Not too long ago, a beloved frontman of a mainstream country act started a firestorm after speaking his mind about the current state of country music. Now this man has pretty much become a hypocrite due to the musical selections of the band’s latest album/single. Zac Brown’s criticism of Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kinda Night” caused an uproar in the country world. Luke Bryan apologists chimed in, including Jason Aldean. And those who dislike the direction of mainstream country music applauded Brown for his willingness to speak out. Zac Brown had never been shy about the fact that his band not necessarily being country, but he always seemed to be respectful to the country roots.
During the Luke Bryan critique, Brown said “There’s songs out there on the radio right now that make me be ashamed to be even in the same format as some other artists.” After the release of Jekyll + Hyde included a couple EDM inspired songs, and now the announcement that one of the said EDM inspired songs, “Beautiful Drug” will be released as a single intended to be a crossover hit, Zac Brown seems to going back on his comments. With those original comments, Zac Brown became an unofficial defender of country music, whether intended or not. Now whether or not Zac Brown has grown greedy and aims for total musical domination, or simply is experimenting in the most misguided way, the release of “Beautiful Drug” puts his band in the same light as all the other country acts who chase trends to have commercial success. His comments in defense of true country music no longer carry weight. But as country radio and Nashville executives continue to work through this identity crisis, real country music will always have defenders willing to speak out to keep the soul of country music alive.
Lindi Ortega has been outspoken against the current country music culture. Her opinion piece on Saving Country Music against Keith Hill’s tomato comment was one of the most well-written rebuttals I’ve read on the matter. In a recent interview, Lindi spoke candidly about her opinions on the current country music culture:
I think it’s great if all these people are creating music that inspires them and feel like it can inspire other people and it’s coming from a place of honesty, passion and love for music. If it crosses over from them, that’s great. I think it’s a whole different thing if all you’re chasing is a hit and fame. I think it takes a bit of the soul out of it.
She went on to say, “I think the reason they’re being defensive is it’s because people are speaking up, because people do want to see it change… I think speaking up about it helps. I think if we don’t say anything, we could risk ruining this beautiful genre.” I couldn’t agree more with Lindi Ortega. Country Music was built on the honesty, passion, and love for music she mentions. If those who have the ability to speak out against the change don’t speak out, then the decision makers of the genre have no reason to change their direction.
While the change in direction doesn’t seem evident, we may be on the brink of changing tides. The recent broadcast of the CMA Festival resulted in a great ratings drop of 37% viewership. With the explosion of mainstream country’s popularity, the CMA Fest, iHeartCountry Fest, and the numerous arbitrary award shows on TV helped cash in on the demand. If the CMA Fest is any indication, the demand may be dropping. While this won’t deter ticket purchases from the actual events, large spectacles and events for a worthless television special could continue to lose viewership.
This is probably an over optimistic view, but it seems like the pieces might be in place. While the hot buzz over Nashville churning out mediocre pop music may be subsiding, I don’t think this means we’ll be seeing a full, true country album from a mainstream artist anytime soon. Nashville will continue to degrade the name “country music” by making music that’s everything but country until they implode. And as long as Nashville continues to degrade the name of country, there will always be artists speaking out in defense of the soul of country music. There will always be artists preserving the soul of country music.
I’m happy that Lindi Ortega is willing to speak out for what she believes in with country music. I’m happy that there are artists who devote their lives to making great music and sharing that music with the fans who want to hear it. Radio and pop culture may not latch onto these artists because the business and politics say they aren’t marketable or whatever other reasons they might conjure. Even as one comment may now exist in vain, new comments and defenders will always emerge for true country music. It’s taken time, but I think we may be seeing years of defenses and backlash against Nashville’s country music finally coming to fruition.
Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases
- Alt-Country singer songwriter Jonathan Tyler released an album last Friday called Holy Smokes. You’ll be seeing a review of that album soon.
- Texas Country artist Pat Green will release his new album, Home, tomorrow. His current single, “While I Was Away” currently sits in the top three of the Texas Music Charts.
- Kip Moore’s sophomore album will see its release next week.
- Maddie & Tae’s long-awaited debut album will hit the shelves at the end of the month.
- Australian singer-songwriter, Kasey Chambers, recently released her 9th studio album called Bittersweet.
- Chris Young announced his 5th studio album, I’m Comin Over, will be released later this year.
Today in Country Music History
- Hank Williams has the number one song on Billboard with “Hey Good Lookin” in 1951.
- In 1970, Governor Lester Maddox declares Johnny Cash Day in Georgia, as Cash performs for 700 prisoners being released early for good behavior.
- In 1988, Willie Nelson becomes the first artist ever to have an album spend 10 years on the Billboard country chart as “Stardust” logs its 520th week.
Throwback Thursday Song
“Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye” by George Strait – You can never go wrong with The King of Country Music. This heartbreak song from 1988 finds Strait’s vocals at their best. The 80s were a good decade for country music, and George Strait certainly had a lot to do with that.
Non-Country Suggestion of the Week
N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton. N.W.A. made quite the splash in 1988 with the release of Straight Outta Compton. From the explicit lyrics, to the violent images painted in the songs, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, The D.O.C. Arabian Prince and DJ Yella shook the music world and created some worry with parents and media about the influence this music might have. I am looking forward to seeing Straight Outta Compton, the N.W.A. biopic being released tomorrow.
Tweet of the Week
The country music divorce announcement I keep waiting for is the one between true country music and the crap on the radio. Irreconcilable.
— Saving Country Music (@The_Triggerman) August 7, 2015
More divorce news in country music land as Jake Owen and his wife, Lacey Buchanan, have officially split. I’m inclined to agree with Trigger on the divorce announcement I’m eagerly waiting for as well.
iTunes Reviews That Will Drive You Crazy
Both of these reviews were left under Michael Ray’s self titled debut album. I would not define “Kiss You In Morning”, “Another Girl”, “Look Like This”, “Real Men Love Jesus”, “Think a Little Less” or “Drivin’ All Night” as genuine country music with lyrical depth. And that’s half the songs on the album. I will say this, the album was better than I expected, but still far from good in my opinion. That’s about the best compliment I can give it.