Hodgepodge of Country Stuff: Bro Country is Fading, Sam Hunt is Rising & Country Music is Shattering Into Pieces

The Division of Country Music

The Hodgepodge of Country Stuff is a weekly column where I discuss some country stuff, non-country stuff and maybe even stuff in-between. So that’s a lot of stuff! I’m sure you’ll find some stuff you even like. So welcome! 

Over the past few years country music has been dominated by a sub-genre called bro country. If you’re a music fan who hasn’t been living under a rock, you’re well aware (even non-country fans). It was coined by writer Jody Rosen and it refers to party songs that rely on the same old tropes of drinking, trucks, tailgates, river banks, moonlight, fields and most of the time involves a bro trying to get some sex from a girl. Most of the time the “girls” in these songs (they’re never called women) are treated like crap and are referred to in a derogatory manner. Bro country been the bane of existence for traditional country fans. It’s dominated radios, charts and in my opinion dragged the good name of country through the mud several times.

Those days are coming to an end. Bro country is on it’s very last legs and is no longer the popular taste of the month in country music. Sure there are a few songs of this nature on the charts and playing on radio, but they aren’t as widespread as before. Now just because bro country is on its death bed doesn’t mean it’s not going to fight until the end. The artists who have gained the most from it will fight tooth and nail to keep it alive. I’m looking at you Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Chase Rice and Jason Aldean. To me the final litmus test for this will be Luke Bryan’s new album later this year. Will it feature a lot of bro country and if so will it be popular? We’ll have to wait and see.

On top of this a lot of bro country is being replaced by quality music. Tim McGraw finally woke up and realized trying to keep up with the bros wasn’t going to fly with his fans and went back to his old late 90s and early 2000s sound. It’s paid dividends as “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” and “Shotgun Rider” both became #1 songs. He also netted a Grammy nomination for Best Country Song. Maddie & Tae’s debut EP was a nice sample of traditional country music and continue to gain more popularity. Carrie Underwood’s “Something in the Water” has been a hugely popular songs on the Billboard and iTunes charts. Mickey Guyton has caught everyone’s attention early in 2015 with her country waltz single “Better Than You Left Me.” Even Jake Owen, who benefitted greatly from the bro country fad, put out a great single in “What We Ain’t Got.” On top of this Sturgill Simpson signed with major label Atlantic Records recently.

Things are going great for traditional country fans, right? Well there’s one big elephant in the room you’re kind of forgetting. While a good bit of bro country has been replaced by more quality country songs, the rest has been replaced with something arguably worse. I’m of course referring to Sam Hunt. While independent country fans point to the aforementioned Simpson’s meteoric rise in the last year, mainstream country fans will point to Hunt’s own impressive rise. Last year at this time hardly anyone knew Sam Hunt. He was just another songwriter in Nashville. Then his single “Leave The Night On” came out and became a huge hit. I hoped he was just a flash in the pan and just a one-hit wonder. But at the same time I knew this was naive. When something shows any success in country music, everyone else will rush to copy it and ride the trend.

Jason Aldean surely did as his single “Burnin’ It Down” became one of the biggest hits of 2014. Half of his album featured EDM and heavy pop influences similar to Hunt’s album. I can say the same of Chase Rice and Florida Georgie Line’s albums. Meanwhile Sam Hunt has four songs in the top 40 of iTunes. That’s insane. Each song is also a straight pop song and people are eating it right up. What’s the deal? Well last week I really explored the review sections on Sam Hunt’s Montevallo album and there was a comment I saw a lot that stood out to me. “I usually hate country music, but I love this album and Hunt’s music.” In other words, they like this country music because it isn’t country music. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Sturgill Simpson gets the same exact comment from people and has said as much in interviews. Another similarity both Hunt and Simpson share is they get showers of love from the critics.

So what we got here are two completely different artists with completely different music with both sides claiming it’s country music. It’s truly a sight to behold. Country music is in a war right now. In one corner you have the bro country fans touting the success of Florida Georgia Line and have a legitimate claim. Then you have the traditional country fans who can preach the success of Sturgill Simpson. And of course the pop/EDM country fans who have their poster-boy Sam Hunt. All are having success and gaining more fans by the day.

So you’re probably wondering who’s going to win? Well right now all of them. In the future, all of them can win too. Remember the splitting of country music is coming. It’s pretty much inevitable because I find it impossible to have all of these different sounding acts under one genre. The fans and critics can’t stand it. The labels know there’s money in a split too. But there’s one thing I do disagree with about this whole split. Everyone says it will simply split into two parts, but I find that to be unbelievable. There isn’t a lot of crossover between Sam Hunt fans and Luke Bryan fans. There are many on each side that despise the other. Go read message boards and comments sections. Country music is going to split into multiple sub-genres similar to rock music. You could conceivably have traditional country, rock country, pop country, bro country, EDM country, hip-hop country and even more.

This could be a good thing. No more quarreling amongst opposing fans of what is and isn’t country music. A possibility of a fair platform for all artists of all kinds. This could also be a bad thing. Look at how divided rock music is with its hundreds of sub-genres and it’s presence in the mainstream. It’s an absolute mess and country music could end up in the same boat. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but everyone will have a side in this fight. I know one thing for certain: It’s going to be entertaining. So grab your popcorn and get ready. Also go traditional country!

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • The Lone Bellow just released their new album Then Came The Morning. They performed on Letterman the album’s title track on Letterman this past week and it was a fantastic performance. I already wrote a review for the album and trust me you don’t want to miss this one.
  • Carrie Underwood announced her next single will be “Little Toy Guns.” It was the second new song she released on her greatest hits album released last November along with “Something in the Water.” It was only announced a few days ago and it’s already in the top 20 of the iTunes country chart. We’ll have a review on this one soon.
  • Lindi Ortega teased her new upcoming 2015 album on Instagram this past week. If you haven’t heard it yet, click here to hear it. Based on this small sample, we have another great country album to look forward to. 2015 is going to be a great year to be a country music fan.
  • Maddie & Tae recently released their second single “Fly.” I would’ve personally released “Sierra” as the second single as it’s a better song with more of an edge. “Fly” could be successful though because it’s an inspirational song that appeals to younger women. It’ll be interesting to see how it fares on the charts and the radio.

Throwback Thursday Song

 

Brad Paisley, George Jones and Bill Anderson – “Too Country.” One of the many great songs off of Brad Paisley’s Part II album. Nothing would please me more if did another album like this one. My other favorite from that album is his cover of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” It’s kind of funny looking back at this now after his latest album.

My Non-Country Song of the Week

 

Fall Out Boy – “Uma Thurman.” Yeah yeah I know it’s a mindless pop song, but sometimes I like to take a break from the more substantial stuff and listen to something upbeat. In my opinion, Fall Out Boy used to be a pretty good band. Their quality lately however has slipped and there are several bad tracks on their new album. But “Uma Thurman” works for me and I’m a sucker for a song that samples The Munsters’ theme song.

Tweet of the Week

The Brothers Osborne are definitely one of the most underrated follows on country music Twitter. And this tweet is proof.

A Google Play Review That Will Make You Face Palm

RaeLynn Google Play Review

This was left under RaeLynn’s Me EP on Google Play. I shit you not. I think this wins the prize for most ridiculous review to date.

That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments! 

Photo Credit: SturgillSimpson.com/MCA Nashville/Republic Nashville. Special thanks to PicMonkey.

17 thoughts on “Hodgepodge of Country Stuff: Bro Country is Fading, Sam Hunt is Rising & Country Music is Shattering Into Pieces

  1. jb January 29, 2015 / 11:14 am

    I work (a little) on the air in country radio, and while it was clear that “Leave the Night On” didn’t have anything country about it, there was at least a plausible case that it fit alongside the other not-very-country-anymore stuff on the radio last fall. But “Take Your Time” just doesn’t. No matter what you play next to it, “Take Your Time” makes it sound like your radio has accidentally flipped to a different station. Wang Chung wouldn’t sound any more or less out-of-place. The cynicism of Hunt’s marketing is remarkable: “Call it country because the rubes won’t know the difference.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Josh Schott January 29, 2015 / 11:44 am

      Yes “Leave The Night On” at least had some similarities to what was being played on radio at the time. “Take Your Time” is a pop song from every angle. And the comparison to Wang Chung is spot on. Hahaha!

      Like

  2. Derek Hudgin January 29, 2015 / 11:33 am

    It’s astounding to me that people buy into Sam Hunt as country. Just because some suit in Nashville called him a country artist, everyone and their mother now says he is, and defends it to the death. I don’t understand how mainstream fans can just blindly accept this with such ignorance. SAM HUNT ISNT COUNTRY MUSIC. Wake up people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott January 29, 2015 / 11:49 am

      The thing is as I said above I don’t think there’s as much crossover between FGL and Swindell fans and Sam Hunt fans as you think. I think the majority of Hunt fans are pop fans who have no idea what country music should sound like. I should’ve posted the comments where bro country fans actually bash Hunt for not sounding country enough. Talk about irony!

      This also seems like an appropriate time to tell a short story involving Hunt’s music. A few months ago when “Leave The Night On” was dominating the airwaves I was getting into my car after a haircut in the parking lot when I turn to my left and see two big, burly dudes in a car with the windows down. And what were they doing? Singing “Leave The Night On” together as loud as they could for everyone to hear. It was one of the most bizarre and hilarious scenes I’ve witnessed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Zack January 29, 2015 / 12:18 pm

        Haha, that’s hilarious! I have a story too: now I’m only 17 so naturally I have friends who are more into FGL and Luke and Swindell. Anyway one time my one friend and I were hanging out playing video games and he had his radio on(mainstream). I didn’t mind so we left it on. Anyway, I got up to use the bathroom and as I came back “Take Your Time” had just started playing and my friend says “hey why did you change the station?” I said with a smile “I didn’t, its a new “country” song” he thought I was joking and even played with the radio to make sure I wasn’t joking haha! He thought the song sucked and like I said he is more into FGL and stuff like that. I didn’t care the song was playing, his reaction was too funny to care!

        Also since I forgot to mention in my earlier post…
        Great Brad Paisley tune, personally I don’t think his latest stuffs been all that bad but I respect your opinion. But I agree this is my favorite album of his as well. Really not a bad track on it, I too wish that he would make another album like it.

        And good news about Raelynn is that the song appears to be faltering and considering it that On The Verge Program and only made it to #17 it probably won’t bode well for future singles (hopefully)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Derek Hudgin January 29, 2015 / 12:32 pm

        That’s a great Hunt story!! It’s crazy how polarizing Sam Hunt is.

        Country radio, a place so accepting even crappy pop music can have a home.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Zack January 29, 2015 / 11:55 am

    Really great hodgepodge this week! I really never thought the genre could split into multiple formats. I, like many, am just thinking of the half&half split (traditional country and modern country), but you’re right it will be interesting to see. I for one, don’t see the talent in Sam, perhaps I’m a bit biased since I like very little outside of country and classic rock but still, lyrically he’s mostly bro, otherwise he has a mediocore voice and his songs feel bland. Just my 2 cents.

    And bad news about Bryan, I remember reading somewhere (I’m don’t remember where) that his new album would be “more of the same” because that’s what has brought him success :p I don’t really know how it will fare, I think it could either way but I guess we’ll have to see.

    Now for Hunt and Sturgill, when people tell Hunt they like his music and hate other country, youre right it is because they don’t truly like country and only like this pop garbage. While the same comment has been said for Sturgill, it certainly doesn’t have the same meaning. When people tell Sturgill they like his music but hate country, its because they know Sturgill is true country and they hate what is being camoflauged as “country”.

    Don’t forget Lee Ann Womack’s “Send It On Down”. It won’t do jack at radio but still cool that it’s being released. And good lord who the hell wrote that Raelynn review?! Cash and Kenny wouldn’t give a rat’s ass if they had never heard of Raelynn. Total facepalm indeed. I would say lil’ Dale from Saving Country Music wrote it but the grammar/spelling/everything is surprisingly too good for him.

    I haven’t listened to much of The Brothers Osborne but i’ll check them out. Great work yet again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott January 29, 2015 / 12:17 pm

      Thanks Zack, appreciate the kind words. I don’t see a lot of talent in Hunt either, but he’s selling records and catching people’s attention. So he has something going on. Lyrically he is bro sometimes, but I find him to be more checklist and pop with lyrics. Of course that’s hardly any better.

      Not surprising about Bryan. They’re going to keep going to the well until there’s proof it’s dried up completely. If this is as bad as his last album I’ll have a fun time tearing it apart. Bryan will be one of the strongest contenders to win our “Worst of” awards this year.

      Great point about Sturgill and Hunt and you hit the nail on the head. I only thought of this as I was writing it and didn’t realize they were getting that same content. But as you said the context for each is completely different. Hunt is so un-country that it doesn’t sound like anything else on radio, while Sturgill is so damn country that he doesn’t sound like anything else on radio.

      Yes I saw that was the new single from Lee Ann. One of my favorite songs off her new album. She better hope NASH Icon radios start growing faster because I think that’s where she will get the most radio play. I knew everyone would cringe at that RaeLynn review. So damn delirious!

      Brothers Osborne are definitely worth checking out. Their first album will be releasing soon, but their EP from last November is pretty solid. Touring with Eric Church has really helped them get more exposure. I hope they break out this year.

      Like

  4. Raymond January 29, 2015 / 2:24 pm

    Wow once again love your site.
    This whole bro country stuff is ridiculous. Seeing Sam Hunt doing this well also makes me cringe.
    I also wish to address a few bad things on the charts in country music
    1. Something In The Water will peak at number 3 on the Airplay charts that’s a crime in itself. You know it still hasn’t been since October 2012 that a SOLO female vocalist had a billboard country Airplay number 1
    2 Good News God Made Girls looks to finally go recurrent. It’s back unfortunately
    3 Well Gentle On My Mind flopping will mean The Band Perry will probably go back to bad music not necessarily bro just not good I say they go country rock
    4 One Last thing what’s your guys take on Kelsea Ballerini Love Me Like You Mean It I can’t decide whether I like it or not. Also what’s your take on Gloriana’s new song Trouble I Love It

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott January 29, 2015 / 2:51 pm

      Thank you!
      1. Yes, sadly this probably won’t reach #1 on the Airplay chart. It’s a damn shame.
      2. You’ll see my thoughts on this tomorrow with this week’s Current Pulse of Country Music.
      3. Disappointed to hear about this. I hope it doesn’t discourage them, but there’s a good chance it could. We’ll see with their new album.
      4. You’ll hear my thoughts on Ballerini tomorrow also.

      Derek actually reviewed Gloriana’s “Trouble” when it came out last year: http://countryperspective.com/2014/11/11/review-glorianas-trouble/

      Personally I think it’s decent song. It’s better than most on the radio.

      Like

    • Zack January 29, 2015 / 4:03 pm

      Here are some(not confirmed) Band Perry co-writes. Band Perry has a couple of co-writes with Audra Mae (the same person who originally did “Little Red Wagon”, the new single by Miranda Lambert) so we will probably see a more rock direction. I have always thought they were an interesting group. The song titles definently intrigue me, and the presence of Brandy Clark on a couple of those makes me happy so we’ll see.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin January 29, 2015 / 5:50 pm

      Raymond, I haven’t yet listened to Kelsea Ballerini. And yeah, I thought “Trouble” was pretty decent. I graded it a 6.5. I loved Rachel’s vocals and the production, I just thought the topic of the song was rather bland. But I’d be really excited to hear an album from Gloriana soon.

      Like

      • Raymond January 29, 2015 / 7:33 pm

        Ok I was wondering cause I view this song as the ultimate make or break song for them personally I hope they succeed well when the pulse comes up I will give my take cause that’s my favorite thing about the charts
        Oh yeah There’s a bunch of new songs from Tim McGraw Kenny Chesney and Little Big Towns Girl Crush looks like it will be entering soon cause even though critics like it I have a feeling you guys don’t like it that much

        Like

      • Derek Hudgin January 29, 2015 / 8:40 pm

        I haven’t formed an opinion on that one yet. I’ve never turned it off when it came on the radio, but at the same time I haven’t chosen to listen to it myself, which actually may reveal my stance on it. I really like the bluesy feel to the melody though.

        But, assuming Gloriana sticks to their roots and “Trouble” does well enough, I think they’d be awesome to have in the mainstream rotation.

        Like

  5. Cobra January 29, 2015 / 5:38 pm

    Interesting read. Thanks for posting. I’m really liking this weekly column.

    Can’t wait for new Lindi Ortega music. Also looking like a new Dean Brody album will be out this year as well.

    And of course, Sean McConnell is working on a new album as well.

    I will be listening to and reviewing “Then Came the Morning” this weekend, so I’m hoping I enjoy the album.

    Like

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