The debate of whether so called “Bro-Country” is now on the wane has now reached the very heart of country radio, with a couple of big articles on the topic appearing in the country radio trade periodical Country Aircheck over the past couple of weeks. In the July 28th issue, the publication ran a story called “Bro-Slow? Not So Fast.” They spoke with radio programmers and listeners who seemed oblivious to any Bro-Country backlash that may or may not be on the rise. Saving Country Music has asserted that Bro-Country was actually done months ago and that we’re just working through excess inventory in the midst of a tiring of the Bro-Country hyper-trend. Many other critics and journalists have relayed similar sentiments, and pointed to songs like Florida Georgia Line’s more substantive single “Dirt” and Maddie & Tae’s anti Bro-Country “Girl In A Country Song” as examples.
The August 4th issue of Country Aircheck tackled the topic again, but this time talking to songwriters and artist managers to get their take on Bro-Country slowing. Songwriter Dallas Davidson who some consider the Godfather of Bro-Country took time from chucking knuckles a fern bars to talk to Country Aircheck, and seems to take the short-sighted, dollar-sign perspective on the topic, which is to be expected. “We’re writing what people want to hear,” he tells Country Aircheck. “So what’s the backlash? More ticket sales? More money coming into Nashville? What’s wrong with that?”
Dallas does acknowledge however that some songwriters are tiring of the trend, including some he works with who refuse to use the term “tailgate” in a song. “I just look at ‘em and start laughing. I’ll ask, what are you driving? The tailgate on the back of it — have you ever sat on it? Well, why can’t we sing about that? Don’t millions of country fans sit in parking lots on tailgates and drink beer, getting ready for the show?”
Yes Dallas Davidson, yes they do.
Davidson does acknowledge though that at some point, enough’s enough. “You can get tired of hearing the same thing over and over. I get that.”
Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records—the head honcho presiding over both Florida Georgia Line and Maddie & Tae—seems to take a more forward-thinking approach, and appears to acknowledge the possibility of a Bro-Country backlash, but insists that Florida Georgia Line’s “Dirt” was simply a good song, and not the answer to a dying trend.
“Any time that you have something that thematically becomes so ‘done’ — and so overdone — you’re going to have repercussions,” says Borchetta. But Borchetta also says that he has no concerns that artists like Florida Georgia Line will flame out with the trend “…because there’s a lot more to them than just one song or lyrical [trend].”
Scott Borchetta is in a precarious position, because he has both Maddie & Tae and their anti-bro country anthem on his roster, along with Florida Georgia Line, Brantley Gilbert, and other Bro-Country artists. In the Country Aircheck article, Scott Borchetta insists though that it’s not a problem. “These artists [like Florida Georgia Line] get it. You have to be able to laugh at yourself.”
However Florida Georgia Line apparently didn’t get the memo. When The Chicago Tribune interviewed Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley earlier this week, his ability to laugh at himself, or Maddie & Tae’s “Girl In A Country Song” specifically, seemed quite elusive. Writer Allison Stewart characterized Maddie & Tae questions to Kelley as “…the only ones Kelley, in a recent phoner, doesn’t sound happy to answer.”
When The Chicago Tribune first asks about “Girl In A Country Song”, Kelley plays dumb. “I’m not really familiar with that,” he says.
But when nudged a little further by Allison Stewart, who says “They sing it from the point of view of the girl in the cut-off jeans, who never gets to talk? You’ve never heard that song?”
Brian Kelley answers, “All I’m gonna say about that is, I don’t know one girl who doesn’t want to be a girl in a country song. That’s all I’m gonna say to you. That’s it.”
Well, okay then. I guess that lack of worldly-awareness will get you every time. That’s probably not the answer Big Machine’s PR rep was hoping for.
Many artists and writers who’ve made a good buck off of the Bro-Country trend are going to naturally not want to see the spike in interest and sales come to an end, or be willing to acknowledge it until they have no other choice. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen, or isn’t happening as we speak. If country had any wisdom, it would be praying for the end of Bro-Country, and cash out on the trend while the getting’s good. That seems to be Scott Borchetta’s plan. If Bro-Country is all country music has got, then it will have much bigger problems moving forward than the death of a hyper-trend.
Meanwhile Maddie & Tae’s “Girl In A Country Song” continues to climb the charts. It leaped from #26 to #16 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs this week, and was the 2nd most added single on country radio.