the quality of the music of these do-good artists can sometimes be an entirely different story than the quality of their character. Such an assessment is subjective mind you, both on the musical and personal side. But generally speaking, the generosity of a given celebrity and the standards of their music doesn’t always go hand in hand.
Justin Timberlake has officially gone country. Or at least one of his songs has. As radio programmers all over the country were busy Wednesday morning trying to figure out where to stack their reams of payola, a memorandum buzzed out across the wires: “Justin Timberlake’s ‘Drink You Away’—the same song he played with Chris Stapleton on the CMA Awards—is requesting play on your country station.”
We already knew that Chris Stapleton was an amazing singer, a great songwriter, and an astounding guitar player. Now the rest of the world knows. And where all of this will take country music is something we can only speculate on at the moment, but it certainly is something to be taken as a very good sign, even if you’re just ho hum on Stapleton, or gaze a hairy eyeball at all those pop country songs he wrote for others.
That’s the somewhat anecdotal, but still troubling conclusion of a recent analysis by ‘Billboard.’ Today, the more likely scenario for how a song is written is scheduled meetings in cubicle farms, or collaborations on Skype with individuals who are credited as songwriters, but are better described as producers or programmers. Ideas are thrown out in collaborative form, and then workshopped in a group setting.
What bothers me the most about this song is how so commonplace it has become to see a song like this become a big success on country radio without any measurable clamor or concern about where this might be leading country music in the long-term. Kelsea Ballerini has no idea what country music is. At 22-years-old, she’s lived her entire life likely without hearing one authentic country song on the radio.
The allure of ABC’s hour-long drama Nashville lost its luster for yours truly many seasons ago after the drama got so ridiculous you could see the plot twists coming from a mile away. And the music—though still a decent component—got somewhat sidelined in recent seasons in lieu of keeping the sappy and seductive scenes coming to keep eyes glued on the TV screen.
A new feature recently posted in GQ goes much farther in describing the conflict between Swift and Big Machine. This wasn’t a simple exchange between Swift and Borchetta. There was an outright intervention going on, with numerous high-level executives doing what they could to assuage Swift into not going pop 100%.
“I love country music. I respect country music so much that I would never think that I can sit down and just as easy do a country album. That’s not it. That’s just like some country artist saying, ‘Hell, I’m just gonna do a rap album.'”
I express all of this knowing it’s going to be a minority, unpopular viewpoint. I also express it as someone whose philosophies in music are very much influenced by Ryan Adams’ body of work. If you find Ryan Adams’ ‘1989’ entertaining, then hey, don’t let my corrosive words cloud your judgement. But I can’t share in that joy.
The “Benedict Arnold of Country Music,” a.k.a. Zac Brown, sat down recently with the always-complicit Rolling Stone Country to participate in yet another puff piece, and shoved his foot so far down his throat, Cheryl Tiegs would be colored impressed by his the once country star’s incredible pliability.
Merle Haggard remains on tour, and remains on the warpath against the direction of today’s country music, at least when asked about the matter by the press. The Hag was interviewed ahead of a show in Toledo, Ohio at the Stranahan Theater on September 9th, and didn’t mince words when questioned what he thought about today’s country sound and the artists making it.
It’s not just that depth and intelligence are missing from a lot of mainstream country music these days, it’s that it’s being purposely avoided. It’s uncool to be deep. It’s uncool to challenge listeners to think, to covey ideas through music, or tell truly meaningful stories. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with songs that are just fun-loving moments of visceral escapism. The problem arises when that’s all you’re offering.
When your music is better classified in every single other major American genre of music instead of country, then maybe you should consider to quit lying to your fans and the public and quit calling it country, kind of like Taylor Swift did. It’s not just that Sam Hunt isn’t country, it’s that he is the absolute antithesis of country.
Adele, Elton John, Florida Georgia Line, Hayley Williams, Kiss, Lady Antebellum, Luke Bryan, Meghan Trainor, Miley Cyrus, Morrissey, Paramore, Sam Hunt, Shooter Jennings, Swamp Dogg, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw
McMaster University, a research university in Ontario, Canada, recently partnered with phone manufacturer Nokia to study the listening habits of music fans in their new Digital Music Lab. The massive project is researching around 20 million song downloads to attempt to study how we listen to music. As researchers cull through the crush of data, they have been releasing certain findings…
Goodness, can we just kill off mainstream country music with one final shotgun blast to the noggin instead of watching this long, suffering, painful smothering at the hands of the proprietors of pop who have positively no idea what country music is supposed to be, and are willing to slowly strew its disemboweled innards all across the public sidewalks in victory? Don’t these bastards have any compassion?
So apparently Ryan Adams is in the process of recording a complete cover album of Taylor Swift’s recent record 1989 done in the style of the Morissey-fronted British rock band The Smiths. At least that is what he’s alluding to through his Twitter and Instagram accounts, which were dominated with Swift postings Thursday (8-6) as the press and curious fans spectated along.
But possibly the most troubling sign that something is not right in the Toby Keith camp is the continued stories about strange closings and other curious issues surrounding the “Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill” restaurant chain. Keith founded the restaurants in 2005, and they are operated out of Phoenix by Boomtown Entertainment.
Is this really the substantive victory we were looking for that would symbolize inroads into the sausage fest at the top of the country music charts? Unfortunately the story about the “Love Me Like You Mean It” #1 is more about radio politics, a specific and calculated push by connected people, and frankly, a pop song on country radio. Though the diversity is welcomed, the result is circumspect.
After solving the mother of all First World problems, the United States Treasury has announced that pop superstar Taylor Swift will be the new face of the $10 bill. What cataclysmic upheaval did Taylor Swift stave off to be bestowed such distinctions? . . . The contentious and complex issue of whether music artists would be paid during a preliminary, 3-month trial period as part of Apple Music’s new streaming service.
Swift was the first to pull her music from Spotify in response to their paltry payouts and freemium model. Now she is taking the new Apple music to task for offering a 3 moth free trial at the expense of the artists and songwriters who created the music. And before you say this is all a publicity stunt, appreciate many independent labels are taking the same stance Swift is.