Are you tired of reading about Garth Brooks? Well tough, because all of a sudden he’s making major moves that could have a big impact on country music, and in a positive manner. Two weeks ago, Saving Country Music prophesied,
“Right now there is a rising tide of honky tonk artists from the independent realm to the mainstream finding traction with the sort of late 80’s traditional country sound Garth Brooks and others championed at the time. Now that Garth has his radio strategy figured out a bit better, a big honky tonk song from him could give the emerging movement a big boost.”
And that’s exactly what his current single is doing, and in ways nobody could have predicted, even the bloated ego of Garth Brooks. His new undeniably country song “All Day Long” was not just the most added song on country radio this week, Garth’s most country-sounding song in over two decades was the most added song on country radio in the last nearly three years.
With 135 total adds according to Mediabase, “All Day Long” turns in the best performance for a debut single going back to August of 2015. And appreciate this is during a time when Sam Hunt released a new single, Florida Georgia Line released a new single, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan have released new singles, and Garth Brooks did better upon debut than all of them, and by a big margin. The performance of “All Day Long” is good enough for a #28 debut on the Mediabase chart, and #21 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.
So the next question is, what’s going on here? How is a 56-year-old that has been considered virtually irrelevant on country radio for 20 years aside from some token singles all of a sudden swept in to potentially dominate the landscape? Perhaps the public, and country radio programmers are starved for actual country music. And while some love to chide Garth for his incredibly-antiquated digital music strategy, perhaps his limiting of access to the song created the right appetite for people to actually call up their stations and request new Garth since they haven’t heard it yet, and those requests were actually heard.
In a music environment where everyone expects instant gratification, Garth is trying something different, and it seems to be working. By limiting access, it brings back the magic of hearing a song for the first time, or waiting eagerly for a song to come on the radio. What is the importance of hearing a song played on a radio station when you can access it via Spotify any time on your smartphone?
Now granted, “All Day Long” is not a great song. But it’s decent, and it’s country. But it’s important to look big picture here. That’s what Garth did. There’s something going on right now ranging from the deepest of the underground all the way to the top of mainstream radio where a major appetite for authentic, late 80’s honky tonk country is emerging. New artists like Randall King—who Garth has confirmed is the songwriter behind his upcoming concert opener “The Road I’m On”—all the way up to Garth himself are finding traction with this 30-year-old style of country.
And as we know, country music is a copycat business. Whatever works will be replicated. That’s why we saw so many Sam Hunt and Florida Georgia Line clones crop up in the last few years. Will this now happen with twangy, honky-tonk country music? We’ll just have to see.
And don’t forget, Garth Brooks is the reigning 2-time Entertainer of the Year. People are overlooking him as an influencer, and perhaps he overlooked himself as one as well. But if Garth Brooks wants to exude some leadership in a honky tonk direction, it’s all right there in front of him.
A wild-eyed prediction that Garth may help usher in a honky tonk resurgence has all of a sudden become a bona fide working theory. Add the recent success of acts like Midland and Jon Pardi, Chris Stapleton finally experiencing a #1 single on radio, and a whole slew of hungry, younger artists who’ve embraced a honky tonk sound waiting in the wings, and we could have something serious brewing here.