We bitch, we moan, we criticize, we celebrate the symbolic little victories that give us hope that a sea change for country music is imminent, or at least slowly taking hold, even though in many respects things only seem to get worse every year. And we look for ways to implement meaningful solutions to the problems plaguing country music so it can once again become a medium of creativity.
I believe it was the Buddha who once said “life is suffering.” And though you would think mainstream country artists who make their living playing music to massive audiences, they have problems too apparently, and recently the biggest one appears to be having to play music that fits within the confines of the country music genre. Oh, the horror.
Luke Bryan did not get here by happenstance, and he’s not going to blow his opportunity to remain on top by making poor decisions. Tell yourself his music won’t last through the cruel inquisition of time. Tell yourself he has no talent, and that he’s an idiot on and off the stage. Reassure yourself that eventually he will be relegated to a laughing stock of history with his shallow songs and shortsighted goals.
“. . . we play all of our own instruments, we write the best songs that we can, and we put harmony on the songs, we have a real band,” Zac Brown said in response to Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night” not two years ago. And now the exact criticisms he leveled at Luke Bryan could be leveled at him. But they won’t be.
If there’s any comfort to be gained from the startling amount of country legends who have so unfortunately left the mortal coil this year, it’s that they passed on without knowing a time in country music when the biggest star of the genre was marketing his music through a sex app.
Dear Luke Bryan, Thanks for taking the time to read my letter, if in fact you do so. I can only imagine the time constraints a man of your success has, and you’ve already been taking of your time over the last few days to help clear up a mess that I guess I had some part in creating.
Aaron Watson, Blackberry Smoke, Blake Shelton, Dallas Davidson, Florida Georgia Line, Gary Overton, George Strait, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Hill, Luke Bryan, Merle Haggard, Sam Hunt, Sturgill Simpson, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson
Luke Bryan has called Waylon Jennings’ widow Jessi Colter to apologize after he made comments characterizing Outlaw country artists as cocaine addicts “laying in the gutter, strung out on drugs.” Waylon’s son Shooter Jennings has also commented on the situation, saying, “It’s all flush in my book.”
Now one of the members of Waylon’s extended family has spoken out about Luke’s initial words and his apology. Kathy Pinkerman Jennings, who is the wife of one of Waylon Jennings’ sons Buddy Jennings, spoke out about the matter via Facebook initially on July 10th, and the posted a video to YouTube late Saturday night. Despite some media reports, Kathy Jennings makes it clear she is not speaking for the family.
So to give some historical context to Luke Bryan’s characterizations, I thought we would look back and see what Willie, Merle, and Waylon felt about cocaine. Willie hated the stuff, and would fire anyone in his crew caught using it. Merle barely touched it, except for one dalliance that ended poorly. And Waylon was a professed, long-term cocaine addict who openly expressed his struggles with the drug.
Being an Outlaw never had anything to do with arrest records or cocaine addictions. Anyone found on Willie Nelson’s crew with their nose in the powder was immediately fired. Being an Outlaw was about being yourself, insisting on having creative control of your music, and moving country music forward while still respecting the roots of the genre and all the greats that came before.
Seriously though, right? If some country music media outlet posted something like this, it would result in a shit storm of the highest proportions, especially with all the tomato talk going around after radio consultant Keith Hill’s comments. But when the shoe is on the other foot, apparently it is open season. So how could oogling at the butts and brawn of male country stars adversely affect the females?
It isn’t often that a musician achieves an illustrious 15-year career that includes five number one hits, Grammy Award nominations, feature film contributions, producer credits and the respect of his peers before he ever releases his first solo album. But Chris Stapleton isn’t your average musician. The near-universal critical acclaim that has been heaped upon his debut album “Traveller” has been nothing short of amazing.
Luke Bryan isn’t just the current king of the country music charts, he’s been the reigning MVP for epic stage fails over the last few years as well. Country music’s Gomer Pyle has taken not one, not two, but three major stage dives over the last couple of years during his arena concerts, but his latest stage fail might be the biggest “gas” yet.
If you’re going to release a country music song that is likely to completely alienate the core of your fan base and cut against the grain of all of the long-standing principles of your career, it better be commercially successful. Otherwise you’ve angered the constituency that helped create your success in the first place, and you haven’t even added any new members to your fandom.
So this is it. Right here, right now. Is Bro-Country going to be vanquished, or is it going to be given new life? Who holds the keys to country music? Is it radio programmers, the country music listening public, including many of Luke Bryan’s own fans, or is it Dallas Davidson and the purveyors of formulaic songwriting?
“Beautiful Drug” is not the Zac Brown Band spreading their creative wings. “Beautiful Drug” is not Zac Brown asserting his freedom as an artist. “Beautiful Drug” is not the boys from Georgia “defying genre,” though these excuses and many more will be levied in their defense, and you, YOU the sainted country music and Zac Brown fan will be charged with a treasonous level of closed-mindedness….
A collective rolling of eyes ensued when the ACM’s announced earlier this month they would pair some of today’s country music spares with legends from the past as part of their “Party For a Cause” concert centered around the ACM’s 50th Anniversary. Punctuating the ridiculousness of the duet roster was the unfortunate marriage of country legend Dwight Yoakam and country/EDM star Sam Hunt.
The calamitous and disturbing plan of the Academy of Country Music to pair up some of country music’s worst stars of today with country music heroes of the past just keeps getting worse. Though a few of the collaboration ideas seem kind of cool, some of them are downright sinister to the hearts of traditional country fans who revere the past greats, and revile the new artists who are stomping on the traditions of the genre.
What’s so great about “Yo Bro” is that it’s deftly inclusive of both of the audio plagues country music finds itself suffering from at this very moment. As Bro-Country is trending downward, but still trying to hold on in its last dying gasps, and Metro-Politan is attempting to rise up and take its place, “You Bro” straddles the line between the two, offering an illustration of the absurdity of these “country” styles.
Sorry sweetheart, but you’re not even worth a shot of Evan Williams passed off to frat boy Cole Swindell as Bushmills because he’s too tanked to tell the difference. That’s the inspiring, forward-thinking message of merch guy turned misogynist Cole Swindell’s shitty new single that threatens to top the country music charts.
“My name is Aaron Watson. I’m not played on country radio. And I have the #1 record in country music this week. I do exist.” This was Aaron Watson’s reaction to the comments of Sony Records Nashville CEO Gary Overton, who said earlier this week, “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” But overall the Texas country star took a much more humble, appreciative, and inclusive tone.
Luke Bryan, you officially have a rival for the clumsiest entertainer in country music. When we first heard of the return of Garth Brooks, we all wondered if he would ring up the score on the younger Bro-Country pups, but we didn’t know it would be from how many times he’s waxed on stage. Garth experienced a pretty serious fall during his Saturday, January 10th show.
We complain all the time about how today’s popular country music pretty much all sounds the same, but is this really true from a technical standpoint? That is what one enterprising Audiophile and songwriter set out to illustrate by making a mashup of some of Bro-Country’s biggest singles over the last couple of years in a pretty mind-blowing and revealing video.
Remember when members of Luke Bryan’s camp started crying when George Strait won the Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year in 2014? They said it was just a parting gift at the farewell of his career, and that he wasn’t an “Entertainer.” But once again we get validation that George Strait’s Entertainer win at both the CMA’s in 2013, and the ACM’s in 2014, were well deserved.