The Hodgepodge: Why is the Music Industry Image Obsessed?

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It’s no secret that the music industry puts importance on the looks of an artist. Be it adhering to a certain style, or maintaining a certain body figure, the industry’s obsession with the image of a singer sometimes trumps the music. The executives and producers at major labels treat their artists as products to sell, and the product simply isn’t music. It’s an entire brand: a clothing style that would be appealing to the target demographic, accessories or fashion that matches the singer’s constructed persona (outlaw, blue-collar, family oriented, etc.), and keeping the singer’s weight and physical features within the realm of a socially constructed standard of beauty.

If you kept up with Farce the Music earlier this week, you know that the website shed some light on Jason Aldean’s congratulatory ad (above) in the recent Country Aircheck. Taking a closer look at Aldean’s features, it appears that someone probably doctored the photograph to make Aldean appear skinnier than in real life. This isn’t the first time a singer has been photoshopped before appearing in an ad or on a magazine cover, and it certainly won’t be the last time. It’s more or less become a standard when appearing in “print” media.

But this all begs the question as to why is image held in such a high regard when music is auditory? By all means, let’s make sure Jason Aldean looks like a healthy, attractive male for the female audience, but who cares that his radio singles sound like they were written and produced by bored 16 year olds. Why is the brand and look taken more seriously than the sound quality?

It’s a societal issue more than a music industry issue, I’d argue. Since the dawn of advertising, we’ve seen attractive males and females as the face and spokesperson for almost every product. The entire retail world is built upon selling something that’s visually appealing first. But why do major labels market the look first and not the song? If anything, the music industry could easily be different from the rest of the advertising world, but that’s not the case. They follow the same suits as other products.

What did Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, and Miranda Lambert have in common back when they were the only females on the charts in the early part of the decade? What do Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini have in common nowadays? Blonde hair. Blonde, the socially constructed ideal hair color for a beautiful woman; the most appealing color for men. I’m not saying that’s the only reason those artists are as successful as they are, but I’d also argue it certainly didn’t hinder their careers. Carrie Underwood’s music is great, and she’s an artist worthy of all the respect and accolades she has earned since winning American Idol. She has great pop country songs, and even her more poppy songs are way more tolerable than almost all other pop songs on country radio. But I believe it would be naive to think that Carrie’s blonde hair and attractiveness hasn’t played some sort of role in her marketability to music fans and success in the industry. I wouldn’t be surprised if in some alternate universe, a brunette Carrie Underwood, singing the same songs, is not quite as successful as the real life Carrie Underwood.

You could make the same argument for males as well. Luke Bryan is an attractive male for target female audience. He knows it, his label knows it, and they play into that look and charm when it comes to selling him. I guarantee you Luke Bryan wouldn’t be the country music superstar he is today if he was an overweight man with crooked teeth who couldn’t sway his hips smoothly. Mainstream labels sell these artists to fans based upon their visual appeal to the fans.

Now I don’t think that’s right, and I hate how that’s the way the world works. When it comes to music, I think a singer’s music should be the only parameter in which we judge him or her. And that’s why I think highly of Carrie Underwood, because her music has quality in its writing and delivery. I think Jason Aldean’s single choices shine a shallow, immature light onto him; his singles are not quality music. The same goes for Luke Bryan. I listen to music. My judgement of artists comes from their music. I don’t care if my favorite singer is overweight or bald. As long as he or she writes and makes good music, I will listen with joy.

Music has the ability to influence your moods and thoughts. When you’re having a bad day, you listen to happy music to cheer yourself up. A song can incite nostalgia and bring you back to time or place from your past: a joyous moment or memories of good times with friends. None of these memories or feelings come from looking at a magazine cover or watching the artist perform on an award show. They come from hearing the song.

The power of music comes from listening, and often times that gets overlooked or set aside because the singer isn’t dressed a certain way. Fashion and body image should have no bearing on how music and singers are perceived.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow, Sturgill Simpson‘s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth will be released. Josh’s review will also be published tomorrow.
  • Del McCoury‘s Del and Woody will also be released tomorrow.
  • The Honeycutters’ new album, On the Ropes, will be released May 20.
  • Flatland Calvary‘s recently released Humble Folks on April 1st. Texas/Red Dirt artists William Clark Green and Kaitlin Butts make appearances on the album.
  • Mickey Guyton said in a recent interview that she’ll be releasing a new single in May.
  • New On The Verge artist Tucker Beathard‘s single, “Rock On” just entered the top 30.
  • Dierks Bentley recently released a video for a new song from his upcoming album Black. “I’ll Be the Moon” is a duet with Maren Morris.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Motel Cowboy Show” by Reckless Kelly. From their 2006 album, Wicked Twisted Road, “Motel Cowboy Show” is a great country song, with 5 and half minutes of fiddles, steel guitars, and catchy lyrics. This is easily one of my favorite Reckless Kelly songs.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin IV. I’ve been listening to a lot of classic rock this week after seeing a presentation called Drugs and Rock N’ Roll. Led Zeppelin IV is one of my favorite rock albums, and includes some of Zeppelin’s classic songs including “When The Levee Breaks”, “Rock and Roll” and “Stairway to Heaven.”

Tweet of the Week

And Sam Hunt. And Cole Swindell. And Thomas Rhett. The list goes on and on.

iTunes Review

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This was left under Keith Urban’s Ripcord. An album available for preorder with his radio singles available. A little extreme in his review, but I find tommyboy_’s theory kind of funny. Hopefully tommyboy_ finds out there’s more (and better) country music available away from radio’s consistent dreck.

17 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Why is the Music Industry Image Obsessed?

  1. jill April 14, 2016 / 11:46 am

    Unless they can Photoshop a new image and better attitude onto Aldean, a few inches off his waist and neck aren’t really going to help much.

    The blonde factor doesn’t bother me as much as this current trend of putting on a “little girl acting sexy” act. RaeLynn is the absolute worst with this. She dresses like a pinup but does pouty faces and these creepy little girl voices and antics. Kelsea and Danielle Bradbery do it alot also. It’s so off putting. I mean who is telling them “What men really want is a 23 year old that dresses sexy but acts like a naughty 5 year old”

    Kelly Clarkson has the right attitude on appearance. She doesn’t care if she is currently a size 2 or a 22, she is going to sing her ass off either way and doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amanda April 14, 2016 / 12:09 pm

      I fully agree with you about RaeLynn, Kelsea Ballerini, and Danielle Bradbery. With RaeLynn, I feel that she is so immature. She has no business dressing and acting the way she does if she wants people to take her seriously.

      With male singers, I feel to each their own. I’m almost 20, and I don’t find Luke Bryan attractive in the slightest. He looks extremely fake to me and has the personality of a whiny little douche. Not to mention the extremely creepy way he acts onstage, he looks like a clown. To me, the male singers I find attractive would be Gary Allan, Jon Pardi, and William Michael Morgan. Those three are very handsome men who sing and write quality country music. That’s attractive to me. I could give two shits less about some pretty boy douche pretending to be country when they are anything but country. Honesty and being genuine are attractive to me.


      • jill April 14, 2016 / 12:57 pm

        I am 39. I used to think that Luke was a good looking guy, before his teeth started glowing and he started over glamming himself, when he just looked normal. Personally, I hate his new music but, I think Billy Currington is sexy as hell. Don’t judge me lol! I have for years. Well since he got rid of that creepy Guido mullet he had in party for two and why why why. That look was not hot at all!


        • Amanda April 14, 2016 / 1:21 pm

          Luke was somewhat decent looking before his “Tailgates and Tanlines” album era. Personally, he has never been my cup of tea. Sadly, when most girls my age think of country music, they think of Luke Bryan and his creepy ass-shaking ways and blinding teeth. I think Gary Allan is sexy as hell and has some great music. He has an honest approach to songwriting, knows what country music really is, and gosh, I do love those gorgeous baby blue eyes and those tattoos. 😉 Jon Pardi and William Michael Morgan are cute too, and also have good country music.


  2. Amanda April 14, 2016 / 11:54 am

    I cannot wait for the new Mickey Guyton single! It’s about time! She has a fantastic voice, and it am excited to hear new music from her.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Derek Hudgin April 14, 2016 / 1:29 pm

      Long overdue for some new music from Mickey! I’m excited to hear a new single, and I hope that a full album quickly follows.


      • Amanda April 14, 2016 / 1:34 pm

        If Better Than You Left Me and Why Baby Why are any implications on what her new album will be like, then it will be incredible.


  3. petemarshall724 April 14, 2016 / 1:38 pm

    I really like that song Reckless Kelley “Motel Cowboy Show”. Raelynn was drooped by Big Machine (Valory) last week.


    • Amanda April 14, 2016 / 1:50 pm

      Hopefully after this, RaeLynn is just an afterthought. Hopefully no one else signs her. She sounds like a duck.


  4. OlaR April 14, 2016 / 1:39 pm

    “She has great pop country songs, and even her more poppy songs are way more tolerable than almost all other pop songs on country radio.”
    A Carrie Underwood pop-country song is “almost” more tolerable because it’s a Carrie Underwood song? Faith Hill? Martina McBride? Let’s hope the new Mickey Guyton single is not too poppy.

    Check Out/New Album: James Robert Webb/Pictures (Bison Creek Records)
    James Robert Webb was born & raised ouside of Tulsa. He is physician in Tulsa & a country singer. “Pictures” is his debut album. His singles did well on Music Rows’s CountryBreakout Chart. “How That Feels” is on 67 after three weeks. The album contains 11 tracks with a mix of traditional ballads, western swing & contemporary material. He’s a fan of Garth Brooks & you can hear it. 8/10.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin April 14, 2016 / 1:59 pm

      I specifically mention Carrie because she’s relevant currently. I like Martina McBride’s music, and I’m not as familiar with Faith Hill outside a few radio singles. I obviously prefer country music, but Carrie mostly cuts good songs for her albums and single choices


      • Raymond April 14, 2016 / 2:26 pm

        Hey Derek! What are your thoughts on Faith Hill’s biggest two hits “This Kiss” and “Breathe”? Since I imagine you are familiar with those two songs.


        • southtexaspistolero April 14, 2016 / 3:46 pm

          I know I’m not Derek, but I thought “This Kiss” was a fun little slice of late-1990s pop country. I loved that song when it first came out and have the album somewhere. Was never big on “Breathe,” though.


      • OlaR April 14, 2016 / 4:18 pm

        Ok. I’m not a (big) fan of Martina McBride, but i prefer her material.


  5. Raymond April 14, 2016 / 1:39 pm

    I do have to say the song Dierks Bentley released “I’ll Be The Moon” is really solid, yes both singers know they’re cheating but it has this sound of regret I really like.


  6. southtexaspistolero April 14, 2016 / 1:43 pm

    “Video killed the radio star…”

    That’s more or less it. One word: Marketing. What with the multimedia environment we’re living in anymore, too many people think you have to look good in addition to having talent. It’s just as much about the wrapping as it is the…uh…gift. As with everything else there are exceptions, i.e. Chris Stapleton, but then I defy anyone to tell me that country radio would have given Sam Hunt or Thomas Rhett the time of day if they looked anything like Stapleton.

    Along these lines, I did just think of an example of the contrasts between the mainstream music scene and the independent music scene that is quite telling, though:

    Jason Boland and the Stragglers have released eight studio albums and two live albums. Of these, Jason Boland’s photo appears on only one of them — Live And Lit At Billy Bob’s Texas. And I have a feeling that his picture appears on that one solely because the artist’s photo is on all the other albums in the Live At Billy Bob’s series. Make of that what you will.

    I love me some Led Zep, but my favorite stuff from them came from their first three albums. If asked for my favorite LZ tune it’d be a tie between “Dazed and Confused” and “Ramble On.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin April 14, 2016 / 2:03 pm

      Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett are good examples of this too, good call.

      I appreciate albums that put some creativity in the covers rather than just a model pose from the singer, and I’ve also noticed that more Red Dirt bands/singers tend to have more detailed album covers. Cover art can really tie an album together and compliment the messages/stories/concepts of the album.

      And “Ramble On” is a great Zeppelin tune! Definitely top-5 for me.


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