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Alright, so we’ve run down the Saving Country Music Album of the Year nominees, and awarded The Winner. And we’ve also populated the 2019 Essential Albums List. Now it’s time to single out the dogs of the last calendar year and let them hear it. Here ladies and gentlemen are your WORST “Country” Albums for 2019.
Zac Brown Band – The Owl
A busy, disjointed, manic, mutt of a mono-genre effort with absolutely no compass, direction, or general purpose, The Owl is the vomiting out of any and all popular music influences mashed together like peanut butter and poodle shit. Forget all the high talk of how combining genre can be a gateway to vibrant creativity and musical evolution through the blending of influences and art forms. This record is like putting gummy bears in a lasagna. Both may be good, but they just don’t belong together in these combinations. It’s just flat out wrong.
In an attempt to be all things to all people, Zac Brown may have found the moment and place on the space time continuum where you don’t mean anything to anybody. Make no mistake, the 2013 knitted beanie version of Zac Brown would lay a vicious beat down on whatever the top-hatted Zac Brown has become today.
This new Zac Brown Band record is so bad, the label BMG pulled any and all promo behind it. The press received no preview copies, or pitches on features for the release. In short, with The Owl, The Zac Brown Band appears to have offed their mainstream career. (read review)
Thomas Rhett – Center Point Road
The great American country music goober is back ladies and gentlemen, riding a wave of nepotistic opportunity and slavish trend chasing to launch his own insipid bid in a crowded field of hopefuls to be considered the most non-country “country” star stultifying the American country music airwaves with knockoff R&B rubbish.
It’s clearly evident when listening to Thomas Rhett’s Center Point Road that he not only harbors no love for the actual and authentic sounds and modes of country music, Thomas Rhett outright loathes them, giving a wide berth whenever they threaten to enter his path, and instead turns his wheel into sounds and influences that symbolize the very antithesis of the country genre. Listening to Center Point Road, Thomas Rhett might as well have just cued up a mic and screamed “Screw country music!” and released that, or Instagram’d an image of him rubbing his balls on the stone-carved cowboy hat sitting at the foot of the Hank Williams grave.
Thomas Rhett is a chameleon of commercialization, with his premier attribute being a pliability to do whatever sells. But why would anyone buy the Opie version of Bruno Mars when they could listen to Bruno Mars himself? (read review)
Jason Aldean – 9
What Jason Aldean has done with this his 9th major album release is truly incredible. Who knew anyone had the stamina, the fortitude, the wherewithal, and the stick-to-itiveness to doggedly cram so many small town red meat chest-pounding machismo cliche’s into a single music album. Leave it to our boy from Macon to rear back and get it done. Jason Aldean is like an endurance athlete of countrified cock rock, shattering his old records with this newest release by turning in a merciless parade of sixteen songs that rattle your skull in a blisteringly loud and serrated audio assault bereft of nuance or variety, all captured in a void of self-awareness. Bravo, Jason Aldean. Inexplicably, you have outdone yourself.
This is the most Jason Aldean record of Jason Aldean’s career, meaning he rooted out most all the substance, boiled down all the sentimental impurities, burrowed deep to the kernel of his id and ego, and doubled down on the most lucrative aspects of his career commercially. Usually when culling through even the worst mainstream country releases, there’s at least a couple of commendable songs buried in the album cuts, including, if not especially a Jason Aldean effort. ‘9’ is basically just the same song with sixteen different flavors, like snapping different skin covers on the same iPhone. It’s almost like what a parody artist would present if they were looking to make fun of a Jason Aldean record.
‘9’ is all about fire-breathing guitar riffs, pounding drums, and quick passes through lame brain verses on the way to big blustery choruses served up to shake the cross beams of Mountain Dew Arena or Doritos Stadium. We need sixteen of these damn songs like we need sixteen more Democratic nominees for President of the United States in 2020. You feel dumber just by feeding your curiosity and taking a peek into how bad this record is. (read more)
Florida Georgia Line – Can’t Say I Ain’t Country
We can, and we will say that Florida Georgia Line and this new record ain’t country, because as an overall assessment, they ain’t. Southern pop perhaps, with country music tokenisms like passing notions of steel guitar garnishing some of the tracks similar to a delicate sprig of thyme or a freshly-picked mint leaf deftly placed upon a steaming pile of diuretic stool.
As disturbing of a notion as it is to even consider some mainstream country performer attempting to dabble in a “woke” version of the music, putting Tweedle Do and Tweedle Dum on the case is an even more daft idea. This was illustrated in one of the album’s early tracks, the mawkish and list-tastic “People Are Different.” Don’t be fooled into thinking FGL’s “Women” with Jason Derulo is some ode to the gentler sex. It’s an insult veiled in social awareness. The Cruise boys talk about how they need to “get one” in the song like a woman is a pair of Air Jordans or the latest 4K television. And even if the trajectory of “Women” would have been on target, it still in no way would have atoned for arguably the worst song of Florida Georgia Line’s already vile and monstrous career, the aggressively offensive “Swerve.”
Screw trying to speak to the plight of women. The statutory implications of a line like, “Does your daddy let you date?” coming from the 32-year-old Tyler Hubbard, combined with the objectification and indolent writing of phrases such as “…with that booty in them pants” means you might get
#metoo’d in your office space simply by listening to “Swerve.” And if you think those concerns are being too prudish, try to not be offended as a country fan by the music of this song, which sounds like the 8-Bit sound bed of a boss level in a 90’s Nintendo adventure game. (read more)
Maren Morris – GIRL
GIRL can be analyzed with excruciating detail, combed over, decomposed and splayed out into its most essential elements, and still not even a modicum of anything that could ever be construed as “country” by even the most liberal of interpretations of that term can be procured. This is not the case for other often highly criticized commercial country performers and their respective records, including the most grievous offenders of genre mischaracterization such as Sam Hunt, Kane Brown, or Florida Georgia Line. Even these projects will feature tokenary banjo, or maybe fiddle, or perhaps agrarian themes in the lyricism. But GIRL can’t even claim these perfunctory homages to country.
As pop, Maren Morris’s GIRL probably works pretty well, and may even excel or be an above average effort in that realm when balancing it out against peer examples. And even as a country fan, you may favor a song from GIRL coming over the radio compared to the latest offering from some Bro-Country holdover tractor rapping about a date rape in a corn field.
But Maren Morris and GIRL are still not country, setting up inevitable conflict. Some fans and media members knowing down in their hearts what a misnomer it is to call this music country side step the issue in the effort to enhance the prospects of a woman in a genre they feel is too bereft of them. Of course women should have their place in country music, but there should also be a place for country in country music, and it happens to be that Maren Morris and GIRL pose a threat to both these concerns for women and country by shading out actual female country stars. (read more)