Why Time Has Been Kind to Garth Brooks’ Music
This is a quote attributed to Waylon Jennings, and one that’s hard to argue against. But over time, Garth Brooks’ music has fallen more into favor with traditional country music fans who once revered him as the country music anti-Christ. Why? Because country music’s current decline has revealed Garth’s music as not being as bad as once thought, and in sharp contrast with today’s music, it’s actually country.
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The 80’s were kind of a mess for the mainstream country music world. Fans had to stare at Hank Williams Jr.’s decapitated head levitating in the middle of a Confederate flag, or squint real hard to make a superstar out of Ricky Skaggs to come away with any memorable 80’s-era icons.
And then came Garth. A lot of country purists may be reluctant to admit it, but when Garth Brooks first came onto the scene, they probably had no problem with him. There was no reason to. Unlike a lot of the crossover successes from country music’s past, i.e. Olivia Newton-John or John Denver, and the current crossovers like Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks was country, and good. And in many ways, he was just the shot of adrenaline the declining country genre needed.
And then Garth got big. Real big. Bigger than any other musical act all time other than the Beatles and Elvis. Then he passed the Beatles.
The reason the Waylon quote speaks so deeply to the heart of many country music purists is not necessarily because of Garth’s music, but because of the man, and the impact he made on the business of country. To many, Garth Brooks was good until his music became an inlet for millions of interlopers into the country genre. He sold millions of albums in Asia. He seeded country music into football stadiums, and over-saturated the culture with his songs, while his albums monopolized the top of the music charts for years at a time. Garth and his music became easy to hate from a purist or artistic standpoint as the masses bought into it in droves.
Structural changes to the business of country music were really what Waylon was referring to in his quote. As an old-guard Outlaw, Waylon could see the erosion of all the principles of self-governance for the artist that he and the other Outlaws had fought for, as Music Row retooled and obsessed over finding or manufacturing the next “Garth”. The hyper-attention to the here-and-now this created also interrupted country’s long-running order in how it dealt with its aging talent like Waylon and other “legacy” artists.
And then there were a lot of the specific things that Garth the OSU advertising graduate did, like emulating KISS in his stadium shows and flying out across the crowd on wires, his battles with Blockbuster Music for selling his used CD’s and other ultra-protective practices that made a man who had sold over 100 million albums look greedy, his somewhat-failed “Chris Gaines” crossover gimmick, his bullying of the Super Bowl, and his “retirement” in 2001 that seemed to fly in the face of the idea that musical artists make music out of love. And after signing an exclusive deal with Wal-Mart to sell his music, it seemed easy to surmise that Garth Brooks had only ever been in music for one reason.
When it was announced that Garth Brooks would be one of the 2012 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees in his first real year of eligibility, it was hard to call it a surprise, and getting mad over it seemed like getting mad at a young puppy for soiled carpet. Garth’s impact on country music was so deep and indelible, his induction was unmistakeably inevitable, however unfortunate some might see it.
In the end, Garth’s stage antics and sales numbers and behind-the-scenes impact are not going to be what fans focus on. They’re going to focus on the music, and what has really injected Garth’s music with redemptive qualities has been the steady decline in mainstream country music over the era that Garth Brooks arguably initiated.
Folks say all the time about Waylon Jennings and other country legends that they would never make it on country radio today. But the same could easily be said for Garth Brooks. He’s too good, and too country. Compared to most of mainstream pop country today, Garth would be classified somewhere between honky tonk and hard country, and would be playing a club circuit. Compared to the “new Outlaws” and their laundry list songs, you could classify Garth as “real”. Taylor Swift may be the most real artist in country right now, but she’s not country at all. Garth Brooks was over-produced for sure, but does this mean he was inherently “fake” compared to what that term in country music means today?
Autotune wasn’t even around in Garth’s heyday. It’s hard to push Garth as an expert musician or an amazing songwriter, but he had enough of a hand in both that he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011. He may have been country music’s biggest sellout, but did Garth ever sell perfume? When people start to preach about what country music should be, much of Brooks’ music fits that model, with fiddles and steel guitar and heartfelt songs.
That doesn’t mean Waylon’s quote about Garth was unfounded. Regardless of how “good” Garth’s music was or is, it’s irrelevant to the adverse effect he had on the country music business, and how his music might have effectively muted many other artists that were still measures better.
And just like every artist, Garth had bad songs and bad albums as well. But another move that might have helped Garth is that early retirement some use to say his heart was never in the game. If his heart was not in it, at that time or ever, wasn’t retirement the more noble course than continuing on? Garth’s Chris Gaines skit is much maligned, but maybe this was Garth’s attempt to stay engaged with a business more and more he was feeling estranged from. Maybe Garth saw the moves to pop that country was making, or how shallow his own presentation was, and was unwilling to continue.
Garth is 50-years-old and about to enter his legacy era, where you not only enjoy the fruits of your labors, it’s also where you forge the true nature of what your legacy will be. True country music legends like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash not only enjoyed a resurgence of interest in their music, they became elder statesmen of America, creating indelible legacies beyond the music world.
The question for Garth Brooks now will be what legacy he will create for himself in the next 20 years. But if country music itself continues down the path of abandoning its roots, the legacy of Garth Brooks’ music will likely only continue to brighten.
March 26, 2012 @ 8:51 am
It really pains me to say this, but alot of the things said in this article about Garth Brooks could also apply to Waylon Jennings. I’m a huge fan of Waylon, and I absolutely believe that his outlaw image (creative freedom that is) is genuine, but he has had an unintentional impact on the country music genre. He made rock style instrumentation acceptable in mainstream country music, as well as having a rock star style public image. All of these things, even though they invigorated country music as a whole, spawned a host of immitators. Johnny Paycheck, Hank Williams Jr., and may god not smite me for uttering this name, Brantley Gilbert, all play off of Waylon’s style and image. I’m sorry if this rant deviates about this article on Garth Brooks, but it had been bugging me for a while.
January 31, 2013 @ 12:22 pm
Really you’re gonna compare Paycheck and Hank Jr to Brantly Gilbert….Sorry I can’t respect that at all.
March 26, 2012 @ 9:11 am
Waylon’s quote, if actually said, “Garth Brooks did for country music what pantyhose did for finger fucking.” seems to be a shot at the industry for trying to find the next Garth and not at Garth and how he conducted his business.
If you really look at how Garth, the man/business man did things, it was in the Waylon way. He made the music he wanted, the way he wanted. Is it his fault everyone liked it and the music industry tried to capture his way in other artists?
This is a bit of a shot and I think unwarrented…”And then there were a lot of the specific things that Garth the OSU advertising graduate did….”
You insinuate that because of some ad/marketing degree from OSU, that this guy was able to pull off the biggest musical storm seen since Elvis? Hardly. Garth was singer/songwriter with a marketing degree. He went to college for track and field, so no one should fault him that opportunity he took. Sure, some of what he learned in “Marketing 101” helped his thought process, but know one is calling him the greatest marketing guy of all time. Which is what he would be if he simply was a marketing man at heart and using music to make money. If that was the case, he would have found a talent and marketed them, rather than do all the work himself.
“…like emulating KISS in his stadium shows and flying out across the crowd on wires…”
Yea Garth was a KISS fan, but he admits he stole his whole show from Chris Ledoux, then put it in a huge stadium like KISS does. Not sure why you left the Ledoux part out?
“his somewhat-failed “Chris Gaines” crossover gimmick..”
this project was a disaster, but he wasn’t trying to crossover, it was a movie/story about a musician (pop musican yes) but Garth was simply the “actor” to portray him. The studio handled things awful, with the release of the album well before the movie, that never got made. Garth was simply the actor for it and he has covered his embarassment and dissapointment over this. This was probably his worst/most confusing move of his career, but some people run with it way to much.
“…his bullying of the Super Bowl,”
how exactly does SCM feel the NFL and Major Television network (billionaires upon billionaires, sellout to anything, big market/mass appeal) was bullied? haha. I applaud Garth for his standing ground on the anthem matter.
“and his “retirement” in 2001 that seemed to fly in the face of the idea that musical artists make music out of love.”
He still makes music. When you are as big as he was, it was beyond the music. So his retirement was more from everything but the music. He has cut stuff since. Played some shows and made appearences.
“And after signing an exclusive deal with Wal-Mart to sell his music, it seemed easy to surmise that Garth Brooks had only ever been in music for one reason.”
Garth didn’t sellout to Wal-Mart. He simply took the obsence money they were offering. This wasn’t sellout or greed, this was simply smart and no brainer.
March 26, 2012 @ 9:53 am
Are you gonna do one of these for the stuff you agree with?
March 26, 2012 @ 9:51 am
I think you’d have to mention Jimmy Bowen as well when crediting for the structural changes made to the country music business.
March 26, 2012 @ 10:13 am
The people who actually deserve credit for the structural changes is a whole other story, but you’re right, Jimmy Bowen is definitely one. But since average Joe six pack pays scant attention to the names of producers on album, the people who get yoked with the blame are the superstars that implement producers’ models. Hence, Garth Brooks is goaded mercilessly, when those same songs sung by a much less successful artist would have been championed as country music gold by purists.
March 26, 2012 @ 10:22 am
If anyone’s interested, there’s a great book available called “Dreaming Out Loud”. It follows the rise and the beginning of the fall of Garth Brooks as well as illustrates how crazy Wynonna Judd is. And the third part of the book is a behind the scenes look at what it was like at the time of the peak of Garth Brooks popularity, for a new artist to debut in the pop country machine (Wade Hayes).
March 26, 2012 @ 9:52 am
“The 80”²s were kind of a mess for the mainstream country music world. Fans had to stare at Hank Williams Jr.”™s decapitated head levitating in the middle of a Confederate flag, or squint real hard to make a superstar out of Ricky Skaggs to come away with any memorable 80”²s-era icons.”
Interesting article Kyle. Ricky Skaggs is certainly a legend and a master in his own right but there is another often overlooked 80’s icon (and Ricky’s best friend from childhood) that often slips through the cracks due to his sad and brief tenure. More than anyone else in his era or any era since, the man possessed the natural ability and talent to steer Nashville down a better path.
I have often wondered, if Keith Whitley had not died when he did, would Garth have even happened?
March 26, 2012 @ 10:07 am
I was really hoping Ricky Skaggs was going to be inducted into the HOF in this same class as Garth. He deserves it. I just think that when Music Row tried to push him as a superstar, it came across as a little forced. He’s not a superstar, he’s a superpicker, a maestro, but they were so desperate for a superstar.
Keith Whitely, just like Chris LeDoux (as someone pointed out above) I think both lacked the star power and the marketing prowess to become as big as Garth was. But if they did hit it big, I bet you would find just as many people wanting to chop them down as you do Garth, despite their country songwriting prowess.
March 26, 2012 @ 1:49 pm
Hey at least the ACM just have Ricky Skaggs (together with Emmylou Harris, Billy Sherrill and Dwight Yoakam) the “Pioneer Award.” Better than, what was that pioneer they followed, Gram Parsons? has done. Thanks again Sunday Valley for an incredible set at the 2011 Gram InterNational Nashville.
March 26, 2012 @ 1:49 pm
gave not have, sorry.
April 1, 2012 @ 7:32 pm
not true, keith whitley’s music was actually country… and most importantly keith whitley could sing, garth’s voice is average at best
April 1, 2012 @ 8:26 pm
Not saying Keith Whitely wasn’t country or was not a good singer. I’m saying that he didn’t have the “star power” Garth did strictly from a marketing standpoint.
April 1, 2012 @ 9:26 pm
I’m sorry but I honestly feel that you need to get your ears back on that mans voice and rethink what you’re saying here. Garth Brooks can FUCKING SIIIING! say whatever you want about his music or production or image but god damn, he has such a huge gift, range and capability for diversity. I completely have to disagree with you on that one.
March 26, 2012 @ 10:07 am
i’m not a fan of garth. it’s probably due to the hat thing. at any rate, one of the first modern entertainers to ‘fly on a wire’, so to speak, was arthur brown a british singer of the song, ‘fire’. he would make his entrance descending from above the stage on a wire while wearing a burning helmet. who ever talked him into that could probably sell anything. most of the time he was lucky he didn’t kill himself or set the auditorium on fire. i saw his act once when he opened for jimi in 68. after his entrance the rest of his set went downhill rather quickly.
March 26, 2012 @ 10:43 am
I get tired of people hating on Garth all the time. I was six months old when he released his debut album and literally grew up listening to him. He’s the reason why I know the music of George Jones, George Strait, Chris LeDoux and many others. If Garth hadn’t brought me into country, my iPod might not be loaded up the way it is with Waylon, Cash and a host of other country legends.
March 26, 2012 @ 10:47 am
I’ve always wandered why purists and “real” country music fans hated Garth so much. I’ve always thought his music was damn good and a lot closer to traditional country than any of the swill that has been played on country radio in the last ten years.
To me country music should do two things tell a story and tug at your emotions in some way, shape, or form and Garth’s music does that.
I think country music would be in a much better place if more artists would have followed the Garth Brooks trail, instead of veering down the Toby Keith highway to Hell.
March 26, 2012 @ 10:50 am
It’s very hard not to like Garth! Even though he did unintentionally open the gates to hell so to speak. Growing up there were 3 artists that my dad listened to and owned EVERY album from; Chris LeDoux, Waylong Jennings, and of course Garth. Even when you compare his music to that of the time it’s hard to consider him ‘pop’ country. The 90’s was full of groups like Lonestar who i feel opened the door wide open such douchers as Rascall Flatts. So I find it difficult to view him as pop and I look forward to seeing what he does do with his music and legacy here in the future!
March 26, 2012 @ 11:05 am
Three reasons why he must be punished:
1. Pudgy men should never wear tight pants
2. The hats
3. The hands free microphone that foretold a generation of douchebags talking on ear piece cell phones.
March 26, 2012 @ 1:11 pm
Man, the microphone headset is pretty awful, especially in country. I don’t know if Madonna or Garth are responsible for popularizing it, but it makes me cringe every time I see old David Allan Coe up there leaning on a stool with his Confederate Flag guitar slung over his shoulder, rocking the hands free mic. Unless you work at a call center, leave the headgear at home.
March 26, 2012 @ 1:44 pm
HAHAHA! We got a country musician from here in SD that matches all of those criteria! Dustin Evans! Pudgy with tight pants and the hands free to match!
March 28, 2012 @ 10:18 am
Lol!!!! Where you at in SD? That’s where im at too?
March 29, 2012 @ 12:36 pm
March 31, 2012 @ 6:07 am
Right on! Im in SF….glad to see another Dakotan on here!!
March 28, 2012 @ 5:36 am
Cheap shot! Hands free devices, although rediculous in public, were going to happen regardless of any on stage performer. It’s one thing for David Allen Coe or Kris Kristofferson to sit or stand in one spot and use a hands free set (Kris Kristofferson does not, by the way) but what’s wrong with a performer with as high energy a show as Garth wearing a hands free set?
March 28, 2012 @ 8:21 am
I fully admit my hate for them is a pet peeve not based on reality or practicality whatsoever. In many ways, the hands free makes perfect sense, I just can’t get over it, even on a artist I live like David Allan Coe or Kris Kristofferson. And you know what, Garth is probably partly to blame.
March 26, 2012 @ 1:44 pm
I am disappointed with how people have neglected to give respect of our “country legends”. Even individuals on this website have name dropped Waylon, Willie, Cash and Hank Jr. What ever happened to Hank Sr., Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, and Jimmie Martin? Are we going to eventually neglect the Highway Men legends and only give credit to Garth Brooks and other new age singers?
March 27, 2012 @ 11:02 am
This is a great point. There are a shitload more names that could/should be dropped, but most revert to the biggest of the big, due to everyone else knows them.
People can get a long way on this site name dropping Waylon or Willie (or simply Hank Sr. cause they like Hank3), but going deeper than that really shows if you’re just an anti-Nashville hater cause it makes you underground “cool” or if you truely know country music, and Nashville is country music, like it or not.
Just so happens, since Garth stepped aside, Nashville has no compass and have been trying to find one. Everything from George Strait to Lady A are under the Nashville umbrella. They’ve been throwing it all at the wall to see what sticks. And lately, actual talent is getting through in some cases.
March 26, 2012 @ 5:08 pm
I am not the biggest fan of Garth. I personally would have rather heard George, Clint, Dwight, or Alan. And for the record I think Alan Jackson is the most talented mainstream artist out their.
But I do think you make a good point in this article. Its amazing how time can change outlooks. Garth was/is a huge superstar, who sings traditional sounding COUNTRY. I cant think of any other artist who had his kind of cross over appeal and still atleast tried to be traditional. I think people do take for granted the pressure he must have had. I dont think Garth is the strongest of people emotionally as his many crying interviews have shown.
With all that said give me some “Much Too Young” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MyF9FWRRQM
over ”¹^”º ”¹(”¢Â¿”¢)”º ”¹^”º
“Back that thing up” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEVuLHTksZM&ob=av2e anyday.
I really enjoy the fact that you seem to be taking a bigger picture outlook lately Triggerman.
March 26, 2012 @ 9:52 pm
Interesting article. I agree for the most part. You can’t deny him. Although I hated his music back in the day I certainly tolerate it nowadays in lau of more horrible things. But he did start the biggest downward spiral into pop country madness I think. It started with Alabama but continued with Garth and gives us what we have today. One other point I wanted to make to the writer though is the fact that both Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle got “hot” in the 80’s.
March 27, 2012 @ 4:41 am
“… both Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle got “hot” in the 80”²s.”
Lyle Lovett too. The “Great Credibility Scare”, Steve called it.
March 27, 2012 @ 9:37 am
Without question there were some great country artists throughout the 80’s. More what I was trying to refer to was from the perspective of Music Row, they didn’t have that big superstar they could market, like they had with Willie & Waylon in the 70’s, or Garth & Co. in the 90’s, or Taylor Swift today. They had a bunch of guys that were 2nd tier in regard to popularity, and that made country difficult to market.
March 27, 2012 @ 11:52 am
Trudat. And dat’s sad. I wish we could get the money outta music like we need to get the money outta politics………….
March 27, 2012 @ 12:19 pm
Money isn’t the issue. Waylon made a lot of money, as has Willie, David Alan Coe, etc…
The problem is that some people think you can just manufacture a Waylon or Willie or Garth or for newer names, Jamey Johnson, Lukas Nelson, Leroy Virgil…. you can’t throw money at just any artist and manufacture legend. Not even Taylor Swift is manufactured. She is marketed well, but she is not manufactured.
There are some artists that are manufactured and those artists generally have a short run. Ricky Martin was manufactured.
So money isn’t the problem, it is where/how you spend it. Do you invest it in who you think is the next legend, or do you spend it trying to create the next 5year trend. Record companys spend it on the trend… look at who really invested in the legend…they invested in themselves, not selling out.
March 27, 2012 @ 10:06 am
To me, Kenny Rogers is Garth Brooks of the 80s. Glen Campbell is the Garth Brooks of the 70s. Tim McGraw is the Garth Brooks of the 2000s. It’s all the same. I say that as no knock to anyone. I think No Fences is a good album.
March 27, 2012 @ 11:31 am
Pop artists are the down fall for country music. Garth was not a pop artist, nor did he bring pop into country. He took country and jacked it up with steriods, but it was still country music.
His crossover appeal gave others (record execs, pop artists) a false-idea they could do what he does buy simply imitating him. But if you’re not a country guy, you can’t just decide to be one and sing about it. People see through that.
I think the majority of country purists that don’t like Garth actually don’t like Garth-mania that the fans turned it into.
If you are a country purist and you sit and listen to “Much to Young” or his later recordings “Scarecrow” and there is a lot of pure country music in there.
…another 80’s name no one dropped but was huge, and a spectacular voice, Randy Travis.
March 27, 2012 @ 2:44 pm
Great read. I’ve been echoing this for years. GB changed the culture and infused the genre with lunacy. It all comes down to songwriting credits for me, are you singing what you’re living or are you being fed material from the creeps on Music Row? Music is a mess these days. I feel like an old man. Stay off my damn lawn.
March 27, 2012 @ 5:49 pm
Tim McGraw fucked country music….
March 27, 2012 @ 6:03 pm
If he had been just comming up here in this day and age, he would be Bon Jovi reincarnated musically and he sure as hell would have his own perfume along with a resturant chain and the whole nine yards. Those walls of authenticity hadn’t been broken down yet. But it should be noted that him and the hat acts that followed had a reaction in the no depression scene which eventually led to what we have today.
March 27, 2012 @ 10:31 pm
I didn’t particularly like Garth Brooks in the ’90s and I don’t like him in the ’10s. Now, I did like his first two albums, but to my ear there’s a strongly discernible difference between “Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old” and “The Red Strokes.” Early Garth Brooks sounded much like George Strait (speaking of whom, there’s your ’80s superstar–I recall Mark Chesnutt bitching a few years back that when he first hit the scene his label worked so hard to shove him into the Strait mold he had to wear the same kind of jeans); later Garth was more akin to early Tim McGraw.
That said, however, I think you are correct to blame his marketing for the distaste many of us had for him back then. I found it vulgar, particularly the purposeful circus he made out of ticket sales for his concerts back then.
March 28, 2012 @ 7:08 pm
And then Strait made Pure Country, basically ragging on the whole Garth Brooks stadium show.
March 29, 2012 @ 11:51 am
I suss what is lost in a lot of the argument that Garth has a Bachelor’s degree, therefore it, not talent, is the reason for the success. BTW that degree is from OSU’s College of Journalism in Advertising, not marketing (they are two different critters); ironically he now holds a MBA, also from OSU. Garth is a talented songwriter, a strong singer with a decent range who can convey emotion, and he’s charismatic and a likable person. As it was pointed out earlier he is not manufactured, nor is he auto tuned.
I don’t blame Garth for the sorry state of ‘country’ music today, I blame the label heads and radio being taken over by large soulless conglomerations who only care about the bottom line and profits over actual product.
March 29, 2012 @ 8:35 pm
I used to listen to Garth alot back in the 90s. He was my favorite artist back then… Today, while he does have some solid tunes, most of his catalog seems faggy to me. I haven’t made it through a Garth Brooks song in probably 12 years. Also, his song AHBA is one of the first blatant “I’m so country” checklist songs in my opinion. That said I would agree that compared to today’s stuff he would be TOO country and that he would maybe struggle to develop a name for himself. That is a sad statement to be sure.
March 30, 2012 @ 12:49 pm
You’re all overanalyzing this beyond measure.. the reason Garth was and IS still the best is a combination of things… his songwriting ablity is stellar, he sings from the heart, and he knows how to relate to people. His fans “get it” and always will. We have seen him laugh and cry with us… we have seen him find us in an arena full of people and aknowledge us by name…(try THAT in a stadium show!) He will never sell out that way. His Chris Gaines project was NOT a failure and remains one of his most popular albums among the faithful. Mark my words.. when he comes back on the road in 2014 it will be in arenas as it always has been and he will break every record for a touring act.,, and not charge more than $25 a ticket for any seat in the house… All you haters, just get out of the way!
March 30, 2012 @ 3:50 pm
I don’t blame Garth for the downfall in country music. I blame the money he brought in. My perception (and I could be wrong, but I grew up listening to a small-market country station) was that pre-Garth the country stations were quite happy being the No. 3 or No. 5 station in the market. When Garth came in and took those stations to No. 1 in the market, the execs (i.e. Clear Channel and the like) became desperate to stay at No. 1 (and retain the ad dollars that come from being No. 1). The money that Garth brought in was the downfall.
What happened next is an artist no one has mentioned yet — Shania Twain (and don’t get me wrong, I do like Shania). Shania brought the heavy pop sound to the female side of country and soon you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Shania wannabe (everyone from Faith Hill to Martina McBride — and all this has led to Carrie Underwood). With the female side heavily pop it was only a matter of time before all of country went down that road. Shania became the way for radio to keep the dollars Garth brought in.
The final dynamic here is the “elasticity” of country music seems to have vanished. Country had expanded its audience before (the most recent time pre-Garth being the Urban Cowboy years), but the pop audience that migrated in eventually found something new and went away each time, leaving country to the core audience that was there pre-expansion. The post-Garth/Shania contraction never happened (at least not to the extent it had happened before where the audience contracted back to its core). The music no longer evolved on its own — radio forced the music to fit the audience and if you have an audience of pop refugees you want to keep, well you give them pop music.
Just my little more than two cents.
March 31, 2015 @ 2:39 am
Something I have never seen mentioned on this site, or mentioned much anywhere for that matter, about Shania, is the involvement of her husband, MuttLange. Trigger and his readers clearly have the musical knowledge to know who Mutt Lange is, but to recap quickly, producer of AC/DC’s highway hell and back in black, the cars biggest album, heartbeat city, and high and dry, pyromania and hysteria by Def Leppard, among others. I don’t know that much about Shania Twain, but I have to assume that she was the creation of Mr. Lange. My daughters liked her during her country music reign, and I do recall hearing one of her songs and realizing it was a carbon copy of pour some sugar on me by Def Leppard but with a little banjo and fiddle thrown in. That always made me assume that Mutt had simply taken what he learned producing Def Leppard et al, and applied it to creating a country music superstar. I am not a scholar of country music history as most of you readers are, I am much more rock ‘n roll inclined, but to me Ms. Twain should be looked at as potentially one of the first manufactured superstars in country music.
March 31, 2015 @ 10:34 am
Mutt’s involvement in Shania’s music has come up here often in the comments section. The reason I’ve never brought it up is because I’ve never really discussed Shania in any in depth manner. During pretty much the entirety of this website’s existence she’s been de facto retired aside from some Vegas shows. She’s been posturing for a comeback for the last half decade, and still there’s been nothing.
April 1, 2012 @ 7:38 pm
Waylon had a lot of negative things to say about Garth, although they were all true. I remember when garth and jones did the “beer run” duet, waylon said garth shouldn’t have the privilege to sing with a legend like jones.
April 5, 2012 @ 7:20 am
First time on website. Thought it would be cool to connect with someone who feels like i do about today’s country music. Well, then i saw the Garth story & realized i was wrong again. The only thing country about Garth is he wears a cowboy hat. He never was & never will be country !!! Long live Haggard & Jones !!!
April 5, 2012 @ 7:41 am
Well, if you’re looking for the home of Haggard and Jones, you’ve found it. You should poke around a little bit more than focusing on one article whose attempt was to offer a fair and intelligent differing opinion to the discourse that usually happens on this site. Nonetheless, I appreciate you reading!
April 6, 2012 @ 7:25 am
I’m in the group of people who hate man/machine that is Garth Brooks, all the mania that surrounded him, and the downfall he created, but actually really like a few of his songs because they are country. He really is a greedy man who is in it for the money, but at the same time I think he enjoyed singing country music.
By the way, I know star power was the discussion, but as far as talent and country cred, no one could hold a candle to Keith Whitley in the 80’s. Closest would probably be Strait or Travis.
April 6, 2012 @ 8:10 am
Does anyone else find the irony in the fact that most that replied they don’t like Garth was because of the production his brand was, but they do like most/some of his music????
We rip most of pop country for being bad music and a bunch of glitz and glamour gets the attention. But here is a guy, Garth, that actually has some teeth to the music, but we rip him for the glitz and glamour that just came with the mass appeal he was able to capture with the music.
Creating something that the masses enjoy isn’t a bad thing. Not in Garth’s case. Saying his music is ok but I don’t like all that other stuff….what? Are you on his road crew doing the heavy lifting? Are you an arena manager having to work all hours as his tour comes through?
How exactly does “all that other stuff” effect anyone? Aren’t we music fans? Isn’t that the pride of the underground, we judge the music, not the “other stuff”?
April 6, 2012 @ 8:53 am
“Does anyone else find the irony in the fact that most that replied they don”™t like Garth was because of the production his brand was, but they do like most/some of his music????”
What the hell are you talking about man, that was the whole point of the article! Quit trying to stir shit up by generalizing the “underground” and offering a rebuttal to points that nobody has made! Good Gosh!
May 23, 2012 @ 12:07 pm
I think in an odd way he is a foreshadow of the direction rock and roll would take in the late 90’s early 00’s. After grunge we had the post-grunge. Take the comment above about interlopers, and replace the words “Garth Brooks” with Nickelback.
July 23, 2014 @ 1:53 pm
Actually, it would be more applicable to compare Garth to Nirvana. Both started out as meager parts of their respective genres but shot to stardom overnight. They both drastically changed the music landscape as well as altering the course of the music that followed in their wake. The main difference is that, given Kurt Cobain’s death, he’s looked back upon as some sort of “unappreciated genius,” completely stonewalling the criticism he and his band received in their heyday. Garth, on the other hand, is still criticized because he’s alive (when a celebrity dies, you can’t say anything bad about them but when they’re alive, rip their heart out!)
July 23, 2014 @ 2:28 pm
The main difference is that, given Kurt Cobain”™s death, he”™s looked back upon as some sort of “unappreciated genius,” completely stonewalling the criticism he and his band received in their heyday.
I think most of that comes from the folks who were singing the praises of grunge back when it got to be big anyway, to be honest. There are plenty of folks anymore (depending on where you look) who still think grunge in general was (and Nirvana and Cobain in particular were) just a bunch of contrived angst in flannel, as I saw it put once. 😉
June 28, 2012 @ 9:53 am
Garth Brooks was more country than Waylon. Waylon like Cash was more rock than country.
Garth Brooks was first and foremost a worldclass entertainer. Period. The guy goes out on stage in Vegas to a packed house with nothing more than an acoustic guitar. Rave reviews from attendees. This isn’t some KISS show or arena rock performance. It’s a man and his guitar. Sold out. Every night.
The difference between Garth and the rest of the real country artists is easy to see… He’s one of the best entertainers this world has ever seen… and he just happened to be a country music artist.
The movie Pure Country was NOT about Garth. It was about Billy Ray Cyrus and that crowd. Even down to the mullet and ponytail. Garth never looked like that.
And anyone who ever watched an awards show where Garth won an award saw how much he thought George Straight or Reba deserved it more. HE was respectful of the genre and it’s artists.
Then again, personally, watching music genre purists piss themselves is hilarious. Garth was more outlaw than Waylon. He had ALL his rights. And he retired because of family issues. Scheduled his Vegas shows around his kids soccer games. Wanted to be home and watch them grow up. You don’t get more COUNTRY than that.
The current group of rockers claiming to be country are not different than Waylon, Cash and Hank Jr claiming to be country.
The rock sound of outlaw country became mainstream and the purists are mad. Toby Keith owns his own label (Outlaw)… top of the charts…
Remember when drums were banned at the Grand Ole Opry? Purists are so pathetic at knowing their own history.
Was Willie country with the short hair, Nashville sound??? Or when he went outlaw and grew pigtails and wears rainbow suspenders? Maybe it’s the weed?
Purists are purist when it backs the artist they like. Period.
The topic shouldn’t be about whether this years country music is real country. The topic should be this is country music in 2012. Just like the country of 1970 wasn’t the country of 1960.
Remember the pictures of Hank Williams in rhinestones? Or wearing that fancy suit with music notes all over it???? Yeah… that’s PURE COUNTRY right there son. They weren’t about marketing anything but the music back then. No showmanship… Just a guy on stage with his guitar… Hahahaha The icon of country music was no different than the rest of him. Just look at how he dressed. What a sellout.
Country music is more popular now than it’s ever been. And the country music purists are as pissed about it as the indie artists now that indie music has become mainstream thanks to REM and U2.
There are still thousands of country artists out there singing and playing like ole Hank did… But just like when Hank did it… it wasn’t popular then and it’s not popular now. When Garth did it… HE made it popular. He’s retired and it’s back to being unpopular but the industry still wants the cash he generated. So they release what IS popular.
Garth Brooks was awesome and took the world by storm. He made country music popular. Deal with it.
December 25, 2012 @ 3:30 pm
Garth rooks sucks. Nuff said.
Corey Koehler Music
January 31, 2013 @ 11:40 am
That could be one of the best quotes ever. 🙂
January 31, 2013 @ 11:00 pm
The very first album I owned was Garth Brooks’ “Ropin’ The Wind”. I had it on cassette, and I wore the thing out. His first album was the second CD I owned (only because I unwrapped “Brand New Man” by Brooks & Dunn first on Christmas morning.)
I have owned every album he’s put out over the years, and still listen to his music to this day.
Is every bit of it country?
“Aint Goin’ Down Till The Sun Comes Up”, “The Old Stuff”, and “The Fever” are blatantly hard rock. Yes, I do realize that they both use traditional country music instruments, but so did Godsmack in “Shine Down”, and Warrant in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, that doesn’t make those songs country either.
“Ireland” is folk music, “Two Pina Coladas” is Jimmy Buffett-style pop/rock. A few others sound more rock or rockabilly than country.
Is most of it country?
Yes. Don’t get me wrong, he blurred the lines more than any artist before him, and the delicious irony that the trailblazer before him and my all-time favorite artist would say something so vulgar about him isn’t lost on me, but yeah, most of what Garth put out over his career has been country.
Is any of it good country?
Hell yes. I challenge any true country music fan to find fault with “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)”, “Rodeo”, “Two of a Kind”, “Beaches of Cheyenne”, or “The Dance”. There are others, but those are the favorites that come to mind, and the last two drive me to tears when I hear them, even after all these years. Any song that can bring emotions out like that is a good one, regardless of genre.
I put Garth Brooks right up there with Waylon Jennings (The original “rock star” of country music, with his hard-punching bass and heavier guitar) and Chris LeDoux (who put on rock-and-roll style shows and had a couple of songs that wouldn’t have been out of place on a hard rock or metal album, but for the most part was traditional cowboy/country music through-and-through, and did it away from Nashville for the most part). Each did it “his” way, everyone else be damned.
July 29, 2014 @ 10:14 am
““Aint Goin”™ Down Till The Sun Comes Up”, “The Old Stuff”, and “The Fever” are blatantly hard rock. Yes, I do realize that they both use traditional country music instruments, but so did Godsmack in “Shine Down”, and Warrant in “Uncle Tom”™s Cabin”, that doesn”™t make those songs country either.”
Not to question the validity of this statement but one must be careful when making such dissertations. Lest we forget, more and more types of instruments were allowed to be used in the country genre as time wore on. Hank Williams played electric guitar and maintained a style that heavily influenced by the blues. Does that mean his music isn’t country, despite the fact that he was using instruments that are a part of the genre? While I’ll agree that a musical object doesn’t make a song country by default (I’m looking at you three bars of banjo Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line), but it helps to define it somewhat. After all, music is purely auditory. If you can’t judge a song by what you’re hearing but rather who the artist is, where does that leave us? Why is it if Garth has some rock instrumentation that the song suddenly isn’t country? I can understand a song like his opus “We Shall Be Free” from The Chase having its legitimacy called into question. After all, I don’t think there was a single country instrument used in that song and there was a church choir to boot. However, influences from outside the genre have always infiltrated it, as we know. If Garth makes a ostensibly rock song with a complete lineup of mostly traditional instruments, is the song not country by proxy? After all, it’s staying in touch with its roots. This is the basis of the idea that country can evolve but remain somewhat traditional.
August 2, 2014 @ 9:44 pm
Thanks for the comment. It’s kind of mind-blowing that something I wrote more than a year and a half ago is still being read, and even still generates commentary.
As far as “country by proxy”… yes and no.
Yes, it’ll probably get played on country radio, run its course through the country awards circuit (if it’s good and/or popular), and be perceived by the general populace as country.
No, that doesn’t mean that music experts, audiophiles, true lovers of the genre, or even their peers will consider it so.
Then there’s songs that aren’t country, but get “countrified”. Waylon Jennings did it with “Turn The Page” by Bob Seger (Metallica later, quite successfully, turned it into a heavy metal song after that. This can have mixed results. Garth Brooks and Chris LeDoux both did a “countrified” version of “Fever” by Aerosmith. I love BOTH of their versions, seriously badass and ballsy rock songs, but neither is really country. On the other hand, Alan Jackson VERY successfully made “Summertime Blues” and “Mercury Blues” into country songs. A more recent example would be Florida-Georgia Line’s attempt to turn “Stay” by Black Stone Cherry into a country song which just resulted in a bad rock song.
I completely get what you’re saying though, and agree with it a great deal in spite of all I’ve typed here.
Again, thanks for the reply!
June 20, 2013 @ 11:24 am
I know I am late to the game with this comment, but I felt the need to chime in as a relatively new country fan. I got into country after Old Crow Medicine Show and the Oh Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack got me into Old Timey music and bluegrass. Then, after progressing through the Avett Brothers, and revisited my dad’s old Albums (John Prine, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Band (they have some country influences)). Next it was onto Hank, Jones, and Waylon, and then I dove into newer country like Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks.
The reason it took me so long to get into the 80s/90s country acts is that they don’t have the indie cache of bands like the Byrds and musicians like Graham Parsons because they don’t yet have retro. cred. College and public radio stations don’t play them like they play Johny Cash, Emmylou Harris, and the Dixie Chicks.
I bring this up because I think that many older country fans still view Brooks, Jackson etc. at as gateway performers as they were in their heyday. Nowadays many rock fans will actually take a more circuitous path from Mumford and Sons, the Avett Brothers, and the Omaha Indie Acts of the 2000s (Bright Eyes, Jenny Lewis etc.) back to their rootsier influences and then into more mainstream country.
Just wanted to advocate another narrative that more seasoned country fans may not have seen. Love the blog and appreciate your work.
November 9, 2013 @ 5:15 pm
Given that Garth got so pissed about stores selling used copies of his albums, thus depriving him of potential revenue, I wonder how his tours would fare in the modern era of StubHub. Sure, he might only charge $20-$25 per ticket, but what would that matter if a big ticketing service buys up all the tickets the minute they go on sale and sell them for hundreds of dollars (or more depending on how in demand they are)? Garth isn’t going to get any of that extra money and I’m sure he won’t be happy about it. I doubt any artist is happy about it. There really should be a way to keep this from happening, but how would that even be possible?