Sam Hunt’s music makes me sad, because it makes me worry that God hates us.
So his latest single “Body Like A Backroad” is really taking off, and could be a major crossover success in pop? Well superb, I say. Then make like Taylor Swift and get the hell out of country Sam Hunt, you carpetbagging, interloping, country music misnomer, that’s making millions off of gullible country music fans and their aw shucks, good faith attitudes that won’t allow them to tell you to kiss right the hell off like they should. But I will.
Sam Hunt can’t get bent quick enough. We used to use the illustration about how pop music in country was like if a Chinese food critic was asked to judge an Italian entree—as Chinese food. Of course the critic would give the entree a failing grade no matter how good the food tasted because it’s completely mislabeled. If you order a California roll, you don’t want fettuccine Alfredo. But with Sam Hunt, it’s not like ordering a California roll and receiving pasta. It’s like ordering a California roll and receiving a big steaming pile of stool. No amount of wasabi is going to make that appetizing.
We used to make fun of Sam Hunt because he tried to crossover to pop with songs from his debut record Montevallo and it was met with mixed results. It exposed why Sam was ever called country in the first place, because launching this project in pop would have never worked. The music is just not good enough. In country, he’s a novelty—a big fish in a small sea. It’s “country” music for people that don’t actually like country music, like a lot of the folks that work on Music Row. “I never knew I liked country music until I heard Sam Hunt,” they say. Gee, I wonder why that is.
But now that Sam Hunt’s popularity has reached such a critical mass point, people like it simply because it’s the popular thing to do. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen story after story about how “Body Like A Backroad” is Sam Hunt’s big crossover moment. That’s because his label, Universal Music Group, is using their cozy relationships with the music media to drive home that narrative.
“The song has been continuing to climb at country and, while we knew it would be big, the numbers are incredible,” says Universal Music Group Nashville’s Senior VP of Promotion, Royce Risser to Billboard. “We didn’t plan to cross it this soon. But, when pop started to [play it], we had to re-evaluate. We quickly saw a good picture forming.”
Don’t let anybody try to fool you that Sam Hunt or “Body Like a Backroad” crossing over to pop is completely by happenstance. Just like Taylor Swift, country music was always seen as a stepping stone for Sam—an avenue to gain attention in music to ultimately launch a pop career. Sam Hunt is using country music as his bitch, and country, like the dog that lays on its back submissively when the bigger dog comes around, sheepishly acquiesced. If Sam Hunt gave any bit of a shit about country, he would actually put some of it in his music. Instead he purposely avoids it. Kelsea Ballerini or Maren Morris aren’t the next Taylor Swift, Sam Hunt is. Sam Hunt is the latest to use country music to hatch his plan for world domination through pop.
And let’s not gloss over what an embarrassment the misogynistic “Body Like a Backroad” is as a representative for country in the pop space. It is now going to be what people think of when they think country music in 2017. Heading into the summer, “Body Like a Backroad” could be a massive hit. It could be the next “Cruise.” And is this how you want country music represented to the rest of the world?
The way she fit in them blue jeans, she don’t need no belt
But I can turn them inside out, I don’t need no help
Got hips like honey, so thick and so sweet
It ain’t no curves like hers on them downtown streets
Clearly Sam Hunt has never been to Boston.
But you know what I say? I say let “Body Like a Backroad” be a massive pop hit. Let Sam Hunt have huge success in pop. And then keep him the hell over there where he belongs.
I don’t want to hate on Sam Hunt. I really don’t. I’m sure if I met him he would be a really swell guy and smell excellent. The problem with Sam Hunt, just like Taylor Swift before him, is that it’s not country, and calling it so creates conflict and confusion. There has always been pop influences in country. But there’s also always been country influences in country. With Sam Hunt, it’s just pop. And unless country can enact a little scene control and keep artists like Sam Hunt out of the genre, it runs the risk of becoming indistinguishable from the rest of popular American music, and losing control of its own narrative like rock did until it has no format left to represent.