Country performer Jake Owen first joined the chorus of detractors against the direction of country back in October when he told Rolling Stone in part, “We need more songs than just songs about tailgates and fuckin’ cups and Bacardi and stuff like that. We need songs that get ourselves back to the format that made me love it . . . like when guys like Randy Travis released songs like ‘He Walked on Water’ songs that meant something, man!”
Now he’s back at it as his single “Days of Gold” climbs the country charts, telling Country Weekly,
I don’t mean to sound negative. I love country music right now, it’s awesome. But I’m guilty of it, too. We all have songs that we’re tending to put out because they’re working and it’s helping our careers. But songs like ‘The Thunder Rolls’ or John Michael Montgomery’s ‘Life’s a Dance,’ they were songs that meant something to people. You don’t hear a lot of those songs anymore….People were like, that’s real. There are so many songs now, and I have them, too, that are [about] sunshine, blue eyes, a tan. That’s not always real to everyone all the time. Or passing moonshine jars around. People do that when they’re kids, but people also grow up. . . . It’s important to have all kinds of songs.
As Saving Country Music pointed out about Jake Owen’s previous comments, Jake is the pot calling the popular country music kettle black when you listen to some of his songs like his current “Days of Gold” single. But in fairness to Jake, he’s also pointing this fact out too, again highlighting that even some of the artists that are part of country music’s current laundry list trend may not be doing it under their own recognizance, but are following orders from on high from labels looking to sell records, or doing what they music to keep their mainstream career relevant.
The amount of input an artist has on what songs end up on their major label album may be minimal to begin with, but they rarely have any control over what songs are released to radio as singles. As Jake Owen explained in his conversation with Country Weekly, he believes his song “What We Ain’t Got” is an important track. “It has to come out at some point. It’s the kind of song that will help my career tremendously, but I think it will hopefully help country music. Just to where other artists will know that it’s OK that radio will play songs hopefully like that, to where they’ll start recording really great songs again.”
But there’s no guarantee that the song will make it to radio, and even if it does, that anyone will listen. Jake’s comments virtually mirror comments by Toby Keith about his song “Hope On The Rocks” that his label (that he owns) was reluctant to put out because, “…there ain’t no mud on that tire. That ain’t about a Budweiser can. That ain’t about a chicken dancing out by the river. That ain’t about smoking a joint by the haystack. That’s about somebody dying and shit.’”
As much as concerned country fans may see comments by Jake Owen and Toby Keith as hypocritical, it also speaks to how the concern and criticism about the lack of substance in country music has reached the very top reaches of country music. It’s not just bitter ramblings of country artists that never made it and their undying fans.