WARNING: Some Language
“There are too few people in this town that know what the fuck to do. Because they don’t love it; they’re doing it for the fucking salary.” –Tompall Glaser
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The music career of Scotty McCreery was done, and it was due to no fault of his own. After winning the 10th season of American Idol and accruing a huge fan base in the process, registering three platinum-selling singles as he finished school and started his major label career via Mercury Nashville, it looked like Scotty could become one of the biggest up-and-coming country stars in a generation.
Forget that it all started with a reality show contest and that he was a spitting image for Alfred E. Neuman, Scotty McCreery had what many of country music’s mainstream males lacked in a major way: A voice, a knack to know how to use it. Nothing is a replacement for natural talent. Scotty also had a head start with hundreds of thousands of dedicated fans waiting to lap up whatever he served to them.
But enough is never enough for many of the money changers down on Nashville’s Music Row, and when McCreery was finally done with school, Mercury Nashville wanted to take this emerging talent and mold it into an arena superstar post haste. So they commissioned the terrible single “Southern Belle” for McCreery to sing, chased it with a cheeky video full of buxom cheerleaders grinding to the pop beat, and it ultimately created a big letdown for McCreery nation, detaching him from his fervent fan base. The song never sold more than a measly 7,000 copies.
So what does Mercury Nashville do? They do what most major labels in Nashville do when they screw up an artist’s career. They blame the artist, and drop them. And so at 22-years-old, Scotty McCreery’s career was ostensibly finished. Game over. Sorry Scotty, apparently the public just doesn’t want you anymore.
It’s the same thing we’ve seen for so many other artists, especially from the UMG Nashville family of labels, of which Mercury Nashville, and MCA Nashville are included. They’ll force a bad, trend-chasing single upon an artist that’s completely out of their wheelhouse, pull the promotional muscle from behind it when it first shows signs of failing, and then not return the phone calls of the performer for six months after as they sit on their hands, hemming and hawing, and try to figure out how to walk away from the contract.
Most major labels treat artist’s careers like bottle rockets. Either they blast off, or you get a dud and throw it out, and reach for another one. And there’s no in between. There’s no career development, no strategy beyond radio. Just look at what’s happened with Gary Allan. “Hangover, Tonight” was going to be Allan’s answer to Sam Hunt. Now two more failed singles stalling outside of the Top 40, and nobody’s heard or seen Gary for months. A similar story befell David Nail.
I never warmed up to McCreery’s “Five More Minutes” as many others have. Though the theme and some of the undertones are agreeable, it’s still a pretty contemporary production, and 15 seconds in I could tell someone would be dying at the end. It’s fine, and certainly much better than most everything else on country radio. But it’s more formulaic than most of what Scotty McCreery’s fervent, effervescing fans want to admit.
But don’t take anything away from the song or what McCreery and his team have accomplished. What “Five More Minutes” has done is even harder than launching an artist and single from scratch. In mainstream country music, there is no second life after being pronounced dead on radio. Just ask Kacey Musgraves, who can’t even get a single released at all. And here Scotty McCreery is celebrating a #1 song, releasing a second single to radio, and right as his upcoming album is about ready to pop.
How could you not make a star out of Scotty McCreery? How could you not exploit all that momentum, and talent, and all those grassroots fans into a major success? Why spend a million dollars developing a completely-unknown and unproven artist when you have someone with so much potential already in house? “Five More Minutes” is now a #1 song, which is a first for Scotty McCreery, and a victory for Triple Tigers, which is a joint effort between Sony Music, Triple 8 Management which focuses mostly on Texas music talent, and Nashville’s enterprising and staunchly-independent distribution company, Thirty Tigers. In other words, the outsiders.
Scotty McCreery was just out there. Anyone could have signed him, and one already had and let him go. But like Tompall once said, “There are too few people in this town that know what the fuck to do. Because they don’t love it; they’re doing it for the fucking salary.”
Luckily for Scotty, some folks doing it for the love finally showed up.