Who even knew it was possible for Justin Moore to sell out at this point in his career. It seemed like he had succumb so demonstrably to this distinction previously, there was nowhere to go but up. Yet despite being small in stature, apparently Justin More is big on disappointment, figuring out how to further confound core fans, while presenting a brand new set of gripes against him by long-time naysayers.
Justin Moore’s 2011 album Outlaws Like Me once held the dubious distinction of being considered Saving Country Music’s worst album in the history of country music. Florida Georgia Line came along later and knocked Justin off the pedestal with Anything Goes. But at least Outlaws Like Me was country. It was all the laundry list cliches that made listening to it unbearable. Yet not everybody came to that conclusion.
Though the complaints about Moore’s accent being fake have fueled criticisms for many years, and the songwriting has certainly left much to be desired, from the mainstream perspective, at least his voice and music sounded country. He was mainstream pop country’s pseudo traditionalist, if that makes sense. And hey, his 2013 record Off The Beaten Path did show some improvement.
And then we get this. Granted, Kinda Don’t Care is just kinda bad when you listen to it in totality. It’s not some horrifically terrible album when you compare it to some other efforts coming out of the mainstream at the moment. But Justin Moore does what all musical artists should refuse to do no matter what the cost—cross your core fans.
As strange as it may seem, Justin Moore was seen by many as the last cowboy with the courage to sound country. Which would now mean there is one fewer, or none. Many of the tracks of Kinda Don’t Care fit in with what we’ve come to expect from Justin Moore. But then there are these forays into Bro-Metual a la Thomas Rhett that if you’re a Redman-spitting, Lucchese-wearing roper in nut-huggers, your shaking your head in damn shame.
It’s a Rubicon that can’t be crossed, and Justin Moore just crossed it. Sure maybe you can have a song that sounds a little pop or maybe even starts off with an electronic dance beat. But songs like “Between You and Me,” “Goodbye Back,” and especially “Somebody Else Will,” take Justin Moore to the point of no return, leaving fans behind, and hoping that new ones will replace the ones who fall off.
“Let’s just be honest, it’s harder to get country music played on country radio,” Justin recently said to Rolling Stone. Well that’s refreshing if nothing else is. Finally a major label artist acknowledging that country radio today isn’t really country. But then watch him try to dance around the issue of how he once was known as the guy beating his fist on his chest about how he was too country for Nashville, but is now releasing froofie songs about hooking up in dance clubs and getting busy in cabs.
“I wanted to create something that was still me that wasn’t compromising what I really enjoy about country music but something that sounds modern. I was kind of nervous about that, because I don’t ever want to contradict myself from a music standpoint. I don’t want to disappoint my hardcore fan base that allowed me to have the opportunity to be sitting here right now making a fourth album.
But contradicting himself is exactly what Justin Moore does in Kinda Don’t Care. It doesn’t matter how many straight-laced country songs you release, a song like “Somebody Else Will” will leave such a bad taste in the mouth of core fans, they’ll never come back. But of course Justin Moore is a franchise, and mainstream country music franchises have no clue how to market records beyond releasing songs they think radio will play, and hoping that facilitates enough spins on Spotify to recoup the production costs. They’ve learned nothing from the success of Chris Stapleton and others, and don’t seem to be paying attention that the business model for American radio is 18 months from foreclosure.
And what was Kinda Don’t Care‘s lead single? “You Look Like I Need a Drink,” which is classic Justin Moore, and kinda not terrible. You better hope that “Between You and Me” and “Somebody Else Will” are blockbusters on radio, because something has to compensate pissing off those fans you put Justin here in the first place. And Kinda Don’t Care doesn’t have enough good songs to counterbalance the bad. But again, you can’t even look at it like that. To traditionalists, you can’t just be kinda country. That’s kind of like being kinda pregnant. You can’t cross the line of putting out a terrible, radio pandering pop song. And Justin Moore just did.
And beyond the bad pop selections on this record, you have terrible songs like Justin’s duet with Brantley Gilbert called “More Middle Fingers.” Of course this songs was cut with Mr. Attitude himself. All of Gilbert’s fans act like he gets a raw deal and not enough credit for songwriting, yet songs like “More Middle Fingers” are the ones that keep cropping up and catching your attention.
Kinda Don’t Care isn’t a bad album; it’s a kinda bad album. But it’s a terrible album for Justin Moore because he’s just turned his back on the people who believed in him as breath of fresh country music air in the mainstream, and the one who wouldn’t give up on them like everyone else has done.