The Hodgepodge: Hey Taste of Country, Music Reviews Still Matter!

Jason Aldean
Somebody has to call out Jason Aldean when he puts out a bad song. And I have no problem doing it.

When it comes to the corporate country blog Taste of Country, I like to generally ignore it because I have no respect for the blog, as I outlined in this piece months ago. They bring zero journalistic integrity to the table and are a glorified public relations arm for artists and labels. Today I want to talk about a piece they actually seemed to put some time into and offered some sort of opinion. Shocking, right? They actually took a break from kissing major labels’ asses and writing fluff pieces to offer an opinion from an actual person. The topic of the piece? Do Record Reviews Matter in the Age of Social Media?

First off this is pretty damn ironic coming from Taste of Country, considering the fact that they don’t review music. As I said they are a PR machine and don’t offer opinions and analysis on music. Every song is a unique little snowflake and every artist is a creative ball of sunshine and rainbows. Nothing is bad and everything is good. You get the picture. So to the piece itself now. They begin the article asking the question above of record reviews mattering in this day and age. They then cite an NPR article from 2013 in which indie band Arcade Fire talks about receiving negative reviews for their Reflektor album, yet it was still a major chart hit. The NPR piece and band basically brush off negative reviews and say it really has no bearing on the fans. Taste of Country then writes the following:

There are plenty of examples of this in country music; in fact, the disparity between artists who are seeing the biggest commercial success in the genre and those who are the most critically applauded has arguably never been greater. Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, Sturgill Simpson and more of country’s most respected singer-songwriters have received glowing reviews, while generally finding little-to-no support from country radio, with only Musgraves scoring a Top 10 single there. Meanwhile, some of the biggest superstars in the genre routinely score commercial hits with songs that either receive lukewarm or outright negative reviews.

Hey, this is correct. But you want to know something about those radio stations that aren’t playing Musgraves, Clark and Simpson, Taste of Country? The same labels pulling the strings behind radio are the same pulling the strings behind your site. You are essentially why they’re “held back” and not on radio. The labels are pushing the trash to radio and not the genuinely good music, but you conveniently ignore these simple facts. But wait this article continues to get more ridiculous! Taste of Country goes on to cite Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night” as an example. They quote the reviews from Country Weekly and Country Universe bashing the song (those mean blogs!), along with Zac Brown’s quote that he thought it was the worst song he has ever heard. After that they write about how Bryan still accomplished a bunch of accolades with that song and his 2013 album Crash My Party. Then this gem of a line:

With that being the case, it’s not hard to see why many people feel professional reviewers are simply talking to themselves and their peers at this point, rather than influencing the tastes and decision-making of the fans.

Are you kidding me? Where the hell do I begin with this? I’ll start with the easy point: reviewers without a doubt are influencing fans. I know because you guys have told Derek and myself that you’ve found great new music thanks to us. Go to Saving Country Music and there are fans constantly telling Trigger that they’ve found music thanks to his reviews. I’ve seen this with my own eyes. But Taste of Country can’t say this because they don’t write reviews, so how do they know? They have no idea what they’re saying.

The second big crux that this Taste of Country article is insinuating is that because Bryan’s Crash My Party was a huge success chart wise and sales wise, it’s great. I’ve said this point a hundred times, right here on this site and I guess I am going to have to say it once again. Chart success, radio success and sales success doesn’t mean the music is of high quality. I’ll use the cheeseburger example to further illustrate this. McDonald’s sells billions of cheeseburgers a year. They’re one of the wealthiest companies in the world and are statistically a success. Now tell me this: Does McDonald’s make the best cheeseburger? I’ll venture to say most of you would say no. It’s not the best cheeseburger. Maybe you think your mother makes the best cheeseburger. Maybe you know a little hole in the wall that makes the best cheeseburgers ever. I know one of my favorite places to get a cheeseburger is Five Guys. They don’t sell near the burgers a year that McDonald’s does. But they sell the most! That says nothing about the taste and quality of the product. It says they have the greatest access to the public at large and are simply more present than Five Guys. A personal example: There are a total of 10 McDonald’s within a 40 minute drive of where I live. There is only one Five Guys within that area.

Taste of food is subjective, just like music. Music is a highly subjective art form. It is not black and white, only gray. The quality of music can’t be measured with numbers and metrics. Music is something that you need to hear for yourself. It’s a human interaction that engages your mind, body, heart and spirit. A robot can’t listen to a song and tell you how it feels, but a person certainly can. While iTunes, Spotify and YouTube can certainly give you suggestions, it simply isn’t the same as getting suggestions from a real, live person. When you call tech support when dealing with a faulty product, would you rather be greeted by automated messages or a real person? I know I would choose the latter every single time. People want to replace everything with a machine in today’s world, but some things just can’t be replaced with a machine. Only a person can do a certain job and a reviewer is certainly a job for a real, live human.

The rest of the article is really nothing special. The majority of it is getting the perspective of publicist Claire Cook, who does promotional work for Average Joes Entertainment (the label that is home to hick-hop acts like Colt Ford and The Lacs). Her comments are pretty neutral on the subject, although she does mention how she views reviews as a promotion vehicle for artists and that good reviews can help. Taste of Country tacks on after this:

It’s getting harder and harder for individual acts to get positive reviews from respected sources, in part because there are more acts competing for exposure than ever, and in part because so many outlets simply don’t publish in-depth reviews anymore.

If this is insinuating why Average Joes’ artists don’t get good reviews, I got news for Taste of Country and that label: they don’t get good reviews because their music sucks. I have been pitched numerous times by Average Joes and I refuse every time because hick-hop is horrible and not a valid art form. I don’t consider it a part of country music. It would be a waste of time to review it because it all sounds the same and has no respect for the roots of country music. There are many others that feel the same way. And the problem of outlets not publishing in-depth reviews anymore? That’s on you Taste of Country and the other blogs you cite that have dropped reviews from their sites. Rolling Stone is part of the problem too, as I don’t consider a paragraph a review. LA Weekly dropped them because they said they didn’t get a lot of hits on reviews. Maybe that’s a sign that people don’t like your reviews? I don’t know because I don’t read them, but I certainly have no problem getting hits for my reviews and I think our reviews are pretty in-depth compared to most other blogs’ reviews.

I’ve blubbered on enough about Taste of Country for one day, so to my final point: reviews definitely still matter. If they didn’t I wouldn’t have started this site. Multiple independent country blogs wouldn’t still be doing reviews either. People still read and appreciate hearing thoughts from reviewers. Not only that, but it brings fans together in comments sections in reviews everywhere. Do you see people coming together on iTunes comments or Taste of Country comments section on music reviews? No you do not because they’re lifeless reviews that in no way are constructive or helpful to people reading them. You tried really hard to bring an opinion to the table, Taste of Country, and unfortunately for you it was completely off base. Now run along and go back to praising Florida Georgia Line or ranking country artists with their shirts off (this is a real thing on their site). Let us music reviewers get back to doing the job you should be doing.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Billy Currington’s new album Summer Forever is coming out next Tuesday. Based on the track listing, I’m expecting a mixed bag. There will surely be some summer anthems and bro country, but I think there will be a few deeper songs too.
  • Gloriana is releasing their third album, Three, next week. You gotta think this is an important album for them, as their relevancy on the charts and radio has waned considerably in recent years. I’m really not sure what to expect with this one.
  • The new collaboration album between country icons Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard is also slated to be released on June 2. It’s titled Django & Jimmie, as the two pay homage to guitarist Django Reinhardt and country musician Jimmie Rodgers. You can get an early listen on it, as it’s currently available for streaming at NPR.
  • Lindi Ortega has released another song from her new album Faded Gloryville, slated to come out on August 7. It’s a cover of the Bee Gees’ song “To Love Somebody” and it’s fantastic. Can this album get here already?
  • Joy Williams, the former one half of The Civil Wars, is releasing a solo album on June 30 titled Venus.

Throwback Thursday Song

Dwight Yoakam – “Guitars, Cadillacs” – I heard this song come on the other day on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country station and it still sounds as good as when it came out. Who doesn’t enjoy a little hillbilly music from Dwight?

Non-Country Song of the Week

The Black Keys – “Gold On The Ceiling” – The Black Keys were on my long list of artists I’ve put off for far too long to give an in-depth listen to and I’m definitely a fan now. “Gold On The Ceiling” was one of the most successful singles off their brilliant 2011 album El Camino. I definitely recommend listening to this song and that entire album.

Tweet of the Week

So for those on Twitter, Tuesday night was pretty heated in the world of country music on the social media platform. Keith Hill, a radio programmer, said the quote above on the weekly Country Aircheck. Pretty damn ridiculous. This situation is now being termed #SaladGate. Not only do I recommend checking out Grady Smith’s timeline on all of this, but definitely recommend checking out Windmills Country’s timeline too. She took Hill to school on Tuesday night! Windmills is an absolute must-follow for all country music fans and people interested in the industry. Oh and female artists are noticing the quote too:

There are a lot of fed up people over the situation with female artists on country radio, but the female artists are by far the most fed up. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them steps up and calls out radio for its bullshit. They have nothing to lose because radio already hates them. When Carrie probably misses out on another airplay #1, I hope she has the guts to say something.

iTunes Reviews That Rock!

Kick The Dust Up Great Reviews

So I heard that Luke Bryan’s new single “Kick The Dust Up” was getting some backlash on iTunes and I went to look for myself. Holy crap, it’s true! These are the three top reviews under it and one of them is a Bryan fan who hates it. Please please please please please let this be the beginning of change in mainstream country music.

One More Thing…

No it’s not bad news this week! It’s great news. I’m going to be at the Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati next Friday and Saturday covering it. So if you’re at it be sure to say hi if you see me. The lineup is great and I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’ll have a post on the site recapping my experience and the artists performing.

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

27 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Hey Taste of Country, Music Reviews Still Matter!

  1. Raymond May 28, 2015 / 11:18 am

    I didn’t read the article. Rally I only stop by Taste Of Country for news on single releases and all that stuff. I’ll gladly call out the garbage from Sam Hunt FGL I will have no problem doing this. It’s sad really what has happened to country music I can’t even defend it anymore I tried. Billy also has a new song Drinking Town with a FootBall Problem. I have no words for the title. Gloriana’s album I’m nervous Trouble was country-pop-rocker but the rest come off way too safe and ballads. Just let Rachel sing she slays. That Hill guy can go f*ck off sorry but he’s a jerk. LOL though at Jennifer Nettles which she will have a solo song out soon I hear. Sugarland rocks! Whose performing for the concert I’m curious.

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  2. Derek Hudgin May 28, 2015 / 11:24 am

    Taste of Country…. oh my lord. In the past week, Billy Dukes’ spotlight on Jake Owen’s infuriated me. From this dumb line: “The more you listen to “Real Life” the more it will or won’t connect. It’s the song equivalent of the girl you’re friends with all through school but don’t fall in love with until after college. Those girls tend to stick around.” What the hell does that mean?! And then he takes time to justify Owen’s Waffle House line… It’s dumb.

    These guys have the following to make an impact on Country’s landscape, but instead they write up stupid lists like “country’s 10 sexiest songs” and say dumb things like “Just the first note of this song would make a nun sweat.” (which, by the way, was left under Eric Church’s “Like a Wrecking Ball.” I have no idea where to begin on that one. That is beyond stupid.) Music Row was ahead of the game to pocket ToC and The Boot for a glorious PR campaign disguised as online news publications. Their marketing department, however wrong it is, definitely earned their paychecks with that move.

    I hope the salad comments open the doors more for women. It’s certainly sent a ripple through blogosphere, and maybe it’ll be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Scotty J May 28, 2015 / 11:32 am

      Yep, the whole list thing is so overdone. I like a funny list every now and then but when it becomes your main source of content it is pretty lame whether it’s ‘country’s 10 sexiest elbows’ or the ‘5 best albums you first listened to on a Wednesday’.

      Liked by 3 people

      • theknightswhosayni4 May 28, 2015 / 12:17 pm

        “Country’s 10 sexiest elbows” Oh my god I just about died laughing at that.

        Liked by 2 people

      • fromthewordsofbr May 28, 2015 / 3:57 pm

        “Country’s 10 Sexiest Elbows” sounds exactly like something BuzzFeed would post.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Kuzco May 28, 2015 / 6:05 pm

      Ironically, the next post to click on at the bottom of the piece was “Luke Bryan and other country stars as kids!” Such a joke.

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  3. Scotty J May 28, 2015 / 11:28 am

    The difference between what is popular and what is quality music is something that eludes a lot of people. Sometimes they are the same sometimes it can be a little of both but often times they have absolutely nothing in common. But whenever someone goes that way it’s a tell that they are not a serious music fan and that they are more likely a follower.

    Lots of people like it so it must be good is a lazy way of thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott May 28, 2015 / 11:47 am

      Nailed it. People love to equate popularity to quality all the time. Sometimes it’s true like you said, but most of the time it isn’t. That’s why I’m not a huge pop fan.

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      • Cobra May 28, 2015 / 12:33 pm

        I’ve been saying that for a long time now. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it’s good (it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not good, either). There’s no link between the two.

        And Yes, I’ve discovered some GREAT music thanks to you guys. A prime example is Striking Matches who I thought put out an absolutely fantastic album.
        .
        I’ll say it again: you guys keep writing and I’ll keep writing. I love your site!
        .
        Josh, if you’re going to be in Cincinnati, and Cleveland was in an area that you could have potentially made it to the Isbell concert last night, where exactly are you located? Any chance you might make it to Wade Bowen in Columbus in July?

        P.S. Five Guys is one of my favorite places to grab a burger as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Josh Schott May 28, 2015 / 12:39 pm

          Thanks Cobra! I’m in southeastern Ohio. Columbus, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are sort of a triangle around me. Yes, I am definitely considering getting tickets to Bowen and Rogers in July.

          Like

      • Cobra May 28, 2015 / 2:37 pm

        Cool. And btw, my post was meant to say “you keep writing, I’ll keep reading.”
        .
        I should definitely be at the Bowen/Rogers show. Already going to Terre Haute in that coming weekend, so that will put me part of the way there.

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  4. theknightswhosayni4 May 28, 2015 / 12:24 pm

    I gotta say, as much as I loved this article, especially the Jennifer Nettles tweet, I gotta say I disagree with you on your point of view of *some* Country Rap (I can’t call it Hick-Hop…that name is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life). While I agree that it is not exactly the most talent-filled genre of music, a lot of it is actually more country than what’s on radio. Colt Ford uses banjos and fiddles in a number of his songs such as “Answer To No One”, “Back”, etc. Also, thematically much of Colt Ford’s music is deeper than any Bro-Country song (I’d point you to “Back”, “Room at the Bar”, and “Chicken and Biscuits”). So although I agree it’s not the best genre on the planet, I do have a soft spot for Colt Ford and some of the other Country Rap that’s out there (If you want to throw LoCash Cowboys in this genre, I’d say I support them as well, but they’re a little more difficult to put in Country Rap).

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  5. ellie May 28, 2015 / 1:57 pm

    I just saw Eonline has now put up an article on the facebook post Martina posted on the Keith Hill comments. Kick the Dust Up is the worst song Luke Bryan has released. I saw two radio Djs on twitter posting about how bad the song is and how it will probably go number 1. They hope it goes quickly so thwy won’t have to play it so much.

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  6. Truth No. 2 May 28, 2015 / 2:40 pm

    As if I couldn’t hate Nettles any more. Just no class.

    Like

    • Josh Schott May 28, 2015 / 2:43 pm

      I’m not really sure why you’re offended?

      Like

      • fromthewordsofbr May 28, 2015 / 3:54 pm

        I think it’s something about her use of a certain V-word.

        Like

      • Raymond May 28, 2015 / 3:55 pm

        What vague? (JK of course)

        Like

    • Lisandro Berry-Gaviria May 28, 2015 / 6:25 pm

      Truth No. 2 so I assume you thought it was perfectly fine for Keith Hill to go around saying that women should be kicked off of country radio? ‘Cause that’s real classy of him too.

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      • Truth No. 2 May 28, 2015 / 10:05 pm

        No, I’m saying that Jennifer Nettles shouldn’t sink to Keith Hill’s level. His salad metaphor comes across as downright poetic compared to Nettles’ invocation of that word. It makes Hill look as if he knows what he’s talking about , and it makes her come across as childish.

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  7. Zack May 28, 2015 / 7:45 pm

    You hit the nail on the head here Josh! There was a time when the only site that i knew about that was related to country was TOC. You can imagine how bored I was….. They followed me on Twitter for some reason. Anyway, you can’t be more right about how music reviews are the things that are driving fans together in a fight to save country music and inspiring fans to search for a better alternative. I remember the first time I had any exposure to anything outside of mainstream country. I was looking through year end lists to see what people thought were the best country albums of 2013. I came across Grady Smith’s (who at the time, wrote for Entertainment Weekly). Needless to say I was confused by the list. Who the hell is Sturgill Simpson? Lindi Ortega? Why is Gary Allan only at #10 haha, you get the point. So I searched the artists and was blown away by how authentic and country and honest the music was. The next year I’m discovering sites like Saving Country Music, Country California and a little later in the year, Country Perspective 🙂 To say that reviews don’t matter is plain bullshit, as reviews have been what have changed my way of thinking on country the past two years. I love reading them too, as I love discovering new artists who these corporate blogs pretend don’t exist. Yes Josh, you and Derek have most certainly influenced not only myself but plenty of fans as well. Reviews have been how people like Sturgill and Watson and Stapleton have sold extremely well, despite having ZERO airplay. Sites such as yours and Saving Country Music are growing everyday because people are starting to want more honesty in not only the music, from reviewers as well, which you guys most certainly do.

    No clue on Billy Currington, I’ve heard that his new song is surprisingly good so we’ll have to see. I’m super excited for Willie and Merle, should easily be a 10/10. Great pick with Dwight, simply put the man is a badass.

    Jeez don’t get me started on Keith Hill”s comments….
    Another reason why mainstream country is riding this freight train straight to hell.

    Excellent Hodgepodge and also kudos for calling it like it is Josh!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Raymond May 28, 2015 / 9:14 pm

    Also thank you Josh for introducing me to Aaron Watson I got his recent album and I found it to be really great,

    Like

  9. Pete Marshall May 28, 2015 / 9:38 pm

    Wow Luke Bryan “kickin’ up the dust” is at #2 on the country charts. very bad song

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  10. Pete Marshall May 28, 2015 / 9:47 pm

    I heard both Jake Owen and Randy Houser new songs yesterday don’t waste your time both are horrible. My grade on both 0/10.

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    • Josh Schott May 29, 2015 / 11:39 am

      Hey wheikes! I read your article and I think it’s really good. You and me are in complete agreement over the way mainstream blogs conduct reviews. It’s a joke and they bring no kind of constructive criticism to the table. Keep up the good work.

      Like

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