You know I was going to destroy mainstream country artists for whining about not being able to make the music they want and using their employees’ well-being as excuses for churning out terrible music, but I’ve decided to tackle another problem that has been bugging me for a while. This is a problem that many fans of country music don’t want to face because they may just be part of this problem. One of the biggest issues in country music right now is the growing divide between traditional country fans and mainstream country fans. The absolute extremes of both sides showcases how this genre is essentially busting at the seams: at one end you have the hardcore traditionalists who refuse to give anything mainstream or close to it a chance. On the other end you have casual, radio country fans who refuse to give the likes of Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell the time of day. And guess what? You’re both hurting country music by not opening up your minds more.
Their refusal to open up their minds to either side is why this genre will never be “saved.” It’s why I view it as a silly notion to save country music (at least at this moment). Both sides would have to compromise and find a balance between what each wants. And thing is there’s plenty of balance out there demonstrated by various artists. A perfect example of this type of balance is Maddie & Tae. Here’s a fresh, young duo that makes country music that is rooted in tradition and still keeps it upbeat enough for casual fans to listen to them. Really the women in general seem to find the best balance to appease to both sides. Of course radio has been shutting them out for the most part, even though lately there have been a few more female artists showing up in the top 30 of the airplay chart, such as Jana Kramer, Maddie & Tae and Carrie Underwood. But I’ve come to the conclusion it’s just not country radio that’s been holding back females in the genre. It’s also the under-the-radar sexism that has existed in country music for decades.
Country music has always been male-dominated without a doubt. The female artists have always been held back and overshadowed by the male artists. I first came to this realization last fall when I compared #1 country songs from 1984 and 2014. At that time period for both years, only 10% of #1 songs were from female artists in 2014 and around 17% in 1984. Only a 7% difference in a 20 year gap. The only reason more attention is called to this nowadays is because the drastic shift in sonic changes and the much greater amount of media that covers country music. Country music has always had this problem with playing female country artists and will continue to do so. Why? Well let me tell you the harsh reality: staunch traditionalists can be just as sexist and misogynistic as the bro country and urban country fans.
Both sides will look at each other and it’s like they’re looking in a mirror. Both insist that their preferred style of country music is in the right. Both believe that their current favorite artists are the true evolutions of the genre. Both have a lukewarm opinion at best when it comes to female artists (I’ve seen this just by observing various country blogs and forums). Both love to mock and ridicule the other side. Both sides have posted childish and stupid comments on this very blog. Both sides don’t listen to country radio (streaming vs buying physical media). Both embrace whatever scene they worship puts out (urban country fans embrace every new artist with boyish good looks and a drum machine, while traditionalists embrace every grisly voiced indie artist from the underground). Both sides have a country music “savior” (another silly notion espoused by fan boys). And neither really want to embrace Americana.
Have I been some of these things sometimes? Absolutely. It’s why in recent months my attitude has shifted to taking a more balanced approach. It’s why I’ve given more coverage and will continue to give more coverage to Americana. But at least I’ve recognized it. Hardcore traditionalists and urban fans don’t want to recognize. Now I’m not trying to tell you how to think or what music to listen to at the end of the day. But I’m simply pointing out to those of you that fall under these categories that you are what you hate. The beauty of music is it’s all subjective and we all have a different opinion. You’re free to listen whatever you want and call it whatever you want. But when it comes to the livelihood of a genre and really the value of anything in life, you need to find a balance. Country music needs to find a balance. It needs to find a balance in its sound. It needs to find a balance when it comes to playing male and female artists. And it’s fans need to find a balance. When traditionalists can’t embrace a song like Charles Kelley’s “The Driver” and mainstream fans can’t embrace Jon Pardi and Kacey Musgraves, it’s a clear demonstration that country music is far from solving it’s problems.
Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases
- Carrie Underwood will release her new album Storyteller tomorrow. I’ll have a review on it early next week.
- Chris Janson will release his first album under Warner Nashville, titled Buy Me A Boat, next Friday.
- The Yawpers will release their new album American Man next Friday.
- Brett Eldredge’s next single will be “Drunk On Your Love.”
- Keith Urban will be releasing “Break on Me” as his next single. Expect a review on this soon.
- Toby Keith is releasing “Beautiful Stranger” as his next single. Derek’s review on his new album will be out tomorrow.
Great Music Currently at Country Radio
The very best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly.
Throwback Thursday Song
Reba – “The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia” – This is a true southern gothic classic, originally written and recorded by Bobby Russell. Reba’s cover is the most popular version of the song. It’s definitely one of those songs as a country fans it’s worth listening to if you haven’t heard it before.
Non-Country Suggestion of the Week
The new album from the a capella group Pentatonix is pretty solid. I was blown away when I came across this group a few years back and still am today. They’re truly a unique and special group of musicians.
Tweet of the Week
iTunes Review That Rocks
A slam on Thomas Rhett AND Luke Bryan? That’ll get you featured in the Hodgepodge every time. And the comparison to Gwen Stefani is hilarious.
Thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in below!