I’ve had a working theory for a while that 75% of what you hear on mainstream country radio today can be traced back to a small handfull of songs by Bob Seger and The Black Crowes. Darn near 1/3 of them can be traced back to Seger’s “Night Moves” alone. Well it might be time to graduate my theory to an axiom.
On Tuesday (3/30), pop country’s Gretchen Wilson will release her fourth album, I Got Your Country Right Here. The name of the album intrigued me, because lately I’ve been on the look out for Nashville’s major country labels trying to take advantage of how the backlash against pop country is going mainstream. Labels like Sony BMG and Columbia Nashville may be dumb, but they’re not stupid. They know that the rise of pop acts in the country genre, acts like Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, is causing some country fans to question just how country their country music is.
The Nashville oligarchy doesn’t want their “demographics” looking to smaller labels or independent artists to find their country fix, so they are trying to manufacture their own “Outlaws” and “REAL” country artists. An example would be Columbia Nashville’s Josh Thompson, who I took to task a few weeks ago. Gretchen’s new album made me wonder if the same handiwork was in play, so I started hunting around for info on the new material, which led me to her song, “Work Hard, Play Harder.”
As soon as I started watching the video for the song what IMMEDIATELY struck me was how it was almost EXACTLY the same song as Josh Thompson’s Beer on the Table. The notes sung at the beginning of the verses are nearly spot on. The lyrics are on the same exact subject matter, not only in the song overall, but how they play out in the specific verses. Even the way the chorus comes in is almost exactly the same in the two songs. It IS the same song, just with different singers and a few re-arranged lyrics.
So I was going to have a little fun breaking down these two songs, using them as an example of the lack of creativity in pop Nashville and how cubicle farms of songwriters use simple formulas to manufacture “hits.” But as I was hunting down lyrics for both songs I found something even more sinister: Right now The Black Crowes are suing Gretchen Wilson, because they say her song “Work Hard, Play Harder” is a rip off of their 1990 song “Jealous Again.” In other words, Josh Thompson’s song is a mirror of Gretchen Wilson’s song, and Gretchen’s song WAS RIPPED OFF FROM THE BLACK CROWES !!!
From The Black Crowes manager Pete Angelus:
“We find the musical verses of Wilson’s song to be such an obvious example of copyright infringement that I expect all parties to reach a relatively quick resolution to avoid litigation.”
The lawsuit also names Sony BMG and TNT who was using the song in a TV promo. John Rich, another guy who likes to ballyhoo his “REAL” country music, was a co-writer on the Wilson song as well. So far no word on an outcome of the lawsuit; it was filed in July, 2008.
I can’t think of a better example of the incestuous, creatively stagnant environment that pop country music has become. It’s pretty telling that before Gretchen’s new album even hits stores, one of the top singles is being pursued directly for copyright infringement. Maybe she should stop taking whiskey shots and perpetually whipping shitties in the mud around her doublewide like her marketeers like to make us think she does, and start crunching out some new ideas. Even if any lawsuit, past or future, fails to find pay dirt, it’s hard to listen to these two songs and any others on pop country radio and say that any variety or creativity is being offered up.
The other thing I can’t stop thinking when I hear these songs is that I’m not only hearing crap music, I’m hearing rap music.
But don’t take my jaded opinion, watch and judge for yourself:
According to this article in the Nashville Scene, Gretchen conceded the battle with The Black Crowes, meaning the song was indeed found to be copyright infringement. Chris and Rich Robinson will now be credited as songwriters on Gretchen’s “Work Hard, Play Harder,” and will receive royalties from the song.
Gretchen’s “Work Hard, Play Harder”