Well, sometimes it’s good to at least have affirmation that your efforts are being noticed.
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In an interview with Rolling Stone Country‘s Joseph Hudak posted on Thursday (6-25), Darius Rucker had some pretty pointed words, and some pretty wild-assed accusations about what he deems is the problem with some of country music’s lower rung literati.
“I think the people who are sitting in their living room doing those, ‘Let’s take country music back’ blogs and all that stuff, that’s crazy to me,” Rucker says in the interview. “No one’s saying that about rock & roll, and no one sounded like the Beatles since 1960. No one says that about R&B, and no one sounded like the Commodores since 1970. All of those genres of music are supposed to evolve, but to those people country music is supposed to be Hank Williams Sr. and that stuff is great and you can have that. But I think the great thing about listening to country radio is you have all different kinds of country music. It’s the pop country music for some guys, it’s the really country [sound], and even that bro country stuff that’s out. It’s just a little bit of everything, and obviously the fans are loving it.”
Beyond what Darius Rucker is saying, it’s unfortunate that it’s coming from him specifically—someone who has worked in multiple genres, and someone who I would have assumed is a little more informed on these subjects, and would be a little more salient with his points. And let’s just all appreciate that Rucker is a country music carpetbagger himself. This is not his original genre, and generally speaking he might want to be a little more nuanced with his argument.
But apparently Darius Rucker has deemed himself a gate keeper in the genre now, and can call out folks that are just showing a little concern about the lack of quality and diversity in the current wave of mainstream country music, and are worried that it could ultimately lead to troubled times down the road economically. . . you know, kind of like what happened to rock . . . which is why Darius Rucker landed in country in the first place?
So let’s take a deeper look at some of Darius Rucker’s assertions:
“All of those genres of music are supposed to evolve, but to those people country music is supposed to be Hank Williams Sr.”
I can’t believe that in 2015, we still have to challenge this blind misnomer. I task Darius Rucker and anyone else to comb through the vast archives of Saving Country Music—thousands of articles from the originator of the “Take Country Music Back” blogs—and find one instance, one word, ever uttered that says, implies, infers, or alludes that country music shouldn’t evolve, and should sound like Hank Williams Sr. forever. This is the biggest Straw Man ever proposed in the history of country music at this point, that has been continuously knocked down, and frankly I would have expected more from Darius. Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line? He says this crap all the time, only about Johnny Cash. But I’m surprised that Kelley can even tie his shoes. Darius knows better, but he wants his little piece of the current payday, so he parrots the company line.
Let me state this as plainly as I possibly can: Country music must evolve, and I don’t want all new country music to sound like Hank Williams Sr., Johnny Cash, or Waylon Jennings, now or ever. —said by Trigger on 6/25/2015©®â„. Go look at Saving Country Music’s Best Albums of 2015 So Far. There’s a Yelawolf album on there, and progressive albums from artists like Brandi Carlile and Ryan Bingham. These projects are where the true evolution of country music is occurring.
The problem of course is that what Darius Rucker and others have been offering up with some of their latest singles is not evolution in any sense of the word. In fact, it is devolution—going back in time in music to rehash trends from other genres amidst a vacuum of new ideas and true creativity. Which brings us to the second Darius Rucker quote and rebuttal.
“No one’s saying that about rock & roll, and no one sounded like the Beatles since 1960. No one says that about R&B, and no one sounded like the Commodores since 1970.“
Wrong, wrong, and wrong.
First, didn’t Hootie & The Blowfish play some shows with Oasis and other 90’s Britpop bands with a direct sonic lineage back to the Beatles that was so palpable some accused them of being a ripoff? Hell, there’s plenty of bands still using Beatles-eque approaches in popular music today. But let’s not digress on that point.
The principle observance I have is what the prevailing influence on popular country music is right here, right now. And what is that ladies and gentlemen? Ding ding ding! It’s R&B. And don’t take my word for it, go read the quotes from people like Thomas Rhett and Gary Allan. Read quotes from the producers and songwriters of various Music Row projects who are specifically citing 70’s R&B and bands like the Bee Gees as the primary influence for current country music singles.
So not only is Darius Rucker’s claims of “evolution” bogus, but so are his claims that people don’t want to listen to music that sounds like it’s from the past. What about Bruno Mars? What about Adele? Retro styles and approaches are the hot thing in music right now. The idea people don’t want to listen to influences from the past is erroneous.
And how about the idea that in other genres there’s not this much bitching? Well in rock, it’s virtually imploded, so there’s not much left to bitch about. But take a peek at some heavy metal and punk blogs, and the type of vitriol in country music will look like child’s play. Interesting that Rucker didn’t mention hip-hop, where people are regularly murdered over disagreements about what the music should sound like, and what hip-hop is and isn’t. There has also been plenty of written concern about where hip hop is headed. Did Darius read Questlove’s dissertation about how Hip-Hop Failed Black People posted recently?
But yes, country music is different. Where a genre like rock is based around breaking traditions, country music is based on preserving them. Or at least it used to be. And the concern about the direction of country music is not all about taste and opinion. It is a serious concern from witnessing the implosion of rock about the long-term viability of the genre moving forward, so artists like Darius Rucker can continue making a living as opposed to hop scotching to genres like sinking ships until everyone is on the last boat to stay afloat and the diversity in American music is no more.
And finally there’s the Darius quote:
“It’s just a little bit of everything, and obviously the fans are loving it.”
Actually that’s up for debate as well. Country music has recently been experiencing a ratings slide.
Regardless of his pop rock past, Rucker used to be one of the better acts in the mainstream. But now he wants to cash in like everyone else, and is making assertions to attempt to justify his moves that he knows are monetary based—moves that go against the traditional values of country music that he professed a love for when he first arrived in the genre so he would be welcomed with open arms.
Darius Rucker can make whatever music he wants. But it’s unfair to characterize concerned music fans as closed-minded or uninformed just because there is disagreement about approach.
Country music should be proud of the fact that there’s people who are still concerned enough about it that they’re willing to engaged in spirited debate about its past, present, and future.