There most definitely have been greater offenders to the roots and the integrity of country music over the past few years than Dustin Lynch. But arguably nobody has been a greater disappointment than the Broken Bow artist from Tullahoma, Tennessee. With a promising start to his career, with his strong voice and propensity to sport a wide-brimmed cowboy hat, you so much wanted Dustin Lynch to be good, and to be a part of a new generation of country stars to carry the proud traditions of the genre forward. But the argument can be made that no other performer has done more to sell out, chase trends, and most disappointingly, turn their back on themselves as an artist in recent years than Dustin Lynch.
That is why it is so disheartening to hear that The Grand Ole Opry has chosen Lynch to be its latest member. During Tuesday night’s (8-21) installment of country music’s longest-running radio program, Trace Adkins officially invited Dustin Lynch to join the storied institution. “All the folks at the Grand Ole Opry are very selective,” Trace Adkins said—a 15-year member himself who rarely upholds his own Opry dues. “We think that Dustin Lynch is going to carry on in that grand tradition.”
Starting his career off with the solid and promising single “Cowboys and Angels,” you could almost squint and see a young George Strait in Dustin Lynch. Then came the silly “She Cranks My Tractor,” which led to a series of some of the worst songs released in country in recent years, including the Metro-Bro “Seein’ Red,” and Lynch’s latest single, the terrible and saccharine-encrusted “Good Girl.” Dustin Lynch has gone from a promising young traditionalist to a transparent Sam Hunt knockoff.
To be fair, folks who care about the integrity of the Grand Ole Opry and root for artists who can uphold its traditions to become the newest members have been on a winning streak as of late. With picks of Crystal Gayle and Dailey & Vincent in late 2016, then Bobby Bare and Chris Janson in 2018 (Janson played the Opry more in recent memory than any other non-Opry member), we’ve been on an upward trend for those selected for invitation. Chris Young has gone through his own transformation into a generic radio product over the past few years, but the pick in 2017 was at least tolerable.
But what separates an artist such as Dustin Lynch even from slime like Florida Georgia Line is that he knows better, and still chooses to cut and release some of the most horrible singles released in country in an effort to solidify a top-tier country career, which he’s been unable to accomplish. His bad singles do well on radio like all singles from male artists these days, but their consumption and streaming numbers are meager. Dustin Lynch has no distinguishable identity. He offers no creative contribution to the genre, positive or negative. He’s just a vessel for commercialism in country music, and not even a particularly accomplished one.
The other reason the pick of Dustin Lynch is a sum negative is that it won’t even be a big attention grabber for the institution. It’s perfectly understandable that the Opry wants younger personalities and current stars to fill its membership ranks to keep the institution fresh and relevant. But Dustin Lynch won’t even be a sexy pick among pop country fans. Aside from his fan club, Dustin Lynch is an also-ran among the mainstream country listening population. But that also feels like part of the reason he’s being foisted forward as the next Opry member—to attempt to create some buzz behind an otherwise meager artist who either needs to develop into an area act in the next year or two, or cut bait.
This is not to be mean to Dustin Lynch. But when making such weighty decisions like who will be the next Opry member, you want the beneficiaries to be worthy of the distinction. Otherwise it begins to not hold any weight at all. Elizabeth Cook has now played the Grand Ole Opry some 400 times. Now that Miranda Lambert lives in Nashville, many think she would be a worthy pick that would also grab attention for the Opry. There are scores of other young artists that have shown loyalty to the Grand Ole Opry like William Michael Morgan who would make for solid selections. But instead we go with a guy that has become a lightning rod to many of his own original fans from straying so far away from his original sound he’s unrecognizable to them.
The curse is cast, and Dustin Lynch will be the Grand Ole Opry’s next member. But hopefully fans of country music will let their opinions be known that there are much better options out there for induction to an institution as important as this one, and whose induction is supposed to be for life.