Yes, this topic again, brought to you by none other than foul-mouthed country artist Wheeler Walker Jr., who took time from writing country porn songs to troll pop star Bebe Rexha on Twitter Tuesday (3-13), and got a rise out of the woman who now holds the record for the longest charting #1 single by a female in the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart’s 60-year history.
In a series of tweets, Wheeler Walker Jr. waylaid Bebe Rexha for disrupting the country charts (and for being a Russian agent, incidentally), getting the pop star with over 1 million Twitter followers to respond.
“Finally heard that garbage ‘country’ song from Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line,” Wheeler tweeted out. “Any radio programmer or DJ who supported that shit should lose their job immediately. I’m not just gonna sit here silently while talentless assholes try & ruin country music.”
Bebe Rexha responded, “I’m not claiming to be country. FGL and I wrote a song that people are connecting to. Music is about pushing boundaries. I’m proud of it.”
Well then there it is. If Bebe Rexha herself is not claiming to be country, then why the hell has her song been #1 on the country charts for 15 weeks now, and just broke the Top 10 at country radio? Someone please send this quote over to Billboard’s country chart manager Jim Asker and have him explain to us why this ruse continues to be perpetrated on the country music public?
What was Billboard’s Jim Asker doing as all of this was going down on Twitter? He was writing and publishing yet another puff piece from the publication praising the historic run of Bebe Rexha’s “Meant To Be.”
“The song surges by 24 percent to 26.4 million audience impressions in the week ending March 8, according to Nielsen Music, earning Most Increased Audience honors,” Asker wrote. That’s right, 15 weeks at #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart already, and last week it increased its audience more than any other song. This thing is a monster, and it’s using country as it’s spring board.
But there’s so much more to unravel from Bebe Rexha’s 25-word response to Wheeler Walker Jr. So much was said in so few words about why this conflict has been foisted upon country music unnecessarily. We already know “Meant To Be” was never meant to be a country song. It wasn’t recorded to be one, and wasn’t logged on the country charts until it was sent to country radio. Bebe Rexha “not claiming to be country” should all but seal the deal about what the right action by Billboard should be, which is to make the song ineligible for the country charts.
Bebe Rexha also said, “FGL and I wrote a song that people are connecting to.” But this is only partially true. They may be connecting “to” it, but they may not be connecting “with” it. As Saving Country Music has explained in the past, “Meant To Be” very specifically benefited from $0.69 song price discounts, and favorable placement on Red Music YouTube Playlists to fabricate the impression of organic interest in the song early on. It also benefited from uncharacteristically favorable placements on three of Spotify’s four biggest country music playlists.
Perhaps subsequently the song has taken on a life of its own, but with so much information coming in just in the past week about the ability to buy spots and plays on playlists, and seeing how “Meant To Be” clearly benefited from playlist placement early on, who knows how much of the song’s success is due to appeal in the market. We’re living in the steroid era of streaming, and it’s just a matter of time before the asterisks start getting handed out, and “Meant To Be” may be chief among them.
Bebe Rexha also says, “Music is about pushing boundaries.” Maybe pop music is about pushing boundaries. Maybe hip-hop and EDM, and even rock are about pushing boundaries. But country music has always been about preserving boundaries, and paying homage to the past.
Going back to the very beginning of country music—back to 1927 and The Bristol Sessions, which was the first commercial implementation of country music—artists like The Carter Familly and Jimmie Rodgers weren’t playing the contemporary music of the day. They were paying the music of their ancestors and forebearers forward, just like Roy Acuff was on the Grand Ole Opry years later, and just like The Outlaws were when they invited Acuff, Ernest Tubb, and Bill Monroe to play Willie Nelson’s Dripping Springs Reunion and early 4th of July Picnics when Nashville had put these artists out to pasture. But of course Bebe Rexha doesn’t understand this because she’s not a country artist.
Of course country music must evolve, and boundaries must be pushed to some extent. But not to the point where country music is indiscernible from it’s past, indescribable from what it’s supposed to be, and indiscernible from every other genre. It’s always the most derivative filth they try to pass off as “evolution” or “pushing boundaries.” This language is simply a cover for devolving the music to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and the widest possible audience.
If evolved, boundary-pushing music was rewarded in our time, Dan Tyminski’s record Southern Gothic would be setting records right now, not Bebe Rexha. Gangstagrass would be the cross genre collaboration creating all the buzz, not “Meant To Be.” But this isn’t about pushing boundaries at all. It’s about diminishing the value of recorded music. And it’s not even that “Meant To Be” is the worst country crossover song in history. It’s that the song is making history when it should have never been allowed on country charts in the first place.
Calling Bebe Rexha country has created a completely unnecessary point of conflict in country music. Bebe Rexha was doing just fine in pop. Why cross over into country, especially when Rexha herself is saying she doesn’t consider herself or her song as part of the country genre? Instead of writing puff pieces to cover their tracks, Billboard and Jim Asker should exude some leadership here and craft a way out of this fiasco, as well as a resolution to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
This is madness. And it’s time to put a stop to it. When Wheeler Walker Jr. is the voice of reason in a situation, you know how far you’ve slid.