Analysis: Green River Ordinance’s “Fifteen” More Country Than 19 of 25 Albums on Billboard Chart
For all the non-country artists, albums, and songs showing up on Billboard‘s country charts recently, it was certainly a curious decision by Billboard chart managers to make an example of a poor band from Ft. Worth called Green River Ordinance this week. Despite the insistence of the band, and a clear sonic distinction to their music of country being the primary influence, their new album Fifteen was excluded from the country charts where it should have debuted at #7.
Beyond the issue this causes for Green River Ordinance itself, it also sets country music down a slippery slope where bands and artists could be excluded from industry-leading charts without any material basis. Today it’s Green River Ordinance, and tomorrow it could be Sturgill Simpson, Blackberry Smoke, Jason Isbell, or who knows who.
READ: Green River Ordinance Excluded from Billboard Country Charts While Other Acts Go Unquestioned
If Billboard wants to begin excluding acts for not truly being country for their charts, this would be a step in the right direction in the effort to save country music. But why is Green River Ordinance the band to be made an example of?
For the sake of argument, and using Green River Ordinance’s Fifteen as the benchmark, Saving Country Music has done an analysis of the Top 25 on Billboard‘s Country Album’s Chart, and kicked out any and all albums that are not as country as Fifteen.
PLEASE NOTE: This has nothing to do with taste, or a specific opinion on the music. This analysis is simply about taking sonic and lyrical benchmarks and assigning them to each album, and objectively asking if it is more or less country than Fifteen. Also note: All but six of the albums in the Top 25, Saving Country Music has published lengthy reviews for, and two of those un-reviewed albums are greatest hits compilations, and the remaining have been listened to, and singles reviewed from the album. So there is a strong knowledge in the material being presented. Also, if any album was sitting on the bubble, in an abundance of caution, it was allowed to stay on the chart.
RESULTS: In Saving Country Music’s estimation, if you used Green River Ordinance’s Fifteen as the benchmark for what is country and what isn’t, 19 of the 25 titles would need to be eliminated from the Billboard Country Albums chart. Also note that one of the albums to be eliminated would be Don Henley’s Cass County because he does not originate in country as an artist—one of the rationales presented by Billboard of why they left Green River Ordinance out.
Billboard has still not responded publicly to why Green River Ordinance was excluded from the Country Albums chart.
- Chris Stapleton – Traveller – Stay
- Hank Williams Jr. – It’s About Time – Stay
- Blake Shelton – Reloaded: 20 #1 – Since this includes some of his earlier more country hits like “Austin,” Stay.
- Sam Hunt – Montevallo – GONE
- Brothers Osborne – Pawn Shop – GONE – Too rock.
- Thomas Rhett – Tangled Up – GONE
- Carrie Underwood – Storyteller – GONE
- Eric Church – Mr. Misunderstood – GONE – Good album but much more rock.
- Luke Bryan – Kill The Lights – GONE
- Tim McGraw – Damn Country Music – Stay (barely)
- Chris Young – I’m Comin’ Over – GONE
- Cam – Untamed – GONE
- Don Henley – Cass County – Great record, and very country. But by Billboard‘s explanation, if you released music in a different genre previously, you can be disqualified, so GONE.
- Randy Rogers Band –Nothing Shines Like Neon – Stay
- Old Dominion – Meat and Candy – GONE
- Chris Janson – Buy Me a Boat – Close, but GONE
- Brett Eldredge – Illinois – GONE
- George Strait – Cold Beer Conversation – Stay
- Little Big Town – Painkiller – GONE
- Florida Georgia Line – Anything Goes – GONE
- Zac Brown Band – Jekyll + Hyde – One or two country songs, but GONE
- Carrie Underwood – Greatest Hits: Decade #1 – A few early country songs, but GONE
- Brantley Gilbert – Just As I Am – GONE
- Maren Morris – Maren Morris EP – GONE
- Kelsea Ballerini – The First Time – GONE
February 5, 2016 @ 10:50 am
I was not previously familiar with GRO. After reading about them here at SCM, I listened to some of the previews from Fifteen on iTunes. I didn’t love everything I heard but I didn’t intensely dislike anything either. The album definitely belongs in the country category. I wonder who they or someone on their management team ticked off to cause this to happen.
That being said, I would be delighted if the criteria was applied consistently for all artists. I wouldn’t miss a single one of the albums that would be eliminated based on Trigger’s analysis.
February 5, 2016 @ 11:01 am
Pardon my negativity, but I don’t see why this matters.
Radio has long abandoned Country Music, it’s been proclaimed pretty loudly even here on SCM. All of a sudden this one band I’ve never even heard of gets snubbed and all of a sudden we have to start caring about radios and billboards and all the other things we shouldn’t care about as music fans because they don’t have any bearing on the quality of the music.
You know who else didn’t get on Country Radio? Jason Boland, Charlie Parr, Roo Arcus, Daniel Romano… And they’d all get snubbed too!!!! Why aren’t we rioting that the billboards ignored these guys?
The charts are irrelevant, because even though “Django and Jimmie” was a great record, it wasn’t “hip” or “now” enough.
Other great records that get shafted by billboard include everything Peter Ostroushko does, everything Colm Wilkinson does, everything that Marty Stuart does…
So one band gets shafted the same way all the other great bands get shafted and all of a sudden we let slip the dogs of war? What does it matter? Who cares what the industry thinks?
The industry shafts each and every one of the independent fans every day, but this one band suddenly becomes an “Old Farts and Jackasses” moment?
I frankly don’t care what the suits think is and isn’t Country Music. I don’t listen to radio, I bet most fans of “real” Country Music don’t listen to radio. The suits have been wrong about what is and isn’t Country Music for years, all the way back to Taylor Swift (and some diehard traditionalists will say even earlier with Alabama.)
Lots of artists get shafted every day. The way to save Country Music is not to fight the radio but to leave it behind. Buy this album!!!!! The radio will just be behind the curve as it has always been with what consumers want and think is and isn’t Country Music.
The slippery slope already happened, and you’re fooling yourself if you think GRO is the catalyst, the catalyst was Taylor Swift.
February 5, 2016 @ 11:10 am
This was pointed out in the last Green River Ordinance article to you. This is not about radio, this is about Billboard’s COuntry Albums Chart, which has nothing to do with radio. I repeat: THIS IS NOT ABOUT RADIO, THIS IS ABOUT BILLBOARD’S COUNTRY ALBUMS CHART, WHICH HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RADIO.
“The industry shafts each and every one of the independent fans every day, but this one band suddenly becomes an “Old Farts and Jackasses” moment?”
This isn’t even close to that level, though it probably should be.
February 5, 2016 @ 11:21 am
I was referring to Radio as in the industry, not radio as in radio itself.
My point is that “billboard” or “Radio” or whatever we want to call it (because really it’s all the same thing: the corrupt Country Music entity) does this all the time to a lot of artists, but for some reason some random band gets the short end of a bad deal playing a game that you suggested be avoided in another article because there are lots of ways to be successful. Colm Wilkinson still sells out shows at bigger arenas than Luke Bryan does (like O2 and the Royal Albert Hall) without any recognition from any kind of establishment. Ostroushko takes home Emmy awards, Marty takes home Grammy’s, and they do it outside of the corrupt Country Music Entity, which INCLUDES Billboard, which is the entity to which I was referring, not solely radio.
Lots of artists get treated this way, why should we rally behind one band when we should have expected the industry to do this?
Aren’t there more deserving artists to fight for? Like Marty Stuart.
And yes I get that this is not about terrestrial radio boxes, forgive my ambiguity, I referred to billboard and radio under the same term because its all the same to me. my apologies for this confusion.
February 5, 2016 @ 12:07 pm
“Lots of artists get treated this way, why should we rally behind one band when we should have expected the industry to do this?”
What are artists have been kept off the charts by Billboard for not being country enough?
“Aren”™t there more deserving artists to fight for? Like Marty Stuart.”
Is Marty Stuart’s music better than GRO’s? I certainly think so. But I don’t recall Marty Stuart being branded “non-country” and excluded from the Billboard country albums chart. GRO loses an opportunity to market itself as having had a Top 10 album because somebody singled them out for this kind of treatment. And if it’s happened to them, don’t think that it can’t happen to artists you considered more deserving.
February 5, 2016 @ 12:58 pm
Yes, of course it’s unfair especially if it’s a relatively unknown band since people do look at the chart and if they’re not on the chart they’re of course missing a chance of getting seen and heard.
At least I do sometimes look up bands who are on the chart but are unknown or little known to me
February 5, 2016 @ 12:26 pm
I referred to billboard and radio under the same term because its all the same to me.
Jason Isbell’s last album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Country charts. Country radio ignored it, as we knew they would. But the fact that an independent artist made it to the top of the country charts with no country radio airplay was a good story, good publicity for Jason and another public indicator of how insular country radio could be.
February 5, 2016 @ 1:49 pm
Look Fuzzy, I’m truly not trying to impugn you, but that’s ridiculous. I can make a strong case that the Billboard Country Albums chart is the exact opposite of “radio” these days. Chris Stapleton has been ensconced at the very top of the chart since early November, and all he receives is token radio play. #1 albums by Jason Isbell, Blackberry Smoke, and Aaron Watson helped launch their careers to new levels, and none of them have mainstream radio play. Shake your little fists at Billboard all you want and say none of it matters, but that’s not going to make it go away.
“Aren”™t there more deserving artists to fight for? Like Marty Stuart.”
You mean Saving Country Music’s 2012 Artist of the Year? And what specific issue am I supposed to be championing for Marty at the moment? This issue affect Marty Stuart just as much as anybody. Who’s to say the Marty won’t be excluded from Billboard in the future? And it is my job as a journalist to ask questions beyond my personal taste. Just because there might be other bands out there I like more than Green River Ordinance doesn’t make this any less of an issue.
February 5, 2016 @ 4:40 pm
The Marty Stuart thing was just an example, I really haven’t followed his recent output with any fervor.
Ok, when you use Blackberry Smoke or Jason Isbell as an example I can see why this is an issue.
February 6, 2016 @ 11:32 am
why should we rally behind one band when we should have expected the industry to do this?
Uh, the Nashville music establishment is the industry. They have a vested interest in excluding acts from outside Nashville, even if they don’t have the stones to say so.
February 5, 2016 @ 5:01 pm
Fuzzy, as you are one of the most frequent commenters around here, it’s incredibly hard to believe that you’ve never heard of GRO. They’ve been mentioned on numerous occasions and if I recall their album before this one was reviewed here. That’s how I first learned about them.
I fully understand what you’re trying to say, but you fail to see how much these things matter. Radio has abandoned country, but I guarantee it’s helping sell those Stapleton albums; so is being on the chart in the first place. Both played a major role in it landing at the #1 spot. A few TV appearances alone would not do that for however many weeks it’s been.
February 5, 2016 @ 11:17 am
“I frankly don”™t care what the suits think is and isn”™t Country Music. I don”™t listen to radio, I bet most fans of “real” Country Music don”™t listen to radio. The suits have been wrong about what is and isn”™t Country Music for years, all the way back to Taylor Swift (and some diehard traditionalists will say even earlier with Alabama.)”
Solid points, F2S . Radio has lost relevance in terms of breaking a REAL country artist …..for that matter a real ARTIST . It becomes progressively more pandering to the generic in its playlists. … more concerned , it seems , with APPEARING to be hip and trendy to the non-country fan than actually BEING hip . Radio has become so out of touch with the sound and sentiment of REAL country music that it doesn’t recognize it when it does come along and needs to be strong-armed into playing it ( Stapleton ) . Indeed the best ‘ plan of attack ‘ for any artist of integrity and music lover who appreciates that fact is to ignore terrestrial radio altogether .
February 5, 2016 @ 11:26 am
I thought this was FTM for a second because this is funny. This should be a regular feature of yours, Trig. Just take a sharpie to the Billboard Country Albums chart.
February 7, 2016 @ 7:47 pm
Ha! Most of the time there won’t be a damn thing left on it but black ink!
February 5, 2016 @ 1:31 pm
I hadn’t heard of this band before you posted the first article about them being excluded from the charts. I went and listened to a couple of the songs from their album and based on what i had heard, was really confused as to why they wouldn’t be considered. I didn’t have a chance to listen to all of the songs, but I thought Red Fire Night was more country than anything playing on my local radio. Not related to this article in particular, but last night my friends and I saw Dustin Lynch at the House of Blues in New Orleans. Chris Lane was his opener. I had never heard his music before but I remembered seeing his name mentioned in the first article about Fifteen being excluded from the country chart. His setlist included covers of Bruno Mars, Maclemore, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Journey, Miley Cyrus, Backstreet Boys, Walk the Moon, Kiss, NSYNC, Mario, that awful Turn Down for What song, and Watch Me Whip. WTF!!!! And the songs that were his all included him trying to sing in falsetto and grinding all over the stage being sexy. It was just so shocking. There wasn’t one song in his setlist that I would have called country. I just can’t even begin to explain how appalling it was.
February 5, 2016 @ 2:33 pm
I agree with your thoughts about Chris Lane….the NSYNC choreographed moves were just plain embarrassing…he’s just not appealing to me at all.
Just curious, what were your thoughts on Dustin’s performance? I’ve been a pretty big believer in him from the beginning, especially when he’s at his most country/acoustic, so I’m always interested in what other people think.
February 5, 2016 @ 2:09 pm
Well I for one find this incredibly interesting. I wish like hell there WOULD be some explanation, because it is such a blatant double standard.
February 5, 2016 @ 2:38 pm
Yeah…. Something like this Houston Erwin. Definitely country.
February 5, 2016 @ 5:57 pm
After watching that ^^^^^I don’t think I could ever bring myself to voluntarily listening to a GRO song.
March 16, 2016 @ 8:50 am
What you two don’t understand is that GRO covers certain “pop” songs almost as a joke. That specific performance is on the Rockboat (that I attend every year). It is a cruise about the music, crossing genres, and musical collaboration.
February 5, 2016 @ 8:20 pm
Heck, I’d dare argue it’s more country than 23 of the 25 titles.
The only two I’d consider, hands down, more country are the entries from the Randy Rogers Band and George Strait.
Too many of Blake Shelton’s latter-career singles have been decidedly light on country instrumentation and production and veer more closely to Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40 sensibilities. I’ve always considered Hank Jr. decidedly more Southern rock and blues than country. And Tim McGraw’s album, while consisting of a respectable amount of country instrumentation, consists of a production that is more Adult Contemporary per usual.
Finally, Chris Stapleton’s album is more a singer-songwriter showcase that defies genre specificities, much like Adele.
February 5, 2016 @ 11:49 pm
To summarize these silly comments from this and the previous article….
We don’t really care about this issue. Nothing is country unless it was recorded in 1965-1979 by Cash, Hank, Waylon, or Willy. To be “real” country it had to be recorded 30 years ago by one of those guys and anything new is crap. GRO is crap, b/c they are not one of those guys, and no one should care about billboard or radio. New country radio = crap, b/c it does not play music from 30 years ago. The end.
Everyone new sucks. But we like Stapleton, only if we can claim liking him before all the normal people who heard him on crap radio started liking him. And if you like radio you are crap. And if you like stapelton b/c of radio, that does not count.
February 6, 2016 @ 6:59 am
^^^Obviously you don’t frequent this website.^^^
February 6, 2016 @ 8:51 am
You completely missed the point but I bet you feel better because you told this website off.
February 6, 2016 @ 9:34 am
I’d say your first sentence is accurate with respect to a few commenters, but the rest is the same old pop country apologist diatribe that I’ve ready many, many times on this site. Tiresome.
February 6, 2016 @ 9:41 am
*laughing* 1965-1979? Now that was a bit harsh. I’d say 1920-1995 after that I can agree with you that Country Music really started to decline…But you seem to have forgotten. The Carter Family, Bob Wills and other pioneers…
February 6, 2016 @ 9:48 am
Bob Wills was no Country artist. Bob Wills was a big band jazz artist who used fiddles instead of clarinets.
Even though many Wills songs have become Country standards, he was very far removed from the sounds of Country Music of that era, or for that matter any other era.
February 6, 2016 @ 10:15 am
Ok. But I always thought about him as “Country” . Can I call him a pioneer of americana instead? 🙂 (Joke)…
February 6, 2016 @ 12:53 pm
It never technically was country music in that era of ’25-’29. It wasn’t until ’58 the designation was changed to country western. It was referred to as hillbilly music. Again how a major publication can have an affect on the music, even by designation.
February 6, 2016 @ 1:33 pm
“It never technically was country music in that era”
But that is just only technicalities , (hope that’s the right word). If the the music before 1958 cannot be called Country than you can’t call Hank Williams, Kitty Wells and others Country singers either…
February 7, 2016 @ 6:18 am
I was just pointing out how a certain designation could possibly hurt the history of the music. My mother is really into gro and I’ve heard them a few times on xm “dancing shoes” being the song I remember most. I don’t see it being an extreme problem like in the possibility of the other instance, just pointing it out. Hillbilly music was just a degrading term for the music, probably the main reason it was changed.
February 7, 2016 @ 1:46 pm
“I don’t see it being an extreme problem like in the possibility of the other instance, just pointing it out”
I don’t see it as problem either, even though I can understand it can cause problem for people like Music historian.Anyways I looked it up and you were of course right. So I guess I have to say: I Stand corrected…
But as far as I’m concerned: Maybelle Carter began to sing in the twenties and she continued to do so until the seventies. And I will
always see her as a Country Music pioneer even if the music was called something else back then…
And the funny thing is:
Since I started visiting this site I’ve tried to stay out of discussion as to what is and isn’t Country. Because in my opinion Country is the most “American” of all genres in American root music. So I’ve tried to stay out of this, at times, rather infected discussion and leave it to you Americans”™…
And ended up in one anyways…
And by the way I was born in -58 so if Country also was born that year. So the next time my birthday comes up maybe me and Country Music can share a birthday cake. 🙂
February 7, 2016 @ 2:32 pm
Since I started visiting this site I”™ve tried to stay out of discussion as to what is and isn”™t Country. Because in my opinion Country is the most “American” of all genres in American root music. So I”™ve tried to stay out of this, at times, rather infected discussion and leave it to you Americans”™”¦
It’s funny that you say that. I try to avoid making statements about what is and isn’t country because I’m originally from the NYC area. Except when it comes to Sam Hunt, because that motherfucker is definitely not country. 😉
February 6, 2016 @ 1:37 pm
“And if you like radio you are crap”
This is true.
February 7, 2016 @ 7:51 pm
@ Johnny, You sound like a total moron who knows nothing of what this site and its frequent readers are really all about. GTFO
February 6, 2016 @ 4:47 am
Green River Ordinance……… #Barneyslifematters
February 6, 2016 @ 11:22 am
Don Henley ”“ Cass County ”“ Great record, and very country. But by Billboard”˜s explanation, if you released music in a different genre previously, you can be disqualified
That right there all by itself strips the Billboard charts of any legitimacy whatsoever, and not just because of Don Henley. Among many other reasons:
If these rules had been in place in 1962, Ray Charles could have not had a No. 1 album with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music because of his R&B and soul background.
If they had been in place in 1970, George Jones could have not had a Top 10 hit with “A Good Year For the Roses” because of all that rockabilly stuff he did.
If they had been in place in 1986, Dan Seals could have not had a No. 1 hit with “Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold)” because of his past work with John Ford Coley.
I mean, yeah, they’ll keep hacks like Steven Tyler and Bret Michaels off the chart, but that seems to be a hollow victory at best.