When Newsweek published an article calling out pop country a while back, I declared this was an important moment: a mainstream news outlet shining a big light on the sham of Nashville. Another reason I knew it was important was because Nashville took it like a shot right across the bow and came out swinging.
CMT roasted Newsweek and the author, and long time country music writer and critic Chet Flippo wrote THIS ARTICLE, entitled Country Music as Defined by “Others”, implying that anybody who had qualms with the current state of country music was an “Other” or somehow an outsider.
The first sentence of the article read: “Isn’t it fun reading a self-styled expert expounding on what country music really is?” At first I thought Chet could be talking about me, but he was talking about Steve Tuttle over at Newsweek, though Chet did reference me indirectly when he said “articles are frequently written by supposed expert commentators who don’t seem to have quite as firm a grasp on country music as they think they do.”
I want to set the record straight that I do not consider myself a country music expert. I am a country music fan, and there are thousands, possibly millions like me, from many different walks of life, that feel that country music has completely lost its way. We cannot be explained away as a bunch of pointy-nosed, chin in the air, holier-than-thou types with incorrect facts. Sorry.
I will be the first to admit, I can’t name you the title of one Taylor Swift song. When Vern Gosdin died a few weeks back, I openly admitted I had never heard of him. When it comes to the Outlaw country scene back in the day, or the Austin scene, or the modern REAL country scene, I’d like to think I know about it more than most, but at my heart all I am is a fan. A fan. And without it’s fans, country music is nothing. Don’t attempt to marginalize me or my readers, or the thousands of disenfranchised country music fans by saying we’re a bunch of misinformed bastards with bad facts.
We are country music: the fans that is. It is amazing that no matter where you are in the country, no matter who you are with, you can always find someone in some bar or at some sporting event saying, “Man, this modern pop country SUCKS.” When Steve Tuttle wrote that article for Newsweek, he did so as a fan. At no point did he expound that he was an expert.
Since Chet Flippo wrote his rebuttal to Newsweek, I have seen this same argument against REAL country music fans popping up on the comments of other blogs and articles. They say: “Who are you to say what is REAL country and what is not?” There’s no need to get into specifics about how many fiddles there are or the twang factor, you simply just need to say “I’m a country music fan, and I know country when I hear it. And that ain’t country.”
Also in the Chet Flippo article, by attempting to explain away the transgressions of pop country, he actually spelled out the problems. In the article Chet said: “. . . it’s (country music) become the dominant American popular music. . .” and “But even as modern country replaces rock as the music of mainstream America, a true maverick like Jamey Johnson can still make his mark with genuine, baptized-in-the-blood country music.”
THAT is the problem in a nutshell my friends: Country has become the dominant, mainstream genre of American music. Instead of being a music rich and proud with great talent and tradition, it has become a duiluted umbrella term and the trash can for undefinable music played by white people, just like the term “hip hop” has become the default genre for black people. There used to be multiple major genres of music in America. Now in new music there is only country and hip hop, black and white. Everything else is backlist or underground. THIS is a textbook definition of the homogenization of culture, and this is the thing I try to fight every time I peck at the keyboard, or pick up my poison pen.
And of course Chet Flippo paraded around pop country’s lame excuse for variety, Jamey Johnson, AS I PREDICTED THEY WOULD IN THIS ARTICLE.
At first the pop country power brokers tried to ignore the REAL country music fan. Now that our voices are growing louder and our numbers are swelling, they are trying to explain us away with nonsensical arguments.
I actually have a tremendous amount of respect for Chet Flippo, though I disagree with him about as much as I agree. He is a lightning rod, always has been, and I also hold a lot of respect for him because he was one of the major Nashville writers that covered the rise of the Outlaws in the 70’s.
But as far as I am concerned, his argument holds about as much water as Hank Williams’ bucket.
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My name is the Triggerman and I am a country music fan, and there are thousands more like me who are willing to fight for the music we love and believe in.
We are not going anywhere, and we won’t be scared or explained away. We are here to stay.
Hear us roar.