Song / Commercial Review – Will Hoge’s “Strong”
I like Will Hoge. I think he’s a good songwriter. A few months ago I wrote an article about 7 Men Who Could Immediately Make Country Music Better, and I included Will Hoge on that list.
Will Hoge is a man who could make a difference. While delving into the business of Saving Country Music, folks can get baited into falling into the routine of lampooning anything construable as pop country, and championing anything independent or traditional. But in the end it may be artists like Will Hoge who reside between these two worlds—who have both commercial appeal and artistic substance—that have the greatest chance of making fundamental change in the mainstream music world.
When Will Hoge scored a #1 as a songwriter for Eli Young Band, he was destined to become a hot Nashville commodity, and that is exactly what has happened. His latest release is a song called “Strong,” and like so many of Will’s compositions, it demonstrates heart, depth, soul, and taste. There’s a lot of emotion in this song. It’s weighty. But in the immortal words of Ralphie from A Christmas Story, it’s….
That’s right. The song itself is not a commercial per se. It was written to stand on its own. But just like Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock,” and John Mellencamp’s “Our Country,” it has been tapped to become the official song of the Chevy Silverado—destined to be played half a dozen times during every single football game for the next two years at least, and maybe longer. You may love this song now, but let’s see how you feel about it after the Super Bowl in 2015.
Unlike the other Silverado songs, “Strong” was never released on its own before being assigned this distinct position. Here in 2013, the official song of the Chevy Silverado feels just as much like an indelible American institution as anything. You can guess someone’s age by asking them what song they heard in Chevy commercials growing up. Does it make it somewhat shady, or blur the lines even more between commercial and artistic content that the song was never given its own legs before being released in this way?
I say no, and yes. By definition, this is a sellout move by Will Hoge, whether we like him as an artist, or not. Would it be fair to give him any less criticism than some people give an artist like, let’s say, Toby Keith, who’s made many appearances in Ford commercials over the years, and calls himself “The Ford Truck Man”? Does it make any difference that, unlike Toby’s Ford jingles, “Strong” actually has substance, and that it’s from an artist whose built a career on sincerity?
And then we get to the whole business of trucks, commercials, and country music to begin with, and my little semi-conspiracy that auto companies have been targeting the country music demographic with their marketing, and that is why there are so many truck songs in country music these days. And this leads to the conversation about the blurring of lines between what is music, and what is marketing. Jay-Z releases an album for free to people who buy a certain phone. Will Hoge releases a song through a Chevy commercial. At some point, it may become commonplace for artists and labels may use commercials and promotional product giveaways to release music in lieu of radio. But then again, who can blame them when corporate radio has become so collusive?
In the end, is the song good? Yes. For certain fans that worry about such things, is it unfortunate that it was released in a commercial? Of course. It’s a new paradigm that were likely to be faced with increasingly as music revenue continues to dwindle and artists and labels continue to try and discover new avenues to get their music to the masses. In the end, it was probably better that it was Will Hoge getting the payday for his truck song (that only mentions a truck once), instead of Jason Aldean or Tim McGraw, and that we will all be subjected to “Strong” over and over through the NFL season, and not McGraw’s “Truck Yeah.”
1 1/4 of 2 guns up.
(the 1 1/4 for a good song, the 3/4’s for releasing it as a commercial)
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September 6, 2013 @ 11:22 am
I don’t consider Will to be a Country artist. Never have. If you see his live shows, he’s a rocker, not a hint of Country in there anywhere, really. They’ve been plugging him on the local, independent radio here. (he came on a couple of months ago and played the first single on the air) This is the station that plays, Civil Wars, Wild Feathers, Jason Isbell, and many more Americana artists. They also lean to the modern “Pop” side from time to time. Never towards Country. Will is a Nashville native, so I don’t blame any genre here for claiming him. Strong isn’t the song they’re spinning on the radio here, so maybe he considers it a throwaway? If It Breaks Your Heart is at least 10 years old, I’ve seen him do it for a long time in his live shows. I’m hoping you’re off track on this one a little. I think Will has a little more integrity than that. Like I said, “hoping”.
September 6, 2013 @ 11:52 am
“I”™m hoping you”™re off track on this one a little. I think Will has a little more integrity than that.”
More integrity than what? I think everything going on here is pretty cut and dry, though my opinion about it may not be. I’m not saying Will is trying to do anything underhanded here. Everything is above the table. I’m just not sure I can love a song that was released in conjunction with a truck commercial. I’m not saying I can’t, I’m just saying it makes for an interesting, and somewhat difficult situation. We all need to get paid, and the goal for any artist is to get their music in front of as many people as possible. I understand that.
September 6, 2013 @ 11:30 am
Got to disagree on this one. In a normal world where country music or music of any kind of substance had a chance to be played on the radio, then sure allowing your music to be used in a commercial would be selling out. These days I say by any means necessary, get exposure! In the past few years underground artists of all genres have been using commercials to get attention for their music, and some have had top 40 hits because of it. This is a win win. I will concede that the song will get old just by the amount of times the commercial will be played.
September 6, 2013 @ 11:43 am
I’m not sure there’s a need for a disagreement. In this case I see it both ways. I’m glad a cool song is getting out to people in whatever way it can. But if someone wanted to label Will Hoge or “Strong” as a sellout, I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t see their point either. IN the end I gave the song a positive review because I think any commercial concerns outweighed by the song’s substance.
September 6, 2013 @ 11:42 am
“Never Give In” is the tune they’re playing on the radio, here.
TX Music Jim
September 6, 2013 @ 12:01 pm
At the end of the day there is a business aspect to being a singer songwriter like Will. If this helps him support himself , his family and his career, GREAT ! I agree that it is most likely guys like Will that straddle the worlds of being both outside and inside the mainstream that can get good subtance laden songs in front of the widest audience.I’m happy for him. I suspect a long productive carrer lay ahead and that we will all be better off for it.
September 6, 2013 @ 12:09 pm
I understand, but it’s not the song that’s being billed as his new single on the radio. I was thinking that you were thinking he’s going to climb in bed with the Country powers that be, I just don’t see that happening.
“And then we get to the whole business of trucks, commercials, and country music to begin with, and my little semi-conspiracy that auto companies have been targeting the country music demographic with their marketing, and that is why there are so many truck songs in country music these days.”
Maybe Chevy hired him to cut the song? I don’t know.
I don’t think you’ll be seeing him cutting any duets with Luke anytime soon.
September 6, 2013 @ 4:14 pm
In no way do I think that Will is going to be cutting duets with Luke Bryan or that he’s now in Music Row’s pocket, and I hope I didn’t imply that. I’m simply saying that for fans that like to see a nice healthy contrast between commercial and creative content, this song can present a quandary.
Everyone needs to get paid, and that goes without saying. But as an example, let’s just say that instead of putting ads on Saving Country Music on the periphery of the page, I ran ads as articles, presented them as articles, when in truth they were paid advertising. In some ways that would be the equivalent to “Strong.” Having said that, I could still make those paid ads entertaining and informative, and then what would the harm be? Should we judge the ethics of it based on if we like the song or the artist, or not? Really I’m not trying to present any answers here. I’m presenting questions, and am openly conflicted about it myself (which usually lends to misunderstanding by readers).
September 7, 2013 @ 7:19 am
Got it! Sorry, some misunderstanding on my part!
September 6, 2013 @ 2:06 pm
I’m pretty sure Will mentioned on his Facebook that Chevy came to him after a close friend played his song and someone at Chevy heard it and decided they wated to use that song. I don’t consider it selling out if he had this song written and recorded without the intent to use it in a commercial. Even so, if he did happen to write this just for a Chevy commercial, what’s the big deal. Everyone needs a way to get their music out there. At least he’s not rapping about trucks.
September 6, 2013 @ 4:18 pm
I mentioned above that the song wasn’t written for the commercial, but vice versa. I don’t have a problem with Will getting paid, and I’m not sure I even have a problem with him using this format to get his music to people. But at the same time, I wouldn’t argue with someone who said they do have a problem with it, because the way this was done presents a blurring of lines between creative and commercial content. In the end I gave the song a positive review because I think the appeal of the song outweighs the commercial aspects.
September 6, 2013 @ 8:48 pm
Something else to consider. John Mellencamp was a harsh critic of Bob Seger for allowing “Like A Rock’ to be used to sell trucks. However Seger explained that the song helped sell trucks which led to employment for American factory workers.
September 6, 2013 @ 9:41 pm
And then Mellencamp signs on to have his song used? Seger can play that card because he is from Detroit, which eventually went bankrupt.
I remember this from an NPR interview with Mellencamp:
I still don’t think that an artist should have to get involved with Wall Street on any level. That’s not what I really do. I don’t write songs for commercials, but I did this because I thought, ‘Well, perhaps they are right.’ I had so many people saying, ‘John, you have turned down fortunes and fortunes of money, and now is the time. The music business has changed. … Your songs can’t grow from the ground up anymore. So go from it from a different angle.’ So that’s what we did.”
September 7, 2013 @ 8:48 am
I think its a great song. I don’t care what genre it is. Hell, it doesn’t even bother me that its in a commercial. Maybe people will hear the commercial and remember what good music is all about.
September 7, 2013 @ 11:31 am
Just finished the video. Now go buy a Chevy. Screw Corporate music.
September 7, 2013 @ 12:29 pm
Been a fan of Will Hoge for over 10 years. I wouldn’t consider Will ‘country’ but I do consider him great. As far as ‘Strong’ and GM… The rules have changed dramatically since Seeger & Mellencamp’s glory days (Seeger or Mellencamp songs wouldn’t sniff top 40 radio in 2013). Lucrative record contracts are more rare than a Will Hoge sung song on corporate radio. These artists do what they do because they love it. And they can make a living. They’re just like everyone else. If they can’t pay their bills, they won’t be writing & singing very long. GM wanted a song Will wrote and he accepted their offer. Just like any other rational human being would do. It’s a great song on my T.V., on my iPod, on Sirius/XM, on YouTube, etc… Just so happens Will probably made a lot more money from it than he ever imagined. Good for him
Goal Meeting Tiddy Bits | Rawhide And Velvet
September 7, 2013 @ 1:35 pm
[…] Every time I hear the song now I expect to hear Eric Raines talking over it… […]
September 8, 2013 @ 8:19 pm
trigger, why does there have to be a line between creative and commercial? Isn’t that the point of this website, to bring creativity and music with real soul back into the mainstream? Personally, I have no problem with this song being used for an admired AMERICAN auto company. I understand Chevy’s marketing scheme through the commercial but what exactly is wrong with that scheme? A down home American brand of cars advertised by a song with down to Earth lyrics. I guess I don’t see why you’re trying to paint Chevy or Hoge as having a negative agenda with this ad.
September 8, 2013 @ 9:16 pm
Nobody is saying that Chevy or Will have a “negative” agenda here. I think the agenda is to take a cool song that Chevy believes will sell their product well, and put it in a commercial. I am happy for Will to get this opportunity. Yes, the point of this website is to bring music like “Tough” back into the mainstream. I would just rather hear the song on the radio, or maybe embedded in a TV show or movie, than cut up into a 30-second snippet for a commercial. If it wins Will a wider audience, great.
September 9, 2013 @ 9:10 am
I agree with Kyles on this. I think it’s great that this is being played or even overplayed in the public realm. Sometimes I think some of us on this website start to bash on something good once it becomes mainstream even if it’s great. I’m not saying Trig is necessarily bashing on this but it can be misinterpreted that way. I try to not have the mentality of our music we all enjoy being a private group where if you stray out of the group your no longer cool because it’s now successful. Another example of this is the song Wagon Wheel. I do not care for Darius’ version or care that it is now seen as something created by Darius, but I’m happy that the song is now popular and those that have never heard of it now have. Yes they overplay the shit out of it, but who cares it is a good song.
September 9, 2013 @ 5:48 am
What is the radio other than a vehicle to get people to listen to commercials? What is television other than a vehicle to get people to watch commercials? Hell, what is the internet other than a vehicle to get people to see commercials? I don’t have a problem with a song being on the radio/TV/internet, therefore I don’t have a problem with a song being in a commercial.
September 10, 2013 @ 11:40 am
The song’s cadence and phrasing just reminds me too much of Louisiana 1927.
October 19, 2013 @ 9:31 pm
Jalopnik just took the piss out of this ad. Good song though.
October 22, 2013 @ 8:47 am
I know this is an old thread but I wanted to throw this out there…driving home from work yesterday I was scanning the radio dial (no satellite radio). One of our local country stations (WSIX in Nashville) played “Strong.” The DJ said that everytime they play the song, they get 50 callers calling in to ask who that was. While I’m not wild about the song, I’m never going to complain about Will Hoge taking air time away from FGL/Lukey/Jason Aldean/etc. If that song generates interest in a good musician (one I wouldn’t call country), then it’s A-OK in my book.