune to eventually bend it back into place in an attempt to squeeze the emotion out of a lyric. This is called “Twang,” and is a critical part of the George Strait experience that someone in a studio decided to destroy because of some silly notion that George Strait’s singing must be perfect. Performers who regularly sing with the aid of Auto-Tune like Rascal Flatts, they know what to do to make sure to not send the program into overdrive. When you add Auto-Tune on to a live performance after the fact, it almost always results in obvious artificial electronic sounds that erode the authenticity of the listening experience.
Auto-Tune was never meant to be used in the way it was used on The Cowboy Rides Away. As audio engineers will tell you, “Everyone in Nashville uses Auto-Tune,” and to an extent, this is probably true in the studio. But the point of Auto-Tune originally was to take errant notes here and there in an otherwise excellent vocal performance, and fix them slightly and harmlessly so an entire new vocal take wasn’t necessary. It was a tool, not a crutch. Almost immediately of course, artists like Cher, and eventually T-Pain began to use it as a vocal enhancement. But when it is administered en masse as it is on this album, the result is something much worse than what a few missed notes would ever sound like. No care, no love was put in the vocals on this album and how the Auto-Tune was administered. Even if some Auto-Tune correction was decided to be used here and there, to the extent it was used on this album is an insult to the listener’s ears.
Veteran producer Chuck Ainlay is given credit as a producer on The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from At&T Stadium. So is George Strait. I have no idea if George Strait had any say so with what happened with this album and the Auto-Tune or not. But even if George Strait himself doesn’t have a problem with it, many fans do. And those fans should demand either their money back, or an unadulterated version of this album. Because this artist, and this concert were too important to mar in such an unnecessary manner.
One of the things that can be so frustrating for distinguishing country music fans is knowing many of country music’s current stars can do so much better. Many of them have sensational voices, and can write great songs when they set their mind to it. And many times you can hear examples of this when listening to their albums. The garbage that artists and labels release as singles these days usually constitute the absolute worst an album has to offer. When listening to the albums of even some of country music’s worst acts, you’re regularly surprised by the substance and the amount of sincerity they exhibit in some songs.
A few months ago Saving Country Music published and article called “Before They Sucked: Big Country Music Stars At The Start.” As a similar exercise, let’s look at some of the album cuts of the biggest stars, and see the kind of heart, and country-sounding material they’re capable of when they set their mind to it.
PLEASE NOTE: This is not a recommendation of any of these songs. This is simply an exercise to illustrate that returning more substance to country isn’t necessarily tied to recording different songs, it could simply be tied to releasing different singles. Florida Georgia Line’s recent single “Dirt” is an example of how a big mainstream act can have a chart-topping success with a song with substance if they just make the conscious choice to do so.
And this is just the very tip of the iceberg of examples. The truth is most any top tier country artist is going to have songs of substance on their album.
Brantley Gilbert – “That Was Us” and “I’m Gone”
Brantley Gilbert might be the best example of an artist who releases the most vile detritus as singles, but when you actually listen to his records, you are surprised to find songs that are not just serious and sincere, but that are downright powerful. Gilbert is the mainstream artist with a grassroots following. He’s one of the few mainstream artists left who can sell albums, primarily because his ultra-loyal fans know there are going to be some really deep songs there that the radio will never play. These songs are one of the reasons his fan base seems to be ready to jump off a cliff for him if he ordered it, and will argue for days how great he is.
Brantley Gilbert’s last album Just As I Am is culpable for two of the crappiest singles found on country radio today: “Bottom’s Up” and “Small Town Throwdown.” But there are also a couple of tracks that show a lot of substance and heart, and even capture Brantley breaking away from his mumbling singing style. “That Was Us” starts out feeling like you’re average four minute laundry list pablum, but it reveals itself as a waltz-timed memory trip that includes moments of vulnerability and even self-effacing honesty. “I’m Gone” is another one from Just As I Am that is driven by mandolin and steel guitar, and aside from a Richie Sambora guitar wank-off bisecting the song, it’s a good reminder that Brantley Gilbert is a songwriter that writes his own stuff, and can write in story form with very strong results.
Justin Moore (w/ Miranda Lambert) - “Old Habits”
Maybe a little too sappy for some, while others won’t be able to get past what they consider Justin Moore’s fake accent, but boil this one down at 212° F and you’ve got an old-fashioned country heartbreaker that could jerk tears from some of the most hardened mainstream country haters. Why in the hell wasn’t this released as a single instead of Justin Moore’s Mötley Crüe screech fest tribute? You have Miranda Lambert on the track who is a hot commodity, and a hell of a lot more feeling than anything we’ve heard from Justin Moore in a long time. I fail to see how this wouldn’t perform much better than “Home Sweet Home” which stalled out on the charts in the 30′s. Give this song a chance as a single, and mainstream country steps up its game immediately.
Blake Shelton – “Lay Low”
There’s a few songs on Blake Shelton’s Based On A True Story that are not nearly as bad as “Boys ‘Round Here.” Truth is, Blake Shelton has never defined the worst country has to offer, especially when it comes to his album cuts. It’s that his alligator mouth gets ahead of his hummingbird ass more often than not. Songs like “Do You Remember” and “Grandaddy’s Gun” get brownie points for effort, and so should “Lay Low.” What’s good about this song is it really revitalizes the mood of mid to late 80′s country before everything went Garth crazy. It’s smooth and laid back. It doesn’t say much, but what it does say fills the spirit with a warm, relaxed feeling. It reminds you of what country sounded like before … you know … people like Blake Shelton came along.
If you want an example of an artist with one of the greatest voices ever to grace the genre, and who threw his talents away by defining his career through stupid singles, look no further than Mr. “Honky Tonk Badonka Donk” himself. The simple fact is Trace Adkins has entire albums of songs that are way more substantive that what is symbolized by “Brown Chicken Brown Cow” and the other bull he’s released to radio. This guy once won the ACM for Best New Male Vocalist, and is a member of the Grand Ole Opry. His last album Love Will… is full of serious love songs, and as one would expect, it virtually flopped despite being arguably his most mature album yet. The Trace Adkins career arch is one that conveys that you may get hot with big singles, but you can also die by them when you become a joke to many listeners.
Jason Aldean – “Church Pew or Bar Stool”
Jason Aldean has never been a songwriter; he’s always been a pure singer and performer. But one thing he has done over his career is establish a theme surrounding his music of the small town identity that looks at the world through the simple eyes of the forgotten people in America’s heartland and hometowns. Songs like “Amarillo Sky,” “Water Tower,” and “Flyover States” speak very specifically to people forgotten by time and technology, and that struggle to find their identity in a challenging new world while still holding on to who they are.
We have to remember that Jason Aldean wasn’t a huge star until “Dirt Road Anthem,” and his label Broken Bow wasn’t a big deal until Jason Aldean. As time has gone on, just like so many stars who get overtaken by the Music Row machine, Aldean has backslid into chasing trends and losing touch with what made him unique when he first entered the business. But throughout his discography, you can hear the sentiment that gives a solemn assessment of lost America and its forlorn residents.
This post has been updated (at bottom).
When the CMA Awards nominees were announced on Wednesday September 3rd, one of the most high-profile snubs in years occurred when Jason Aldean was left in the shade with zero nominations. As one of country music’s few stadium draws, and as the reigning Male Vocalist of the Year of the rival ACM Awards, the snub seemed somewhat curious, even to those who may count themselves as Jason Aldean detractors.
It was definitely curious to Jason Aldean’s father Barry Williams, who took to his Facebook account to vent about his son’s snubbing.
Ok, somebody help me out here. We have a country artist who has had at least a dozen number one singles, is the most downloaded country artist of all time, consistently sells out stadiums, has broken attendance records set by George Strait, Kenny Chesney, and even Paul McCartney. Yet he doesn’t even get one nomination for the CMA awards this year. He has been consistently shunned by the Academy the last couple of years when it was obvious that he was deserving of the Entertainer of The Year Award, based on statistics, not popularity of the Academy. This current failure to recognize Jason for his accomplishments only furthers my opinion that the CMA’s are a joke and a farce. I don’t want this to sound like “sour grapes”, but the statistics should speak for themselves.
This citing of statistics is the same argument Clear Channel DJ Bobby Bones used when he complained about his snubbing by the CMA’s. Bobby Bones also asserted, “Jason Aldean got screwed too!”
First, let’s dispense of this idea that Jason Aldean has been “consistently shunned by the Academy…” No, Jason Aldean has never won Entertainer of the Year, but he’s been nominated three times, and has been recognized by the CMA’s just as much as any male artist over the last three years.
In 2013, Jason Aldean was nominated by the CMA for Male Vocalist of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, and Vocal Event of the Year. In 2012, Aldean was nominated for Male Vocalist, Entertainer of the Year, and Single of the Year. In 2011, Aldean was nominated for a total of five awards, including Entertainer of the Year, Single of the Year, and he won Vocal Event of the Year for “Don’t You Wanna Stay” with Kelley Clarkson, and Album of the Year for My Kinda Party. You combine this with Jason’s nomination for the Horizon Award in 2010, and that is twelve total CMA nominations, and two wins—hardly a shunning by the CMA.
Something else to be factored in is this was an off year for Jason Aldean due to his album cycle. Aldean’s last release was 2012′s Night Train, which was not eligible along with many of the album’s biggest singles for this year’s awards. Aldean’s new album Old Boots, New Dirt is about to be released and will be eligible next year. And let’s face it, Night Train was a step down from Aldean’s previous album My Kinda Party, which set the pace commercially for country music in 2011. My Kinda Party has sold over 3 million copies, while Night Train only reached 1.6 million.
Boiled down, what happened in 2014 was Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley both re-entered the CMA Awards top male tier because of big years. Dierks Bentley’s Riser album has been quite successful both commercially and critically, and Keith Urban’s new album and American Idol judgeship probably caused him to be more prominent in the minds of voters. It does seem a little strange Urban would be up for Entertainer of the Year and not Aldean, but it’s not so out of the realm of possibility that it should be taken as a sign of impropriety any more than the dozens of other reasons we already know the CMA is flawed.
But favorable “statistics” or “popularity” is not a guarantee of anything. That’s why people vote for CMA nominees and winners instead of using stats to determine the outcomes. Critical reception and other intangibles always must factor into these types of decisions, and that is where Jason Aldean may have shot himself in the foot this year. In the midst of the initial rounds of CMA voting, Jason Aldean released his latest single, “Burnin’ It Down.” Though the song quickly revealed itself as a commercial blockbuster, it was heavily criticized in its initial reception, including by many of Jason Aldean’s core fans. “Burnin’ It Down” symbolized such an abandonment of country music’s sonic values, it may have compelled many of the CMA voters to shudder at the idea of putting a check mark beside Aldean’s name. Jason Aldean has a history of stretching country music’s borders with singles, including country rap tunes like “Dirt Road Anthem” and “1994.”
On September 1st, Jason Aldean streamed his new album through the viral site BuzzFeed. Simply using that forum to preview his new music speaks to just how low brow Aldean seems to be aiming with this new project. Aldean states, “I’m the same dude, but we’re gonna start over and hit some uncharted territory here…If somebody can put a definition on what country music is, please tell me…I’m pretty knowledgeable in country music, and I’ve never once seen where it says, ‘Country music doesn’t have a drum loop.’”
Actually Jason Aldean, country music does have a definition, and drum loops are nowhere to be found. Songs like “Burnin’ It Down” go strictly against how country music is defined by the CMA for example, which defines country as…
…the sound of Jimmie Rodgers yodeling – Keith Urban blasting out a guitar solo – The poetry of Hank Williams Sr. on “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” - A room full of convicts cheering on Johnny Cash as he sings “San Quentin, I hate every inch of you” - Alan Jackson speaking for the common man in the wake of September 11th - Feisty Loretta Lynn, and tearful Tammy Wynette - Roy Acuff showing off yo-yo tricks at the Grand Ole Opry - Miranda Lambert performing a heartfelt ballad - The King of Country George Strait – The showmanship of superstars Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and Taylor Swift.
Jason Aldean goes on to tell BuzzFeed,
“It’s great to put your stuff out there and give your fans a chance to tell you what they think. But if you’re not careful, you can read way too much into what people are saying. No, [“Burnin’ It Down”] is not Hank Williams Sr. or George Jones, but this also isn’t the ’60s and the ’70s. As great as that music was, you have a new wave of artists that were influenced by a whole different world of music, and country music is gonna evolve just like any kind of music.”
See, this is the justification all of these artists give for releasing music that is not country. They know it’s wrong, and so they try to justify it to themselves and the public as “evolution,” and then expect the country industry, like the CMA, to snap to and help serve it to the public.
Country music is in the identity crisis of its life. Left and right, artists are trying to turn country music into something it isn’t for the short-term commercial gain. There’s no better examples of this than Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down” and “Dirt Road Anthem.” If any entity is in a position of leadership to at least set some moderate boundaries around what country music actually is before its sound is lost to the monogenre forever, it would be the CMA. “You can read way too much into what people are saying,” Jason Aldean says, but perhaps Aldean isn’t reading enough.
As many of country music’s other big acts at the moment are turning to more substantive material in the face of growing negative sentiment about the direction of country music—including Florida Georgia Line who helped write “Burnin’ It Down”—Jason Aldean decided to take a different approach. And perhaps that cost him, as it probably should have. An institution like the CMA should not reward someone who is so flippant about defining country music. The CMA should reward artists who excel at showing the public the beauty of what country music truly is.
***UPDATE (9-9-14): Jason Aldean has responded to his CMA snubbing. He told Rolling Stone Country in part,
Obviously it’s disappointing. We’re still out there selling out shows. With maybe the exception of Luke [Bryan], I don’t think there is anybody else out there that is doing the kind of touring numbers that we’re doing. It’s frustrating, man, but at the same time, I don’t know how…what do you do? Things like that are out of your hands.”
“When [the nominations] came out, everything stirred up a hornet’s nest with everybody. All the DJs on the radio were talking about it and everything else. Which is cool. I do appreciate the fact that there are people out there who do realize what we’re doing. It sort of validates my reasoning for being upset.”
It is what it is. You can bitch and complain about it, or you just go and keep doing things the way you always did.
In fairness, George Strait has also been selling out shows and breaking attendance records, not just Luke Bryan.
Why doesn’t this asshat move on to hosting game shows already?
On Wednesday morning (9-3) the nominations for the 2014 CMA Awards were unveiled, including the nominees for the CMA’s National Broadcast Media Personality, of which apparently Bobby Bones though he was a shoe-in for. And when his name didn’t show up on the ballot, he took to Twitter to bitch like the spoiled, self-entitled, self-centered prick he is.
Of course he began by putting the onus on his fans, like he always does. “Everyone calm down. I dont have to win every award. Getting 1000, ‘how are you not up for CMA personality of the year’.” he said.
Bullshit. The only people paying attention to the broadcaster awards yesterday were broadcasters and media. The broadcast nominees were not published by any major media outlet. Bobby is trying to shield himself by using his fans. He was butt hurt when he wasn’t nominated, and proved this as time went on. Bobby Bones continued,
“its not an ‘injustice’. I simply don’t play the political games the format is known for. Also Jason Aldean got screwed too! Id like to thank the almost 500 radio stations Im on & you the listener for the millions of $$$ we’ve raised for charity this year,”
This charity card is another indolent, insulting, and misrepresenting card Bobby Bones overplays predictably. Just because you give to charity doesn’t absolve you of all your sins. Why doesn’t Bobby Bones set up a charity for the hundreds of local DJ’s he’s put out of work, or the thousands of people laid off by Clear Channel in the most historic and sweeping homogenization and nationalization of a cultural institution since the dawn of American media? Give all the money to charity you want. It will never make up for the damage of poisoning people with the cultural filth broadcast on the Bobby Bones Show to millions every morning.
Bobby Bones continues, “going to need a lot of old people in this industry to retire or die before the Nashville “guard” lets something new get recognized.” And then he caps off what appears to be a threat. “Im going to find out who you are. Don’t worry.“
On this final thread, Bobby Bones does have a point. The CMA oligarchy is a cloistered and inbred bunch who is generally non-conducive to letting outsiders in. But in the case of Bobby Bones, they’re just trying to protect their own. The reason the CMA is not showering Bobby Bones with accolades is because he’s put so many of their own out of work, and out of business. The reason the CMA is seen as the most important governing body in country music is because it is tied deeply to radio, not just labels, making it the widest representation of the country music body. If Clear Channel and Bobby Bones had their way, there would be no other country music morning DJ in the entire nation other than Bobby Bones, and this dream is quickly becoming a reality as more local DJ’s who have very personal relationships with their communities and do many great charitable services for their locales are being lost to national syndication.
“I somewhat expected it,” Bones told The Tennessean. “But I have to voice my displeasure. We’re the biggest morning show in the country, killing the other stations in Nashville.” That’s right, “killing” is the optimum word there. There’s no competition when it comes to Bobby Bones. Bobby Bones has no respect for the cultural institutions of country music, including its legendary stations and DJ’s. They’re all just a bunch of old farts that need to get out of his way because he’s so awesome. And that’s the reason he wasn’t nominated, and shouldn’t have been nominated.
And then Bobby Bones really showed his ass by saying, “Awards in the end aren’t anything but dust collectors.”
But wait a second. If they’re just “dust collectors,” why all the hubub? Why even address the situation? Why does it even matter? Why did Bobby Bones make such a huge deal about winning the Academy of Country Music Country Music On-Air Personality of the Year in April? In fact, Bobby Bones shoved his ACM trophy in Saving Country Music’s face in April. If you have so little respect for the CMA’s distinction to call it a “dust collector,” why would the CMA ever consider bestowing it to you?
Bobby Bones is the single-most driver of cultural homogenization in America, and is the scourge of the airwaves. Hats off to the CMA for recognizing this, and not giving him a distinction he doesn’t deserve, and admittedly, doesn’t respect. A CMA Award is supposed to be about quality, not quantity. And that’s something Bobby Bones, and Clear Channel don’t get.
At a Luke Bryan concert at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center in Darien Center, NY on Saturday, 8-16, Genesee County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested 20 concertgoers for numerous violations, while another nine were cited for having either fake I.D.’s or wrong I.D.’s.
Among the arrested was 28-year-old David P. Mayne who allegedly grabbed a woman he was with by the throat and punched her in the face. Mayne then struggled with officers as they attempted to detain him. He was charged with disorderly conduct, harassment, and resisting arrest.
Among the other arrests, there were multiple charges against concertgoers for harassment and disorderly conduct stemming from fights and assaults, including multiple assaults on security officers at the venue. Other charges included trespassing and marijuana possession. 17 people also received medical treatment and four were taken to the hospital, though Emergency EMS spokesperson Wade Schwab says these numbers are not out of the ordinary for a summer concert.
The Batavian posted a rundown of the concert’s arrests.
David P. Mayne, 28, of James Street, Medina, for is charged with disorderly conduct, harassment, 2nd, and resisting arrest after allegedly being involved in a physical altercation inside the concert venue after grabbing a acquaintance by the throat and punching her in the face. Mayne then allegedly resisted arrest. Mayne was arraigned in Darien Court and remanded to jail in lieu of $500 bail.
Michael R. J. Fiumano, 20, of Glenn Avenue, Pulaski, is charged with harassment, 2nd, after he allegedly punched and pushed a Live Nation Security Officer.
Kassidy R. Watson, 19, of Lake Avenue, Hilton, is charged with tampering with physical evidence and unlawful possession of marijuana after allegedly being found in possession of marijuana and then attempted to conceal the evidence in her shirt.
Ariana M. Watson, 20, of Lighthouse Road, Hilton, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana after allegedly being found in possession of marijuana.
Mark A. Buldyke, 22, of Amber Court, Port Perry, Ontario, Canada, is charged with trespass after allegedly jumping a fence into the venue.
Kirstia M. Dlugosz, 19, of South Prince Drive, Depew, is charged with trespass after allegedly reenentering the concert venue after being ejected and told not to return.
Stephen J. Hayes, 24, of Saya Road, Weedsport, is charged with criminal trespass, 3rd, after allegedly jumping a fence onto the Darien Lake property.
Corey J. Hinman, 25, of Ryan Road, Weedsport, is charged with criminal trespass, 3rd, after allegedly jumping a fence onto Darien Lake property.
Jacob R. Andol, 19, of East Blood Road, Cowlesville, is charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly causing a disturbance in the medical tent inside the venue.
Lucas R. Logsdon, 19, of Dunkley Road, Leicester, is charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly fighting inside the concert venue.
Trey G. Henderson, 22, of Terry Hills Drive, Batavia, is charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly fighting with concert security while being ejected from the venue.
Samuel A. Musolino II, 23, of Hyde Park, Niagara Falls, is charged with criminal trespass, 3rd, after allegedly jumping a fence into the concert venue.
Angela M. Pompeo, 23, of Hillpine Road, Cheektowaga, is charged with trespass after allegedly reentering the concert venue after being ejected and told on to return.
Jordan M. Coulson, 23, of McMurchy Avenue, South Brampton, Ontario, Canada, is charged with trespass after allegedly jumping a fence on Employee Road into the back area.
Danielle B. Russell, 19, of Floren Tine Way, Chili, is charged with trespass after allegedly reentering the concert venue after being ejected and told not to return.
Matthew H. Coe, 22, of Route 62, Frewsburg, is charged with trespass after allegedly jumping a fence into the concert venue.
Ryan M. Hanes, 25, of Cleveland Drive, Cheektowaga, is charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly fighting with Live Nation Security.
David D. Carpes, 27, of Nelson Road, Clyde, is charged with harassment, 2nd, after allegedly pushing a Live Nation Security Officer.
Bryan T. Mogle, 23, of Englewood Avenue, Buffalo, is charged with trespass after allegedly reentering the concert venue after being ejected and told not to return.
Gabrielle L. Frey, 20, of Boyce Road, Corfu, is charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly causing a disturbance on Sumner Road.
A Jason Aldean concert at the First Midwest Bank Ampitheatre in Tinley Park, IL on Saturday, August 9th also saw numerous arrests and incidents according to police reports obtained by Saving Country Music.
Michael Patitucci was arrested for domestic battery in the parking lot after he allegedly grabbed his girlfriend by the hair and rammed her head into the steering wheel multiple times, resulting in facial injuries. Witnesses say the woman was in the passenger seat when she got into a verbal argument with concert goers in another car. When the male she was with who was driving exited the vehicle to confront the other vehicle, the woman told him to get back into the car as she got into the driver’s seat. The man reacted angrily, bashing the woman’s head into the steering wheel. The man was taken into custody for domestic battery.
Another concertgoer was thrown out twice by security at the venue for being intoxicated and rude to the staff and other attendees only to return a third time. When security tried to forcibly remove her, she resisted heavily, calling the security staff “bitches” and “whores” and telling them how much money she made. She was eventually detained by police.
Another individual struck a fellow attendee in the back of the head with a beer can from behind. The man was cited for disorderly conduct. Another woman claimed she was hit in the back of the head by a flying beer can, and she confronted the woman she believed threw it, punching her her in the face with a closed fist. Another patron in the VIP section of the venue allegedly assaulted a security officer and had to be forcibly removed from the venue.
Multiple hit and runs were also reported as fans exited the First Midwest Bank Ampitheatre, including when a gray Chevrolet struck a white Kia Optima before speeding away from the scene.
- – - – - – - – - – - – -
These most recent events add to a growing rap sheets from mainstream country concerts this summer. On August 2nd, a drunk driver ran over a police officer at a Jason Aldean concert, and 30 concertgoers were taken to local hospitals. Earlier in the summer, 55 people were arrested, and 22 taken to hospitals at a Keith Urban show at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Mass. Later it was also revealed that an alleged rape happened in the venue’s lawn section while as many as 15 people stood and watched and took video of the incident. There was also a report of a gang rape at the Faster Horses Festival in mid July. An annual event in Pittsburgh became a national story when pictures of trash and drunken patrons went viral in late June. And a 22-year-old man was found dead in a dumpster in late July after a Jason Aldean concert in what is thought to be an alcohol-related incident.
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