The Slow & Plodding Death of The Band Perry is Finally Over

There may not be a greater cautionary tale in the history of country music for what can happen when you chase trends and try to forage in the greener pastures of pop than what happened to The Band Perry. The sibling trio of Kimberly, Reid, and Neil Perry was one of country music’s most promising up-and-coming bands in the 2010s. Young and fresh, but rootsy in nature, with sensible yet smart songs, they could create consensus behind their music by crossing the country music cultural divide with excellent harmonies and traditional instrumentation weaved into contemporary compositions. 

But after veering heavily into the pop realm, the popularity of The Band Perry plummeted, resulting in numerous years and numerous projects attempting to retool the band that ultimately failed catastrophically. Totally forgotten by the country mainstream years ago, and struggling to fill rooms on the club circuit, The Band Perry have finally decided to call it quits, at least for now. In a statement published to social media on March 27th, The Band Perry said,

“To our TBP friends and family: We wanted to let you know that the three of us have decided to take a creative break as a group and each focus on our invividual creative pursuits. During this season we will continue to support each other as artists and family in all we do. Thank you for making our childhood dreams come true! Love you all. Kimberly, Reid, and Neil.”

This is a huge fail for a band that was supposed to be the future of country music. The Band Perry’s second single “If I Die Young” went 7-times platinum in 2010, leading to the trio earning Best New Artist recognition from both the CMA and ACMs, and “If I Die Young” being named the CMA’s 2011 Single and Song of the Year. A couple of years later the dark murder ballad “Better Dig Two” co-written by Brandy Clark awakened the early influences of country music’s Gothic past, and the #1 helped launch Brandy Clark’s career.

The Band Perry went on to win back to back Vocal Group of the Year awards in 2013 and 2014 from the ACMs. In 2015, the brother/sister trio earned their first Grammy Award for their cover of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind” written by John Hartford, once again underscoring how this was a band that was capable of bridging the cultural divide in the country music genre.

But it was a few months after the “Gentle On My Mind” Grammy win that The Band Perry decided they needed to take a significant leap forward in their careers, and a strong move towards pop would be the way to do it. The opening salvo was the single “Live Forever” released in August 2015. Up to that point, all of The Band Perry’s original singles aside from their first had achieved Top 10 success, including four #1s, and two #2s. “Live Forever” was a complete reinvention of The Band Perry’s sound, style, and image, and it stalled at #27. This is when the trouble began in earnest.

After their “Live Forever” reinvention clearly failed to find reception with fans, The Band Perry was dropped by Big Machine Records. Then they tried to reinvent the reinvention after a rumored collaboration with Nicki Minaj fell through, at one point claiming incredulously that they were never planning to go pop at all, even though they were clearly on record saying so. They signed a new dual label country/pop deal with Interscope, and released another single called “Comeback Kid” that did even worse than “Live Forever.”

This led to yet another reinvention that brought The Band Perry into their “Coordinates” era, ushered in by a 2018 pop/EDM EP that failed to chart at all (despite the supposed participation of Rick Rubin as an “executive producer”), and took The Band Perry from a mid-sized arena act to playing clubs.

The last nine years feel like one huge unforced error by The Band Perry. If the band would have stayed the course, they probably still would be securely in the 2nd tier of mainstream country. They would still have a place at the table, the pride of doing things their way, a loyal fan base that would stick with them through thick and thin, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing something you love, and making a living doing it.

Even though they were already doing better than 95% of the other acts out there playing “country” music, really good was not good enough for The Band Perry, and they coveted superstardom. There are many lessons to be learned from doing an autopsy on The Band Perry’s career. But the biggest might be that being yourself is always the safest bet, and the problem with money is that you can always have more of it.

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