Every time one of these cross genre duets crops up, we’re told the inspiration behind the collaboration is the artists wanting to spread their creative wings and not be hemmed in by the restrictive confines of traditional genre norms. Genre is the old way of looking at music, and how dare someone try to inhibit an artist’s creative muse as they reach out to explore influences across formats, and let their imagination flourish over burgeoning platforms.
Certainly for some artists, a true exploration of the creative space is what they seek. But this is seldom, if ever the motivation in the mainstream. Instead the motivation is money. And more money. This was certainly the drive behind the recently released collaboration between pop star Camilla Cabello and “country” music artist Kane Brown, and now even Kane Brown is admitting it, while also taking a unnecessary and pointed jab at older country listeners.
After Camila Cabello’s current single “Never Be The Same” stalled out on the pop charts at #13, Kane Brown was enlisted to record a remix of the song in hopes the track would continue its ascent. Of course all of this was initially sold to us as a sincere motivation for the two to explore their creative muse, with Cabello saying she wanted to work with Kane after hearing his voice on one of his singles. “This song tells a different story now,” Cabello beamed to her social media followers after the song was released.
But this supposed remix is exactly the same as the original song, only with a Kane Brown vocal track cut and pasted over the master and shipped right back out to radio and streaming outlets. They didn’t remix anything. Overdubbing would be the more appropriate terminology.
Of course we all knew this is what the outcome would be before we even heard a peep of the new track. Saving Country Music said two days before the remix was released, “…because today’s current songs are nothing more than a project on a laptop, the two artists don’t even have to meet. A vocal file is sent over and slotted into the original master.” There couldn’t be a more apt description for how the new version of “Never Be The Same” turned out.
The biggest concern for many country fans now is if the song will be sent to country radio. Immediately after it was released, the Kane Brown version of “Never Be The Same” was placed on Spotify’s biggest country playlist, Hot Country, with its 4.6 million followers. It’s also been populating on other streaming playlists and platforms, so regardless if it’s picked up by country radio or not, “Never Be The Same” and Camila Cabello have already made their move and impact on the country genre.
Don’t let anyone fool you, the primary reason Kane Brown was selected to be the Camila Cabello collaborator is because of Kane’s cozy relationship with streaming partners, which has been well-documented. If a new song featuring Kane Brown comes down the pike, it will immediately make it onto major country playlists, and start racking up the necessary metadata to push a song to the top of the charts.
We all know this is how Kane Brown, Camila Cabello, and other artists such as Bebe Rexha game the system, exploit Billboard’s lax genre chart rules, and allow songs to be gerrymandered to the top of indexes, with the unhealthy side effect of helping to usher in the monogenre. In a response to concerns about the “Never Be The Same” remix coming to country radio, Kane Brown actually admitted the entire motivation behind the new track himself, while insulting concerned country fans.
“Y’all do realize we ain’t asking Country Radio to play this right ? It was for her push to number one on POP Radio. Calm down Memaw,” Kane Brown said via Twitter on Monday, April 30th.
The “Memaw” reference is yet another jab Kane Brown has made towards more traditional country listeners for their age—something he’s done numerous times in his career.
And even with Kane’s assurances “Never Be The Same” won’t make it to country radio, there’s no guarantee that Sony Music—which owns the contracts for both Kane and Camila—won’t be tempted to do that very thing, especially if the new collaboration finds new life in pop. All the label has to do is officially ship “Never Be The Same” to country, and it will immediately be eligible for all of country music’s charts. The timing might also be opportune since Kane Brown’s current country single “Heaven” sits at #2 on radio, will likely go #1 next week, resulting in the inevitable precipitous fall, and the opportunity to add a new track to the format without competing with the old one.
Hopefully the “Never Be The Same” remix stays off the country radio waves, but artists such as Thomas Rhett and Zac Brown have made similar assurances before breaking them. And now that Bebe Rexha’s “Meant To Be” collaboration with Florida Georgia Line has been so successful, both pop and country artists and labels are looking for ways to emulate that success.
Realistically, it’s probably too late in the cycle of Camila Cabello’s “Never Be The Same” to have it take the arduous slog up the country radio charts, but whether it comes to country radio at this point is irrelevant. Now that playlists are dominating the music consumption landscape, a label can take a song straight to Spotify, get a similar response from consumers as radio, and not have to deal with the ordeal of the outmoded and often politically-mired country radio process.
Kane Brown admitted it himself while jabbing at country’s traditional and older listeners—the point of the “Never Be The Same” remix was to take the song to #1. So next time one of these cross genre collaborations materializes in the mainstream, save the verbiage about groundbreaking creativity and the restrictiveness of genre. This is all about money and chart placement, and everyone should universally recognize that.