Ranking Mainstream Country Artists: Grade D

After looking at the very best, the very good and the very in-between, it’s now time to take a look at the artist hurting country music much more than they’re helping. Let’s just say I wouldn’t miss their music if they stopped making music. If you missed the first three parts of these rankings you can find them in the corresponding links below:

Grade A

Grade B 

Grade C

Keep in mind these rankings were entirely compiled by yours truly. It’s only my opinion. The only artists I’m considering in these rankings is mainstream country artists that are on major labels and/or still get radio time. I’m also including legends and acts that are too big to be considered independent artists. The way I determine these rankings is by looking at the overall body of work of the artist, as well as taking into account the most recent offerings from them. So bro country artists that have been churning out hit after hit will be lower on the list. If an artist made bad music in the past, but is now putting out better music lately that will help them. But that bad music won’t be forgotten either. One more thing: attitude and respect for the genre will be considered. The rankings will be determined by grade. Now I’ll take a look at part four of this series, the artists I feel are worthy of a D grade.

Grade D

These artists aren’t the absolute worst of mainstream country music, but they’re pretty close. They have one or two redeeming qualities that save them from the dreaded F grade. Derek and myself have given these artists a lot of negative reviews probably too. If you’re a fan of these artists, don’t get angry because you think I’m attacking them (I’m not). I’m simply giving my opinion of them. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Rascal Flatts

Rascal Flatts – These guys have never been country and never will be. Their music is pop music with token fiddles thrown in and then marketed as country to the masses. Their latest album was their saddest offering yet as they desperately try to remain relevant with their own takes on bro country. I will say this though: I don’t get as angry as others do about their music. I just kind of roll my eyes and chuckle. Each of the members of the group seem like nice guys and is really the reason I didn’t put them at an F grade. Being nice isn’t going to make me like their music, but it also prevents me from saying really mean things about them too.

399px-Toby_Keith Public Domain

Toby Keith – You know I really thought about putting Mr. ‘Murican at an F grade. I think I get more angry about Toby Keith’s music than anyone else I know. I absolutely despised “Red Solo Cup” a few years ago because it officially confirmed to me that Keith is only still making music for the money and simply does not give two shits about making quality material anymore. Really ever since 9/11 there’s been no other artist that has cashed in and pandered harder to the sweeping American patriotism across the country. Throw in some F-150 trucks and some beer and you have yourself the material for every single Toby Keith song since 2001. What prevented him from an F grade? He made some good music early in his career.

Lady Antebellum – I gave Lady Antebellum a pass for several years, but this year I finally ran out of passes. What caused me to finally sour on this group? “Bartender” is what caused me to sour. It’s such a stupid song and would have easily won worst song of the year several times in pre-bro country years. But since bro country is so terrible this song doesn’t get enough flack for it’s awfulness. Their new album 747 is a straight pop album. They didn’t even try to make it country. I think I might actually enjoy their music if they went pop though because it makes for decent pop music.

Little Big Town – Some people will cry foul with this position for Little Big Town, but I’m going to explain why they absolutely belong in the D category. It feels like it has been 10 years since I’ve enjoyed a Little Big Town song. The only two songs I have ever even liked from this group are “Boondocks” and “Little White Church.” The rest is nothing special to me. I also loathed “Pontoon” more than anyone else I know. Before I discovered the greatness of country music in the independent scenes, I was stuck with what was on radio. You know what got overplayed to the point I wanted to kick my radio? “Pontoon.” Yes I listened to “Tornado” and I don’t think it’s anything special.

Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney – I originally had Chesney at a C grade because his music has never annoyed me as much as other country critics. Then I go and listen to his early material. It’s pretty good stuff. Of course the last ten years he has made beach music and raking in the dough. This makes me angry because here’s an artist that is capable of making a great country album and instead puts out mediocre crap. This is just shear laziness. He promised better music in his new album too and he didn’t deliver anything too much different from what he has been doing the last ten years. Get your head out of the sand, Kenny.

Billy Currington, Lee Brice, Randy Houser, Justin Moore, Dustin Lynch, Chris Young, Joe Nichols, Easton Corbin and Josh Thompson – All artists that made good country music in the past and now have sold their souls to the bro country devil all in the name of the almighty dollar. Enjoy your money, boys. You just had to trade your respect to get it.

Darius Rucker – I always cut Hootie a break when he joined country music because he was new and seemed to want to be a part of the genre. Then he covered Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.” Now believe me I’m appreciative of the positive aspect of this song becoming a big hit for him. This exposed a lot of people to Old Crow Medicine Show and their music, which was just fantastic. They absolutely deserved it. The negative aspects of this becoming a big hit for Rucker? One there are several misinformed people out there who think this is his song. Two some are actually aware of O.C.M.S and still say Rucker’s version is better (what the hell are you hearing?). Three this is pretty much the best we’re going to get from Rucker. How long has he been milking this song? He was still playing it at an awards show earlier this year. Get new material!

Hunter Hayes – Pop country boy who will become an afterthought once puberty hits for him. He belongs in the pop genre.

Scotty McCreery – American Idol teen heart throb who could probably sing a good country song, but chooses instead to put out songs like this one (listen at your own discretion):


But hey he did give me this comic relief during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a few years ago:


Montgomery Gentry – They used to be a reputable country group who put out decent songs. Then they put out a song called “Titty’s Beer.” Screw you Montgomery Gentry.

Aaron Lewis – I’m not going to beat around the bush. This guy is a douche and just another rocker trying to cash in on country music’s popularity. All he did in his first album was beat his chest about how American he is and then he went and botched the national anthem in the World Series. This guy is a Toby Keith reject with an even worse personality.


Parmalee, Thompson Square, Dan + Shay – If these artists stopped making their bad pop country music, would you notice? They just all sound like everything else you hear on country radio nowadays. These artists are bad, but easy to ignore.

That’s all for part four! The fifth and final part will be coming soon!

12 thoughts on “Ranking Mainstream Country Artists: Grade D

  1. Lorenzo December 5, 2014 / 4:15 pm

    noo Easton Corbin deserves a B grade! he has stated he puts out commercial radio singles to stay relevant but his albums are going to be purely country! think of the songs Hearts Drawn in the Sand, Tulsa Texas, Dance Real Slow! I could say the same for Joe Nichols!
    I’m sad Chris Young and Billy Currington have turned bro country, they were just so amazing! I’d give them a C grade.
    as for Lee Brice, I’d never put him in the same category of Easton, Joe, Chris and Billy. damn his new album is just so horrid, so badly produced and so incredibly boring it makes me wonder who ever could listen to it? Lee Brice deserves an F grade for releasing such garbage


    • Lorenzo December 5, 2014 / 4:17 pm

      however I’m really enjoying this whole ‘Grade’ thing, congratulations for the great idea Josh!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. NoahHibiscusEaton December 6, 2014 / 2:09 am

    Yep, as I predicted, we came to different conclusions regarding who would be deemed D and F artists, respectively……………even though I respect where you’re coming from.

    With me, charisma played a significant part in evaluating who deserved a D instead of a F, or vice-versa. After all, in elementary and secondary education, a “D” grade has always been defined as “marginal effort”. There may be bare minimal artistic effort, but there’s still shades of effort all the same, and charisma/stage presence/inflection does matter in part.


    First of all, I’ll state the artists I think deserve an F instead of an D.

    Aaron Lewis has no charisma and pleasant personality whatsoever, not to mention has cut some terrible material. Now I realize he cut a record titled “The Road” that actually embraced traditional country sounds…………….but just because you work with traditional country sounds does NOT make you good or even passable by default. The album still did absolutely nothing for me due to its lethargic pacing and Lewis’ unlikeable persona. He is an F artist.

    Justin Moore is also an F artist in my opinion. All of his albums have been garbage save a few passable (though nothing better than passable aside from “Grandpa”) album tracks, and he has released some of the very worst deeper cuts in all recent memory with “Guns”, “Bait a Hook” and especially “I’d Want It To Be Yours”. Plus, he never sounds like he’s having any fun, has no personality, and when he does put energy into his performances, he sounds like a total douche. A flaming F.

    Aside from “Cowboys and Angels” and “Your Daddy’s Boots”, I’m inclined to rate Dustin Lynch an F. There’s soething about his personality and delivery that is off-putting in the same way Jason Aldean’s is (even though I actually prefer Aldean because as insufferable as his personality can be, at least he has a better taste in the tracks he chooses to cut, while Lynch mostly covers songs about tailgate sex).

    Many country rappers like Jawga Boyz, Big Smo and Colt Ford would also rate as F in my book, as would Cole Swindell, Chase Rice, Blackjack Billy, Thomas Rhett and Sam Hunt (who the latter should actually be disqualified rather than receive a failing grade, in all honesty)………………because what all these acts have in common is that they lack charisma and a distinctive personality in a way their already sub-par material fails to be elevated to a relative degree of passable quality. Swindell has been especially insufferable with his two most recent singles “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight” and “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey” in that he comes across as emotionally manipulative in the former and a complete asshole in the latter……….Thomas Rhett goes beyond the generic on some insufferable tracks like “All American Middle Class White Boy”, “Front Porch Junkies (Remix)” and “Beer With Jesus”………….and Chase Rice is……..well………Chase Rice.


    Now, onto what will inevitably be the most controversial portion of my reply: which acts I think deserve a D rather than a F.

    Firstly, I honestly consider three of the biggest offenders of bro-country…………Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line, D artists.

    ……………….now now now, before you start pelting me with tomatoes…………….Let. Me. Explain. 😉

    Yes: all three of these acts have put out some absolutely arsenic and mind-bogglingly pathetic singles, have questionable personalities to say the least and are products of the Nashville songwriting machine and the monogenre. I doubt anyone is going to argue that here.

    That said, let’s start with Jason Aldean. Despite his ultra-douche personality, being responsible for releasing some of the single worst singles to the airwaves including “She’s Country”, “1994” and “Dirt Road Anthem”…………….and co-writing no more than three tracks in his entire discography to date…………….there are aspects to his output to date I can acknowledge and credit. Firstly, on most of his albums to date, I can honestly say Aldean is above-average among corporate country acts as an album artist. His first three albums in particular are rife with truly decent deeper cuts including “Back In This Cigarette”, “Not Every Man Lives”, “Grown Woman”, “On My Highway” and “My Memory Ain’t What It Used to Be”. Also, I honestly enjoyed the second half of his newest album “Old Boots, New Dirt” a fair bit. That album almost strikes me as a Jekyll & Mr. Hyde kind of internal dilemma: where half of him is seduced by sinister overlords who want him to keep pandering to the machine, while the other half wants to cut something outside of that. And despite his utter lack of personality, charm and vocal range……….Aldean, to his credit, has a knact at using his monotone to his advantage and can actually convey emotion reasonably well when he really wants to. He does that on “Don’t Change Gone”, “Trying To Love Me” and “Too Fast” in particular. Thus………….Aldean is an artist who is worse-than-average due to his sour personality and lack of charisma, but is spared from a flaming F because of his better taste in song selection compared to the majority of his bro-country peers and his ability to deliver songs with more mature subject matter when he puts the effort in. Aldean is a D artist to me.

    As for Florida Georgia Line………………..again: they’ve only released one single to date I would rate highly (“Dirt”) while everything else ranges between a C and a F. Their personalities can be outright irritating, they pander to the lowest common demominator and are among those most responsible for the monogenre effect in Nashville. Yet, there are two other points I can say about this duo. Firstly………….say what you will about their lack of substance, annoying vocals and bombast…………but this duo has an unmistakable amount of charisma and energy behind their material. The key word here is showmanship. What they may be selling may be genetically-modified ear candy, but at least you can believe most of what they’re selling because you can tell they sound like they’re having a genuinely good time and that means something as entertainers. And I’ll also say this: while some of their lyrics are indeed raunchy and dumb as sand and questionable to say the least…………..I also never get the impression there is a leering air to what they sing about or that they even sound like douchebags. They sound more blissfully stupid more than anything, and thus it doesn’t surprise me why many are attracted to their brand of lunkheaded populism. Finally, even though they have seldom dipped into emotional territory……………..when they do, they pull it off remarkably well. “Dirt” is an emotionally soaring ballad but, beyond that, there are brief moments where the duo have hinted they can sell emotion as well including the album cut “Hell Raisin’ Heat of the Summer” off of their debut full-length album, as well as “Confession” off of their current album. I only wish they moved further in this direction, because I think it would pay dividends for them. Until then, they are a worse-than-average act, but nonetheless spared from rock bottom due to their charisma, never coming across as particularly douchey, and signs that they have more potential as performers than they are showing.

    Finally, the incumbent Entertainer of the Year…………Luke Bryan. The man who is also responsible for releasing some of the absolute worst singles to the airwaves as of late, has enslaved hiself to the Nashville songwriting machine and feeding the monogenre monster, and on top of that is a near 40-year old acting like someone half his age. Yet, much like Florida Georgia Line…………..you can’t deny he has a hopping amount of charisma in his favor, stage presence as well as a serviceable (albeit limited) vocal. Granted he hasn’t released a single radio single I can flat-out say I’ve really liked since “We Rode In Trucks” off of his debut album, which also featured numerous better-than-decent cuts including “Tackle Box” and “The Car In Front Of Me”………..nor has any album track stopped me in my tracks since his debut album (I’d honestly argue his “Spring Break” material is better than his proper studio material because, as much as his “Spring Break” output is cheesy and fluffy, it nonetheless complements Bryan’s personality a lot better, and that shows in the fact he actually co-writes every one of his “Spring Break” songs while he rarely co-writes tracks on his more recent proper albums)………………but Luke Bryan is a passionate, dynamic and erviceable performer whose worst crime is selling himself criminally short by being the industry’s ever-submissive monkey boy. A dreadful D, but spared from an F all the same.


    So, yeah…………..I can’t see how what I’ve shared won’t be controversial, but my honest takes all the same.

    Otherwise, I largely agree. Where I’d most flat-out disagree is the Little Big Town ranking. I’m not quite convinced you’ve listened to a full-length album of theirs outside of “Pain Killer” since you only cite their few biggest hits. I would advise at least listening to the preceding albums once, because I dare say there are plenty of remarkable album tracks that are superior to any of their hits. “Shut Up Train” “Night Owl”, “Live With Lonesome”, “Evangeline”, “Kiss Goodbye”………….the high notes are plentiful. I still consider them a better-than-average group even though my patience is beign tested with their gimmicks as of late.

    Except I would probably consider both Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney C artists because, firstly, Chesney is at least comparatively dignified compared to most of his male peers. Plus, to his credit, he has made more attenpts to release more substantial material to the airwaves as of late including “You & Tequilla” and “Somewhere With You” in-between more generic arena rock and Parrothead-baiting offerings (though on his newest album he is less baiting Parrotheads and more the Spring Break crowd with “Flora-Bama”, “Beer Can Chicken” and “Drink It Up” especially). As for Keith…………his dignity has shattered in all recent memory, yet he still involves himself in virtually all the songwriting and is among the hardest workers in the business. He also has an above-average vocal and unmistakable stage presence. Granted his singles have sucked lately and his albums have been mostly unenjoyable and certainly unmemorable…………but I’ll still round him out to a C grade.

    Eh, I’d consider Thompson Square a C act. Though everything they release is middle-of-the-road and predictable, it’s at least servicably middle-of-the-road and predictable. I actually really liked the single “Everything I Shouldn’t Be Thinking About”. It’s hardly country aside from the vocals, but it kind of reminded me of 90’s power pop and I admittedly have a soft spot for 90’s power pop, so it worked. And their signature song “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?” worked and was appealing for what it was with a strong melody line, potent hook and a more laid-back, sunny production scheme. Yes, “Testing the Water” was pretty embarrassing but, all in all, I’ve heard worse. I’ll consider them a C act for the time being.

    I REALLY want to like both Easton Corbin and Chris Young………….but Corbin’s sophomore album was mostly devoid of substance whatsoever and painfully lightweight, not to mention consisted of the utterly atrocious single “All Over The Road” which went down as one of the Worst Singles of 2013 to me. His current single doesn’t help matters so, yeah, he’s a D artist for now. As for Young, like you said, half of his current album “A.M.” is lunkheaded bro-country pandering, while most of the remaining half are bland, banal and instantly forgettable ballads and mid-tempos. He started off a B artist, but at this time has devolved to the ranking of a C- artist probably.

    It’s amusing seeing how striking the parallels are between Lady Antebellum and Rascal Flatts’ downward commercial trajectories (which is much worse for Lady Antebellum since Rascal Flatts have been around the block much longer).

    Darius Rucker started off more as a C artist, but I’ve since demoted him to D especially after releasing the F single “Homegrown Honey” (by far his worst single to date).

    As for the remaining acts I didn’t mention, no disagreements there. Dan + Shay and Hunter Hayes are practically disqualified just like Sam Hunt (even though I don’t doubt Hunter Hayes has some respectable musicianship that may serve him well at Adult Top 40 where he actually belongs).


    • Josh Schott December 6, 2014 / 3:03 pm

      Holy crap what a comment! I’ll try to address each of these in order as best as I can.

      -Aaron Lewis probably should have been an F. I’ll give you that. I hate him. I guess I put him here at D because he seems well intentioned with his music and he did a great takedown of Tyler Farr’s “Redneck Crazy.” He has also stated his distaste with bro country.

      -Justin Moore and Dustin Lynch could easily be labeled F too. Both have great voices though, so that was able to net them a D. After the feedback I’ve received from everyone on this I will definitely be doing plusses and minuses next time because these two would be a D-.

      -You’ll see my take on Swindell, Rhett, and the others you mentioned soon.

      -As far as your points on FGL, Bryan and Aldean: Your big point is that they have charisma at least. That’s true. They do have great charisma and I take charisma into consideration a little big with these rankings. But you know what? You can have all the charisma in the world singing bad music, but the music still sucks. Their music has been so terrible lately that their charisma means nothing to me. Nobody should be singing such bad music and be proud of it. Aldean would have been a D- if I had used + and – for this. Maybe Bryan too. But I stand by FGL as an F.

      – Little Big Town I would bump up to C-. I really should have taken + and – into consideration. Haha. But still Little Big Town has never blown me away with their music. I can only take so much average music before I get turned off by the artist. I don’t like to continually give artists passes because their music isn’t terrible.

      -We’ll agree to disagree on Chesney and Keith. Sure Chesney said he would have better music on his new album, but he did not deliver on that promise. Instead of bad beach songs we got bad pop country songs. He’s wasted his talent for over 10 years and this is infuriating to me. I have no more patience. He needs to deliver good music before I can take him seriously again. I gave him a chance with his latest album and he did not deliver.

      Toby Keith has been on a downhill slope since 2001. Sure he’s involved with his songwriting, but if the songwriting is terrible does it matter? While I appreciate him being involved, it’s not enough to elevate him in my mind. If you can’t write good music, get someone who can. That is one of the biggest problems in mainstream country music. I’ll stand by my ranking with Keith.

      -Thompson Square is not memorable. Nothing stands out about them. They are ordinary. Probably another C- for me with + and – being taken into consideration.

      -Corbin is such a huge disappointment. So is Young. Both are capable of so much more. We are in agreement here. We are also in agreement on the rest.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! I never thought this series of posts would be so popular. I promise to be much more detailed when I update them months from now. This idea just came out of nowhere really and I didn’t have the time I thought to really go into great detail. Like I said the update will be much more detailed and longer in length.


      • NoahHibiscusEaton December 6, 2014 / 7:33 pm

        And I’m absolutely fine with our disagreements and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just wanted you to see where I was coming from is all with regards to sparing some entertainers from the stone cold bottom and jailing others there.

        Like with the Big Three you are inclined to rank as F artists while I rated them D. To me, the only thing worse than an entertainer who writes mostly shallow material and contributes to a culture that undermines the genre but nonetheless has some charisma and personality, is an entertainer who writes mostly shallow material and contributes to a culture that undermines the genre AND has no charisa or personality whatsoever. That’s the main thing that separates acts like Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line from Aaron Lewis and Chase Rice to me. I may resent and get incensed at least a time or two by what both the former do often, but I can only get so angry at them when it is clear they are having legitimately good times and you can believe what they are selling even if it’s empty calories. Those that get me angrier are those who not only put as little effort in their songwriting and aspirations to grow, but also don’t sound like they care or, worse, sound utterly arrogant. And I guess I just feel, personally, there has to be a dividing line drawn there.

        Same standard kind of applies for A and B artists. You can have loads of charisma and passion as a performer, vocalist and musician, and have a likeable personality…………but if you’re not challenging yourself as a songwriter and flexing your chops somewhat, I can’t see how you’re going to break the A-grade ceiling. However, I think it’s quite possible that you can be that kind of entertainer that sticks to a tried-and-true formula, but nails it every time aplomb all-around, and that’s enough to qualify for a B.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Acca Dacca December 6, 2014 / 2:29 am

    Billy Currington, Lee Brice, Randy Houser, Justin Moore, Dustin Lynch, Chris Young, Joe Nichols, Easton Corbin and Josh Thompson, Parmalee, Thompson Square, Dan + Shay

    While you won’t get much of an argument from me on some of these guys, I think that grouping them together with simplistic ambiguity is disingenuous to your cause with these lists. If you don’t have enough to say about any one of them to not lump them together, perhaps leave them off of the list entirely? After all, we’re still not getting everybody here to begin with.

    However, I do have a problem with a few of your choices: I don’t personally feel that Randy Houser, Chris Young or Joe Nichols have necessarily “sold their souls to the bro-country devil.” Have they taken their music in a more pop direction in the last few years? Certainly, but I don’t recall hearing any hip hop beats or mock rapping in any of their recent efforts, either. Hell, Randy Houser’s latest single is called “Like a Cowboy.” When was the last time you heard a mainstream artist evoke western themes in modern country music? It’s almost unheard of these days. On Montgomery Gentry, while we agree that “Titty’s Beer” and “Headlights” are showing the duo taking their music in the completely wrong direction, I don’t think that two songs really make a good case for dismissing their seven previous albums of solid country music. That’s sort of like dismissing Hank Jr.’s entire output because of a few duds he made with Kid Rock. It just doesn’t make sense.


    • NoahHibiscusEaton December 6, 2014 / 2:47 am

      I’m glad you mentioned this, especially because I forgot to address Joe Nichols and Randy Houser above (even though I talked about Randy Houser in an earlier installment of this series and argued he is a B artist in my view).

      I’d personally consider Joe Nichols a C artist at this point. What he has going for him is a great voice (among the best male voices in mainstream country music, I dare argue), a respectable amount of charisma and a likeable warm personality. Unfortunately, I took great issue with his latest album “Crickets” and gave it a fair thrashing for pandering to bro-country and bromance lyrics and themes on half the tracks. There were a few considerably bright spots, the biggest one being “Old School Country Song”, and to his credit the production remained more in common with contemporary modern country music than arena rock or hip-hop…………but the underwhelming song selection spoiled the listening experience for me. Nichols is clearly MUCH better than this.

      As for Randy Houser……………yes, he started his solo career off on the wrong foot with the mostly clumsy and annoying “Anything Goes” album……….and yes, he panders to cliches of the moment too considerably…………..but Houser also has easily one of the best male vocals in mainstream country music and, just as often as he panders to bromance sensibilities on songs like “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” and “Goodnight Kiss”, he also offers gut-punchers like “Power of a Song”, “Route 3 Box 250 D” and “Shine”. The production on “How Country Feels” was more polished than I would prefer my country music to be, but then again its predecessor, “They Call Me Cadillac”, was much more steeped in neo-traditional sounds and fared poorly commercially, so I respect him for trying and can’t say I blame him much for gravitating back to more commercially accessible territory. While I do hope his next album is a little more understated and veers further into the terrain he tackled with the aforementioned highlights, I still have enjoyed him well enough over the course of his two latest albums and consider him somewhere between a B and a C.


    • Josh Schott December 6, 2014 / 3:12 pm

      I get where you’re coming from about mass grouping them and like I said above I didn’t have the time I thought I would to do these rankings. So maybe it is unfair. However in my defense I didn’t have much to say on these artists because they are pretty average and don’t stand out that much. Turn on the radio and the average country fan would have a hard time determining each of the artists. A true artist stands out with their work. They’re unique and don’t sound cookie cutter like these guys.

      All three of Young, Houser and Nichols had plenty of bro country songs on their album. Sure they didn’t rap or add hip hop to their music, but I’m not lowering the bar because they didn’t stoop as low as they possibly could. It’s important to not lower standards just because pop country and bro country aren’t the absolute worst things that you can do in country music. I also write these in mind that these artists will be reading what I have to say. I’m sure some will. I’ve had artists on Twitter out of the blue reply to me about articles without even mentioning them. This is sort of my message to them to do better. Average and non-offensive music doesn’t cut it for me. I spent the entire fall listening to this type of bland, safe music and nearly drove me crazy.

      I’ll give you the Montgomery Gentry point. I would probably bump them up to a C now.


  4. Cobra December 6, 2014 / 6:30 am

    I’m pretty surprised at seeing Joe Nichols as a “D.” Sure, “Yeah” and “Sunny & 75” weren’t what we’re used to from him, and I can see that hurting his grade, but I at least found both, at least individually, to be breezy and light songs (especially “Sunny & 75”). Personally I wouldn’t label them “bro-country,” though they’re not exactly the neo-traditional type sound I’ve come to be used to from him.

    Similar with Chris Young. He really only single which was really “bro-country,” and that was “Aw Naw” (which yes, was a terrible song). But “Who I Am With You” and “Lonely Eyes” were stronger releases.

    Similar with Easton Corbin, I don’t know if I would deem one song as of yet having “sold his soul to bro-country.” I’m willing to give him time to show what else he has before writing him off entirely, because largely, his first two albums were solid.

    Those are probably the only three arguments you’ll get from me on your “D” grades…for the most part, I pretty much agree with the rest of them.


    There was a time for me as well before I discovered independent country and was blinded by what was played on the radio (as you mention with LBT). At that time, Rascal Flatts was one of my favorites. Now I look back on that and wonder how I EVER considered that to be country music.


    Thank you for finally saying about Toby Keith what a lot of people have probably been thinking for a long time. Patriotism is great, but he’s cashed in on it like no one else to such a huge degree that it’s one of his only two schticks. But yes, he did make good music at one point, up to and including GH v1.


    Chesney’s another one who stopped making good music after his first GH album (with a few notable exceptions here and there). It’s like he’s simply trying to be Jimmy Buffett, and he’s failing. I’ve stopped even trying to believe he might return to what he once was.


    Can’t wait to see your “F” grades. I think at this point we can pretty much assume some of the names we’ll see on there…


    • Josh Schott December 6, 2014 / 3:20 pm

      Joe Nichols – There were plenty of below average and bro country like songs on his new album. I dock him extra hard because he is choosing to waste his talent on bad music all in the name of money. We all have to make a living, but I lose a lot of respect for artists when they do this. It almost feels like they’re betraying their fans. Ditto for Chris Young.

      As for Easton Corbin, did you hear this latest single from him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzG5Tn7WdO4

      Also his previous single “Clockwork” was boring and unimaginative pop country. “All Over The Road” was pretty checklist-y. He promises in the following interview he will have a traditional sounding album: http://www.lasvegassun.com/vegasdeluxe/2014/dec/03/easton-corbin-releases-baby-be-my-love-song-looks-/

      If he delivers on his promise he will promptly be moved up.

      I used to like Rascal Flatts too. Now I cringe with their music. Two songs I will give them credit for though is “Sara Beth” (an emotional song with good songwriting) and “Broken Road” (a good pop song). As I said above they seem like nice guys too.

      I’m glad you agree on Toby too. He makes me sick, especially the way he treats his fans showing up to concerts too drunk to perform.


  5. Josh Schott December 6, 2014 / 3:22 pm

    By the way I appreciate all the feedbacks and comments on this! Will help me when I update these rankings next time .


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