The Hodgepodge: Dear Music Row, Call a Spade a Spade and Start Labeling Your Music Pop

This is probably a recycled thought/topic for this feature, but non-country “country” music has been on my mind all week. It all started with Maren Morris’ HERO. Another recent pop release wrapped up in the label of country music include Keith Urban’s RipcordLittle Big Town is stepping into true pop music with their upcoming project with Pharrell, Wanderlust. This is the direction mainstream country music appears to be taking if last night’s CMT awards are any indication. Little Big Town and Pharrell performed a pop song from Wanderlust. Cam performed with pop group Fifth Harmony, and Cassadee Pope sang backup to Pitbull. Over the years, we’ve seen pop acts like Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, Meghan Trainor, Nick Jonas, and Katy Perry all make appearances at “country music” award shows. And for good measure, country music sites like Taste of Country still haven’t let go of Taylor Swift, who officially moved to pop almost two years ago.

I’m not going to sit here and rehash complaints about how Nashville is killing country’s tradition. It’s dead, and I’ve accepted it. The Murder on Music Row has become a full-fledged massacre, despite Chris Stapleton’s best efforts. My plea today is for Music Row to stop calling this music country. Sam Hunt still isn’t country. Ripcord and HERO are not country albums by any stretch of the imagination. With all of their experiment’s with pop music, they’re starting to get it to sound good. Maren Morris and producer busbee have a good pop album on their hands with HERO. She delivers the songs well, with confidence and authenticity from Morris as a singer. And I’ll admit that I enjoy “80’s Mercedes” as a song. It’s a catchy, fun pop song. But let’s stop pretending this is country music; it’s not.

For the last few years, the only reason they defended it as country was due to the fact that the songs sucked, and wouldn’t stand a chance on pop radio. But if future albums follow HERO and turn out to be well-produced pop albums with good pop songs, then call it pop! There’d me no more shame! Everyone, including Thomas Rhett, knows “Vacation” is a joke and wouldn’t stand a chance on any respectable pop radio station, but country radio will play it because that’s where the spotlight hits the bottom of the barrel. Music Row has done everything it could to make country music a joke and piss on the graves of Hank, Cash, Waylon, and now Merle. But now it looks like they’re ready to put forth effort on the pop front. Maybe.

We’re still being treated to half-assed adult contemporary albums like Black, I’m Coming Over, If I’m Honest, and whatever Florida Georgia Line will do. “H.O.L.Y.” certainly paints a picture of an A/C album coming from the duo. I’d call that music closer to pop than country, but it certainly isn’t good. These are albums where no one included seems to care about the music being released. But it seems like their albums are serving as a stepping stone toward moving more in the pop direction.

So, Music Row, start moving your pop music away from the country music landscape so artists like Maddie & Tae, Jon Pardi, Chris Stapleton, and Kacey Musgraves can clean up the mess you’ve made. You’re way past the point of no return, and no one will take any of your b and c level pop singers (aka top “country” singers) seriously if they turn back to country. You’ve completely alienated many of the fans you’ve had at the cost of chasing after a different demographic – a demographic only interested in the hot trend and not the history of a beautiful genre of music. Stop giving this genre a bad name. By putting this music on national TV and calling it country, you’re letting these faces and songs represent the entire genre. Meanwhile, there are several artists like Whitey Morgan, Turnpike Troubadours, Margo Price, and Michaela Anne, to name a few, who are carrying the rich tradition of country music in their music. Let artists like that represent the name “country music” while you and your singers continue to do your pop music under a different name.

So call a spade a spade and, Music Row, start calling your music pop.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow, Brandy Clark‘s Big Day in a Small Town will be released.
  • Frankie Ballard‘s El Rio will also be released tomorrow.
  • Jon Pardi‘s California Sunrise will be released next week on June 17th.
  • Luke Bell‘s self-titled album will be released on the 17th.
  • Scott Low‘s The New Vintage will also be released on the 17th.
  • Hey everybody! Josh here with some album news I wanted to pass along to you. I saw Brandi Carlile a couple of nights back (excellent show by the way) and she revealed that they’re going to do a re-release of her most well-known album The Story next year, marking the 10th anniversary of the album. All of the proceeds for the album will be going to the Looking Out Foundation, which helps children who’s lives have been torn apart by wars. Carlile said she and the band won’t be performing the songs on the re-release, but rather a list of guests and friends. She also mentioned one of her idols will be performing the title track.

Throwback Thursday Song

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams. You can never go wrong with Hank Williams. Despite what Music Row sells, there will always be someone out there respecting the music Hank made.

Non-Country Suggestion

“Hurricane Love” L.A. Woman. How many of you have heard of Cymbal? It’s a music social media app where you simply share a song with your followers, and you can play samples of the songs that are posted directly through the app. It’s a cool concept for an app, but I think it’s still rather new and used mostly on the indie circuit. This is a song I discovered through Cymbal.

Tweets of the Week: CMT Awards Edition

There was no reason to watch the CMT Awards after Chris Stapleton performed “Parachute.” And there was no reason to watch before Chris Stapleton performed “Parachute.”

iTunes Review

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 6.21.27 PM

This was left under Jon Pardi’s newest album. California Sunrise has the potential to be the best mainstream album released this year, and if the few songs pre-released are indication, then it could be in a conversation with this year’s best.

Note: The Hodgepodge will return in two weeks, as we will be featuring our mid-year best and worst posts next week.

15 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Dear Music Row, Call a Spade a Spade and Start Labeling Your Music Pop

  1. jmarsh123 June 9, 2016 / 11:19 am

    I was scared when I heard 80’s Mercedes. It’s a great song, just not country at all. It’s easier to laugh at the Thomas Rhetts and Sam Hunts who just produce bad music regardless of genre.

    Also I have a feeling Luke Bell’s album is going to be big in the realm of real country music.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin June 9, 2016 / 11:32 am

      I’ve heard the same thing about Bell’s album. It’s highly anticipated; I’m looking forward to hearing it.


    • Josh Schott June 9, 2016 / 12:02 pm

      Can tell you Bell’s album is great and can’t miss. We will have a review on it next week.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OlaR June 9, 2016 / 1:44 pm

    Pretty sure there will be no difference between the new not-country LBT album & the next “country” LBT album. The next Thomas Rhett album will contain a couple of christian-pop songs (each written by 16 people) or whatever will be the next trend in “country music”.
    We need more tribute albums like the Mötley Crüe album. The name of the album was: “Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Mötley Crüe”. What about a David Guetta tribute?

    New single:
    RaeLynn – “Love Triangle” – tba (Source: The Tennessean)
    “…an aching ballad told from the perspective of a child who is caught in the middle of her parent’s divorce.”


  3. Robert June 9, 2016 / 2:07 pm

    Lots of promising albums forthcoming (Bell, Pardi, Jinks,etc). The question is whether their music can find its way to the public, or whether the powers that be are too busy prioritizing Pitbull,Fifth Harmony, and Pharrell Williams and so on to allow the country guys a chance to get on the radio,etc ? Pardi maybe has the best chance, thanks to label support ?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Zackary Kephart June 9, 2016 / 2:20 pm

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject and I think it’s important to introduce another trend in order to help frame this.

    I keep thinking what the magic formula was that made artists like Jason Isbell, Aaron Watson, Blackberry Smoke and many others score No. 1 albums last year and I think the two biggest reasons are….

    1.) Bashing on the bad stuff in mainstream country music has pushed people away from said bad stuff and exposed them to independent artists.


    2.) Promoting the good artists has helped naturally expose people to new (hopefully for them, good) stuff.

    I think ultimately it’s always been a combination of both. However, as I see Music Row continue to bring the legacy of country music into a downward spiral I have to wonder if option 2 isn’t the ultimate better way to go.

    I know as a critic that it’s just gotten frustrating reviewing or giving my time to music that I don’t feel is worth it. It seems as if no matter how hard we tear down a song we’re just throwing a rock at a steel wall. I’m not insinuating that anybody should hold back their opinion and let the world know how they feel, I’m just failing to see any impact at this point.

    I know that as a music fan and critic it’s always fun to hear about a new artist and dive into their career as well as give time to other artists that I feel are deserving of high praise.

    Overall I’m really just wondering in today’s world if just to ignore the bad would be best at this point. I don’t really know for sure but we’ve tried everything else and country music still hasn’t been saved so I don’t know. It’s frustrating.


    Those Jon Pardi and Luke Bell albums can’t come fast enough. June 17th is looking to be stellar.

    Great pick for the throwback song!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nadia Lockheart June 9, 2016 / 3:10 pm

    Oh, wait until 2017! 😉

    Here’s my predictions as to what to expect next year:


    1) Mike Posner appears and offers one of only two songs reminiscent of country music titled “I Took Some 90 Proof In Waco”, featuring Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel.

    2) BABYMETAL provide the only other authentic country song of the evening with a song that roughly translates from Japanese as “Drought Makes Farmers Sad”. It features the very best country instrumentalists on all fronts and is acclaimed as the single best country song of all-time among both all professional and country critics.

    3) The Band Perry mark their live debut of “Put Me In The Game Coach”, retooled in more of a trap production and arrangement. It features Mike Will Made It and Bebe Rexha.

    4) Korn mark their country music debut with a dubstep-heavy EDM metal grenade titled “I Don’t Give A Korn Husk”. It features a 32-bar rap by Rae Sremmurd and Halsey adding to the chorus.

    5) Uncle Ezra Ray re-unite and play “Juicy Peach”: a big Southern booty anthem. It features the original cast of “Party Down South” as their equivalent of a church choir.

    6) Post Malone performs “Flexin’ Dixie”: an incoherent, lazy talk-rap backed by weak-sauce acoustic instrumentation that goes on for nine minutes about how he likes Purple Drink on his tractor, and the “good s***” and…………………..oh, never mind.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin June 9, 2016 / 3:18 pm

      It wouldn’t surprise me. It’s only the CMT Awards, which have little to no value/merit, but Adam Levine & Leona Lewis apparently did a cover of “Girl Crush” and that performance was nominated for CMT Performance of the Year last night.

      Adam Levine and Leona Lewis were nominated as a pair for a Country Music award. This Nashville Pop revolution is not far off


    • FeedThemHogs June 9, 2016 / 3:57 pm

      “I Don’t Give A Korn Husk” !!!!

      I nearly turned my chair over at that one. Thanks for the laugh.


      • Nadia Lockheart June 9, 2016 / 5:50 pm

        Hahaha, I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Jonathan Davis’s solo side project rooted in the Bakersfield Sound is more country than most of what was played last night aside from the Chris Stapleton performance! Oh, the tragic irony! 😉


    • Josh Schott June 9, 2016 / 6:08 pm

      I’m surprised Korn wouldn’t have a bag pipe jammed in too. Also Post Malone is the worst.


      • Nadia Lockheart June 10, 2016 / 4:16 am

        I have not the slightest idea how “White Iverson” ever got a single spin at radio. Your guess is as good as mine! -__-

        Liked by 1 person

  6. jess June 9, 2016 / 5:52 pm

    2 Things-

    1- I think at this point, industry doesn’t respect or really give a crap about labels. They’re labeling garbage “country” thinking they can trick all us redneck hillbilly dumbasses with only two teeth in our heads, confederate flags on our porch, and a chicken in every pot inside each and every one of our trailers, into enjoying their shit and feeding their pockets. For some reason- people who like country music are looked at like we belong on Hee-Haw or Beverly Hillbillys. It’s totally out of line a downright disrespectful.

    That said… who really cares about the labels!! I mean, do any of us really listen to ONLY country music? Probably not. There’s country, bluegrass, americana, folk, southern rock, and classic rock that I think every single one of us on this blog can appreciate. At this point the only thing that labels do is help to “guide” us to where we definitely do not want to be- heavy rap, dubstep, punk music, etc. I mean really- listen to Allman Brothers and then listen to Stapleton. Where’s the difference? What about Alabama? They’re looked at as country by most people nowadays, but were originally billed in the Southern Rock category.

    I completely second your motion- call a spade a spade. They won’t do it though because if something’s labeled as pop then they can’t force us to listen! I know myself, if LBT puts out a pop album, I’m not going to be first in line to buy because I don’t enjoy pop. I enjoy music with actual musicians and artists that actually put in real effort and care about what’s being put out there in world.

    2- For some reason I thought Stapleton’s performance last night was off. I don’t know what exactly was missing, and I went back and listened to the track and couldn’t figure it out. Maybe I just had temporary brain damage from all the garbage that was spewed out up to that point. I thought it was maybe the guitar or harmonica?? Just not sure. Overall a great performance. Also a little part of me was really hoping his Morgane would breakout and sing something but unfortunately no.

    Okay that’s it- sorry for the novel!


  7. OlaR June 10, 2016 / 5:09 am

    Australian country music rules!
    Glad Amazon is releasing older stuff from down under here. Week after week “new” names & music. This week: Rod Dowsett (americana from down under!), The Harmonators (great harmony vocals), Ernie Constance, Camille Te Nahu, Neville Anderson, Reg Lindsay, Johanna Hemara, Graham Rodger, Mitchell Shadlow, Tara Naysmith, Camille & Stuie, Brendan Radford & The Sunny Cowgirls. It’s on “Google Play” too.

    New albums (first impression):
    Frankie Ballard – “El Camino” – i’m not a fan of FB, but the album is ok. More (melodic) rock than country. Don’t need the cover of Bob Seger’s “You’ll Accomp’ny Me”. “Wasting Time” sounds like Bon Jovi. 7/10.

    Drew Baldridge – “Dirt On Us” – the single “Dance With Ya” is #49 on Billboard Country National Airplay after 18 weeks & is just another Bruno Mars clone. The rest of the album is not better. A banjo here & there, edm, ooooh & woooh chorus. “Love On Your Body” is the lowest of the low kind of songs. “Town the World Forgot” is the only acceptable track. “is It Well With My Soul” on the same album with dreck like “Drama” is a bad joke. 1/10.

    Brent Anderson – “The Other Side Of The Radio” – remember “Amy’s Song”? It was a small hit in 2011. He’s back with a 10-track album & he keeps it country. I like his “raspy” voice. Pretty sure americana fans will like the album, too. 8/10.


  8. Cumva Proud Performer June 12, 2016 / 6:40 pm

    Yes, and being a pessimist isn’t going to solve anything now is it??

    Mark my word: Vacation will probably tank the same way 1994 did.

    If you wish to proclaim country music dead, then so be it. I however, choose to see a different reality: no one and I mean ABSOLUTELY NO ONE gives a rats ass about the CMT Awards. They are meaningless and aren’t any real indication of where the genre may be headed.

    Sure, it’s possible that the Chris Stapleton rise was only a small victory, but for christ sakes can we at least “have a little optimism” and wait?? Parachute is still rising on the charts, and we are seeing more of a resurgence of traditional country than before with guys like Jon Pardi and William Michael Morgan starting to make the dent.


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