The Country Music Anti-Christ Crosses Line Into Creative Control

November 2, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  31 Comments

Ever since I first christened Big Machine Records owner Scott Borchetta as the “Country Music Anti-Christ” I have gone out of my way to stipulate one important positive about the way he does business and how it might influence his peers on Nashville’s Music Row. One of the core principles at the heart of Big Machine is to extend its artists creative control over their music, something that is unheard of from country’s major labels. From Taylor Swift and The Band Perry, to older country performers like Reba McEntire, Scott Borchetta let’s the artists call the shots, and this is one of the reason’s many of country’s mainstream artists want to be on his label.

But all of that might have just changed, and that change may change the way the whole country music business conducts itself because of the hyper-attention Scott Borchetta’s actions are given by the rest of the industry.

Taylor Swift’s blockbuster album Red includes three songs co-written and produced by Swedish hit makers Max Martin and Shellback. Max Martin is the mother brain behind such awful pop acts as N’Sync, The Backstreet Boys, and Brittney Spears. The three songs on Swift’s Red that feature Martin and Shellback stick out like sore thumbs in an album that otherwise is still pop, but not the hyper-pop that is Max Martin’s signature. So why the wild discrepancy? The decision can be traced back to Scott Borchetta himself, who is listed as an executive producer on Red, a distinction not given to Borchetta on Swift’s last album Speak Now.

When speaking to Billboard for last week’s cover story, Borchetta first says:

One of the things we talked about early on was, when it’s country, run toward it. When it’s rock, run toward it. When it’s pop, run toward it. You’ve got creative license; I’ve got your back.

But as the process of making Red transpired, Borchetta interjected himself into the most critical decision: to bring Max Martin and Shellback into the project. Swift began making Red like all of her albums, with long-time co-producer Nathan Chapman. But when they turned in the title track on Red to Scott Borchetta, he was not impressed. This was when the idea was hatched to bring in Max Martin.

Max Martin

“I said, ‘You know, this song isn’t working yet.’ They both looked at me (Swift and Nathan Chapman) with a blank stare. The chorus isn’t elevating like it needs to. Where you’re wanting to take the song, it’s not going there. It needs a Max Martin type of lift.”At that point Borchetta called Martin. Both Borchetta and Swift agree that it was a turning point for “Red”.

The lead single from Taylor Swift’s Red, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” that was co-written and produced by Max Martin and Shellback has gone on to break many records for a country single. It exhibits the common Max Martin super-pop aspects that have put many of his songs on the charts. But what Taylor Swift and Scott Borchetta should ask is where are N Sync and The Backstreet Boys now? Though these bands and their Max Martin-produced songs enjoyed wild commercial success in their time, the shallowness of the compositions eventually eroded any longevity in the projects. As an artist whose been outspoken for wanting to be known for her songwriting and substance, teaming up with Shellback and Max Martin could be a slippery slope for Swift.

As for Scott Borchetta, it is clear that when it came to Red, he crossed that line between being a label executive, and an executive producer. And since it has already led to dramatic commercial success, there’s no reason to believe he won’t do it again.

31 Comments to “The Country Music Anti-Christ Crosses Line Into Creative Control”

  • If Scott Borchetta’s actions result in the rise of Max Martin type of music throughout Music Row, then he will have truly earned the label of “country music Anti-Christ”.


    • It’s not the first time Max Martin has infiltrated country music. Martin and Shellback have written and produced songs for Carrie Underwood, for example. I like Martin’s work – he’s responsible for some true pop classics. However, it’s not the direction I wanted from Taylor and it annoys me that this mightn’t have come about if it wasn’t for Scott.


  • As for mr. Borchetta, I would be really worried if he was involved in the next album of Bob Wayne. If it’s Taylor Swift, I really don’t care. As for the Backstreet Boys, they sold out stadions on their last reunion-tour, and Robbie Williams will get plenty airplay (I’m talking pop-radio in Holland) for all the crap he releases. This is just not the music I want to be reading about on SCM.


    • I think it’s time for me to stop reading these articles. As someone said on your Facebook link: Until this guy starts affecting Wayne Hancock’s music he is still just another turd in the punch bowl.

      Your articles of name calling and soapbox raving will not change a damn thing except the hit counter on your site, meanwhile, alienating the people that come here on a regular basis to discover new music and hear news about the real country and western music that is still being made and played all over the country.

      Moonrunners anyone?


      • Saving Country Music was founded as an organization called Free Hank III with the express purpose of fighting for the creative control of artists regardless of their stripes or how cool any scene finds their music. It’s not only that I want to write about these subjects, I have a moral obligation to the charter of this site to do so.

        If you or anyone else doesn’t want to read about it, THEN DON’T READ IT!! I’m tired of the whining. Yeah, go to Moonrunners, best of luck finding a 1/3’rd of the music coverage of underground country bands as you do here. Funny neither of you said shit on my article on Lucky, when I spent 5 hours at a venue, interviewed him, took over 100 pictures, and a dozen videos. But I guess that isn’t as cool as bitching about SCM on Facebook.

        And if you don’t think the actions of Scott Borchetta effect Dale Watson, Wayne Hancock, Jason Boland, Robert Earl Keen, Merle Haggard, Stoney LaRue, Lyle Lovett, Amber Digby, Justin Trevino, Marty Stuart, then you aren’t paying attention. His deals with Clear Channel and others are having massive effects on those artists, and every music consumer on the planet. Does that mean you have to care? No, but quit chastising the people that do.

        I’ve got no truck for music elitism.

        I never write anything for traffic. I write to get my opinions out before they fester and drive me insane. The first rule for me writing about something is if I am passionate about it, and I am very passionate about this subject. If writing about it means losing dozens of readers, so be it.

        Holy shit, Taylor Swift releases an album he week before the CMA’s and there’s a bunch of mainstream coverage on SCM. What a fucking surprise. We’ll see how many pats on the back I get in the coming weeks when there’s barely any mainstream coverage because there’s nothing going on in the news cycle. I won’t get any, because that’s not cool in the scene.

        Put napkins on your vag’s. Christ.


        • Bitching about this Scott fella is like bitching about a president. In the next cycle he will be replaced by another just like him. The difference is that we can’t vote for who controls the music. I understand why you’re upset, but name calling behind a computer screen is not only rude and childish, but its gutless as well. As I have commented here many times, I am grateful that you cover less popular artists. But, trying to say that Nashville affects these artists is not always the case. I will not speak on behalf of anyone, but I haven’t met a single musician (including myself) who is concerned with corporate music. The corporate music landscape could change completely and these artists sill would not want to be included in the corporate music world. And, for god’s sake, do us all a favor and stop name calling.


          • Actually, I think the “name calling” aspect of this site has diminished over the years. If you look at the early years of this site (2008-2010), you’ll notice that it was full of highly negative articles, often written in a nasty, personal tone. The criticism of mainstream music today on this website is far more civil and professional nowadays.


          • Oh, so the name calling is the issue? Come on man, that’s just my dumb way of trying to be humorous. I’ve been called plenty of names, trust me, and I take it in stride.

            “But, trying to say that Nashville affects these artists is not always the case.”

            Never said that. Said that certain things Scott Borchetta has done does, and I stand behind that, and I’d venture to guess other folks who study such issues would agree. Artists may not care because these are complicated issues and they are usually naturally averted to anything business in the first place. That’s why they’re artists. And again, I totally understand why some fans and readers would be averted to this info as well. What I don’t get is getting belligerent against people who DO care. I don’t know the ins and outs of Cancer, but I’m glad there are people that do and are working on that problem. And even further, I don’t care if you or anyone else cares, I wanted to make this specific point about Scott Borchetta because it was bottled up inside of me. If that means I lose readers, fuck it. I appreciate everyone that reads and I feel honored at all the people that read my writing, but as soon as I stop following my heart and start listening to my critics, I lose. I appreciate and crave criticism, but I also have no patience anymore for this, “It doesn’t effect the music I like so it doesn’t matter” mentality. That’s the foundation of many human problems.


        • Let me put it like this…

          If you want to say there’s been too many articles on Taylor Swift around here lately, as I have said a dozen times now, I hear those concerns, and they soon shall be resolved. But if I am going to get preached at about why I shouldn’t be covering stories on artists and creative control of their music, then you never understood what Saving Country Music is all about. I’d rather shut the site down then not be able to post about stories like this at will.

          I don’t mean to come across as an asshole, but I’m done with this subject. There are no more articles mentioning Taylor Swift anywhere in the hopper or on the horizon. We’re done. She released an album, and now the subject is in the past. Unless something else comes up. And then I may. Because It’s my website and I will do whatever the fuck I want to do, just like I believe every music artist should be able to do.

          Now, let’s move on.


          • Moving on is good advice. I just hate seeing these articles which have quite a bit of elitism embedded in them, by the way. I guess I will just have to filter a bit better on my own.

            Don’t get me wrong, you are truly doing a lot of bands a huge service by giving them coverage, but this is crazy. Hank III sold his soul to the devil out of neccessity. There will always be a devil trapping artist like they did with him. Bit, lets be honest here, no matter how unfair it may be, no one on a major label with a content controlling history should be awe struck when it happens to them. Its no different than being a politician at that point. Keep a good image, keep your nise clean, and make the music they want, play when and where they want.


      • “Moonrunners anyone?”

        OUCH! You really hit Triggerman where it hurts.


        • I have never asked for exclusivity from my readers. I read tons of other sites every day, and encourage others to do so. I’ve also written for many other sites. Don’t see the need for it to be one or the other.


          • Yes, but you have gone out of your way to criticize Moonrunners in the past. You once posted a comment about how you “outwrite” their writers both in terms of “quality and quantity”. Furthermore, you generally tend to lose your composure on the comments section whenever XXX people come to the comments board. I think this clearly shows that the whole XXX issue is very sensitive and personal for you.


  • I’m heading to Fort worth to see Chris Knight Who would most likely tell Scott to rot in hell and then puch him out. Who Freaking cares about this crap if it ain’t affecting real music I sure don’t.


  • I’m just giving you some criticism as a frequent reader of your site. You can choose not to hear it. Now excuse me while I change napkins while listening to some Junior Brown.


  • Scott who?


  • speaking of Moonrunners…first Shooter Jennings collaborates with an American Idol failure,now he’s bullying John Mayer on twitter. seriously,can this dude be any more pussy?


    • Good lord. I read about that earlier this week on — I’m not a Mayer fan at all, but that was ridiculous. Awfully one-sided, too (reminds me a bit of the Oasis-Blur “feud” in the mid-’90s, where it was pretty much the Gallagher brothers doing all the trash-talking about the other band).


  • Trig, since I’ve been telling my mother about your blog — she doesn’t have Internet, so I’ve been reading some of your articles to her when we talk on the phone — I must admit “Scott Borchetta, the Country-Music Anti-Christ” has become a bit of a in-joke between us. We’re both frustrated by the direction popular country music has taken in the past decade or so (though she has a stronger stomach than I do for a lot of it), and it helps to be able to laugh at some of the genre’s more ludicrous aspects.

    But this isn’t so funny.

    The one thing this guy had going for him was the autonomy he gives his artists (however wrongheaded their instincts might be — “Truck Yeah!” anyone?). Now, who knows how far he can go…?


  • If it’s worth anything I enjoy these articles. I’m so far removed from Nashville, Dallas, etc., that it’s nice to read different perspectives about what’s happening to country music.


  • I dig these kinda articles. While I’m not necessarily concerned with a lot of the artists in question, I like knowing what direction the industry is headed. Trig is just covering the fight from all angles. Keep your enemies close, as they say.


  • it seems a lot of people are bitching about the content of the site. i, for one, come to this site for info on underground artists as well as info on whatever mainstream bullshit happens to be going on (as i don’t pay much attention to it otherwise). i like the diversity of this site, even if i don’t always agree with your opinions. people that visit your site daily, yet bitch about content, can fuck off in my opinion. if you don’t like what’s being written, don’t read it. i’m sure there are numerous other sites that cover similar material. i hate pop country as much (or more) than anyone, but i still think its nice that you keep up with what’s going on in that world and relate it to the rest of us. anyway, i’m kind of drunk right now, but i think its cool that i can get both sides of the story on this site. people bitching about the writing on this site need to move on. even if you don’t agree with a certain article’s content, in my opinion, the quality of writing cannot be denied. i’m not trying to fellate you trig, but this bitching gets out of control sometimes


  • Oh, glad you read about this, Trigg. I was about to comment on the MM/Scott thing, but I thought ppl would see me as sharing the blame and trying to cut Taylor from this fuckery while she did have a say in this.

    I’ve been saying this for quite some time now, but I think the best way for Taylor now is to get out of BMR asap.


  • Trig,I don’t always agree with ya on certain artists,but It’s always fun reading.If you don’t want to read a story about Swift or whoever,don’t click on it.It’s pretty easy.I hope you don’t let these fools tell you what you can or can’t write about.

    As far as Scott Borchetta,the man NEEDS to be exposed for his true colors at every chance.I’m glad to see you and a small handfull of others do that.Keep it up.


  • Hope he crawls back under his rock soon.


  • Do you agree with what Bob Lefsetz wrote about Taylor Swift and her latest album, Trig? Here is the link:


    • I know you asked Trig his thoughts on the Lefsetz article, but that article and the blogs on here about Taylor asking will or won’t she continue to dominate, I think both are missing the biggest thing here…. her core fans are growing up just like her. And like Lefsetz points out that Taylor’s career may have more questions than ever, I think that reflects on her fans and the point in their lives… 15-19 year old females. Lots of questions, lots of mind changing, lots of opinions……

      Taylor’s handlers are just trying to squeeze out the last few dollars out of the run she has had. I promise you her next album will be much different than anything prior, including RED. Will it be more country? More adult contemporary? I don’t think it will be “pop” she will be to old to pull it off with “ex-boyfriend’ songs.

      If fans truely drive music, then you have to look at Taylor’s fans, not Taylor. They are growing/maturing young women. Is it a wonder that they aren’t sure what they want right now? So Taylor puts out a pop song via country marketing. Is it a wonder that Taylor’s music isn’t really country or pop, but kind of both. Ask a 17 year old girl what she wants to do today, tomorrow, this weekend. See if the answer is simple and sticks. Probably not. Then ask them what they want to do in 3 years? Taylor’s current album and point in career are reflections of that. I think, RED, is the end of Taylor as we know her. I don’t think we can count her as on the way out.


    • I think Bob doesn’t completely understand the dynamics of country music, and find it curious why he continues to avoid the Billboard issue. But generally speaking, I agree with what he said. Taylor swapped short-term success for long-term appeal, and it could come back to bite her in the ass. It’s unfortunate because there are some songs on “Red” with great substance, but the folks they would appeal to will never listen because they can’t get past the Max Martin / Shellback bullshit.


      • I’m a Taylor Swift fan and I have to agree with this: WANEGBT, IKYWT and 22 are crap and everyone with half a brain knows this. Now anyone who hasn’t heard her earlier songs or other songs on Red only know her for those 3 shit stains and think that’s what she’s all about.

        When I first heard WANEGBT as a single I was disgusted and if I hadn’t liked a lot of her earlier works I wouldn’t have bothered checking out the Red album at all.

        Keeping my fingers crossed that she either does her next album alone or with Nathan Chapman and Liz Rose like before.


  • Just a personal note, the two songs I like the best on Red were ‘Begin Again’ and ‘The Moment I Knew’ written by Swift herself, I believe.


  • This is country and Garth Brooks was an Outlaw too.


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