Coming into 2015, I had a pretty good feeling about the state of mainstream country music in 2015. Mickey Guyton was starting to get noticed. Jake Owen, Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay all had meaningful songs getting noticed by radio. Zac Brown Band’s new single “Homegrown” released in January was good, yet fresh. Several great artists were set to release new music that I looked forward to because of promising efforts in recent years. Things were looking so good back in January. Now I sit here a few months later around the first quarter mark of 2015 and I wonder what the hell is going on in mainstream country music. What’s causing me this wonder is how the chart seems to be regressing into the previous state of the genre has been in recent years with loads of party songs. The songs by Owen, Bentley and Paslay I mentioned are probably lucky to just sniff the top ten, as radio programmers don’t want to play them because they’re “mood killers.” Guyton has stalled on the airplay charts. Zac Brown Band continues to climb with “Homegrown,” but faces stiff competition from the bro country holdouts and Sam Hunt.
This is all discouraging enough, but what’s been most frustrating is the lackluster music released by artists I expected much more from. First, Ashley Monroe released her first single off of her upcoming sophomore album, “On To Something Good.” This song is bland and average. It’s by far worse than anything on her debut solo album Like A Rose in 2013. It’s radio-friendliness makes me quite weary of her new album. Many are giving her a pass because she’s a female artist and female artists are struggling to make it onto radio, but that just doesn’t cut it for me. I could go on and on about this, but I’ll save that discussion for another day. Speaking of female artists, Kacey Musgraves just released her lead single from her sophomore album too, which is called “Biscuits.” Again this is a pretty average showing from an artist who showed much more on her 2013 debut album Same Trailer, Different Park. Just because something isn’t bad, doesn’t mean it’s good. Average doesn’t cut it for me and shouldn’t cut it for you the music listener.
Reba McEntire released a pretty mediocre single in “Going Out Like That.” Not only is it below average, but it’s struggling on the charts. This does not bode well for her considering she’s the face of the Nash Icons label. That’s on top of making a comeback after being away from music for a few years. We have yet to hear any other music from Nash Icon artists too. The possible splitting of country music looks a lot bleaker now compared to a few months ago. Without this split, it’s more likely for artists to sell out to the popular sound. Speaking of that a group fans could rely on for decent music that just sold out is Eli Young Band. Just listen to “Turn It On” and you’ll be rolling your eyes 30 seconds in. The thing is they know the sold out and they don’t care. They don’t give a shit about quality.
The biggest disappointment though out of all these disappointments is Gary Allan and his new single “Hangover Tonight.” Allan was one of the “good guys” for all these years and even spoke out against bro country years ago when it got popular. Now he’s chasing the trends right alongside the likes of Swindell and Aldean, at least with this single. I mean I was holding out hope that this single was just an anomaly of his new upcoming album, but now I’m not so sure. This week in the Billboard Country Update there was a section about how Allan came about making this single. And it was pretty disheartening to read. I recommend reading it all, but I’ll tell you what stood out to me. It took six songwriters to make this song, which is red flag #1. The next thing that stood out was Allan is drawing music ideas from the same pool as Thomas Rhett, as Allan wanted to record “Crash and Burn,” which will be on Rhett’s new album. Allan doing anything similar to Rhett raises another red flag and quite frankly disgusts me.
Allan for over 20 years has made country music of at least good quality and stayed true to himself. This has all the similar makings to when Brad Paisley sold out last year. Ironically it was an interview with Billboard too that gave the first warning signs his album would be mediocre. “River Bank” and “Hangover Tonight” both have a pretty similar vibe and kowtow to radio. I really hope I’m wrong about Allan and that single is an anomaly. I very well could be. But I said the same thing about Paisley in 2014. Coincidentally, Allan has a show coming up in my area and I’m going to go see him live. Maybe I can find out more about his upcoming album that will help determine whether or not this single is a reflection of the album.
I haven’t even got around to mentioning Music Row’s newest project Michael Ray, who’s poised to terrorize country music with his On The Verge push. Sam Hunt is dominating so much now that it’s spawning Hunt-copycats, just like the bro country trend spawned bro country copycats. Luke Bryan is going to release another terrible Dallas Davidson-penned single that I will hate. Country music is in rough shape and shows no signs of improvement. Maybe we’ll get some quality releases from mainstream like originally intended to help balance out all of this crap. Ashley Monroe could very well release a good album still, as Vince Gill is producing it and I trust Gill. Musgraves album should still be good, as long as she doesn’t go overboard with songs like “Biscuits.” All my worrying could be for nothing. We can only hope. I know I have no answer and we can only wait. In the meantime I plan to review more independent country stuff that deserves to be heard instead of this garbage being put out by mainstream country.
Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases
- Steven Tyler is releasing a country record. Yes, this is the same Tyler who was the frontman for Aerosmith. Perfect timing with this Hodgepodge, huh? I don’t even know what to say about this news. Can mainstream country get any more embarrassing?
- Striking Matches will release their debut album, Nothing But The Silence, next Tuesday. I’m not sure what to expect from them, as their lead single was just decent. T Bone Burnett is producing the album, so expect some interesting production choices.
- Houndmouth, the alt country/indie folk group from Indiana, has released their second album Little Neon Limelight. I hadn’t heard of the band until this year, but I regret this. They’re damn good and I’ll have a review on their new album next week.
Throwback Thursday Song
Jamey Johnson & Lee Ann Womack – “Give It Away” – Now everyone has heard the George Strait version of this song and it was a massive hit of course. But I guarantee a lot of people haven’t heard Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack’s version of it. Five years ago they performed this on the ACM Artist of the Decade All-Star Concert, as George Strait smiled in the audience at this great performance. Even Taylor Swift was enjoying it!
Non-Country Song of the Week
Kendrick Lamar – “i” – I’ve been wanting to get into Kendrick Lamar’s music for a while now and I finally dove into it this past week. I wish I did sooner because it’s fantastic. His latest single “i” won multiple Grammys and I’m not surprised. It’s funky influences make for a great beat. His upcoming album To Pimp a Butterfly was set to come out in a couple of weeks, but he just released it earlier than expected. And I’m just now enjoying his major label debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city. So I got some catching up to do on Lamar’s work.
Tweet of the Week
Isbell makes it here again, but not with his humor. No, this just makes me even more eager for his new album. Southeastern is amazing and for some people, the best country album released in 2013. So if this new album is indeed better, it will be a top contender to win Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year.
An iTunes Review That Will Make You Face Palm
This was a comment left under Eli Young Band’s new EP Turn It On. While there were mostly sell-out comments, there were a good bit of comments like the one above defending the group and their new metro-politan direction. I honestly don’t know how you can defend this turd of an EP. I’d say 90% of the comments I’ve seen on it are negative.
That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments!