As I’ve mentioned here in the early part of 2015, country music seems to be testing the waters on new artists. It’s good to see because country radio could use some new blood. There has also been a good bit of variety amongst these new artists from A Thousand Horses to Striking Matches to Mickey Guyton, there’s been a little bit of everything. Another new artist that is different from the rest I mentioned is Kelsea Ballerini. With country radio failing to put enough female artists on the airwaves, it’s even better to see new female artists. Ballerini has seemed to destined for music from an early age, writing her first song at 13, moving to Nashville at 15 and signing with Black River Entertainment at 19. She made her debut into country music late in 2014 with her first single “Love Me Like You Mean It,” which has been steadily climbing the charts.
Before I review this song I want to take a moment to remind everyone that female artists are just as capable of making bad music as male artists. People seem to want to give female artists a pass just because of the lack of female artists on country radio. Well I don’t do that. If I feel a song is good or bad, I will say it regardless of it being a male or female artist. So with that out of the way, let’s take a look at this single from Ballerini. Right away you’ll notice this is a pop country song through and through. Well scratch that. Make it just a pop song (with a dash of R&B) because the country in this song is non-existent.
This leads me to the lyrics of this song and…just take a look at the opening lyrics of “Love Me Like You Mean It”:
Boy with your hat back
Mmm I kinda like that
If you wanna walk my way
I’mma shoot you straight up
Show me what you are made of”
*face palm* Really? You know what these lyrics make me picture in my head? I imagine I’m in a bar and Chase Rice is sitting at the counter. Or Cole Swindell. Pick any bro-country artist you want. So they’re sitting there at the bar and Ballerini walks up to them uttering these lyrics. Then Rice flashes a douchey smirk at her and makes a condescending, sexist remark. Ballerini eats this up most likely. I’m sitting in the background rolling my eyes so hard they’re about to fall out. That’s the mental image I get when I hear these lyrics. This is not a good thing.
The rest of the song Ballerini pretty much contradicts this opening line, as she talks about immature boys and heartbreakers in her past relationships. Maybe you should stop dating bro idiots wearing hats? As for the chorus, I feel like it’s a slightly less annoying version of the chorus on RaeLynn’s “Better Do It.” She’s asking for guys to commit who can’t commit. These lyrics are confusing and quite frankly shallow in terms of depth. This is bubblegum pop meant to appeal to radio and casual listeners. In a world with common sense this is on pop radio. But we live in a world where pop music being passed off as country music is the norm.
I’m all for more women on country radio, but I’m sorry this just doesn’t cut it for me. This is hurting women more than anything. It’s another song where the male is put into a position of power and the woman is groveling for his attention. Ballerini has a nice voice and could maybe make some decent country music, but this does not cast her in a positive light in my eyes. At the moment this song is lingering around the 28-32 range on the Billboard Country Airplay chart and I don’t expect it to go much higher thankfully. I hope Ballerini’s next offering is better because “Love Me Like You Mean It” is just terrible.
Ashley Monroe caught everyone’s attention when she came onto the country scene as a part of Pistol Annies, the trio made up of her, Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley. Monroe though caught my attention when I heard her 2013 album Like A Rose. Produced by Vince Gill, I was impressed by her artistry and her dynamic voice. It was one of my favorite country albums that year and I was excited about her future. She’s gotten more and more attention lately, mostly because of her duet with Blake Shelton on “Lonely Tonight.” It’s been featured in Pepsi commercial and has been featured heavily on radio, as it’s destined to reach #1 on the Country Airplay chart soon. But I’ve been waiting for her next album. Well now we’ve gotten the first taste of it, as she’s released the debut single off it, titled “On To Something Good.”
So is this song on to something good for Monroe? Well, no it’s not. “On To Something Good” is a song about….I’m not sure. It’s so bland and uninteresting that I find it hard to listen to. It doesn’t hold my attention and is the equivalent of elevator music. It’s just something to fill the void. So for as what the song is about, you can choose. I know I don’t feel like figuring it out because this song is just so boring and we all have better music we could be listening to. The reason I think the theme is so bland is because this song is so radio-friendly. It’s obviously a ploy for a radio play, as Monroe is capable of so much more. The instrumentation is just as boring and unimaginative as the non-existent, neutral theme. It’s quite pop sounding and upbeat. The country sound is practically non-existent, as the guitar is buried in the background of the song. That’s because the drum machine dominates the beat. Monroe even sounds bored singing, as her voice is flat in the chorus.
I find it hard to believe Gill is producing Monroe’s next album, based on this offering. This just feels so empty and castrated compared to the material off of Monroe’s first album. I can’t even hate this song because it’s too bland to hate. I’m just left feeling disappointed and a little sleepy. I’ll forget about this song with a couple of weeks. That’s how forgettable this song is from Monroe. I hope this is just an anomaly on her new album because if this is a precursor it may go down as the biggest disappointment of 2015. “On To Something Good” is on to something not so good. It’s a watered-down, pop country song that is well below what Monroe is capable of producing.
Wait a minute I thought we already did the current pulse of mainstream country music? Indeed we did. This is different. Reader Scotty J made the excellent suggestion to take a look back at the country airplay chart of year’s past to compare the differences to the current chart. Here’s how it would work:
Every week I take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. It could be 10 years ago, 20 years ago or even further back. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. How do I determine if a song is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site by either Derek or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Songs rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Songs rated between 5 and 6.5 receive a 0. Songs rated 4.5 or lower receive a -1.
The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I take a look at the top 30 on the Country Airplay Chart from February 26, 2005.
- Rascal Flatts – “Bless The Broken Road” +1
- Keith Urban – “You’re My Better Half” +1
- Brad Paisley – “Mud On The Tires” +1
- Josh Gracin – “Nothin’ To Lose” +1
- Alan Jackson – “Monday Morning Church” +1
- LeeAnn Rimes – “Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense” 0
- Craig Morgan – “That’s What I Love About Sunday” 0
- Sugarland – “Baby Girl” +1
- Reba McEntire – “He Gets That From Me” +1
- Billy Dean – “Let Them Be Little” +1
- Blake Shelton – “Some Beach” +1
- Montgomery Gentry – “Gone” +1
- Brooks & Dunn – “It’s Getting Better All The Time” +1
- Kenny Chesney – “Anything But Mine” 0
- Lee Ann Womack – “I May Hate Myself In The Morning” +1
- Jo Dee Messina – “My Give A Damn’s Busted” +1
- Andy Griggs – “If Heaven” 0
- Toby Keith – “Honky Tonk U” -1
- Joe Nichols – “What’s A Guy Gotta Do” +1
- Jamie O’Neal – “Trying To Find Atlantis” +1
- Gretchen Wilson – “What I Think About Cheatin'” +1
- Martina McBride – “God’s Will” +1
- Trace Adkins – “Songs About Me” +1
- Blaine Larsen – “How Do You Get That Lonely” +1
- Tim McGraw – “Drugs or Jesus” +1
- Terri Clark – “The World Needs A Drink” +1
- Jeff Bates – “Long Slow Kisses” +1
- Phil Vassar – “I’ll Take That As A Yes (The Hot Tub Song)” 0
- Miranda Lambert – “Me and Charlie Talking” 0
- Lonestar – “Class Reunion (That Used To Be Us)” 0
The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: +21
What a night and day difference! As you can see country music was waaaaaaaaaay better 10 years ago compared to now. A 25 point difference to be exact. Listening to these songs was like a trip down memory lane. The songs I had forgotten about I immediately remembered once they started playing. Rascal Flatts was at the top of the charts and the song didn’t stink! Isn’t that amazing? Alan Jackson was in the top five, where he belonged. I forgot how much I loved “Monday Morning Church” and it was definitely one of my favorites from 2005.
There were a total of nine female country artists on the chart in 2005! For comparison to the current chart, it only has five female country artists and three of them are paired with a male artist. Needless to say female country artists had much more airtime in 2005. There are also nine artists currently charting in the top 60 Country Airplay chart that were also charting in the top 30 in 2005. Toby Keith has the only negative song on the chart in “Honky Tonk U.” So Keith was the worst artist on radio in 2005. Today he’s only like the 10th worst artist on the radio.
I did not remember Billy Dean, Jamie O’Neal, Blaine Larsen and Jeff Bates at all on radio. But then I remembered them after hearing their songs. Larsen’s “How Do You Get That Lonely” really stood out to me. You would never hear such a sad and depressing song like this on radio today. I wonder what happened to him? This was a great song and his voice was great too. I didn’t remember Terri Clark’s “The World Needs A Drink,” but now I want to listen to it more. It’s just a fun country song.
So what do you think of this chart? Do you want this to be a weekly feature on the site? Be sure to let me know in the comments!
Due to being swamped with stuff this week, I didn’t have time to write an opener in the Hodgepodge. I had a topic in mind, but I needed to have more time to really flesh it out. So no opener this week. However since this is the case I thought it would be a good time to have an open thread Q&A in the comments. That means you can ask me any music related questions. Perhaps you want my thoughts on a certain artist or an upcoming release. Or you want to know my favorite country song from the 90s. Whatever you have on your mind throw it at me. I’ll take any questions about the site too. I promise next week I will have a normal opener. So be sure to ask me questions in the comments below!
Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases
- Gary Allan’s “Hangover Tonight” is now out and will impact radios on March 2. I’ll have my review on it sometime next week.
- Drake White, a new country artist that is signed to Dot Records (along with Maddie & Tae), just released his debut single “It Feels Good.” It’s an interesting song and we’ll have a review on it soon too.
- Gwen Sebastian just released a new single titled “Throw It Back.” I haven’t got a chance to really listen to this one yet. I think Sebastian has good potential and could be a solid female country artist on the radio for years to come.
- Ashley Monroe’s “On To Something Good” is now available everywhere for purchase and streaming after being a Spotify exclusive for a couple of weeks. This is one of the more pop sounding offerings from Monroe. This will be reviewed soon too.
Throwback Thursday Song
Zac Brown Band – “Natural Disaster” – This is arguably the best song Zac Brown Band never released as a single. It’s catchy, it’s country and the instrumentation is fantastic. Many people don’t bother to check out the album cuts by Zac Brown Band, but that’s a big mistake. In fact when I see people complain about this band making too many beach songs, I laugh and ask them if they’ve ever bothered listening beyond their singles. Nine times out ten they say no. Anyway if you haven’t heard this song, give it a listen.
My Non-Country Song of the Week
Favored Nations – “The Setup” – This pop infused EDM song is fun and a great song for work outs. It’s also the conclusion song on Grand Theft Auto V‘s campaign. It’s how I found this song, along with several others. They do a great job with their radio station on their games. Their country music station plays Waylon, Cash and Haggard. Not a single bro-country song in site. Keep having an awesome taste in music, Rockstar Games!
Tweet of the Week
Some great Twitter advice.
An iTunes Review on Sturgill Simpson That Will Make You Face Palm
This was left under Simpson’s latest album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. I got nothing to say except take a look at the bottom left hand corner of the review. That says it all.
That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments!