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Well well well. So Florida Georgia Line has decided to go on the offensive when it comes to the significant criticism the duo is fielding as the face and premier franchise of Bro-Country. The faltering of the trend has put the Big Machine cash cow on unsure footing it seems, and they’re out to do something about it. In an interview with Dan Rather that will air Tuesday evening (5-12) on AXS TV, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley are being marched out to “answer their critics,” but in the teaser videos already released covering the majority of the pertinent parts of the interview, we see the duo answer very little, and show the shallowness of their knowledge about music.
First let’s all just recognize and appreciate why Dan Rather is interviewing Florida Georgia Line in the first place, and why it is happening right now. Forget that the duo is still selling tons of concert tickets and are still in the Top 10 on radio at the moment. When it comes down to the underlying statistics and trends, Florida Georgia Line is in a tailspin compared to where they were a year ago, and are poised to become the sacrificial lamb of the Bro-Country crash.
At this time in 2014, or even 2013 for that matter, if Florida Georgia Line released a song, it was almost guaranteed to go to #1. They were selling albums and singles left and right. Now that they have much more competition in the Bro-Country space, and the trend itself is in the serious decline, it has put Florida Georgia Line on the precipice of becoming a has-been—the Nickelback of Country Music to evoke the fact that the two bands share the same producer. This charm offensive is an attempt to turn the tide for the band. Coach them up on their interview skills and have Dan Rather throw them some softballs.
When asked to describe their music, Tyler Hubbard says, “I would say our music is just who we are. It’s a culmination of all of our influences. Growing up, we both had very very similar tastes in music and very similar influences and they were kind of all over the map. Something that a lot of people don’t understand, but we listen to everything….I think it’s important that our music portrays who we are, and where we’re at in life.”
On this point, there’s no need for argument. Unlike many of the other “country” artists who are chasing the trends that Florida Georgia Line helped start, Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard don’t know any better. They are being themselves.
Then it came to Dan Rather asking Florida Georgia Line to define Bro-Country, and that’s where it got very interesting.
“I’m not really sure,” says Brian Kelley about what Bro-Country means. “I’m not sure if I’ve got the exact definition. Somebody coined it, and you know what, we’ll take whatever. As long as people are showing up and loving out music, having an experience, and we’re creating moments they’re not going to forget, and they’re living out our music night after night, were blessed as can be man. There’s no label that can really hurt our feelings. Some people say that can be a negative thing, ‘Bro-Country,’ but every night we look out and we see thousands and thousands of fans that are happy and partying and enjoying.”
So just appreciate this ladies and gentlemen: Here’s a band who’s made millions and millions of dollars off of playing music that many people label as Bro-Country, the term “Bro-Country” has been around now for almost two years, they know people call their music Bro-Country and have been posed the question of what Bro-Country is many times before, yet they still can’t define it themselves? They haven’t taken the time to educate themselves about what this term means? Either they’re playing dumb, of they’re just plain stupid.
Then Dan Rather tries to help put, and makes even more of a mess.
“I’m guessing, and it’s only a guess, that ‘Bro’ as in ‘brother,’ are those that call it Bro-Country, they see some elements of hip-hop or rap in the music. And there are some of those elements. Undeniably so.”
Wrong Mr. Rather. And I understand that he was making a guess, but my word, this is a professional news anchor who used to serve the news nightly to a generation, and he can’t take two minutes to Google “Bro-Country”? And no, “Bro-Country” is not making reference to the hip-hop influences in the music, though Rather is right this is an element of the style.
Where the “Bro” comes from is the term of endearment douchebag white dudes suffering from a lack of self-awareness say to each other. As writer Jody Rosen who coined the phrase in August of 2013 described, it’s “music by and of the tatted, gym-toned, party-hearty young American white dude.” And what inspired Jody Rosen to coin the phrase? It was Florida Georgia Line’s song “Cruise”—yet the duo still has no idea what it means, or where it came from, and neither does Dan.
And then it gets even better when Dan Rather asks Florida Georgia Line to define the difference between rap and hip-hop.
“By the way, help me out because I don’t know myself. Brian, what’s the difference between hip-hop and rap?”
Oh, you knew this wasn’t going to end well. Once again, Brian Kelley is a professional musician who makes millions of dollars and professes to be well-versed and inspired by hip-hop with his own music, so you think he would be qualified to answer this question, right?
Rap is a style, and a cadence of conveying words in a musical context. Hip-hop is a culture and a genre of music, but it doesn’t necessarily have to involve rap. There’s hip-hop dancing. There’s hip-hop clothing styles. Rap is something very specific, while hip-hop is a more generalized cultural term. I know this, and I don’t even cover hip-hop music. I’m a country writer. But what did Brian Kelley have to say in response to Dan Rather?
“I would probably put it in the same—hip-hop slash rap to me. Kind of the same thing. Really,” Kelley said as he nods assuredly. Then Tyler Hubbard chimes in with, “That’s a great question. You’re full of great questions tonight!”
Yes, riveting banter between the top newsman of a generation and one of the highest-paid country acts in history. Have any of these morons ever heard of Wikipedia? Good Christ.
That leads into the most maddening portion of the interview, when Dan Rather asks the duo, “What about those that say you may be something, but you’re not country?”
Brian Kelley’s response is, “There’s never going to be another Johnny Cash. You’re not doing your fans justice, or yourself as an artist if you’re gonna go back and copy. I’m going to take what I know, my life experiences, you do the same, and let’s make some magic.”
This is the same lame answer that has been given by so many mainstream male country artists for years now. This is what Blake Shelton basically said with his “Old Farts and Jackasses” statement. Johnny Cash is exactly who Eric Church cited in his song “Country Music Jesus” that deals with this issue.
But nobody, nobody has ever said that they want modern country stars to impersonate Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, or anyone else. That has never been said by anyone, but is constantly forwarded as a point of discussion to paint people concerned about the direction of country music as asinine sticks in the mud who don’t want country music to “evolve.” Yes, country music must evolve. We already had a Johnny Cash, and the absolute last thing I’d ever want in the world, or Johnny Cash fans would ever want in the world, is for knuckleheads Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley to get up on stage and try to act like him. But read some of Florida Georgia Line’s garbled lyrics and try to explain to me how that’s “evolution” of anything. Florida Georgia Line and Bro-Country acts like them are devolution by definition.
But there’s nothing fret or worry about when it comes to this interview ladies and gentlemen. Dan Rather interviewing Florida Georgia Line is a good thing, and so is the fact that the headline coming out of the interview is that they’re “answering their critics,” because it means they’re running scared. They’re trying to take back control of the narrative because they’re losing it and they know their days could be numbered. That’s why it was so astounding when their last album Anything Goes came out, and they didn’t try to diversify or advance their sound. It seems obvious this is what they needed to do to survive, but they ended up going even deeper into the Bro-Country well.
Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard aren’t bad people, they’re just completely over their heads. And it may not even be that they’re the fundamental problem with country music as much as their popularity and the people aping their style is the problem. These are a couple of “bros” who understand a little about melody, a lot about marketing, who struck it rich from being in the right place at the right time and meeting Scott Borchetta. But their days are numbered, and they know it. What was their last big hit? “Dirt,” which they didn’t write, and was the one deep song on their last album. Everything else has underperformed, and now they’re trying to save themselves from the inevitable backlash of a hyper-trend.
Regardless of what their staunches critics say, Florida Georgia Line is not without talent. But if they’re going to save their careers, it’s going to take actions, not words.