When the uptick of bro-country music invaded our radios and country music rocketed to peak popularity, hit mainstream country songs simply became a soundtrack to parties. More and more, people stopped listening to the lyrics. No one actually cares what Tyler Hubbard sings until he says things like “All I want to do today is wear my favorite shades and get stoned.” The rest of the song doesn’t matter as long as there’s a few sing along lines for people to belt out in terrible, off pitch unison.
The constant hammering of the same rehashed lyrics and themes brought in an audience that only cares for the aforementioned lines. The demand was there and supply increased. There was success, money, number one singles, radio play, etc. It’s a working formula, brilliantly brought to light with this 6 song mashup. We’ve now graduated from bro lyrics set to generic pop rock melodies to hip-hop inspired club beats set to similar lyrics. The point being, within the mainstream light, no one actually listens to the music anymore.
I’d bet that most of the mainstream country demographic simply takes the song on the surface, accepting the noise head-on, not necessarily taking in the various instrumentation and intricate melodies that make up the song. It’s the instruments that can truly add some magic to a song. Using a recent example of Cam’s “Burning House,” the song begins with a simple acoustic guitar strum that carries through the first verse. The moment Cam begins the chorus with “I’ve been sleepwalking” a piano key chimes in which further emphasizes the impact the chorus has to the rest of the song.
I recently attended a concert of an indie Latin American band called Las Cafeteras. Most of the set was in Spanish, which I do not speak or understand much of. But the 7-piece band had some great melodies and were mixed together well. Our seats were far away, but I did my best to try to identify which band member was playing which solo; I tried to take in each instrument by itself. But even though I didn’t understand one word of what they said, the concert was enjoyable because their melodies were great. I was able to enjoy the concert by listening to their music and appreciating the skills and gifts they share with their audiences.
Listening to the lyrics seems to be a forgotten pastime of music too. Lyrics can tell beautiful, heartbreaking stories, but you have to listen to the lyrics to get the full grasp of the songs. If you’re only half-listening to a song, you can’t fully appreciate the story the writer has crafted. When you have listen to a song, you miss the sentiment, and key lines from songs don’t bring as much meaning to you. Take for instance Jason Isbell’s “Children of Children.” I’d argue this song has one of the most heartbreaking lyrics, especially considering the song is autobiographical of Isbell’s own life. But if you don’t actually listen to the verses and take in their meaning, you miss the emotional impact of the closing line to the chorus: “All the years you took from her just by being born.” That line should punch everyone in the gut, if you ask me.
In this past year, especially, as I’ve listened to and discovered more and more brilliant, independent country songwriters, I’ve learned to appreciate how the pieces of the songs work together for full impact. I’ve paid more attention to the poetry of the lyrics, the word choices, the inclusion or exclusion of a certain instrument at a certain point in the song. All these aspects work together to make songs special. The mainstream party atmosphere songs take that away from the casual listener. Not only are people being exposed to lazy lyrics and production, but they’re being denied the opportunity an experience in listening to how melodies and lyrics can come together to make beautiful music.
Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases
Just tomorrow (September 25) alone, we have these albums being released:
- George Strait’s recently announced Beer Can Conversation.
- Tami Neilson’s Don’t Be Afraid.
- Don Henley’s Cass County
- Clint Black’s On Purpose.
- And Thomas Rhett’s R&B/Funk/not even a little bit country album Tangled Up will also be released tomorrow.
- Jewel released her newest album, Picking Up The Pieces, last Friday.
Today in Country Music History
- Clint Black’s debut album Killin’ Time is certified gold in 1989.
- Deena Carter’s “Strawberry Wine” wins both Single and Song of the Year at the 1997 CMA Awards.
- Sara Evans has the number one song in 2005 with “A Real Fine Place To Start.”
Today’s Country Music history facts come courtesy of RolandNote.
Throwback Thursday Song
“Why Not Me” The Judds. The Judds are one of those acts I continually over look, but this mother-daughter duo of Naomi and Wynonna tore up the late 80s with consecutive Vocal Duo or Vocal Group awards from the Grammy’s, CMAs and ACMs. This particular single was awarded the CMA Single of the Year in 1985.
Non-Country Suggestion of the Week
Ryan Adams’ 1989. This cover album has drawn quite a bit of extreme praise and criticism. Personally, I like Adams’ take on Taylor Swift’s pop album. Some of his re-workings actually sound better to me than Swift’s original recordings. “All You Had To Do Was Stay” sounds like it came straight from a John Hughes movie. “Style” “Blank Space” and “I Wish You Would” were the other covers I felt worked well with Adams’ voice and arrangements.
Tweet of the Week
Kinda humbling walking through the Country Music Hall of Fame, except for the Luke Bryan exhibit.
— Chris King (@ArtificialChris) September 19, 2015
Chris King is another great follow on Twitter. Also, the Country Music Hall of Fame is an excellent place to visit, and I highly recommend it if you ever have the chance. I had the opportunity to visit a couple of years ago where they had a special exhibit for Reba among the rest of the Hall.
iTunes Review or Something
These two reviews were left under Blake Shelton’s Loaded: The Best of Blake Shelton. I agree with many of the sentiments these two emulate.