The Hodgepodge: Country Music After The Mainstream Bubble Pops

Willie
After the mainstream country music bubble popping, the genre could finally rebuild and go back to it’s roots.

Last week in The Hodgepodge I laid out a prediction that mainstream country music’s bubble was about to burst. This week I want to further clarify what I mean and what I think country music would look like as a result. If you haven’t read last week’s Hodgepodge yet, you’ll want to read it before reading this piece. This is basically part two. What I mean by bubble bursting is that I think country music will cease to exist in the mainstream realm. I believe what’s been done to country music in the past few years, as well as right now is irreversibly damaging the format beyond repair as a mainstream genre. The big awards shows will disappear slowly, along with country radio stations. The amount of big labels will shrink and there will be more independent artists. This isn’t me predicting that country music will have another neo-traditional like renaissance or an outlaw movement. Essentially I’m predicting a country music apocalypse. I’m predicting the death of mainstream country music if they continue down the path they are on.

I think I got the point across now. So what would country music be like post-apocalypse? Well for starters lets take a look at the biggest names in country music. With the genre no longer a cash cow, no longer having a big radio presence and being relegated to second-tier status, I see many artists going to the pop realm. Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean would all go pop for example. They won’t find near the success they had in country music, but they can remain in the spotlight and are certainly willing to kowtow to whatever the popular sound is. Some of the bigger country artists I could see going to the rock scene. Brantley Gilbert could easily fit into the rock scene, as well as Eric Church. Their current sound has a lot of rock influences.

In post-death of mainstream country music, I think you would see a lot of lesser known acts fade into obscurity. Groups like Lady Antebellum and Thompson Square wouldn’t stand a chance in this new world of country music. Neither would bro country stars like Chase Rice, Cole Swindell and Thomas Rhett. They no longer have any kind of radio presence nor huge appeal, so there’s no longer a reason sites like mine would need to cover them. Only the best would get covered. Speaking of the best artists like Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley and Kacey Musgraves could all put forth their best country albums possible. No longer would they have to answer to labels wanting a radio hit. They can make the exact music they would want to make. No more fad or trend chasing.

This leads me to the independent country artists, Americana artists who make country music and older country legends still making music. They would benefit the most out of all of this happening because now they’re on more equal ground with the likes of the biggest names in country music. The battleground is no longer on the radio. It’s on the Internet, where all media is competing now. The two key aspects to your music being heard would be quality and promotion. The latter is something that is really key because many country artists struggle to have a great online presence. Whoever can nail both of those two key aspects would not only be the most covered, but the most popular. Country music would finally be judged in the most just way possible. It would encourage artists to put out the best country music possible and establishing a dedicated fan base would be of the utmost importance. See why I think independent country artists would benefit the most?

Ultimately I think country music fans would benefit greatly too. Many of you reading this are already taking to the Internet to find country music. Your habits and listening wouldn’t change much, if at all. If anything you’ll have more fellow people joining you in toasting the best of country music. Sites like mine could take the time we spent talking about the junk in the mainstream and use it to find more unknown country acts who deserve to be heard. I enjoy writing reviews on an act that deserves to be heard and doesn’t have a huge following more than some terrible, fad chasing mainstream country single. They say it’s always darkest before the dawn and I think that would be the case here. Country music needs to die as a mainstream format if it ever wants to fix itself and be country music again.

In this scenario the best artists would become the face of the genre. The likes of Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Wade Bowen, Brandy Clark, Kacey Musgraves and others would lead country music like they should be now. Together these great artists could re-build the genre into what it once was in its heyday and continue it on for future generations in the manner it should be. This would take years to happen, but it’s something that must happen. If anything we should all be cheering for this to happen because everyone in the end would benefit. Well except for those fringe artists I mentioned, but that’s their own doing. Nevertheless I think the death of country music as a mainstream format would be the drastic change needed to save this genre. It would be painful to watch and tumultuous at times, but from the ashes country music would rise again reborn in its rightful image. In the words of founding father Patrick Henry, “give me liberty or give me death.” Country music isn’t going to give us liberty. So I guess there’s only one other option.

(Note: This is all pure speculation on my part and I could easily be wrong. Country music always seems to pull a rabbit out of its hat just at the right moment. But I do think this is a real possibility and I wanted to fully explore it. Who doesn’t like to explore hypothetic scenarios?)

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • The long-awaited debut album of Chris Stapleton will finally be released next Tuesday. The album called Traveller, is currently streaming on NPR if you want to get an early listen before the release date. We’ll definitely have a review on it next week.
  • Shelby Lynne, sister of fellow alt country artist Allison Moorer, will release a new album next Monday titled I Can’t Imagine. If it’s anywhere close to Moorer’s album in terms of quality we’re in for a real treat.
  • Jason Michael Carroll will release his first new album in four years next Tuesday. It’s titled What Color Is Your Sky. The former Arista Nashville artist is hoping this album will launch him back into mainstream conscious. I’m curious to hear what he’s come up with.
  • Randy Houser has released the first single from his new upcoming album and it’s called “We Went.” You can currently stream the song on Rolling Stone if you want to give it a listen. Ryan is writing a review on this one.
  • Right now at Brandy Clark’s website if you sign up for her newsletter you get a free download of her new song “I Cried.” How great of a deal is this? If you’re a fan of Clark or free music head on over and sign up.
  • The eagerly anticipated sophomore album release from Kacey Musgraves has finally been announced. It’s called Pageant Material and will come out on June 9. This is definitely one of the more fascinating and interesting releases in mainstream country music this year, as her debut album won her a lot of hardware and praise from critics and fans alike.
  • More great news! Lindi Ortega’s new album is coming out on August 7 and it’s called Faded Gloryville. I’m definitely excited about this one and will provide more details about it as they become available.

Throwback Thursday Song

Jamey Johnson – “The Last Cowboy” – This feels like an appropriate one for this week’s Hodgepodge. Also I listened to some of Johnson’s catalog to wash the new Zac Brown Band album out of my head. I’m still salty and it’s going to take me a while to get over it. Arrgh! Also I’m looking forward to hearing Jamey’s new album, whenever it may come out.

Non-Country Album of the Week

Let’s talk about a great album, shall we? Like Lord Huron’s new album Strange Trails. If you’re into Springsteen type rock music, you’ll love this album. It also reminds me a lot of The War on Drugs’ album last year, except this album doesn’t have five different songs over seven minutes. There’s also some country influences on the album, most notably on “Hurricane.” I think a lot of you would like it and it’s worth checking out.

Tweet of the Week

Amen Reginald.

An iTunes Review That Will Make You Face Palm

Fuck You Hunt Fans

Cobra brought to my attention this ridiculous review left under Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen’s fantastic new album. Now you know why I say so many terrible things about Hunt and his fans. It’s idiotic, trolling comments like this (and the horrific music of course). But hey Hunt fans might get their wish if my above prediction comes true. They’ll kill country music in the mainstream. But you’ll never take away great artists like Bowen and Rogers.

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

18 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Country Music After The Mainstream Bubble Pops

  1. Derek Hudgin April 30, 2015 / 11:08 am

    I hope this bubble bursts, because Lord knows when it does, Sam Hunt won’t survive in country, but in pop. Sam Hunt will never have “standards.” Nor does he now. I still don’t understand how people believe he’s country! Especially when half those people probably listen to R&B/Hip-hop music…the SAME KIND OF MUSIC HUNT IS MAKING! It boils my blood. Reginald preaches on that tweet.

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    • Josh Schott April 30, 2015 / 11:21 am

      The thing is I think pop would maybe eat him alive. There’s a lot more competition and a lot more artists who are better at crafting pop music. Hence why he’s so adamant about staying in country music. But if the bubble were to pop he would be forced to go to pop music.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Cobra April 30, 2015 / 11:23 am

    It would be an interesting experiment to present Sam Hunt to his fans as a “jazz” artists. Keep everything about his music the same, but change the label to “jazz.” His fans would probably turn on him in a heartbeat and bemoan how “awful” jazz iss and “whyvis he betraying his ‘roots?'”

    Why not? His music has as much connection to jazz as to country.

    I’d love to see it if it weren’t as disrespectful to jazz as calling him country is to country music.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Raymond April 30, 2015 / 11:31 am

      All his music pure cookie-cutter rap R&B Pop bullsh*t

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  3. Raymond April 30, 2015 / 11:29 am

    I don’t want it to pop despite how country music is just in the middle of pure chaos right now I just wish we’d have the acts like Sam Hunt admit his music is pop and leave I think he and Raelynn should go to pop. As long as Gloriana stays though somehow thru this I will be ok.

    Oh yeah I heard news that Jon Pardi is releasing an EP with new songs that didn’t make the cut for his debut album. Definitely intrigued even though it’s an EP can you guys review it I know you guys like Jon Pardi.

    Canaan Smith has announced his debut albums coming out in late June.

    I also think though that Maddie & Tae have pulled Fly today’s update was terrible and it’s at the point of no return.

    Hey Josh have you heard Maddie & Tae Opry performance of After The Storm Blows Thru it’s beautiful

    Nice Job.

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    • Cobra April 30, 2015 / 11:34 am

      The bubble popping though may be the only thing to turn things around at this point. It can’t continue to drift aimlessly from one trend to another.
      The bubble popping may just be the big “reset” button the genre needs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Raymond April 30, 2015 / 11:46 am

        I think though it won’t burst though yeah stats are down but we’ve yet to have “The” hits of the year what do I mean here was for each year
        2011 Dirt Road Anthem Just A Kiss Remind Me You & Tequila Barefoot Blue Jean Night Colder Weather Honey Bee
        2012 We Are Never Ever & Cruise Good Girl Drunk On You Springsteen Over You
        2013 That’s My Kind Of Night I Want Crazy Boys Round Here Wagon Wheel Highway Don’t Care
        2014 Bottoms Up Burning It Down Drunk On A Plane Bartender Something Bad Play It Again This Is How We Roll Something In The Water Leave The Night On
        2015 Girl Crush Take Your Time
        Each song is one that’ll be remembered for better or for worse we’ve only had 2 memorable songs with impact the rest have yet to prove while it’s gone down part of me believes we are just waiting for that right song too come.

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    • Josh Schott April 30, 2015 / 11:54 am

      Yeah I just heard about Pardi’s EP. We will probably review that one.

      Maddie & Tae need to either release “Sierra” as a single or put a single out from the album. I haven’t heard their Opry performance. I’ll have to check that out.

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  4. Scotty J April 30, 2015 / 2:20 pm

    I somewhat agree with this but I think you paint too rosy a picture of what could happen if the whole thing falls apart as you describe. I don’t see many of the current crop having any chance in the bigger world of pop music without the built in safety net of the country music system. For one thing many of them are too old like Luke Bryan for example who I can’t see being popular on Top 40 radio without that boost of country airplay first. Sam Hunt would be the most likely because of his youth and the whole image that has been crafted for him plus the fact that he was never country to start out with so he doesn’t have as far to go to fit in. Where I think you could be right is with some of these guys fitting into the rock genre where they really should be anyway but the problem with that is the rock genre is so moribund right now I don’t see why they would even try that because their profile would be so lowered that the financial hit could be large.

    The bigger problem with this scenario in my opinion is that if the whole thing implodes and that leads to the shuttering of many Nashville based major label subsidiaries is that will also trickle down to some of the bigger independents and then the smaller ones after that. What I’m trying to say is that if the whole falls apart then there will be less money and resources at every level which will make it even harder for independent acts to make a living playing music and that is something that sometimes gets lost when we talk about this. Everybody likes art for art’s sake but at some point people need to eat and when they can’t they tend to look for other ways to make a living.

    This is such a huge topic that it’s almost hard to talk about because there are so many unforeseen ramifications that affect the entire food chain and I fear in the near term it will be bad news for everybody from the ‘good guys’ to the ‘bad guys’.

    I read somewhere that the area of Baltimore where the rioting has recently occurred has never fully rebuilt from the rioting in 1968. 47 YEARS AGO. Of course this topic is nowhere near as serious as that one but I’m afraid the tear it down and rebuild it plan will lead to a lot of metaphorical empty lots and burnt out buildings.

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    • Josh Schott April 30, 2015 / 2:45 pm

      I agree I think I’m being too optimistic, which is why I put the note that I’m purely speculating and I could easily be wrong. It’s a possibility, but it’s also a little bit of a fantasy. As you say in the latter portion of your comment, this is a huge topic. There are so many moving parts and variables taking place that it is impossible to figure out what is going to happen next exactly. This an entire genre and a staple of American life we’re talking about. The executives in Nashville though forget this and only care about the bottom line. They aren’t thinking at all about the long term impact.

      It would probably affect a lot of “good guys” and that would be unfortunate. But I think it would be a necessary evil for the overall bigger picture. I just don’t see how this genre rebuilds and reinvents itself without completely falling apart. There are so many issues that it would take all day to list them out. I know rebuilding would be a long and arduous process, but I think it would be worth it in the end. I think it would be a better alternative to most other alternatives. This path of destruction country music is on right now is dangerous. You can only play with the fire and push boundaries so far before something happens. My scenario might not play out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if something big happens by the end of the year. I just don’t see everyone continuing to sit on their hands. Something has to give.

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  5. Scotty J April 30, 2015 / 3:02 pm

    I think the point of no return really has been the Sam Hunt led trend of the last six months. I was cautiously hopeful that the bro thing would pass and some sense of normalcy could return but instead it’s like country music has gone from a chronic disease to a terminal one.

    One thing that has to happen for this to be any kind of positive for real country music is for some type of leadership to speak up. No more go along to get along type stuff we need leaders to rise up and take a stand. And I mean journalists, executives and maybe most importantly influential artists who stand up for what they built their careers on and let the chips fall where they may.

    Names like Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, and George Strait come to mind. They and many others have been blessed with wealth and adulation beyond belief by this form of music now it’s time to step up and speak truth to power.

    Being nice guys ain’t working.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pete Marshall April 30, 2015 / 6:45 pm

    I am ready for some real country music like Josh Turner, Miranda Lambert when she’s country, Mavericks, Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town, Aaron Watson, Brandi Clark should be playing more on radio and higher on the charts. Get rid of pop country singers who are trying to be country. I would like to hear some Alan, Geroge Strait ore even Garth more on radio. or Reba.

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  7. Cobra April 30, 2015 / 9:59 pm

    Regarding that iTunes Facepalm Review, I’m almost inclined to say that Sam Hunt fans are even worse than Florida Georgia Line fans. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredibly close race, but something about Sam Hunt, and his fans….they are just insufferable.

    Liked by 1 person

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