As a country music fan, everyone remembers the artists they grew up listening to that made them fall in love with the genre. Many older fans grew up with big names like Cash, Waylon, Jones, Haggard, Willie, Loretta, etc. But I’m little younger. I grew up with 90s and 2000s country, which many of these traditional fans from previous eras shunned for its pop sound. Nevertheless there was still a lot of great country music being made in this era. There were three artists I could always listen to on the radio and enjoy their music. These three are the reason why I got into country music and became a fan for life. Those three artists were George Strait, Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley.
Strait just retired from touring, but is still making great country music. Jackson is sadly no longer featured on the radio, but he’s still making great country music too. He even made a pretty good bluegrass album recently. These two have stuck to their roots regardless of the current trends plaguing the genre. And then there’s Brad Paisley. I remember last year at this time I was still a fervent defender of Paisley, even though I found Wheelhouse to be sub par compared to his previous albums. There were still a few quality songs on it though and he was still regarded by myself and many others to be one of the few “good ones” left in mainstream country music.
Then in the spring of 2014, Paisley announced he was releasing a new album and released the first single from it titled “River Bank.” I was hoping for the best. Then I listened to the single and became disgusted and enraged. My first thought was he sold out to the latest trend in country music. It prompted to me to write what I believe to be my first ever negative review of Paisley. But I then convinced myself to hold out hope that “River Bank” was the anomaly of his new album and that the rest of it would be much better. That hope was squashed when I read this in an interview he had with Billboard:
Produced with longtime collaborator Luke Wooten (Dierks Bentley, “Nashville”), “Moonshine” sees Paisley adapting the modern technology of EDM and dubstep to the classic country formula. “When you hear a banjo through stutter edit, it’s the coolest thing you ever heard,” Paisley said. “I have a song that’s a basic love song, it’s got a great groove, and I cut this guitar part that gets distorted when I turn the nob up. I would say to Luke, ‘Oh, that should’ve been done 20 years ago, but they couldn’t.’ The rulebook’s gone, or was there ever one? They try, but I don’t play by it.”
EDM and dubstep? Are you kidding me? What the hell are you smoking? I had a bad feeling that after his previous album Wheelhouse didn’t perform great on radio or the charts that he could sell out (or the insane thought he could go back to this roots). And it looks to me he’s desperate to remain relevant in mainstream country. While I shun him for his desperation, I do understand the other side of the coin. As I said in my Ronnie Dunn post, it’s hard for artists to accept they’re no longer one of the most popular names in their genre. But they fail to realize that there are a lot of fans that still support them. Many of them have been supporting them for years. I still recall Paisley’s earliest material, songs such as “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” and “We Danced.” Paisley sang with two all-time country greats George Jones and Bill Anderson on “Too Country.” Remember this Paisley?
That collaboration happened 13 years ago. Now who’s he collaborating with? The latest monstrosity for him to release (actually leaked by Bobby Bones) is a rap remix of “River Bank” with Colt Ford. Yes, ladies and gentlemen this is not a joke. Paisley has now teamed up with Colt Ford of all people on a “country” song. He went from singing with the likes of country royalty to the bottom of the barrel in his desperate attempt to remain relevant. I’m not going to put the video of that remix in this article because unlike Paisley I appreciate my readers. If you insist on hearing it, just click the link above.
I know critics of my sentiments will counter with statements such as: “He’s evolving country music. Nobody listens to old country anymore.” “The music he’s making now is appealing to the fans.” “Have an open mind.” I’ll address each one of these statements. First, he isn’t evolving country music. EDM and rap collaborations are not evolving the genre, but rather mainstream country’s desperate attempt at popularity. Country may be the most popular genre right now, but it’s only temporary. It’s a passing fad. The bubble is going to burst eventually, so this is really hurting country long-term. You know who’s evolving country music? Sturgill Simpson on his latest album. His music on Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is steeped in the roots and traditions of country music, yet have a modern sound too. Zac Brown Band collaborated with Dave Grohl on their latest EP. The single from that EP, “All Alright,” is doing good on radio. The marriage of Brown’s sound and Grohl’s sound make great music that feels fresh, yet still country. And Old Crow Medicine Show is proof you don’t even have to evolve your sound to make great country music.
The music he’s making now is not appealing to the actual country music fans. What fans is he appealing to with his latest single and album? The fad fans. These are the fans that simply hop from one fad to the next. Five years ago these people never even bothered with country music. They’re only interested now because it’s the most popular music to listen to right now. They listen to this music for the social status (or they want to f*ck the artist singing the song), not because they truly love it. How else do you explain the popularity of such shitty music? These are the types of people who couldn’t name you one George Jones song, but could recite every song on the latest Luke Bryan album. In a few years these people won’t give a shit about country music and yet these are the people Paisley is appealing to with his latest music. I’ll still be listening to country music though. And as far as having an open mind? Look at Country Perspective’s Top Songs of 2014 so far. There’s plenty of variety. I assure you my mind is open to all forms of country music.
What’s the point of this long rant? Paisley cares more about the almighty dollar and fame than he does his loyal fans and making quality music. Once he saw his stature slipping he ran towards the open arms of Nashville executives and their dirty trends. Why does he even wear a cowboy hat still? He should just throw those in the garbage and borrow some of Luke Bryan’s ball caps. Then put it on backwards, get some dark sunglasses and start shaking his moneymaker at all of his concerts. He clearly doesn’t care about his legacy or reputation anymore. I’m not even that angry at Paisley. I’m just disappointed. He once made great country music and now he’s lowering himself to everyone else’s standards. Enjoy your temporary fans, Brad. This longtime fan is turning your music off.