Dissecting Garth’s “Man Against Machine” Cover & Quote
“Music has always been a reflection of where mankind is at the time. For 14 years, I have watched heart and soul, dreams and individualism, fighting for their very existence in a world of increasing technology. This album is a reminder to all those who dream, work, and fight for what they believe; do not give up your vision.”
So wait a second here, what exactly is Garth Brooks saying?
Ever since Garth Brooks began hinting at his comeback, country music pundits have been hypothesizing about what type of impact Garth’s return could have on the music. Would he be the one to save country music by returning a more traditional sound to the top of the mainstream? And wouldn’t this be ironic since many finger Garth as the one who started country music on its downward spiral? Garth has already iterated that he won’t be chasing trends like Bro-Country or hick hop. But maybe he does have lofty plans for his triumphant return beyond simply re-starting his career. The Garth quote certainly seems to allude to this. But it also seems to allude to a much deeper, and more difficult charge.
Embedded in this Garth quote and in the very title and cover art to his new album seems to be a belligerent war cry against the technology which has sent the entire music industry, not just country, into an economic tailspin, sapping the revenue that recorded music can generate, and tying up courts in endless rights cases that ultimately will decide the future of how music is monetized, if it is allowed to be. In other words, Garth Brooks with this proclamation isn’t just looking to save country music, he’s looking to save music in general.
Technology and the advent of music downloading and now music streaming has created a dilemma of historic, and potentially momentous proportions as the industry teeters on solvency and struggles to figure out how to sustainably monetize streaming. Even with the meager revenues music is generating, massive companies like Apple are looking to re-negotiate rates even lower for music. What is Garth’s plan for solving all of this? His GhostTunes alternative to iTunes has been laughed at by many technologists, but it remains uncertain if Garth is truly wanting to change the music buying paradigm with the new technology, or simply to offer a digital alternative for his own music specifically without all the trappings of iTunes (the inability to sell albums cohesively, and the ability to bundle products).
It may be November 11th before we learn the full breath of Garth Brooks’ plans, or at least how successful they are. But in the meantime the cover for his new album presents its own curiosities and discussion points, principally, what the hell is going on here? Garth seems so out-of-place within himself—even for Garth. He’s always been flattered with his face on a cover, but the image presents this weird, almost anachronistic vision that is in opposition to the ball cap and hoodie Garth we’ve gotten used to over the last dozen years, and makes even more of an oddity out of the song he chose for the album’s lead single “People Loving People” which sets its eyes on world peace (but can’t even crack the Top 20 in country radio play yet).
1. Sunglasses — What seemingly every aging celebrity who refuses to face their own dwindling time on earth dons as if it’s ageless armor.
2. Goatee — The dead giveaway of the average white male trying to be edgy.
3. Crossed Arms — We’ve all seen Garth Brooks lately, and his 14-year retirement has made him somewhat doughy. Yet he crosses his arms here, and his forearms look like Popeye’s, and his pectoral muscles look toned. We know better, Garth.
4. UnderArmour-Style Stretch Shirt — Please. Garth Brooks doesn’t need to be sporting anything with over 40% Spandex material content.
5. Phiten Necklace — Regularly seen being worn by professional baseball players, Phiten claims to be able to liquify titanium and infuse it into their nylon necklaces, giving athletes and everyday individuals physiological benefits such as improved strength, dexterity, faster recovery time, and mental clarity. Though the claims of the necklace maker have never been proven through scientific study, many users swear by the health accessory’s benefits. Phiten necklaces have become a favorite of Garth recently (even stimulating this fake story from SCM about Garth’s hope of their powers).
6. Menacing Cogs & Sprockets in the Background — Almost like they’re coming to get Garth, and Garth is standing tough.
7. Mud-Spattered Font — To again project this tough guy image.
8. Big Black Cowboy Hat — The only thing that feels appropriate to both Garth, and a country album cover.
Is Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks, really trying to present himself as some anti-industry tough-skinned rebel rouser, or dare I say, a country music Outlaw? Especially after years of being one of the most commercially-centric music artists the world has ever seen? Or is something else entirely going on here, where instead of fighting the industry (i.e. “The Machine”), Garth is actually fighting for the industry by trying to return its ability to monetize its products, and the “Machine” is technology that has eroded those revenue channels and rewarded the public with free music? Or is it something in-between, where Garth sees both the plight of the industry, and the artists who’ve fallen under one of the most authoritarian regimes country music has ever seen because of the constrains the technology paradigm has put the industry under? Is Garth Brooks calling out the “Machines” such as Auto-Tuners and electronic drum sequencers that have blighted the country music landscape with digital intrusions?
Whatever the case may be, and we’re sure to find out soon enough, once again Garth appears to be a little off when it comes to the presentation. The album cover just presents Garth as slightly out of touch to the styling and sensibilities of today. It’s very late 90’s feeling, done in a wrestling motif. And it bolsters the concern that Garth may be surrounded by yes men who don’t have the guts to give him the constructive criticism he needs like saying, “Garth, how about you go with a little bit more understated cover, and let the music speak for itself?”
If nothing else, Garth Brooks and Man Against Machine promise to be nothing but interesting.
October 4, 2014 @ 10:45 am
Meaning, intentions, belligerent war cries aside, that is a truly horrendous album cover.
October 4, 2014 @ 11:15 am
To say that “the hat is The only thing that feels appropriate to both Garth, and a country album cover” seems to me to be an out of place statement. Hasn’t the consistent criticism about mainstream country music been that it’s very cliched?
Is there anything particularly “country” about the cover art of any of Wade Bowen’s albums?
I’ve only heard three songs off of Garth’s new album (“People Loving People,” “Send ‘Em On Down the Road” and a portion of the title track which he opened the concert with). Shouldn’t we judge the new album by its quality when it comes out, not just based on cover art?
I know a lot of people haven’t been enthralled with “PLP,” but I don’t think it’s particularly fair to start judging the album solely by its cover.
And yes, I realize the article focused on the quote as well, but dissecting the cover art seems, to me, to be a bit pre-mature. Those are my two cents, anyway.
October 4, 2014 @ 11:45 am
“but dissecting the cover art seems, to me, to be a bit pre-mature.”
Pre-mature to what? Nobody is saying that just because its a bad cover that means the music will be bad. “You can’t judge a book by its cover” still applies here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t judge a cover by its cover. And obviously this is more than just a cover. Garth wanted to make a bold statement here, and I don’t think it’s out of place to talk about what that statement may mean. I think we have an obligation to because of the commercial wherewithal Garth carries.
I think I have made clear in my writing about Garth in the midst of his comeback that I hope on a personal level that the impact will be positive because I want country music to get better and succeed. But at the same time, it is hard to not recognize that the moves from Garth so far have been quite curious, and this cover is yet another example. I still hold out hope for the music, and I would encourage everyone else to. And I also find Garth’s quotes quite intriguing, and look forward to seeing where they go.
October 4, 2014 @ 10:52 am
Something about this cover just screams HickHop to me. It reminds me of theme that Average Joes Entertainment artist uses.
October 4, 2014 @ 11:04 am
The reason is because it’s tacky. I don’t have any concern that Garth is going to go hick-hop, but just like hick-hop believes that rap is fresh and new and they are on the cutting edge of creativity, they fail to understand that rap is 35 years old and blending it with other styles of music was done many years ago and holds its place on the relevancy arch somewhere around the late 90’s when rap infiltrated rock in a large manner. This cover would have been cool 15 years ago.
Six String Richie
October 4, 2014 @ 11:07 am
Marty, I’m scared!
October 4, 2014 @ 11:09 am
Looks like there’s some photoshop going on.
October 6, 2014 @ 6:59 am
Looks like Garth’s head was superimposed on a Trace Adkins album.
October 4, 2014 @ 12:00 pm
Looks like there is ALOT of airbrushing/photoshopping going on.
October 4, 2014 @ 12:22 pm
Are you kidding me? A cover of Vogue featuring Rosie O’Donnell wouldn’t need as much Photoshopping as what went into this mess. I mean it IS possible he had skin grafted from a baby’s ass onto his face – he does have the money for the procedure – but I’m going with photoshop…I hope.
I just hope this marks the beginning of the end so I don;t have to hear any more garbage from him. I couldn’t stand his “country” in the 80s, I’m pretty sure he’s not going to get me excited about his rock today.
October 5, 2014 @ 1:12 am
Are you talking about the 90’s Garth Brooks?
I find it hard to believe that a classic country fan would so thoroughly dislike 80’s Garth Brooks.
October 4, 2014 @ 12:27 pm
It’s hard to keep up with the young bucks when you’re 50 years old. The spirit is willing but the knees give out.
It’s the same in the animal kingdom. Recently watched an old bull elk with his harem. There was a younger bull watching from the sidelines. The older bull moved his harem on…but there’s always a younger bull ready to take your place.
October 4, 2014 @ 3:32 pm
I’m just going to say this:
When I first saw this at Farce the Music, I thought it was one of Trailer’s Photoshop jobs. Hand to God.
October 5, 2014 @ 7:45 am
That’s exactly what I thought, too…
October 4, 2014 @ 5:07 pm
Looks like Garth is trying to be the “cool uncle” of the bro-country kids.
October 6, 2014 @ 5:15 am
Good call, Amy. It’s easy to picture him making a B, double E, double R, un for some kids on prom night.
October 4, 2014 @ 6:27 pm
Great …. all hope is lost as far as I’m concerned.
October 4, 2014 @ 6:30 pm
How the hell did we ever survive without his Garthness for nearly 14 years ?
I believe that had G ( he likes to be called ‘G” ) not retired ( which he DIDN’T really …he cleaned up in Vegas with a show that featured NO band , NO new music and NO cowboy hat ….. but let’s play along for the sake of the ” retirement myth “… ) he would surely have seen to it that this downloading , sharing and free use of music would NEVER have happened at all. How could it have ? He’d have put on his G cape and stood on the tracks in front of that big bad technology train and stopped it with …well …with ONE SINGLE ‘G’ CHORD . I’m certain it would have been followed by a decree issued in the courtyard by his Garthness that would have outlawed progress altogether . Thank God he’s come back to save the planet and he has the goatee and dark glasses to prove it …even if the evil forces DO think he’s wearing a Halloween costume .
You Go Garth ….Get your Trick or Treat on and show them …
October 4, 2014 @ 6:41 pm
Hope it turns out to be ‘Garth, the man, against Big Machine”
October 7, 2014 @ 1:10 pm
Sorry to say it, but most of the stuff Scott Borchetta does that pisses people off is right out of Garth’s playbook.
October 4, 2014 @ 7:39 pm
If the title, cover, and “People Loving People” are any indication, this album will even make Florida Georgia Line look good in comparison. Yikes.
October 4, 2014 @ 8:43 pm
I’m a big Garth fan and am planning to see him on this tour if it comes to Buffalo or anywhere close. But the single is underwhelming and this cover is too easy to ridicule. I’m still hopeful though because I’ve liked all his albums (even Chris Gaines)
October 4, 2014 @ 8:46 pm
I liked him on Saturday Night Live.
October 4, 2014 @ 10:44 pm
I just saw Garth and he looks nothing like that. The guy on that cover has embraced photoshop technology and spray paint makeup. Don’t go away for 14 years and make your comeback mantra be everything’s not all right, but I’m here so it’s gonna be cool.
October 5, 2014 @ 1:00 am
If someone were to show me that photo WITHOUT the text on it, I don’t even think I could have identified him.
October 5, 2014 @ 1:01 am
Maybe he’s going to do a Justin Townes Earle thing and just start using random dudes on his album covers?
October 5, 2014 @ 6:20 am
Not sure what’s so “bad” about People Loving People. It’s not a great song, by any means, but his initial comeback could have been much, much worse.
I’m not worried about an album cover. Garth knows how to create moving, solid music. I doubt it’s very country, but it won’t lack in substance, catchiness, or effort. I think people need to relax.
October 5, 2014 @ 8:42 pm
Don’t blame people for expecting more when the guy hypes up everything he does as if it’s going to be the greatest thing in the world. He’s only second to Donald Trump in shameless self-promotion.
October 6, 2014 @ 11:39 am
You’re going to have to redirect me to every single time an artist would pride has come out and said, “Our new album is going to suck.”
Also, for everyone pointing out the photoshop stuff…you’re missing the worst offender–his jawline. Just hilarious lookin.
October 5, 2014 @ 6:25 am
Also, in response to the hickhop comments–this is the only time hip hop and country ever blended beautifully. All it took was an underground hip hop artists, Jamey, and Kristofferson.
October 5, 2014 @ 6:48 am
Maybe it’s saying Chris Gaines was really just a robot, or maybe Garth is a robot and Gaines is the real one of the two.
October 5, 2014 @ 12:35 pm
Speaking of technology apprently Garth has no issue with technology when it comes to his face and photoshop… wow!
As to saving music… well I’d love it for ANYO(NE to get some content back into the mainstream music river. I remember the post on SCM about how mainstream charting music back in the 60s was much more varied than the almost mono-genre of today. I just went to a club and I can attest from one song to the next 99% sonically all sound the same in production and vocals. I can’t tell my Taylor Swift from my Iggy Azalea thanks to all the post production, not that I really am invested in either of those acts but hell even a group like Coldplay has succumbed to sounding more like Avicci than Coldplay.
October 5, 2014 @ 2:20 pm
“Man Against Machine” may just be about getting your monster truck running….or it could be about vibrators…only the gods of country can say.
October 5, 2014 @ 3:03 pm
He opens his tour with Man Against Machine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaI1VJR_2ms
October 5, 2014 @ 9:41 pm
To anyone who listens to the rap-country bullshit, hold your tongue. Somebody is buying this crap. A whole generation grew up wanting to be rap stars. I’m surprised there isn’t rap opera. The shame is the music industry doesnt care about genre. All they care about is money. Garth can do whatever he wishes. We are a generation away from country music. And it is truly sad.
October 6, 2014 @ 1:14 am
Tim McGraw called. He wants his hat back.
October 6, 2014 @ 2:21 pm
and Tom Cruise has been looking for those sunglasses.
October 7, 2014 @ 1:12 pm
Don’t you mean AJ from the Backstreet Boys wants his hat back and Tim is scared that he’s going to get beat up because Garth stole it?
October 6, 2014 @ 6:01 am
With all the reactions of the album cover, it’s starting to lead me to this opinion and that is instead of just Photoshopping your face on an album cover and making yourself look good, I think it’s time we go back to the days of the old album covers that we had back in the 70’s and 80’s (remember I’m 25 years old so I would know these records) I’m talking about the album covers where instead of just showing your pretty face, you would show the audience some serious hardcore artwork that was done by a painter.
I am of course talking about album covers that we got from Meat Loaf, Pink Floyd, Molly Hatchet, The Who, Queen, Boston etc. etc. and in Garth’s case, I would depict his album cover showing a factory being on fire or a corporate building being engulfed in flames and make it symbolize how workers are serving revenge to the corporations that have been screwing workers these past 3 decades.
Just my take on it.
October 6, 2014 @ 6:46 am
Country album covers are just so boring. EVERY ONE is a face of the singer(s). Nothing unique about any of them.
October 6, 2014 @ 12:48 pm
Momentum. It can’t be replicated.
When you’re riding the wave of success, any kind…there’s a momentum. Everyone wants to be a part of it, they jump on your board, people are clammoring to ride that wave with you.
When you stop short of reaching the pinnacle that you wanted, I’ve yet to see anyone ever replicate the momentum it takes to get back there. Comebacks are seldom as breathtaking.
What goes to Vegas, usually stays there.
Momentum is everything. When you’ve got it, you’d better ride that wave as high and as long as you can.
October 6, 2014 @ 4:42 pm
Wow, dont you guys get Irony at all? Surly you cant see what Garth is doing??
Garth is taking the P*ss out of Bro country with the album cover, and the song man against machine is of course all about Itunes.
He has purposely photoshopped himself like this, to make a point against the labels who do this with elder artists.
Just look at how he opens his concerts, the special effects, the big screen, then he comes on stage with the sunglasses, stands there looking cool, but then rips them off, and runs straight up to Jimmy, who bursts out some mightily fiddle playing.
Garth is a Genius and his new album will be the Anti Bro Country.
October 6, 2014 @ 4:51 pm
I’ve been looking into this possibility since Friday when the cover was revealed, and will probably have something on this, and specifically on the song “Man Against Machine” itself soon.
October 6, 2014 @ 9:11 pm
Makes sense. Never really thought about that.
October 6, 2014 @ 10:13 pm
Look, the “Man Against Machine” intro to his concerts offers a little bit more insight into the album cover and what it all might mean, but let’s tap the brakes on thinking the album cover is all tongue-in-cheek, photoshopped on purpose, etc. etc. I think there’s still a few more shoes to fall before we can say anything for certain. Let’s not assign our desires to Garth’s music and message. I would love for this album to be anti Bro-Country and awesome, but all we have so far is is a rehash of “We Are The World” and a weird album cover.
October 7, 2014 @ 8:06 am
I’m not a fan boy of his or anything. I just hope that for the sake of his fans that it’s on purpose. If it is, its no loss to me at all. I’m just a young guy that thinks that mainstream country and music in general has gone to crap and wishes that somebody could come along and change the crappy state of everything. If Garth can do it, I hope he does.
October 7, 2014 @ 11:10 am
Yeah this is attempts to rationalize what is looking like very poor marketing strategy.
Obviously we’ll have to hear the entire album but so far this entire rollout has been a disappointment to me from the disorganization to the horribly out of touch and underwhelming first single.
The way to make a stand against the prevailing trends is not by tweaking them it is by completely going in another direction. That’s why the Maddie and Tae thing accomplishes so little.
Be original not just the other side of the same coin.
October 6, 2014 @ 7:00 pm
Wow Brett Dale , you nailed it; I’ve been really busy and haven’t had the chance to post, but you said it better than I could have, so thanks!
Oh and Trig-go look at photos from the 90s- Garth has worn various incarnations of the goatee.
October 7, 2014 @ 9:31 am
i thinks it is very telling how people can get so worked up over an album cover. All I care about is the music. No one knows where the music is going. All speculation. It’s been TWENTY something years since “Friends In Low Places”. I doubt he’s gonna follow in George Jones’ footsteps now.
October 7, 2014 @ 10:02 am
Gee wiz people, most of the women in “country” music are as fake as $3 bills and no one seems to care.
Garth can sing and play guitar and carry a tune to boot and he’s not old at 52. When “Callin’ Baton Rouge comes on the radio, I am boogying down the road and having a great time. Most of the other junk has me suffering the herky jerky shakes and pulling out my CD’s.
October 8, 2014 @ 11:56 am
If I thought Garth was going back to doing music like “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” “Two of a Kind (Workin’ on a Full House)”, “Much too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)”, or “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)” – dang, he seems to have a lot of song titles with parentheses – I’d be on board.
But I really don’t think he is; it really seems that he’s starting back up where he left off with the ’70s MOR-type stuff that typified the latter part of the first stage of his career. It’s not nearly as offensive as most contemporary “country” on the radio today, but I still don’t find it something to get enthused about. Kind of like walking down a narrow path and having to choose between stepping in elk crap or moose crap.
October 10, 2014 @ 11:31 am
Pantyhose… Again. Pantyhose…
October 10, 2014 @ 12:16 pm