On The Friction Inside Florida Georgia Line

Florida went for Donald Trump. Georgia went for Joe Biden. And this cross-state rift bisecting the southern United States almost resulted in one of the most preeminent and vilified acts in modern mainstream country music being torn apart too.

Tyler Hubbard from Monroe, Georgia has shown a propensity to lean culturally left on things like gun control and Black Lives Matter over the last couple of years. Brian Kelley from Ormond Beach, Florida hasn’t been especially outspoken on anything politically, until the recent American Presidential election was called by most media outlets for Joe Biden, and big crowds gathered in the streets to celebrate.

“Knew we were waiting on the election since March when this shit show started,” Brian Kelley said on his Instagram story, with the picture of a massive crowd gathered celebrating the Biden victory. “Time to get back to work AMERICA.”

Not only did the Brian Kelley missive signal his apparent support for the Trump presidency, but it also floated a rather conspiratorial notion that the lockdowns were politically-movitated. That’s pretty hard to prove, since Trump signed off on and promoted lockdowns himself early in the COVID-19 pandemic, and if anything, the lockdowns have tightened since the election as cases and hospitalizations surge, not loosened. The hypocrisy of the celebrations by some was pretty obvious, and a fair accusation. But Brian Kelley’s conspiracy is quite a stretch.

Nonetheless, the Instagram post from Brian Kelley nearly resulted in the greatest fears of Florida Georgia Line fans coming to fruition, and the greatest hopes for many actual country music fans who are often furious at the musical output of the Bro-Country duo.

Though who follows who on social media is usually fodder for gossip columns, fans ferreted out that both Tyler Hubbard and his wife Hayley unfollowed Brian Kelley and his wife Brittney on Instagram after Brian Kelley’s post-election lockdown statement. Enterprising fans also noticed that Tyler Hubbard follows Joe Biden on Instagram, while Brian Kelley follows more conservative pundits such as Donald Trump Jr., and Brietbart.

Soon, rumors of the duo heading towards Splitsville were all the rage of the country music internet. This also came right at the same time Tyler Hubbard announced he had tested positive for COVID-19, and the duo would miss their performance slot at the 2020 CMA Awards on Wednesday, November 11th. Some began to wonder if the positive test was simply a cover by Hubbard to get out of the performance.

The unfollowing also occurred as country music media outlets and personalities attacked Brian Kelley and others for their election chatter on social media, publicly shaming them for their opinions. Though despite the characterization that the media loves to portray of country music being hostile towards artists sharing left-leaning opinions in the format, in truth it’s right-leaning opinions these days that will land you in much more hot water, at least with the media.

Recently The Independent released a feature on what they call new “Outlaw country.” The title of the article, the TITLE, was “No one was going to utter that they didn’t like Trump’: The return of outlaw country.” The quote is attributed to Margo Price.

But despite the media continuing to love to present country music as an ultra-conservative monoculture where artists are stifled from speaking out since it aids these outlets and journalists in their efforts to virtue signal to their constituencies, in truth the safest thing you can do in country music at the moment is show support for left-leaning causes, while the most dangerous thing you can do is say something on the right, or in some instances, not say anything at all, and end up on an “Accountability List,” or have your silence equated with violence. The backlash that ensued against Brian Kelley and others illustrates this point perfectly.

But back to the original question, how bad are things with the Florida Georgia Line duo, and are they headed to a breakup?

First, since the initial issue, Tyler Hubbard and his wife have re-followed Brian Kelley and his wife on Instagram. Also, an unnamed source has told Billboard there is “no truth” to the rumors of a split. So those hoping for or fearing for the demise of Florida Georgia Line can be either disappointed, or assured, at least for the moment.

But there was certainly friction between the two families. Likely, the reason Tyler Hubbard and his wife temporarily unfollowed Brian Kelley was to signal to the rest of the world their distance and disappointment in Brian Kelley’s opinions, which in this environment, is often necessary to maintain favorable status with the media, and social capital in many circles.

But those expecting a Florida Georgia Line split should understand the incredible financial incentives in place to make sure such as scenario doesn’t transpire. At this point, Florida Georgia Line is a massive, multi million-dollar enterprise. Brooks & Dunn, The Judds, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and other duos have gone through major upheaval, divorces, mediation sessions, and times when they didn’t even speak to each other personally, but still performed as a duo simply due to it being financially lucrative for both parties.

But if Florida Georgia Line did split, which the odds say will likely happen at some point either permanently or temporarily in the long-term, Tyler Hubbard holds all the cards, at least as a performer. From the beginning, he’s been the star. Hubbard is the guy you hear in the mix, and the reason they’re so popular. Not to knock Brian Kelley, but if the duo split, Tyler Hubbard would immediately launch a solo career, and Brian Kelley would have to move forward more as a dedicated songwriter, and selling his overpriced distressed denim in his secondary design hustle. He would be fine, but not an A-list performer.

It also wouldn’t mean the demise of the Florida Georgia Line sound, only the duo. Tyler Hubbard would continue on, and may even become more popular as a solo performer. So be careful what you wish for, real country fans.

Florida Georgia Line was a massive, flash in the pan with their breakout single “Cruise” that has somehow shown incredible staying power even as the face of everything wrong with modern country music for many, the butt of many jokes, and the leaders of Bro-Country which despite its significant losses over the last few years, has shown some surprising stubbornness at completely going away.

But the real enemy of the Florida Georgia Line legacy will not be any friction between Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, born from political differences or anything else. They’ve likely already hit their commercial peak. The biggest adversary for Florida Georgia Line will be time. Their derivative and trite style of music is destined for the laughing stock of history similar to their predecessors Nickelback who shared the same producer Joey Moi. Commercially lucrative as it was and continues to be, the Florida Georgia Line franchise has always been a ticking time bomb.

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