- If You Missed It: First Aid Kit on Fallon
- Good News: Motley Crue Country Tribute Album Delayed
- Amazon Launches Prime Music Streaming Service
- 1927 Bristol Sessions revisited by Dolly Parton, Marty Stuart, Steve Martin and more
- Web Exclusive of Kacey Musgraves on Fallon
- NPR's KCRW Releases In Studio First Aid Kit Performance
- Kelley Mickwee of The Trishas New Song, New Album Coming
- National Geographic Features Pictures from New Photo Exhibit
- 'Ghost Brothers' tour lives again, in new markets
- New Country Awards Show Replacing Old One on FOX
- Video premiere: Dex Romweber Duo's 'Roll On'
- Justin Townes Earle to Release New Album 'Single Mothers' Sept. 9th (updated)
- Bluegrass Legend Ralph Stanley: 'I’m Just As Fresh As I Was 100 Years Ago'
- Miranda Lambert Hits No. 1 with "Platinum" Album
- House Panel To Hear Testimony On Media Ownership Rules Today
- Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers Bring Taste of California to Nashville
- Video Premiere for Otis Gibbs "Ghosts Of Our Fathers"
- Big Machine, Cox Media Group Sign Direct Licensing Deal
- Walls St. Journal Features Producer Dave Cobb (Sturgill, Isbell)
- Songwriter Don Devaney Passes
- Song Premiere: Dom Flemons, "San Francisco Baby"
In yet another landmark deal, Big Machine Records founder and CEO Scott Borchetta has commenced a joint venture in the songwriting realm with the pop world’s Dr. Luke. A songwriter and producer, Dr. Luke’s publishing company boasts 30-40 big names in the pop world–names like Katy Perry and Ke$ha. The objective of the joint venture is “to allow the two companies to co-publish songwriters with the goal of bringing country and pop writers into each other’s realm.” In other words, the deal will likely mean even more pop on country radio, as pop songwriters and producers collaborate more intimately with Big Machine’s growing roster of country talent.
The seeds of the deal were planted when Scott Borchetta suggested Big Machine artist Taylor Swift collaborate with songwriting producers Max Martin and Shellback on her latest release Red. The relationship resulted in two multi-platinum mega hits: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” As Billboard states about the deal:
The goal for both teams is to keep an eye open for the other, sending writers to L.A. from Nashville and vice-versa to fit the needs of the two teams. Naturally, both sides see the current landscape in pop music as receptive to the merging of the two cultures, evidenced by Swift’s use of various non-Nashville experts to assist with her music on her latest Big Machine release ‘Red.’
The new deal will mean that at the very inception of the creative process–the writing of songs–pop writers and producers will have more input in country music. It will also mean that since Dr. Luke’s pop songwriters will be working under the same corporate umbrella as their country counterparts, the collaborations will be more financially lucrative for the parent companies. The deal could also erode the genre integrity of the pop world, as country producers and songwriters from Nashville swap their tastes with LA-based pop acts. Similar to Clear Channel monopolizing radio markets and offering less choice to consumers, the Borchetta/Dr. Luke deal could mean the erosion of choice and contrast between country and pop.
The reason Saving Country Music often refers to Scott Borchetta as the “Country Music Anti-Christ” is not because of the way he handles his Big Machine roster. Compared to many Music Row CEO’s, Borchetta offers incredible creative latitude and financial fairness to his talent bin; a bin that now includes names like Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Florida Georgia Line, Reba McEntire, and The Band Perry. But Borchetta might also be the most responsible party for the erosion of the term “country” in the history of the genre, as he continues to market songs and artists that are either pop or mostly pop through country channels.
Most of all, the new deal reaffirms Scott Borchetta as one of the leading minds in the music business. Country fans can hate on him all they want, but Borchetta has proven himself to be smarter and more shrewd than his Music Row brethren time and time again.
The brushup revolving around Blake Shelton’s recent comments about country music’s classic country fans has mostly died down. Blake apologized, at least to Ray Price and other artists, while excluding angry fans, and later clarifying further by saying, “Still sad that Ray thought I was talking about artists. I was only referring to people who don’t like the new direction country is going.”
This story grew many tentacles, but one worth following a little deeper is Blake Shelton and his current membership at The Grand Ole Opry. Opry historian Byron Fay of Fayfare’s Opry Blog, called for Blake Shelton’s outright firing after his inflammatory comments. This may seem like a reactionary, bellicose opinion, but Byron Fay raised an excellent point. By not making even one appearance at the Opry in 2012, Blake Shelton is in unquestionable violation of the Opry’s long-standing membership rules.
According to the bylaws of The Opry, membership not only has to be earned, but maintained. In April of 1963, The Opry implemented a rule stating that members must make at least 26 appearances on the show per year to keep their membership active. Over the years, the amount of required appearances per year has dropped, though the appearance rule is still in effect. In 1964, Opry management dropped the amount of required performances to 20. Then in 2000, they dropped the requirement to 12.
The Opry does its best to be flexible with their appearance rules for superstar members. For example, if you are a high profile member and make an appearance on a Friday or Saturday, they give you 3 performance credits. But members are still expected to do at least a minimum number of shows each year or risk losing membership.
Blake Shelton was invited to become a member of The Opry on September 29th of 2010, and was officially inducted on October 23rd. 6 months later Blake Shelton became a judge for the reality TV singing contest The Voice on NBC, taped in Los Angeles. The TV show has drawn Blake’s ire a number of times by insisting on running multiple seasons of the contest in the same calendar year. At one point, both Season 3 and Season 4 were being taped simultaneously, while Blake had just released two albums. Furthermore, unlike many Opry members, Blake lives in Oklahoma, not Nashville, making his ability to fulfill his Opry obligations even less likely.
It is understandable that for some Opry members who’ve paid their dues to the institution for many years, performance rules could be more flexible. But Blake never created a tenure with the Opry.
The problem with the Opry’s performance rule is the same problem with The Grand Ole Opry’s current practices for inviting new members. The last three inductees to the Grand Ole Opry were Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, and Darius Rucker–all high-profile, big name members who have touring and label requirements outside of the their Opry obligations. Keith Urban, who was inducted into The Opry in April of 2012, just took the position as an American Idol judge.
Meanwhile traditional artists like Elizabeth Cook are the ones making the most Opry appearances annually, including filling many last-minute slots for big-name cancellations. Yet these Nashville-based artists that have fulfilled The Opry’s membership requirements many times over seem nowhere close to induction because of the Opry’s exclusive focus on only inducting members with superstar names recently.
In August of 1952, The Grand Ole Opry fired Hank Williams for missing practices and showing up drunk. We all know The Opry is not going to fire Blake Shelton, but if Opry membership or the institution itself is going to have any meaning moving forward, they must either adhere to their rules, reform them, or reform the membership process. Otherwise, it may be The Opry that is ignored, not just their loosely-defined and ill-followed rules.
Leaping off the pages of the latest issue of Tiger Beat, Hunter Hayes and his prepubescent, non-gender-specific style have gripped the nation’s middle schools with Hunter mania, spearheaded by his smash hit “Wanted”– a saccharine, ultra-diluted white boy R&B B-side at best, only finding commercial traction on country radio because legions of lanky, affluent, glitter-faced suburban girls in training bras want to see Hunter’s penis.
Hunter Hayes got his start in country music by famously singing Jambalaya at a Hank Jr. concert. Since then you’d have better luck finding a honest-to-God whisker on Hunter’s supple cheeks than a song from him that in any way could be defined as country. He was 4-years-old back then and he’s 21 now, but Hunter’s appeal seems to be that he looks, sounds, and acts perpetually 14. Call it the Bieber effect finding its way to country music. Hunter is a fortunate son who unfortunately decided to label his ragingly milktoast, bleached and bland, hyper-safe pop sonnets “country” instead of the pop or adult contemporary it is more akin to. Don’t let Hunter’s peroxide-tipped Gary Levox hairdo fool you; he makes Rascal Flatts sound like Johnny Paycheck.
“Wanted” is the music version of dry humping. Like so many light listening ballads that build out from the reassuring line “you are beautiful,” it preys on girls and women with self-esteem issues with its lyrical hook, “I want to make you feel wanted.” That’s right, Hunter hasn’t maturated enough where he can just say he wants a woman. He just wants a woman to feel wanted. And then maybe she will be receptive to the advances he’s thinking about making…once his balls finally drop. This subservient, non-assertive approach is what makes desperate women weep, and men vehemently seek out a safe place to vomit.
The chorus of “Wanted,” especially the cadence of Hunter’s words, is overly contrived and wholly ambivalent to originality or creative artistic expression. The song is an excellent example of the algorithmic approach to musical composition. “Wanted” is music for people who don’t like music.
Is pop music that uses country radio to circumvent the glut in the pop world more problematic than country rapping or “fake Outlaws” who scream about how country they are in songs that at their heart are pop too? No, because at least “Wanted” has some honesty behind the approach, and I’ll give Hunter credit for turning in a fairly passionate performance despite the dry parameters of the song structure. Hunter Hayes and “Wanted” aren’t terrible, they’re just mislabeled. There’s a place in the world for music like this. That place just isn’t country.
1 3/4 of 2 guns down.
The Country Music Anti-Christ Scott Borchetta has decided to unleash a new wave of pestilence on the human eardrum, this time in the form of the glorified boy band Florida Georgia Line.
Originating from the Republic Nashville imprint of Big Machine Records, the duo consisting of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley met while attending the Mike Curb College of Music at Nashville’s private and exclusive Belmont University. I know, right? Doesn’t get more country than that! Apparently they were both enrolled in the “How To Be A Upper Middle Class Douchebag But Pretend To Be A Country Boy And Filch Rednecks Out Of Their Hard Earned Money, 101″ class. They made eyes across the classroom, and afterwards discussed their mutual desire for world music domination over $175 haircuts, manscaping, and colonics. Next thing you know, Florida Georgia Line is born.
Florida Georgia Line is a horrible combination of Rascal Flatts pretty boy hyper-pop, and designer jeans Jason Aldean “backroad” laundry list bullshit. They are everything bad about quotation mark “country” in 2012 combined into one big stuffed crotch sandwich.
Punctuating how pathetic “Cruise” is, is the fact that these two dudes apparently don’t know how to use punctuation. The first line of the song goes, “Baby you a song,” instead of, “Baby you’re a song.” But what else can you expect when the title of their EP is It’z Just What We Do. Yes, it’s one of those albums, blurring the lines between Ebonics and idiocracy, produced by Joey Moi of Nickelback fame. I swear, sometimes these rants just write themselves.
Somebody should tell the Doogie Houser-looking Brian Kelley that if you want to play electric guitar, you actually have to PLUG IT IN. Actually strike that, we don’t want to hear this hack-ass Ken doll-looking douche nozzle struggling to finger the most basic chords. His best chance of locating a G-string is if it was riding up his bandmate Tyler Hubbard’s ass. Looks like Tyler Hubbard likes to rock the dog tags, but just because he wears dog tags and plays with his privates doesn’t mean he has any army cred.
Sorry for being rude Tyler and Brian, it’z just what I do.
“Cruise” is about cheap girls and expensive trucks, set to a straightforward rock song with the ever-present pop country dead giveaway: the token banjo. Tyler and Brian think they’re picking up all these chicks because of their pimped-out ride, but the truth is most of these sweet little fraulines haven’t said no to a man since puberty. And unfortunately that “lift kit” on their Chevy won’t raise their IQ’s out of the sub-par percentiles or increase the potential of their laughable, dwarfish manhoods brought on by more metabolics than Manny Ramirez gulped down during the steroid era. It also won’t make me overlook that Florida Georgia Line’s vocals have all the tell-tale earmarks of Auto-tune embellishment.
And what is this yellow shit they’re tossing around towards the end of the video? It’s never a good idea to wallow in anything yellow and powdery. Piles of raw pollen? Sulfur? Powdered eggs? Powdered AIDS? Hell screw it, let them play around in it and let’s hope it brings a demise to this awful, puss-filled abscess of American corporate culture.
This is the #2 song in country music for the 2nd straight week folks. We’ve got a lot of work to do.
Welcome to country music Florida Georgia Line.
Two guns down!
Warning: Rank classless immaturity ahead.
- – - – - – - – - -
As some of you may already know, I’ve got a good friend named Pointer, and every year we get together for an annual trip to downtown Nashville around Labor Day. Pointer and I are great friends and we both love country music, but we couldn’t be on more opposite sides of the country music spectrum. You see, I like the old stuff and the cool independent stuff of today, while Pointer loves pop country. But that’s okay, we’re such good friends we get along with each other and enjoy our annual trip to Nashville together.
Last year Pointer and I visited downtown Nashville and had a great time. He loves to have his picture taken in front of things. So I thought I’d share some snapshots from Pointer’s and I’s 2012 downtown Nashville trip.
The first thing we saw as we were pulling into downtown Nashville on I-40 was a huge billboard advertising Rascal Flatts!
Pointer is a HUGE Rascal Flatts fan, and so he had to get his picture taken with it!
Then we headed into downtown Nashville proper. Nashville has such a beautiful skyline. I snapped this picture when Pointer and I were strolling along the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge across the Cumberland River.
Pointer loves the Nashville skyline too. He’s also a HUGE fan of CMT’s new reality programming like Redneck Vacation and Bayou Billionaires. I don’t like those shows because I think they perpetuate negative country stereotypes, but it’s all Pointer watches. So when we were strolling downtown, he insisted he get his picture taken in front of their building!
Then we walked across Broadway to the Country Music Hall of Fame!
I was really excited to go to the Hall of Fame to check out their new Bakersfield Sound Exhibit!
One of the things I love about the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is that they house the largest archive of country music memorabilia that exists. The most important part of the collection is called “The Precious Jewel” which is 6 of some of the most-important instruments to ever be played in the genre: Bill Monroe’s Gibson F-5 mandolin, Hank Williams’ Martin D-28 guitar, Lester Flatt’s D-28, Jimmie Rodgers’ Martin 00-18 guitar, “Mother” Maybelle Carter’s Gibson L-5 guitar, and Chet Atkins’ D’Angelico Excel.
With such important and historic relics housed in one place, you can imagine my horror when Shooter Jennings and his XXX movement decided a good way to push their branding was to point a tank at a museum hosing these precious icons. Pointer was neither here nor there on Shooter until his recent duet with The Nickelback of Country Music, Bucky Covington. Pointer LOVES Bucky, and loves the duet “Drinking Side of Country” so he wanted to get his picture taken at the place where Shooter pointed his belligerent tank at the last remaining country music institution preserving its history and traditions.
For some reason, Pointer insisted on holding the lens cap when taking the picture. I wonder about that boy sometimes.
So then it was starting to get dark so we decided to hike down to Music Row, the place in downtown Nashville where all the major labels have their home offices. Last year our big stop on Music Row was Curb Records. This year Pointer wanted to find the elusive, unmarked offices of his favorite label, Taylor Swift’s Big Machine Records owned by the Country Music Anti-Christ Scott Borchetta. They purposely leave their building unmarked, but after some cyber-sleuthing and asking around, we found the proper place and Pointer couldn’t wait to get his picture taken in front of it!
Many Music Row offices are housed in older houses, and some tear down the old houses and build bigger buildings as the label grows. According to Pointer and I’s sources, the building being constructed right beside Big Machine’s current home office will be their new office soon, so Pointer wanted to be pictured in front of that as well!
Oh but I’m leaving out the best part! As we were trolling around, looking for Big Machine’s building, who did Pointer and I see than none other than Scott Borchetta himself! I can’t you how much Pointer would have LOVED to get his picture with him, but by the time we had pulled over and located the camera, Scott had slithered inside. So Pointer had to settle for getting a picture with Borchetta’s car.
Pointer and I really enjoyed our trip to Nashville once again, and looking forward to many fun Nashville adventures in the coming years.
These days you can’t go a few minutes listening to modern mainstream country radio without hearing a “Laundry List” song in the rotation. Usually with little or no plot or story, they simply spew out easily-identifyable elements of country culture (ice cold beer, pickup trucks, dirt roads, etc.) in an attempt to appeal to mostly non-country demographics that can live the country life vicariously through the shallow lyrics.
Another common thread through country checklist songs is how they are used to convey country pride, and help their listeners identify with their side of the urban vs. rural, liberal vs. conservative, religious vs. non-religious culture war. Nostalgia is also a big player.
Like most of the overused song formulas employed by Music Row songwriters, the laundry list likely started with some good, creative, innovative tunes. But once something works, it is called upon again and again by Music Row until all creativity is spent and it becomes cliche. Such is the evolution (or devolution) of the country checklist song.
What is the “first” country music laundry list song?
Though there were others before it, David Allan Coe’s “If That Ain’t Country” comes in as a strong candidate from the way Coe lists out the things from his past that make him “country” and the continued popularity of the song today.
What is the first MODERN country music laundry list song?
Though Rebel Son, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and some other artists may have something to say about it, Rhett Akins “Kiss My Country Ass” is a solid contender for where songs about country pride went from conveying stories to simply being vapid lists of country artifacts and behaviors.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
Below is a list of songs that likely contributed or played an important role in the formation of the modern country checklist song from the legacy era, and a list of songs in the modern era that could be called the “first” laundry list song. I don’t pretend for this list to be complete, so if you feel there is an omission, please add your 2 cents in the comments.
THE LEGACY ERA
Merle Haggard – “Okie From Muskogee” – 1969
Leather boots are still in style for manly footwear. Beads and Roman sandals won’t be seen. Football’s still the roughest thing on campus. And the kids here still respect the college dean.
Unlike the modern laundry list song, Merle spends most of the time in “Okie From Muskogee” spelling out what people from the country (or Muskogee) don’t do, but the idea of country people using a song to delineate themselves from the other side of society in the culture war through lists of artifacts and behaviors was born. And so was the “Proud to be” lyric that is so prevalent in laundry list songs today.
Bob Seger – “Night Moves” – 1977
Out past the cornfields where the woods got heavy. Out in the backseat of my ’60 Chevy.
Bob’s first breakout song, and Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Best Single of 1977″ (it was released in December of ’76), it has had huge reverberations in modern country despite being released in rock. The laundry list lyrics are clear, and so is the nostalgia that is an essential element to many modern laundry list compositions. I’ve said before that the majority of modern country songs can be traced back to “Night Moves”. Listen to the best-selling country song from 2011, the Brantley Gilbert/Colt Ford-penned “Dirt Road Anthem” and you will spy the nostalgia of “Night Moves” all throughout it.
David Allan Coe – “If That Ain’t Country” – 1977
With 13 kids and a bunch of dogs, a house full of chickens and a yard full of hogs. Spent the summertime cutting up logs for the winter.
If you’re looking for the first true laundry list country song that started the whole trend, this might be the most solid candidate. But unlike the modern laundry list song, this one actually has a story and theme to convey, and is truly autobiographical. “If That Ain’t Country” was Coe attempting to prove his country cred to critics who said his music wasn’t, which is what many modern male pop country stars must do because they aren’t. It also features the lyric “Kiss my ass” that becomes a big player in the laundry list song’s evolution.
Hank Williams Jr. “Country Boy Can Survive” – 1982
“I live back in the woods you see, the woman and the kids and the dogs and me. I got a shotgun, a rifle, and a 4 wheel drive, and a country boy can survive.”
One of Hank Jr.’s seminal songs and all self-penned, it spells out the pride and resilience of people from the country like few others. But many elements of “Country Boy Can Survive” are misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misappropriated in the modern checklist song. Resilience is replaced by fear, self-reliance by materialism. Country and Southern pride are at the heart of many Hank Jr. compositions, but few resonate like this one still does today. “Country Boy Can Survive” and Hank Jr. are referenced specifically in many modern laundry list songs.
THE MODERN ERA
Marcus Hummon “God’s Country USA” – 1995
Looking back at my one cop town, skinny dipping drinking Royal Crown. And thinking about year long days, and rowdy ways, and best friends lost and found. Remembering my half back moves, night games and backseat blues.
This song may be somewhat obscure, but may be the missing link between the old-school and modern-day laundry list country songs. Marcus Hummon is a big, behind-the-scenes songwriter in Nashville that has written #1 hits for Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, The Dixie Chicks, Sara Evans, and has numerous Top 40 hits to his name. Hummon was 14 years ahead of his time with this song that sounds just like the checklist songs of today.
Lynyrd Skynyrd – “That’s How I Like It” – 2003
Like my women hot and my beer ice cold. A real fast car and my whiskey old. Like a slow drive down and old dirt road. That’s how I like it.
Even more surprising than how similar the lyrics to “That’s How I Like It” are to today’s laundry list songs is how similar the sonic structure is. Lynyrd Skynyrd is a Southern rock band, meaning they could get away with rock beats and overdriven guitars in 2003 when this would have been crossing a line in country. Of course today in country, anything goes. From the unplugged intro, to the rhythmic power chords, to the almost rapping style of lyrics in the chorus, “That’s How I Like It” is the sonic template many present-day laundry list songs are derived from.
Rebel Son – “Redneck Piece of White Trash”Â – May 2005
I like to dip, I like to spit. I like talking on the phone when I’m taking a shit. I’m proud to be a redneck piece of white trash. If you don’t like that pucker up motherfucker you can kiss my ass.
This song from a relatively-obscure, but well-loved band with a very loyal fan base virtually writes, trumps, exposes, and lampoons all modern pop country laundry list songs all at once, even though it was written way before most of them. Aside from the “kiss my ass” lyric from David Allan Coe, if you want to find the truly “first” original modern checklist country song, look no further. Rebel Son relies on humor, while at the same time portraying cold-faced reality in songs meant to be hysterical and completely serious at the same time.
Rhett Akins – “Kiss My Country Ass” – October 2005
Tearing down a dirt road, Rebel flag flying, coon dog in the back. Truck bed loaded down with beer and a cold one in my lap.
Probably the more obvious and more-accepted advent of the modern laundry list country song (as opposed to Rebel Son), “Kiss My Country Ass” appeared on Rhett’s 2007 album People Like Me, but was released as a single in October of 2005. The song mentions Hank Jr.’s “Country Boy Can Survive” directly, and was re-recorded by Blake Shelton for his 2010 Hillbilly Bone EP. If you’re looking for the smoking gun, the primary culprit for the modern laundry list song’s popularity and its move from telling stories to simply conveying lists of countryisms, “Kiss My Country Ass” is the probably strongest candidate.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
Thanks to frequent SCM commenter “tontoisdrunk” for asking about the evolution of the laundry list song.
I first used the phrase “Country Music Anti-Christ” in reference to Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta about 2 1/2 years ago. I’d like to hold my chin high and say I was being prophetic, but in truth at the time I just thought it was a nasty way to label the guy primarily responsible for the rise of Taylor Swift and the biggest perversion of the term “country” the genre has ever seen. And hey, he has the evil goatee. But little did I know a few short years down the road, Borchetta would become one of the most powerful men in all of music.
The reason I coined the nickname had to do with the purity of genre terms. Borchetta calls Taylor Swift country when she’s clearly pop, and Justin Moore has been the primary culprit in the corruption of another important country term, “Outlaw”. We can argue back and forth if we should even care about the purity of these terms any more. This was a much more salient discussion when Taylor Swift was winning her first CMA for Entertainer of the Year in 2009. At this point that battle has been lost. The only question is if these terms are worth fighting to reclaim.
But disgruntled country music purists are not the only ones who look at Borchetta as the anti-Christ of their music world. His rival label executives on Music Row must see Borchetta as just as much of a threat, if not even more of one to their way of life. If the prototypical Music Row executive can be visualized as the gray-haired man with a steak-and-potatoes gut spilling out of his navy suit, then Borchetta is the in-shape, sleek guy in a tight-fitting black spandex shirt taking office Yoga breaks and ordering in sushi. As the traditional labels in Nashville have been lethargic in their attempt to keep up with trends, Borchetta has been running circles around them, pilfering their talent rosters and penning historic deals that will re-shape the music industry for years to come.
It hasn’t even been a month since I claimed Scott Borchetta was the new “King of Nashville” after signing Tim McGraw, and since then Borchetta has been at the helm for two more huge decisions. First at the beginning of June, Big Machine expanded into the music publishing business, the one calm port in the calamitously-recessive music industry in the last decade. As sales decline, rights for the use of songs in TV shows, movies, commercials, etc. has remained steady. And then just last week, he inked a deal with Clear Channel that will earn performance rights for his artists when they are played on the radio, a deal that will likely shape how music rights are handled as radio expands and morphs into a more digital format.
The Clear Channel deal is a huge win for Borchetta. “The Big Machine Label Group is the first United States record company in history to have performance rights for our artists,” he told The Tennessean. The deal points out the other dichotomy about Scott Borchetta and his anti-Christ identity: his rise to power has in part been the fault of Big Machine’s culture to actually take care of artists and extend to them a measure of creative freedom, ironically the thing same some traditionalists who hate Borchetta for his perversion of country terms and been clamoring about for years.
Scott Borchetta is just what Nashville and country music needed, while also being the sum of all of its fears. His gamble with Taylor Swift paid off in the sweetest run of spades one could possibly imagine, and now he’s not just a big player in the country music world, he is the biggest, and with the Clear Channel deal his influence stretches way beyond the country music realm. The Tim McGraw signing and the Clear Channel deal may not be the culmination of Borchetta’s rise, it may be the beginning of it, as all ties to the old oligarchy that governed Nashville since the time of RCA, Acuff/Rose, and Studio B, slip away from the market power amassed from the success of Taylor Swift.
So yes, though the term “Country Music Anti-Christ” feels wholly immature and unfair, it also feels expertly a propos.
Timeline of Scott Borchetta’s Rise
- Scott Borchetta starts Big Machine Records after DreamWorks Records dissolves where he was a top executive. It begins as a joint venture with Toby Keith, and is distributed by Universal Music Group.
- Borchetta sees Taylor Swift perform at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville during an artists showcase, and decides to sign her, making Swift the first Big Machine artist.
- Big Machine signs Jack Ingram and releases the album Live: Wherever You Are.
- Toby Keith leaves Big Machine to start his own record label, Show Dog.
- Taylor Swift releases her debut album, Taylor Swift, which would go on to be certified platinum 5 times over, was #1 on the Top Country Albums chart for 24 non-consecutive weeks, and was the longest album to stay in the Billboard 200 in the decade.
- Big Machine launches a subsidiary label called Valory Music Group, signing Jewel and Justin Moore among others.
- Sunny Sweeny signs with Big Machine and releases Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame in March.
- Trisha Yearwood signs with Big Machine and releases Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love in November.
- Taylor Swift releases Fearless, selling a total of 8.6 million copies worldwide, and 6.5 million in the United States, making it the second best selling album in the last decade, and the best selling album in all of music in 2009. It is the only album that has ever remained in the Billboard 200 Top 10 for a full year. It also wins the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2009.
- Big Machine begins promoting Canadian acts Adam Gregory and Emerson Drive.
- Valory Music Group signs Reba McEntire.
- Steel Magnolia signs to Big Machine Records.
- Big Machine joins with Universal Republic to create a new record label imprint, Republic Records Nashville. Sunny Sweeny becomes a Republic Nashville artist.
- Republic Nashville signs The Band Perry.
- Taylor Swift wins first CMA for Artist of the Year, the youngest artist to ever do so.
- Rascal Flatts signs to Big Machine, releasing Nothing Like This in November.
- Brantley Gilbert leaves label Average Joes for Borchetta’s Valory Music Group.
- Taylor Swift releases album Speak Now, which has so far been certified quadruple platinum with over 4 million albums sold. The single “Mean” went on to win two Grammy’s in 2011.
- Scott Borchetta partners with Live Nation Entertainment chairman/Front Line Management Group CEO Irving Azoff to form B.A.D. Management.
- Big Machine signs Thomas Rhett.
- Martina McBride signs with Republic Nashville from RCA.
- Eli Young Band is signed by Republic Nashville, and releases Life at Best.
- Taylor Swift wins second CMA for Artist of the Year.
- Valory Music Group signs The Maverics in Februrary.
- Big Machine Records Signs Tim McGraw in May.
- Big Machine sets up its own music publishing division.
- Scott Borchetta crafts a historic deal with Clear Channel to pay performance rights for Big Machine artists played on radio, while setting the stage for how digital rights and online radio will be managed moving forward.
When Mike Curb first set up shop in Nashville, he had a strategic advantage over his competition: he was local, and he was independent. One of the reasons many major label country artists have such weak control over their music compared to artists in other genres goes back to how the major labels moved into Nashville during the advent of commercial country. Since most of the record labels were based in New York or Los Angeles and owned by larger parent companies, the Nashville offices were managed from afar, with tight controls on cost and content.
Mike Curb didn’t have to work with these restrictions, and this enticed a bevy of talent to his roster. Hank Williams III, maybe Curb Record’s biggest opponent over the years says this factored into him signing with the label even in the late 90′s, with his manager Jack McFadden telling him, â€śShelton, I want to deal with Mike Curb because heâ€™s in Nashville more than heâ€™s in California or New York.â€ť
Yesterday Tim McGraw announced in a press conference that he had signed with Scott Borchettaâ€™s Big Machine Records after a 20-year career and protracted legal battle with Curb. The symbolism and significance surrounding the signing was striking, and spoke to the titanic shifts that are rearranging the country music landscape in Nashville at this very moment.
McGraw and Borchetta initially signed the new deal at Nashville’s Greyhound bus station to symbolize the new beginning. Tim had arrived as a young man from Louisiana with a suitcase and guitar in hand some 20 years before by Grayhound. One of the first people in the music business McGraw was to meet in Nashville was Scott Borchetta’s father, Mike. Mike Borchetta was the man responsible for signing Tim McGraw to Curb Records.
The press conference announcing the new deal was held at the Country Music Hall of Fame, an institution decorated with the Mike Curb name, as are many Nashville landmarks. Holding the presser there was almost like holding it in the belly of the beast, with Borchetta openly criticising Mike Curb, saying that Tim’s first album would be entitled Greatest Hits 4, humorously referring to the incessant greatest hits releases Curb was comically known for towards the end of McGraw’s contract. Soon the Curb name may not be as synonymous with the Hall Of Fame as the one of “Swift”. Taylor Swift, the first artist Borchetta signed in 2005 when he started Big Machine just made a $4 million dollar donation to The Hall of Fame for a new education center, eclipsing any single donation ever made to the institution previously, including any from Mike Curb.
The theme of the McGraw/Borchetta press conference seemed to be the freedom of the artist, with Borchetta insisting that Tim would be able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants; a trademark of Big Machine, and the big criticism of Curb. For 15 minutes, it seemed the Mike Curb approach to the music business was on trial, and found guilty. “It’s time for Tim to take over,” said Borchetta. “This is about music. It’s music business. That means music comes first. And that’s what we’re gonna do.”
And that may not be where the grenade lobbing stops between these two Music Row demigods of Curb and Borchetta. Borchetta left the idea very open, if not hinted that Big Machine would be willing to release competing singles from McGraw’s new material to counter the singles being released by Curb from McGraw’s final album Emotional Traffic that Curb delayed for years, and only decided to release after losing in court. “It’s going to be sooner than later,” Borchetta said about McGraw’s new music. “It’s going to take a nation of millions to hold us back.” This could create a country radio dog fight between Curb and Big Machine to a caliber Music Row has never seen.
Just like Hank3, Lyle Lovett, Hank Williams Jr., and the majority of other artists leaving the Curb label, there was a dramatic sense of relief in the face of Tim McGraw. From the music of Hank3, to the cover of Lovett’s last release with Curb, the Curb Record’s restrictionary approach to their artists has become an indelible artifact of the country genre in this time period, one that the future will be able to reflect back on, to an era when artists were forced to sometimes wait half a decade to get their music to their fans.
But that era is coming to a close. Mike Curb is no longer the Titan of Tune Town. His roster is depleted, his relevancy is waning, and with Tim McGraw joining a stable that includes Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, and The Band Perry to name a few, it is hard not to label Scott Borchetta and Big Machine as the most dominant label in Nashville, and in all of country music right now. In no uncertain terms, Tim McGraw was a massive, maybe historic acquisition.
Scott Borchetta and Big Machine Record’s success speaks to two things: talent evaluation, and freedom for the artist. Artistic freedom is one of the cornerstones Big Machine is built on, and where much of their success is derived from. In a copycat business in a copycat town, it is encouraging to think that Big Machine’s success and Curb Records’ failures will breed a new era of artistic freedom throughout Music Row.
However similar things were likely said about the rise of the independent, and locally-based Curb Records. Money and power are very effective at eroding values over time. And Big Machine holds no values or promise for the forces fighting for the purity and integrity of country music itself. Looking up and down the Big Machine roster, it is hard to find any true country music at all. How ironic it is to finally see artistic freedom trending upwards on Music Row, yet true country music being left out of that trend in favor of country pop.
Make no mistake about it, there is a new king on top of the country music hill, and his name is Scott Borchetta.
This album is not the worst album ever put out in country music, and to be truthful, it’s not even close. With the advent of country rap, “New Outlaw” country, and the laundry list approach to country music in general, pop country now finds itself in a bit of a haven from the harshest of criticisms.
What Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee album does hold the distinction of being is country music’s most embarrassing album put out to date. Never before for any album or artist has country as a community taken such a complicit, submissive role in an artist’s transition from pop.
From mainstream country media outlets covering this album incessantly from conception to release, from the 2011 CMA Awards giving Lionel an eternity in award show time to promote an album months from coming out, to the ACM Awards giving him a full hour-long special that was no more than an infomercial and mawkish tribute to a man that country music owes nothing to, to the country music talent that lined up to let Lionel use them to perpetuate this country music transition, Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee is the biggest ruse ever perpetrated on the people of country music.
But as I pointed out when declaring that Lionel Richie was not country, Lionel Richie isnâ€™t using country music, country music is using Lionel Richie, because mainstream country music is embarrassed about…well… being country. And Music Row’s obsessive need for increasing sales and appealing to new demographics has made them short-sighted to the effect of what an aging pop star with pop songs being branded as country could do for the long-term of the country music brand.
Tuskegee is simply a rehash of Lionel’s Greatest Hits album, and this isn’t meant as a reductive statement, it is simply the truth. The album simply takes all of Lionel’s old hits from the heyday of his career and re-brands them by pairing the songs up as duets with pop country stars with minimal, if any attention paid to reinvigorating or differentiating the original compositions or approaches.
This album is positioned as a “tribute” to Lionel’s hometown of Tuskegee, AL, but the name is as far as this tribute goes, and just like with the music itself, it comes across as transparent, skin deep attempt to appeal to the country demographic without delivering on substance.
There is some country music instrumentation on this album, some soft pedal steel and such. But they are conveyed not as essential elements of the music, but as overlay to pop compositions that are balanced out with the use of synthetic pop elements as well. In an ironic twist in the current country music landscape, country artists who want to transition into the crossover market tend to eliminate all steel, fiddle, and banjo from their music. But when a Lionel Richie or a Darius Rucker decide to transition from pop, they will use a little steel or banjo to attempt to veil the truth that the music is indeed more indicative of the previous genre they’re jumping from.
With such heavy star power on this album, you would expect to be able to distinguish who Lionel’s duet partners were without consulting the liner notes. But this music is so soft, so produced and pallid, it is difficult to tell the difference between Tim McGraw’s and Rascal Flatts’ contributions, or Shania Twain’s or Little Big Town’s. About the only contributions that were easily distinguishable were from the oldtimers like Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson, and from Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland because of how grossly she over-sings on top of the pitch.
This music is not bad for what it is. Lionel Richie wrote or co-wrote most of these songs, and in their time and place, they are well-written, heartfelt songs that speak to everyday people and their emotional struggles and lives. I can see where this album would find appeal. Tuskegee is music for people that don’t listen to music. Lionel came to his success by talent, not by mistake or subversion.
However now in an attempt to rekindle his success, Lionel is resorting to subversion. Do we really need almost identical compositions of the same songs in a music world already beyond glutted with material? Why not try to make these songs country by introducing some waltz beats for example? Add some contrast and creativity to this album. At this point, the popularity of Tuskegee‘s previously-released material can only keep other artists and projects more deserving of attention farther down.
And make no mistake, Tuskegee is a monster of the country music world, and the music world in general. It has already been certified platinum, been #1 on both the country and overall charts, and it’s hard to argue that so far in 2012, it is not the biggest, most important release in country. It is not out of the question that in November, Tuskegee and Lionel Richie, whose already said he wants to make another country album, will be up for major accolades at the 2012 CMA Awards.
All these accolades are an embarrassment for an album that in the end offers virtually nothing new to the music public. This approach is not how the music industry will resolve its financial woes, it is what caused them.
Two guns down.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
So once again Eric Church has accomplished the open mouth, insert foot trick in an attempt to prove to all of us just how much of an “Outlaw” he is. In the latest edition of The Rolling Stone, not the last one with Obama on the cover, or the other one with Obama on the cover, but the newest one with Obama on the cover, Eric Church twists off on Blake Shelton, dropping F-bombs, and saying Blake is “not an artist” for his role on NBC’s American Idol answer “The Voice”:
Itâ€™s become American Idol gone mad. Honestly, if Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green fucking turn around in a red chair, you get a deal? Thatâ€™s crazy. I donâ€™t know what would make an artist do that. Youâ€™re not an artist…If I was concerned about my legacy, thereâ€™s no fucking way I would ever sit there [and be a reality-show judge]. Once your career becomes something other than the music, then thatâ€™s what it is. Iâ€™ll never make that mistake. I donâ€™t care if I fucking starve.
Then Eric Church turned his evil eye veiled behind his signature aviators on the current state of the institution of rock n’ roll.
Rock & Roll has been very emo or whatever the fuck. Itâ€™s very hipster. We played Lollapalooza and I was stunned at how pussy 90 percent of those bands were. Nobodyâ€™s loud. Itâ€™s all very fuckinâ€™ Peter, Paul and Mary shit.
On the surface, what Eric Church said about Blake Shelton and “The Voice” is spot on. The problem is that Eric Church, whose very much a product of the same machine Blake Shelton originates from, is the one throwing the punches. Eric Church is on tour right now with the official country music douche Brantley Gilbert for crying out loud. He wants to be considered an “Outlaw”, but he takes every opportunity to be part of the big corporate country music machine by performing at award shows. If Eric Church has such a problem with Blake Shelton, why did he perform his song “Springsteen” at last month’s ACM Awards, that were hosted by, guess who… Blake Shelton.
As Blake’s wife Miranda Lambert pointed out through Twitter, she took Eric out on tour with her in 2010. â€śThanks Eric Church for saying I’m not a real artist,â€ť she tweeted. “You’re welcome for the tour in 2010.â€ť
Erich Church wants it both ways. He wants to be considered the “new Outlaw” of country music, but he wants to still use the same pop country machine he criticizes to get success. And when exactly did calling out other performers make you an Outlaw? I sure don’t remember Willie or Waylon doing that in their Outlaw days. I remember Waylon skipping the award shows, not making self-aggrandizing videos to help drum up votes from fans. And if you can’t do anything but play music to be an artist, does that mean Outlaws Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson are disqualified because they acted in movies?
This is the same thing Eric Church has been doing for years. The difference now though is Eric Church is no longer playing a club circuit or even a theater circuit. He’s selling out arenas. He’s a bona fide top tier country music star. I am amazed that his last album Chief released last July is still #4 on the Billboard country charts, and was the greatest gainer last week, helped by his big hit “Springsteen.”
But bad habits die hard, and he’s still acting like he has to insult people to get noticed. So many people have their conspiracy theories of how Taylor Swift came to power in country, floating stories about her dad buying her career, and warehouses full of CD’s purchase to drive SoundScan numbers to get her album in the charts. But in truth her big break came when Eric was on tour with Rascal Flatts. Yeah, again, not very “Outlaw”. After repeatedly ignoring Flatts’ requests to not play as loud and to respect the time slot they had given him, since after all, they were giving Eric Church an opportunity, he got kicked off the tour, opening up a space for the up-and-coming Taylor Swift to benefit from the exposure.
Even if I may agree with some of the things Eric Church says, its hard to believe him. I don’t want him representing the dissent against corporate country music, because he’s part of corporate country music, and he fights dirty.
Lastly, this Rolling Stone article should be taken with a little suspicion. The financially-struggling outlet has a history of taking comments out of context, printing comments that were meant to be off-record, and at times publishing outright fictitious stories to help drive buzz and viral events, just like with what has happened with this story where everywhere you turn, people are talking about it. For example there was the story pitting Kris Kristofferson against Toby Keith that both sides say is completely fictitious, or the article that got Gen. Stanley McChrystal fired. Don’t be surprised if Eric in the coming days comes out and says that his comments were misconstrued in one way or another.
As I anticipated, Eric Church has released a statement through The Boot, saying his comments in The Rolling Stone were “misunderstood.”
“The comment I made to Rolling Stone was part of a larger commentary on these types of reality television shows and the perception they create, not the artists involved with the shows themselves,” Eric clarifies. “The shows make it appear that artists can shortcut their way to success. There are a lot of artists due to their own perseverance that have gone on to be successful after appearing on these shows, but the real obstacles come after the cameras stop rolling. Every artist has to follow up television appearances with dedication towards their craft, but these shows tend to gloss over that part and make it seem like you can be ordained into stardom. I have a problem with those perceived shortcuts, not just in the music industry. Many people have come to think they can just wake up and have things handed to them.
“This piece was never intended to tear down any individual, and I apologize to anybody I offended in trying to shed light on this issue.
The day after Vince Gill surprised Keith Urban with an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry at his “All For The Hall” benefit concert for the Country Music Hall of Fame, apparently Vince handed out another surprise invitation, this one to none other than the frontman and sole remaining founding member of Guns & Roses, Axl Rose.
Vince Gill, the emissary for handing out induction invitations for the landmark country music institution, apparently surprised Axl at his Los Angeles residence this afternoon as ginger-headed rocker was hanging kilts out on a clothesline in his backyard. Vince reportedly arrived less than an hour after Axl submitted a letter to the Los Angeles Times refusing to be inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in a ceremony this Saturday, and Axl became irate with the country star.
“Mr. Rose apparently accused Vince Gill of quote: ‘Dancing with Mr. Brownstone’ if he thought he would ever join the Opry, and that they should reinstate Hank Williams before anyone else,” says Sgt. Garero of the Los Angeles Police Department. “Mr. Rose then allegedly smashed Mr. Gill’s signature spectacles that he values at $700.”
Sgt. Garero says officers were sent to the property, and that the investigation was ongoing.
When the Grand Ole Opry was approached to explain why they would want to make Axl Rose a member, Opry spokesperson Meredith Frankenfurter explained:
It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Axl Rose and Guns & Roses have way more songs that resemble country music than anything our last two inductees of Rascal Flatts or Keith Urban do. Go back and listen to GNR songs like “Yesterdays” and “Patience”. Even in their harder rock songs like “Paradise City” if you listen to the introduction and the backbone of the song, it’s way more country than Keith Urban. You could make the case that Axl Rose is more country than most of what you hear on country radio today.
Frankenfurter went on to explain that the honor also was meant to commemorate Axl’s and Guns & Roses’ influence on what she called the Opry’s current “hair highlights” class of Urban & Rascal Flatts, as well as on the genre itself.
Look, when you get right down to it, mainstream country music these days from acts like Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban is really nothing more than 80′s arena rock. What better way to pay tribute to Axl Rose for his contributions to modern country than an Opry induction.
Interviewed at LAX waiting for a flight back to Nashville, Vince Gill said he took Axl’s aggression as a “definite NO” to the Opry’s invitation.
Vince Gill’s optometrist could not be reached for comment.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
Similar News: Hank Williams Sr. Inducted Into Rascal Flatts
When Tim McGraw launched his self-entitled “fragrance” in 2008 and was caught in the pose you can see to your left, it handed his detractors one juicy piece of propaganda. However contrived or sarcastic the moment was, it seemed to illustrate perfectly the unusual nature of having a star from a genre of music meant to represent and appeal to people from rural backgrounds, stooping to the level of peddling such urban finery as an eponymous fragrance.
Now Tim McGraw appears like a pioneer, as it might be easier to name the top tier mainstream country acts that do not have fragrances or perfume endorsements. McGraw’s wife Faith Hill has a whole line of fragrances, in fact the celebrity family has been at the forefront of product naming. In August 2011 Keith Urban launched the “Phoenix, Keith Urban” cologne. In October, Taylor Swift released the “Wonderstruck” perfume to go along with her lucrative Cover Girl endorsement. And just last month, Rascal Flatts debuted their own fragrance, along with plans to open a chain of restaurants.
So what’s up with all the toilet water and naming rights? Money is the easy and obvious answer, but it goes much deeper than that, to branding, and the immersion of that brand throughout society and culture. Millions of dollars are spent creating, promoting, and maintaining pop country’s big brand names like Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts. To receive maximum returns from those investments, other avenues of revenue must be opened up beyond the music world and its traditional merch culture.
As wildly popular and recognized as these pop country brand names are, artists cannot always have a hit single on the radio, or a brand new album out. So product naming allows the brand to smooth out the valleys between music releases, just like acting does, something both Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw have been involved in. Restaurants like Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar & Grill” can help as well. Even if little or no revenue is generated from the branding, it still fortifies the strength of the brand name.
One likely reason we’re seeing an explosion of product naming and perfumes is because in the new reality of the music business, the album and single cycle is elongating. Tim McGraw and his label Curb Records have been at the center of this trend, with McGraw insisting they release his music, and Curb attempting to stretch its artists’ albums out to a release cycle of every 5 years. Cologne displays in big store chains keep that franchise name in the face of the public, like Tim McGraw’s “McGraw” cologne displays that have been prominent in Wal-Mart stores. So when new music does come out, the public is still familiar with the name, and no “comeback” strategy is necessary for their career.
It’s with that philosophy that I would like to announce the release of “Trig, by Trig” an exclusive fragrance for the discerning urban sex panther. It is available exclusively at Habib’s Cell Phone Emporium in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Have you ever wondered who actually listens to those songs they play on pop country radio? Here are the six primary Archetypes, or as Music Row refers to them,Â the “target demographics” that make up the audience of the pop country world.
Affliction T-Shirt “New Outlaw” Doucher
Affliction T-shirt, designer jeans with embroidery on the ass pockets, he is the bulls-eye on Music Row’s “New Outlaw” 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 Brantley Gilbert lyrics, he’s a expert. He thinks Blackberry Smoke is an underground country band, and he shaves his testicles so his panty-cut underwear won’t chafe. He likes to listen to laundry list country songs about dirt roads and old pickup trucks, but his idea of “roughing it” is not dousing himself in Axe body spray before hitting his suburb’s corporate country bar. If he was a woman, then yes, he would douche. No effort is spared to prove how tough he is, but in an actual physical confrontation, he’ll fold like a paper tiger. He wants to show you his tribal tattoo.
Bored Suburban Soccer Mom
The wacky morning crew at her Top 40 Clear Channel country radio station feels like family. She volunteers at the megachurch. She nicknamed her 2010 Mercury Mountaineer “Betsy”, her vibrator “Trace Adkins”, and thinks her life is perfect (though her cocktail of anti-depressents tell a different story).Â She thinks Tim McGraw’s plastic hat is sexy, and cries every single time that sappy Martina McBride cancer song comes on the air. Her kids are named “Hannah” and “Bryson”. She wished her daughter was more receptive to Taylor Swift’s message, but instead her daughter is obsessed with Jason Aldean’s butt. This year is going to be the year she’s finally going to figure out how to make some money on Etsy from her scrapbooking ideas. She posts pictures of her feet on Facebook.
Glitter-Faced Pop Country Girl
Oh my God she SO likes all of country music, including Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, AND Thompson Square! She even likes classic country… like Tim McGraw. “Oh my God that song he has about that girl and guy and someone’s trying to kill them and the guy is all ‘Don’t take the girl’ and I’m all ‘That’s so sweet!!!’”. Her mom wishes she was more receptive to Taylor Swift, but she’s more obsessed with Jason Aldean’s butt. She wants to be a pop star, but her dad is just hoping he can keep her off the pole come her 18th birthday. She likes to put on glitterface and lip sync Carrie Underwood into a shampoo bottle in front of the bathroom mirror in her jammies. Her and her mom are Music Row’s last source of revenue because they’re too ditsy to understand how to steal music.
He can’t wait for Armageddon to come so he can start mowing down brown skins unilaterally, and justify that $5,000 purchase of a 10,ooo-watt generator last summer. You’re damn right he likes Toby Keith, and you know what, that Aaron Lewis guy from Stained ain’t bad neither. He truly believes Al-Queda could invade at any time, and that Abu down at the dry cleaners in town probably did time at Gitmo. 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 rack). 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 still thinks Garth-era printed button up collared shirts are hip, and that if you have more than 2 inches of hair growth anywhere on your head, you’re clearly a homosexual.
Priestly Pop Country Porcupine
Hair highlights, frosted tips, hyper image conscious, he’ll prove to you just how cool Christianity can be by getting the 10 Commandments tramp stamped on the small of his back. His idol is Keith Urban, and he so wants Gary LeVox’s hair. Similar to the “New Outlaw Doucher”, but he trades in the tribal designs for Gothic crosses, and doesn’t limit the manscaping to just the crotch region. He broke his chastity pledge once, but that’s OK because Jesus loves him. He doesn’t know how it is to go to a church that isn’t conducted in an auditorium and has a Starbucks and Chili’s Too in the east wing. He has every subtle change to all three members of Rascal Flatt’s hair designs saved on a thumb drive just in case his computer crashes. The embroidery on his designer pearl snap shirts incorporates glitter. He’s thanks God he doesn’t have to interface with ugly people very often.
Overweight Country Rapper
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 a fat loser land locked in a small town in America’s breadbasket. Colt Ford is his hero, and Yelawolf is the only one who really understands him. He got a title loan on his 1992 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 5 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 and buying a set of spinning rims for his mom. 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.
OK, I would contend that this 7th Archetype is actually a subset or derivative of the “Red Blooded ‘Merican” or the “Affliction T-Shirt ‘New Outlaw’ Doucher”, but I am bowing to public pressure and adding one more. I hope you approve.
The Windshield Cowboy
Sporting an always brand spanking new 1 ton pickup truck with a diesel engine and dually tires, he needs this heavy equipment as a middle management quality control paper pusher in a cubicle farm located in white flight Suburbia. He’d like you to think he owns a farm, but a farmers wage wouldn’t even pay his truck’s interest. His yearly gas bill equals the gross domestic product of Myanmar. He’s shining his chrome rims while his children and wife are ignored. 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. He wants you to think he’s country, but Nickelback comes up as “Most Played” on his iTouch. He once hauled a 10 lb bag of potting soil in his truck. Afterwards he immediately sprayed down the beadliner and buffed the paint for 3 hours. He’ll never do that again, but he will haul his equally pristine bass boat, four wheeler, and fifth wheel travel trailer with it, all that he bought to offset his misery. He works 60 hours a week to pay for it all, but is two months from bankruptcy. Deep inside he feels trapped and desperate, but that’s OK because his truck kicks ass. He’s under the impression you can take your material possessions with you to Heaven and tried to write that stipulation into his truck’s two year lease. No, he will not help you move next weekend, he has to wash his truck.
I told myself I was not going to get too wrapped up into the American Country Awards, or ACA’s that aired last night on FOX. This is not a real awards show folks, and last night proved why. The only real country awards shows are the CMA’s, and the ACM’s, and those have degenerated so much over the years, it is hard to take them seriously either.
Spending too much time getting wrapped up in the doings of the ACA’s, even if the attention you give them is negative, I’m afraid will by proxy may somehow legitimize their existence, which might be even more of a travesty than anything that was televised last night. But when it comes to their “Artists of the Decade” award, I think it is important to point out the gross negligence the award show took in naming the winners, to prove why the ACA’s are meaningless, and their legitimacy dangerous.
The first observation about their top 10 “Artists of the Decade” is that they did not include one female artist. Not even one. In some ways, this isn’t so surprising, because music is a male dominated environment. That’s the way it is, and that is the way it is probably always going to be.
But I don’t care how their stupid list was compiled. I don’t care if it was sales driven, fan voted, a combination thereof calculated by Price, Waterhouse, Coopers, or if they took a bunch of names on pieces of paper, stuck them into Billy Ray Cyrus’s mullet and had Vanna White pick them out at random, if you have to you gerrymander your system to make sure you are inclusive to half the artists contributing to country music, and half of their fans, then that is what you do.
A lot of folks are also up in arms that Toby Keith ended up being their #1 “Artist of the Decade.” Toby’s win revealed how the ACA’s decided who got the awards, that it was sales-driven, and since Toby Keith sold more albums in the oughts than anyone else, he was the big dog. What the brain trust behind the ACA’s did not consider though, is that the oughts were a period that saw the greatest flux and contraction in the music business the industry has ever seen.
Toby Keith was their #1 just because he had a song about bombing the brown skins back to the stone age back when people actually bought music early in the decade. Last time I checked, Taylor Swift was the best-selling artist in the last five years, in any genre, yet she couldn’t even crack the ACA’s top 10? If you had created an equitable system that actually took into consideration music contraction, who knows, Taylor Swift may have been #1.
People should not be getting worked up that Toby Keith won this award, or that no women were included, they should be angry that FOX and a few investors can get together, rent the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and hijack the term “country” and maraud it around like they have any knowledge or ownership in what that term actually means, or any legitimacy to decide who gets recognized for achievement.
The term “country” doesn’t belong to them, it belongs to us, to the people who created it through 100 years of tradition. Taylor Swift wasn’t even in the building last night even if she had won an award, probably because she didn’t want to be associated with such an illegitimate show. Neither were Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Eric Church, and many other legitimate country music franchises.
I am tired of being embarrassed by being associated with country music, and I’m also tired of seeing that embarrassment by fans and artists bleed energy and talent out of country to “Americana” and other areas. “Country” is our term, and our music. The “American Country Awards” have no right to it. Even more artists should boycott the awards next year, especially the beautiful and talented female artist who was dismissed by their “decade” award, and allow this thing to whiter on the vine.
I can’t make this up folks, there is actually an effort out there to put together what is being called a “country music boy band.” So if you have the ambition to be a musical monkey, then shave your balls, shove a sock down the front of your pants, spike your hair and bleach the tips and get your ass to CountryBoyBandSearch.com to sign up!
Our favorite radio station operator Clear Channel Radio, has partnered with a company called Rodeo Entertainment, run by entertainment moguls David Schulhof and Jeff Rabhan to form a “new country music supergroup that will go on a nation-wide tour, work with the best songwriters and producers in the industry, and release an album on a major label!”
Great, I can’t wait.
Open casting calls are being conducted in Austin, Tampa, Nashville, & LA from mid-November into December, looking for the “best undiscovered talent and giving them the chance of a lifetime,” according to casting director Shaggy Bairami. Hmm, Saving Country Music has a correspondent based in Austin. Maybe we’ll send him down to whatever Chuck E Cheese this casting call is being held at to poke around. And I love the statement from Clear Channel senior VP Clay Hunnicutt.
Clear Channel loves to ignite creativity among talented artists living in local communities across the U.S. This is a great way to inspire our local listeners to show off their talent.
Wait a second, excuse me? Didn’t just yesterday I post an article about how Clear Channel was screwing local communities by firing hundreds of local DJ’s and replacing them with national automated programming? And didn’t anybody think to tell any of these knuckleheads that the term “boy band” is derogatory? Boy bands don’t like to be called boy bands, even during their heyday in the 90′s and early oughts. And of course 10 years ago, the idea of a country boy band would’ve gone over like a poop in a punch bowl. The fact this idea has made it this far gives us a very clear barometer reading of where country music is today.
But I’ll be honest with you, I can’t wait for this. It’s going to be so much fun wizzing all over this project, poking fun at Donnie and Johnnie and Ronnie and Bobbie as they work on their choreographed dance moves and premier their haircuts. It’s gonna be like Rascal Flatts sans the middle-aged chub!
Let the games begin!
Pop country group Rascal Flatts, the top-selling country group of the last decade, best known for their pallid and catchy tunes, prickly hair, and overt use of the pitch-correcting program Auto-tune in both the recorded and live formats, is now a member of the most sacred of all country music institutions, The Grand Ole Opry.
The announcement came as a surprise to the group, and the Opry crowd at tonight’s (9-27-11) Opry performance, where Rascal Flatts was scheduled to perform along with Larry Gatlin, The Charlie Daniels Band, and others. During the middle of Rascal Flatts performance, Vince Gill, 20-year Opry member and default MC for all things mainstream country music, interrupted the group and made the announcement, looking stunning in a set of dark-rimmed designer glasses. According to Vince, the “official” announcement, or induction will happen on October 8th, when The Opry is having their 86th Birthday Concert. Reportedly,Â singer Gary LeVox, bassist Jay DeMarcus and guitarist Joe Don Rooney cried like babies after the announcement, while the crowd of tourists gave then a standing ovation.
Hey, this is Saving Country Music, did you expect me to deliver this news without snarky quips?
Afterwards, Rascal Flatts gave thanks to their hair designers, Antares Audio Technologies for creating Auto-Tune, the 14-year-old girls that make up the majority of their fan base, and the infant version of Jesus.
Membership into the Grand Ole Opry is seen as one of the highest accolades in all of country music, from country music’s oldest institution. Some country pop and crossover stars have been Opry members before, and performed on the Opry stage. But never before has an act that is so overtly commercial, or so lacking in creative aptitude been inducted. And the worst part is, the majority of Rascal Flatts’ fans won’t even care that they are members, because The Opry institution means little to nothing to them.
This is a dark moment in the history of country music.
Video of the announcement:
Last week as I was traveling through Tennessee, I took some time to visit downtown Nashville, where I hadn’t been in a few years, and I brought along one of my best friends named Pointer. Pointer goes wherever I go. Funny thing is, we don’t always like the same things. For example, when I go somewhere sightseeing, I really have no desire to have my mug in the picture. Pointer is just the opposite, he wants to be in all the pictures. We also have total opposite tastes in country music. I like the cool old stuff and the new independent stuff, while he likes the current pop country radio stars. But we’re both good enough friends that we can respect each other’s interests.
I thought it might be fun and informative to share Pointer and my pictures of our downtown Nashville trip for those who’ve never been there.
We started off the adventure on lower Broadway, the last bastion of what Nashville used to be. You can find cool vintage shops here like the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and Hatch Show Print, legendary venues like Robert’s Western World, where BR549 and Joe Buck got their start, and Layla’s Bluegrass Inn next door, a place Hank3 plays frequently, all overshadowed by the mother church of country music, the majestic Ryman Auditorium just across the alley.
Of course one of the most famous places on lower Broadway is Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, where Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and others would hang out and write songs all day (Ryman Auditorium in the background).
It’s also famous for the famous faces painted on the front of the building. Pointer found one particular famous figure he really wanted his picture taken with.
Then we walked around the corner to visit the majestic Country Music Hall of Fame. In front of the Hall we came to a really cool walkway called the “Music City Walk of Fame”, with stars of famous people like Ernest Tubb, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Kris Kristofferson adorning the sidewalk.
Pointer found numerous stars he wanted to get his picture with:
And of course, we already know what a HUGE Kid Rock fan Pointer is!
After touring the Hall of Fame, we went to inspect the construction site for the new Nashville Convention Center, the one they tore the Musicians Hall of Fame down for after promising them a new space, an action that eventually led to all the artifacts being ruined in the big Nashville flood last year. Pointer thought the construction site looked really neato.
While walking down 3rd and Commerce, we ran into some bona fide Nashville natives:
I asked Pointer if he wanted to have his picture taken with them, and he said no, that they looked like assholes. I told Pointer it’s not fair to judge a book by its cover.
Then we hiked a mile or so to the famous Music Row district, where all the big movers and shakers in country music do their business. Apparently we’d just missed by 24 hours a big shindig at the BMI headquarters, canonizing Jason Aldean, Colt Ford, and Brantley Gilbert on the success of the #1 song “Dirt Road Anthem”. From CMT’s account, it sounded like quite the affair:
Large, gold-painted stones anchored the burlap table cloths that flapped and curled in the late afternoon breeze as uniformed servers circulated through the crowd, proffering trays of miniature cheeseburgers and bite-size servings of barbecue.
Now if that ain’t country, I’ll kiss your ass.
Pointer, being a huge fan of Leanne Rimes and Tim McGraw, wanted to get his picture in front of the home office of his favorite record label on Music Row:
After this picture, Pointer leaned over to me and said, “This Curb character sure does have his name splattered on just about everything down here, doesn’t he?”
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
In closing, I’d like to say that Pointer and I both really enjoyed our trip to downtown Nashville, and we both found downtown Nashville to be a land of contrast.
The nominations for the 45th Annual CMA Awards were announced this week, with one of the big winners being Jason Aldean, who is up for Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Single of the Year for his country rap song “Dirt Road Anthem”. If the voting falls in line with sales numbers, there’s a very good chance Aldean could virtually sweep the awards show. When talking to The Boot, Aldean seemed excited about the the nominations.
We’ve been to so many awards shows without me being up for anything, so to go to an awards show and be nominated, and in this case basically in most of the categories, it will be a whole different experience for me, a whole different thing to look forward to….In the past, we’ve gone to hang out and see everyone. This time it will be that, plus we might get to bring home an award or two. For me it’s a whole different excitement level and a whole different reason for being there.
But Jason Aldean seems quick to forget that less then a year ago, just before the 2010 CMA’s, he, along with prickly-haired Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts was panning the CMA’s and their nomination process, calling it rigged. Jason Aldean told The Associated Press:
The average fan doesnâ€™t understand how all that stuff works and the industry probably doesnâ€™t want them to. Fans watch a show and they get all up in arms because their favorite artist wasnâ€™t nominated or didnâ€™t win an award they were nominated for. Bottom line is itâ€™s not based on anything, man. Itâ€™s based on who can rally the most troops for their guy, and sometimes this guy wins and sometimes that guy wins. Itâ€™s just kind of the way it all shakes down.
Huh. So it looks like Aldean’s views on the CMA’s have changed, now that he’s sitting on the brink of sweeping them off the strength of a rap country song. At the request from Saving Country Music to the Aldean camp to explain the sudden sea change in Aldean’s CMA stance, they sent over this video message they said would clarify everything:
When you look at the Arab Spring going on right now in the Middle East, it’s hard not to trivialize problems such as the current financial state of the American music industry or the creative freedom of its artists. However it’s not hard to draw parallels between the two as well: repressive regimes unwilling to contemporize continue or escalate the same heavy-handed oligarchical systems that made them outmoded to begin with in an attempt to hold on to power and money, ending in their eventual demise.
Tim McGraw’s court battle with Curb Records might be the best example of this, and may be the first major battle in the war to restructure the music industry, possibly in the artists’ favor. One note struck me from the verbiage coming from the Tim McGraw camp in the countersuit. It requested that, “‘Emotional Traffic’ be deemed Tim’s last album for Curb and to allow him to be “free to begin recording for himself or any other party as of July 23, 2011.”
That’s right, Tim McGraw, after years of working under a repressive label, is hinting at the idea of becoming an independent artist. Two weeks ago, country rocker Zac Brown announced he’s starting his own record label. Travis Tritt started his own label about a year ago. And when you look at the few labels that are actually doing well on Nashville’s Music Row, they stem from artist ownership, chiefly Toby Keith’s Show Dog Universal label.
Keith started Show Dog in 2005 with DreamWorks executive Scott Borchetta. In 2009, an old-guard label Universal South merged with Show Dog and named Toby Keith as Principal. Big Machine Records, Scott Borchetta’s current label that counts powerhouse Taylor Swift as part of it’s stable, started as a partner of Show Dog. Keith left his legacy label, Mercury Nashville in 1999 to join Borchetta’s then independent “Dreamworks Nashville” label. By offering more flexibility to artists, Show Dog Universal and Big Machine have become big players in music label land, with Show Dog landing a big name in Trace Adkins from legacy label Capitol Records Nashville, and Big Machine acquiring major act Rascal Flatts.
It may not be unrealistic to envision a new music universe where each franchise-level music superstar is the owner of their own label, or works under the loose rules of an artist-run company. The rule of thumb has always been that good artists make bad businessmen. But right now, the businessmen of Music Row make worse businessmen than the musicians. One of the main reasons for this might be the most important element of business: capital.
As old guard record labels continue to hemorrhage money and banks call in loans and parent companies sell or spin off their music divisions, the cult of celebrity has never been stronger, allowing music artists to draw in capital and publicity across multiple media platforms. Take Blake Shelton for example, whose music and pocketbook benefit from his role as a judge on the TV Show “The Voice”. John Rich just won “Celebrity Apprentice”. Carrie Underwood and newcomer Scotty McCreery have built-in audiences from “American Idol”. While traditional record labels must spend money to promote artists, artists can promote themselves while making money doing appearances on cross media. And artist-run labels are more likely to be crafted in models that fit well into the new media and new economy, making them more appealing to venture capital than the dinosaur legacy labels.
For years underground artists and fans have been cheering the demise of the music business, but you might want to be careful what you wish for. Though in theory artist ownership might mean more creative freedom for artists and an opening up of the music, it doesn’t guarantee it. Many big-named artists used to big paydays will likely still delve into a formulaic approach to music making to maximize profit. And artists in charge hasn’t always worked out well. Acuff-Rose Music Publishing co-founded by artist Roy Acuff, along with another artist turned producer Chet Atkins helped develop the assembly line-style approach to music making on Nashville’s Music Row, where songwriters, singers, and studio players all work within a rigid system.
And artists in charge doesn’t solve another music problem: talent development. In fact it might exacerbate it. The stock of “popular” people throughout culture is shrinking while the spotlight on those few select people is increasing. Movie and television actors “go country” to promote their celebrity brand, country artists star in television shows in movies to promote theirs, and the true talent and creativity continues to struggle in the underground. Artist ownership and coagulation of attention around a few mega-star franchises might mean less opportunity for upcoming talent.
The death of the music industry offers and exceptional opportunity to restructure the business of music into a more fair, efficient, intuitive, and productive industry that effectively produces music that offers enjoyment and fulfillment to the masses. The decisions by artists, courts, lawyers, and executives happening right now will have a greater effect on the outcome of music than any time in its past. And it is not unrealistic to think that the faces we see at the top of the ladders are not ones of nameless executives, but ones we see on our television screens or hear on our radios every day.
On June 21st, an artist I hadn’t even heard of until a few weeks ago named Justin Moore will release an album entitled Outlaws Like Me.
I have been critical of the “new Outlaw” crowd that includes Eric Church and Josh Thompson for perverting that sacred country music term, but to their credit, and the credit of their fans who have pointed it out, neither Eric nor Josh, or Jamey Johnson have ever come out and actually called themselves “Outlaws”. They’ve have talked about their “Outlaw” ways and thrown Waylon’s name out there beside their own like they belong together. But even when I saw Marty Stuart a few weeks ago, I took careful notice that though he said, “The most Outlaw thing you can do in Nashville these days is play country music,” he stopped short in using the term about himself.
Now here comes the fresh-faced Justin Moore, signed to Big Machine, the same label as Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, under the tutelage of the country music anti-Christ Scott Borchetta, blatantly calling himself an “Outlaw”. Ironically, one of the reasons Big Machine has gone from a small-time player in the music world to a big dog is by giving their artists a little more creative freedom than most Music Row imprints. But an “Outlaw”? Fucking please.
I’ll be honest. From what I have heard from Justin Moore’s music, the guy can sing, and at first glance, I don’t find his music as offensive as some of the other “new Outlaws”. And I’m sure some of his fans will rush here to explain that when Justin says “Outlaw”, he doesn’t mean the country music kind, but I’m sorry, “Outlaw” means something very specific in country music, (<===and if you don’t know it, read that link) and you can’t play innocent about knowing exactly how people will take it when they see the title of this album. In some ways I feel bad for Justin Moore, just like I feel bad for Taylor Swift. Someone at Big Machine should have sat them down and said “Taylor, you’re not country, and Justin, you’re no Outlaw.” Instead they have to hear it from an asshole like me.
Most of these young artists don’t even know who Bobby Bare is, and what he fought for. They’re just a few years removed from mommy reading them Shel Silverstein’s Light in the Attic to scare the boogey man away, but have no idea Shel was an integral songwriter to the Outlaw movement. They don’t appreciate that 3/4′s of Waylon’s songs were love ballads, and that he hated the term “Outlaw” because it perpetuated a negative stereotype, the same exact negative stereotype that the “new Outlaws” are embracing with their misguided that being an Outlaw is about hard living.
And then yesterday it comes out that there’s a new band called The Moonshine Bandits, who are featuring Colt Ford in their debut song “For The Outlawz”. They are calling themselves “Outlaw country/rock/rap”. Now the perversions have perversions, as every fat white fuckwit who can’t sing feels entitled to his own niche and marketing angle. Eric Church meanwhile puts out a video that christens him the next in the line of Williams, Waylon, Willie, and Cash.
Legendary music writer Chet Flippo called Eric out, though he wasn’t brave enough to do it by name, saying, “As if he belongs in that pantheon of greats. Give us all a break. Well, these things always seem to sort themselves out in the end.” But of course, next week Chet will say people like me have no right to say who is country or not. And as for “these things sorting themselves out”, where is the dissension beyond Saving Country Music? As Chet alludes to, country music is supposed to be self-policing. Where are the real Outlaws stepping up to do battle with these carpetbaggers? In the early mid-2000′s, I heard songs like “Dick in Dixie” and “Put the ‘O’ Back in Country” and “Country My Ass”, and I believed them. Dale Watson said, “Get pissed and get mad.” Well, yeah Dale, I’m that already, but what am I supposed to do next? It almost feel now like those songs were simply a lyrical trend as opposed to a rallying cry.
Is XXX going to be what solves this? Trust me, as soon as XXX gets big, Music Row will steal that term as well and use it to market glorified boy bands. Where is Hank Jr., and the other legends who are supposed to keep a tight hold on this stuff? Why does it fall to an obscure blogger to do battle with this trend? In the 80′s, Jr. tilted at windmills all day, calling out New Yorkers and Northerners and gays for no reason. Now the culture of the South has been stolen right from under us and perverted for marketing purposes, and he’s off smoking grass on the set of the next Kid Rock video.
Where is Jamey Johnson, if he truly wants to be “the next one”? Mums the word coming from his camp, because he’s too afraid of saying the wrong thing, and it resulting in the next payday being a little lighter. How about stepping up and fighting for what brought you those paydays in the first place?
When Justin Moore’s “Outlaws Like Me” comes out, I will listen to it with the most un-bias perspective I can muster, and try my best to judge the music beyond the marketing. But in the meantime, I am not going to look at him as the problem, I am going to look my self and ask, “What did I do wrong? How can I resolve this? What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future?” And anybody who truly cares about country music, and specifically Outlaw country music, must do the same. If the people with the big bullhorns aren’t going to take up the slack, then we, the country music fans and the small artists, must.
I might be making too much of this. I might be preaching at the choir. I might be fighting a losing battle, or tilting at windmills myself. But at this point, if we don’t fight for the preservation of the term “Outlaw”, apparently nobody else will.
- Adrian on Taylor Swift Is Leaving Country. But Will Country Let Her?
- Filler on Taylor Swift Is Leaving Country. But Will Country Let Her?
- Filler on Taylor Swift Is Leaving Country. But Will Country Let Her?
- Strait Country 81 on New Hank Williams “I Saw The Light” Biopic Coming
- Michael Massimino on New Hank Williams “I Saw The Light” Biopic Coming