There is no way to sugar coat it for Scott Borchetta, Big Machine Records, and the two one-way streets just west of downtown Nashville known as Music Row where the heart of the country music industry resides. Taylor Swift leaving is huge. But she also leaves behind a legacy of how women can still succeed in country.
There’s plenty of mainstream country stars right now braying about the virtues of 90’s country in radio singles, but Maddie & Tae are the only ones actually singing and writing stuff even closely resembling it. Like all good country songs, “Die From A Broken Heart” would fit well in most any era.
“I feel like we manifested [Midland], because this is our playground…,” says Shane McAnally. “When these guys walked in and were a vehicle for those kinds of songs, and also quite capable of writing them as well, it was like ‘Weird Science,’ like, it wasn’t our design, but it’s almost like we put into a machine what we wanted, and out came Midland.”
What we know for sure is that Dot Records is no longer a label, at least for now. What we don’t know about is the fate of some of the artists that called the label home. Maddie & Tae, Drake White, and Staind frontman turned country artist Aaron Lewis have an uncertain future.
Despite the rumors and speculation, and Saving Country Music once naming him the “Country Music Antichrist,” apparently Scott Borchetta is indeed a mortal after all. We’re still trying to sift out what exactly has happened to the Big Machine Label Group’s Dot Records, which has apparently bit the bullet.
What’s so strange about the news is Tim McGraw seemed to be doing so well on Big Machine after fleeing Curb Records. There was a lot of symbolism in McGraw moving to Big Machine after a lengthy court battle with Curb, which tried to keep him on the label indefinitely and was ruining his career.
And though we’re a good half decade from when Toby Keith was still relevant in the country mainstream, and a healthy 15 years removed from when he was telling would-be terrorists where he rudely wanted to ensconce his manly footwear, Toby Keith still has a reserved seat at the very top of these “highest paid” lists, despite not showing a Top 5 single since 2011.
Meghan claims that in 2010 at the beginning of Steel Magnolia, a “very powerful man in the music business” reached under her skirt and groped her, and then tried to pick her up by her butt while numerous other important people in the music industry watched. The context of the revelation from Meghan Linsey was the release of Donald Trump’s off-camera comments.
The implosion of the rock genre, especially on radio, has made country a haven for rock stars looking to keep their careers relevant, ultimately spreading the cancer of declining careers to the country format as well. If Steven Tyler’s move to country had anything to do with inspiration or influence, you won’t hear much of it on this new record.
Yes, it’s very easy, and very popular and seductive to rally behind Kesha in this matter. The press and popular culture love to hate stories about women being kept down or even abused by overbearing men and the companies they run or hide behind. Kesha doesn’t have a particularly compelling reason to lie, though the way major label contracts are constructed, who wouldn’t want out of one . . .
The media loves a good feud story, but Taylor Swift’s speech wasn’t just meant for one person. Kanye West may have been the inspiration for Swift’s speech, but it wasn’t the target. The target was young women all across the world who are forced or coerced to having all their accomplishments measured by the men who also happened to be involved.
While “Red, White & You” makes an ironclad case for itself as the worst “country” song in the history of recorded music, it indisputably takes the top prize for the worst lyrical line the world has ever been forced to behold. What the hell does “yum yum” mean you ask?
There’s a ton of great records from Hank starting the the late 70’s all the way up to the early 90’s that country fans will be pulling off of shelves for years to come when they’re looking for some good country music with a rock and roll kick, and if I had a vote I would induct Hank Williams Jr. into the Country Music Hall of Fame in the Modern Era category yesterday. But It’s About Time adds nothing to Hank Jr.’s legacy.
Timed to coincide with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announcement was the Cheap Trick news that they have a new album on the way called Bang Zoom Crazy…Hello. It will be the band’s 17th total album, and their first album in over five years. And it will be released on country music’s fastest-growing major label—Big Machine Records.
Ahead of a comeback album called It’s About Time scheduled for release on January 15th, 2016 through Scott Borchetta’s NASH Icon label, Hank Williams Jr. has issued a rendition of the oft-covered “Are You Ready For The Country,” originally penned by Neil Young, and covered by Waylon Jennings some years later.
The color yellow was picked to be the primary backdrop for the relaunch. The image of a diamond shaped like a heart was selected as a logo (even though that’s not the way a true heart-shaped diamond is cut), and everyone had visions of a blockbuster #1 single and sold out arena tours dancing in their heads. . . . and since then, “Live Forever” has flopped.
In peep show fashion over the last few days, Hank Williams Jr. has revealed he’ll be releasing his latest album called “It’s About Time.” It will be Hank Jr.’s first album on Big Machine Records’ NASH Icon imprint. He signed to the label meant to give new life to older artists in late April.
A new feature recently posted in GQ goes much farther in describing the conflict between Swift and Big Machine. This wasn’t a simple exchange between Swift and Borchetta. There was an outright intervention going on, with numerous high-level executives doing what they could to assuage Swift into not going pop 100%.
Though some may consider Tim McGraw soaring in such high thermals that it’s sacrilege for him to be singing about scraping the bottom and setting out to fulfill your dreams in country music, but that’s exactly what McGraw did on May 10th, 1989 when he boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Nashville—the day after his country music hero Keith Whitley died.
I express all of this knowing it’s going to be a minority, unpopular viewpoint. I also express it as someone whose philosophies in music are very much influenced by Ryan Adams’ body of work. If you find Ryan Adams’ ‘1989’ entertaining, then hey, don’t let my corrosive words cloud your judgement. But I can’t share in that joy.
“People forget how great country music is, and we haven’t,” Maddie Marlow was recently quoted as saying. “It’s nice knowing we’re putting the banjo, the fiddle, the steel and the mandolin back out front.” And that’s what they do in their debut full-length album “Start Here,” though you probably won’t catch many Waylon fans bobbing their heads along.
Goodness, can we just kill off mainstream country music with one final shotgun blast to the noggin instead of watching this long, suffering, painful smothering at the hands of the proprietors of pop who have positively no idea what country music is supposed to be, and are willing to slowly strew its disemboweled innards all across the public sidewalks in victory? Don’t these bastards have any compassion?
“. . . 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.