Oh you’ve got to love watching the contortions of the fawning media trying to convince the masses that Kane Brown is some kind of country music revivalist because they believe his “diversity” is good for the genre.
Recently Variety named Kane Brown’s song “Heaven” a quote unquote “pure country smash.” The word “pure” is just the latest to be commandeered from actual country music fans and artists who have long used the term to delineate themselves from whatever the hell is going on in the mainstream, and it’s now being used to describe a guy who arguably illustrates the antithesis of country music purity. Kane Brown’s songs sound exactly the same as all of the generic white guys stacked up on the country radio charts waiting for their opportunity at #1 with mediocre R&B songs. He’s not the presence of diversity, he’s the death of it.
“Heaven” by Kane Brown was also just revealed as the most-played song on country radio in 2018. A little dobro can’t make up for the electronic finger snapping or the R&B styling. “Heaven” is a fine song, for pop. But it’s not country. And if you need any further evidence to underscore just how far Kane Brown is from the heart of true country music, the fact that he’s collaborating with the EDM superstar that runs around with a marshmallow on his head should tell you all you need to know.
“I’m thankful that me and Kane Brown have a song coming out next year,” Marshmellow tweeted out in late November. Kane Brown replied, “It’s to [sic] real …. it’s gonna get to many people in their feelings…. and it’s a jam, only listened to it like 600 times.”
It’s not that cross-genre collaborations should be forbidden or something. They can be quite compelling or culturally-significant. But they should be rare and unique to enhance their meaningfulness. Kane Brown is no Willie Nelson, and Marshmellow is no Julio Iglesias. When artists or the media talk about “opening up” country music, what they really mean is making it more like every other genre for the widest possible commercial applicability. Kane Brown working with Marshmellow would have been like Alan Jackson collaborating with Depeche Mode back in the day, except Kane Brown is no Alan Jackson, and Marshmellow is … well, you get it.
Perhaps a Marshmallow collaboration with Kane Brown will result in the song being on the top of the country charts for 50+ weeks like we saw with Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha, rewriting the country music history books. Or perhaps it will be like Maren Morris and Zedd’s “The Middle”—a superfluous song released to advertise Target stores during the Grammy Awards that went to top the pop charts, and that the Grammy Awards then returned the favor to by nominating it for two major awards. Or perhaps it will just be a popcorn fart, like Kelsea Ballerini’s collaboration with The Chainsmokers, or Zac Brown’s with Avicii.
Either way, someone that the media is labeling “pure country” and a “revivalist” is collaborating with a guy with a marshmallow on his head, further blurring the lines for the public of what the term “country” even means. Kane Brown can collaborate with whomever he wants. Let’s just make sure to call him what he is, which is a pop star who is perhaps slightly country flavored as an avenue to popularity because he would get trounced in the pop genre proper, and leave the “pure” label for the artists in country music who actually deserve it.