The Hodgepodge: The Mainstream Country Music Bubble is About to Burst

Waylon warned you, country music.
Waylon warned you, country music.

Lord it’s the same old tune…

This past weekend the 50th ACM Awards took place and the reviews for it haven’t been pretty. From Trigger at Saving Country Music to Grady Smith at The Guardian to the consensus on Twitter, they all found the show to be pretty bad. I myself found it to be weird and boring. Many of you weighed in on that post and whole heartedly agreed. The show was plagued with production errors and enough medleys to set a person insane. It wasn’t easy to sit through. Really this whole year in mainstream country music hasn’t been easy to stomach. When it looked like we were going to get more traditional country songs on the radio, the hope for that quickly evaporated. Instead we’ve gotten a heavy dose of Sam Hunt’s pop music, bro country rehashes, trend chasing, female artists continuing to get ignored and Thomas Rhett trying to be Bruno Mars. It’s the same old stuff country music has been doing for years now.

Where do we take it from here?

It was clear as day to anyone who watched the 2015 ACM Awards that country music has two big problems. The first problem is that country music has no idea what it is anymore. There’s a clear identity crisis taking place. This show featured performances from George Strait, Sam Hunt, Christina Aguilera and Nick Jonas. Do you see hip-hop awards shows with such a melting pot of performers? Do you rock awards shows with so many different sounds? No because they know who they are. This variety of sounds was touted during the ACM Awards, like this is a great thing. It’s clearly not because you’re sending mixed signals to viewers. They have no idea what the hell country music is because you’re throwing so many different sounds at them. The second problem is country music has zero direction on where to go. They’re chasing the R&B sound. They’re chasing the EDM sound. They’re rehashing bro country stuff. Country music is like a 12-headed monster and each head is going a different way. There’s no cohesion and no identity.

It’s been the same way for years/We need to change

Country music clearly needs to change and quickly. I think that’s obvious to a lot of people. But nobody wants to make the first move. Everyone is too afraid to make a move or say something. Some people will say, “Well what about Sturgill Simpson? He can save country music!” To them I repeat what I’ve said before and what Sturgill himself has said: he’s no savior. One artist can’t save the genre. I find Sturgill to be a trailblazer and a shining example to other independent country artists on how to do it your own way. Regardless of what happens in mainstream country music, Sturgill Simpson will be safe and continue to do his own thing. Atlantic Records will wisely keep him out of that racket and market him more like an indie rock artist rather than a mainstream country artist.

Another thing people will bring up is splitting country music, something that looked very possible last year. The top 40 country artists could go do their thing and the traditional, older country artists could go do their music. It would establish a clear line and everyone could be happy. I’ve advocated for this. But that convenient dream isn’t going to happen. It’s pretty much dead right now. You’re better off dismissing this fantasy as unrealistic. There are other ideas I’ve seen floated out there that could “save” mainstream country music and bring it change, but they’re not even worth addressing because I only see one change on the horizon for mainstream country music happening. It’s a change that they’re in the midst of doing right now and they’re not even aware it’s about to happen.

The mainstream country music bubble is about to pop. No splitting. No country music civil war is going to happen. It’s simply going to break into pieces, something I forewarned of months ago if country music didn’t start to get its act together. It reminds me a lot of how rock music shattered into pieces, became irrelevant as a mainstream genre and disappeared completely off radio. Rock reached its peak in popularity in the 80s with hair metal, which bro country is often compared to. At the beginning of the 90s, Nirvana became huge and grunge became the popular style in rock. The arrival of this group was a godsend for the genre because hair metal along with some other terrible rock sub-genres had made the public bored with rock music. Nirvana brought something fresh and new to the genre. Then Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, tragically shot himself. Some people say this was the day rock music died too. Rock music lost its icon and symbol of hope.

Slowly but surely rock music devolved into multiple sub-genres, as several groups failed to duplicate the sound and success of Nirvana. The genre lost direction and popularity. Hip-hop made its rise into mainstream prominence at this time and essentially bumped rock off radio, taking its place. Now look at rock music. You don’t hear any new rock music on the radio. All there’s left of rock music on the radio is a local classic rock station playing hits from rock’s heyday. I see country music going down the exact same path minus the Nirvana part. There’s won’t be a Nirvana because country music doesn’t want a Nirvana walking through the door. Country music would rather continue down the same path it’s on and fall flat on its face. It’s afraid of trying something new, fresh and different. Taking risks isn’t considered business sound, even though business is stagnant and terrible right now.

Somebody told me when I came to Nashville
Son you finally got it made
Old Hank made it here, we’re all sure that you will
But I don’t think Hank done it this way, no
I don’t think Hank done it this way, okay

Now this gloom and doom prediction I’ve just thrown out at you is a real bummer. But ultimately I think country music would become better as a result. A new genre will rise out of the ashes. There would no longer be a mainstream or radio presence by country music. This would mean only the best country artists would get noticed. People would take to the Internet to find country music, just like independent country fans do now. It’s what rock fans do too. The B-list artists that are only known because of manufactured radio pushes by major labels would fall off the radar. This would be anyone who isn’t at a Carrie Underwood/Blake Shelton type level. So you would say goodbye to the Michael Rays and Kelsea Ballerinis of country music. The fluff would be out the door. I wouldn’t have to review terrible music being passed off as country anymore. Come to think of it, this sounds like an ideal scenario.

Heed the words of Waylon and make proactive change, country music. Or a crashing change will eat you alive.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Zac Brown Band will release their new album Jekyll + Hyde next Tuesday. I have no idea what to expect in terms of sound with this album, which makes me even more excited to give it a listen. If you haven’t read it yet, check out the album’s track listing. Also Aircheck confirmed the rumor that the group’s next single will be “Loving You Easy” and will impact radio on the first week of May.
  • Tyler Farr’s new album Suffer in Peace will also come out next Tuesday. The track listing for it suggests a mixed bag. I expect a few good songs and a few terrible songs. Speaking of terrible, I found out via Windmills on the song “C.O.U.N.T.R.Y.” Farr sings about his love of truck nuts. I’ll let you imagine what that song is like.
  • For those who missed it, Jason Isbell announced his new album will be released on July 17 and will be called Something More Than Free. That’s the same day Alan Jackson’s new album comes out too. This is also a significant day because it’s the first week where major releases start coming out on Fridays rather than Tuesdays.
  • Sammy Kershaw just announced recently that he will be releasing his first full-original album in five years on June 9. It will be called I Won’t Back Down. He signed a deal with Cleopatra Records to release the album. This is a great surprise and I’m definitely looking forward to this one.
  • Also for those that aren’t on Twitter: I saw Gary Allen live in concert last Friday and it was a fantastic show. From what I’ve gathered from the show, his new album should be classic Gary. He mentioned that “Hangover Tonight” was the last song written onto the album, which leads me to believe he threw it in to appease his label. Allen played two new songs from the album and they sounded like great country songs. The one was called “Mess Me Up” and I think it has great potential to be a single.

Throwback Thursday Song

Randy Travis – “Forever and Even, Amen” – It was so great to see Lee Brice give a shout out to Randy Travis at the ACM Awards. It was also classy of him to play a couple of lines acoustically from Travis’ classic song “Forever and Ever, Amen.” So I thought it was only appropriate this iconic song would be this week’s throwback song.

Non-Country Album Recommendation 

Rap music’s great year continues, as another fantastic rap album just came out. It’s Yelawolf’s Love Story and it has one of the most different sounds I’ve ever heard on a rap album. Probably because it’s a rap album with heavy country and southern rock influences. What? Yes, you read that correctly. The wording is key: it’s a rap album with country influences and not the other way around. It’s in the right genre too. I always thought though you couldn’t mix these two genres period, but Yelawolf, a southern hip-hop artist from Alabama, proves me wrong. What separates Yelawolf from hick-hop artists like Colt Ford is Yelawolf’s got bars. He understands the craft of rap. The album is a whopping 18 songs long and complex, but it’s well worth listening to from start to finish. Ironically it has even more country moments than many mainstream country albums. Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” can be heard in the opening song! Rap music is now sounding more country than country music. What world am I living in?

Tweet of the Week

So many great candidates for tweet of the week, thanks to the ACM Awards. But this one took the cake. It’s the perfect analogy.

An iTunes Review That Will Make You Face Palm

Hunt Fans Being Hunt Fans

This was under Sam Hunt’s Montevallo. I…just…I got nothing. What can I say to this?

That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments! 

Rankings Mainstream Country Artists: F

After going through the first four tiers of mainstream country music artists, we’ve now reached the end of the rankings. We’ve hit rock bottom, where the absolute worst of the worst reside in the F ranking. If you missed the first four parts, you can find them in the corresponding links:

Grade A

Grade B 

Grade C

Grade D

Keep in mind these rankings were entirely compiled by yours truly. It’s only my opinion. The only artists I’m considering in these rankings is mainstream country artists that are on major labels and/or still get radio time. I’m also including legends and acts that are too big to be considered independent artists. The way I determine these rankings is by looking at the overall body of work of the artist, as well as taking into account the most recent offerings from them. So bro country artists that have been churning out hit after hit will be lower on the list. If an artist made bad music in the past, but is now putting out better music lately that will help them. But that bad music won’t be forgotten either. One more thing: attitude and respect for the genre will be considered. The rankings will be determined by grade. Now I’ll take a look at part five of this series, the artists I feel are worthy of a F grade.

Grade F

When it comes to mainstream country music, you can’t get any worse than these artists. When people complain about mainstream country music being terrible, they’re probably pointing a finger at one of these artists. Many of these artists have been the absolute worst offenders when it comes to partaking in bro country. They’re the poster boys of the sub-genre that has slowly torn country music apart and will most likely lead to country music splitting in two in 2015. These artists have put out some of the absolute worst music in the past few years. I think you get the point. Let’s stand up and jeer for the worst of the worst.

Florida Georgia Line "Dirt"

Florida Georgia Line – The Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne of country music, except when this duo does something funny it’s unintentional. Florida Georgia Line has only put out two albums in their career and out of all of this music I have found only one decent song (“Dirt”). The rest all pretty much sound the same. Partying, drinking, having sex and pissing all over country music. Their album Anything Goes is the only album that has received a 0 on Country Perspective. Keep in mind not even Chase Rice nor Sam Hunt received a 0 on their new albums this year. Let that sink in. What pisses me off even more about this group is they showed us they’re capable of making a good song, yet still put out a bunch of garbage. I said it once and I’ll say it again: Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley are the Nickelback of country music.

Luke Bryan – One of the fathers of bro country music. He catapulted the sub-genre into mainstream with his smash hit, “That’s My Kind of Night.” Ever since then it’s been nothing but terrible bro country song after another coming from Bryan. Really it was what started the war between bro country and anti-bro country factions. Zac Brown correctly called it out for being terrible and ever since then the battle has raged between traditional and modern. In the same genre of Waylon and Willie, Bryan goes up on stage during concerts and shakes his ass for his teenage fans. Keep in mind he’s married and has kids. It’s a disgusting sight to see. He’s also given the worst country music writer in Nashville, Dallas Davidson, a platform to be recognized and noticed by choosing his songs on his albums. That’s just plain wrong.

Source: Wikimedia, Dlindner0; License

Jason Aldean – Once upon a time Aldean could make decent country music and had some respect for the genre. Then he introduced rap into mainstream country music with his big hit “Dirt Road Anthem.” It’s been downhill since for Aldean. He then cheated on his wife and left her for an American Idol reject. Not exactly a likable guy in my book. But the latter doesn’t even account for why he’s here. It’s all about the music he’s released in the last five years. Other than “Fly Over States,” it’s been all crap. His smash single “Burnin’ It Down” has been at the top of the charts on both iTunes and Billboard. It has also possibly introduced us to the next trend in country music: shitty R&B influenced pop country. You thought hick hop and bro country were bad, this could be even worse. I don’t think I can respect Jason Aldean ever again.

Cole Swindell – The generic Luke Bryan! For those who don’t remember or haven’t heard the story, Swindell was selling merchandise for Bryan a few years ago and is now making country music. It’s nice to know people, isn’t it Cole? His debut album is one of the most boring country albums I have ever heard. I think the best way I could describe Swindell’s music is with a comparison. I would consider Sturgill Simpson’s music to be like having prime rib with a baked potato and fine wine. I would consider Cole Swindell’s music to be like eating plain, white Wonder bread and washing it down with water. Get the picture?

Sam Hunt – He has not released a single country song. There is absolutely nothing country about Hunt or his music. It’s been nothing but pop music with some country themes. If he actually categorized his music correctly, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

Chase Rice – Another artist whose bread and butter has been bro country. He defends it loud and proud, usually in an obnoxious manner that annoys me. Anytime he’s pressed about bro country, he defends it by saying that’s just what he knows and plays it off as nothing. I’m sure that is all he knows. Other than one out of nowhere great song, the rest of his Ignite the Night album was horrendous and offensive to anyone who appreciates good music. Really “Jack Daniels and Jesus” is what saved his album from being the first ever album to receive a 0 and maybe Country Perspective’s award for Worst Country Album of 2014.

Brantley Gilbert – His new album Just As I Am actually received an average grade from me. One of the first surprising reviews I did on the site. Gilbert actually had a few decent album cuts. But what puts Gilbert for me in the F rankings are his radio singles and him helping introduce rap into country music. “Bottoms Up” and “Small Town Throwdown” will both be candidates for Worst Country Song of 2014. There is nothing good about these songs. To top it all of “Bottoms Up” is kind of hypocritical coming from Gilbert considering he’s been sober the last few years and no longer drinks alcohol. Yet here is glamorizing it to young and impressionable country fans. That’s a shame. As I mentioned too, Gilbert helped introduce rap into country music by co-writing “Dirt Road Anthem.”

Jerrod Niemann – Remember this guy? If you don’t remember him I don’t blame you because after a hot start to 2014 he has dropped off the face of the planet. At the beginning of 2014, country music was abuzz with Niemann’s polarizing new album High Noon and the first single from it, “Drink to That All Night.” His incorporation of auto-tune and electronic beats into the hit single captured pop country fans attentions and caused traditional country fans like myself to throw up our arms in protest. It was a stark departure from his previous material. In other words he sold out hard, as he realized he was becoming irrelevant due to bro country. Niemann and his group tried to capitalize on this newfound buzz about him by doing a remix of “Drink to That All Night” with Pitbull of all people. This ultimately bombed, so they followed this up with “Donkey,” one of the worst country songs ever. This bombed even harder. This single bombed so hard that it’s pretty much torpedoed Niemann’s career. Yikes!

Big Smo & Colt Ford – The only hick hop artists with mainstream status. Repeat after me: Hip hop and country do not mix well together and never will. Keep them apart in their own genres, please.

Thomas Rhett – The son of Rhett Akins has pretty much been a disgrace to country music his entire career. Not a single song of his is good. “Get Me Some of That” was quietly one of the worst songs of 2013. Not just in country music, but in all music.

RaeLynn – The only female country artist in the mainstream to receive a F ranking. This is an accomplishment in itself. While other female artists are making great country music (Musgraves, Monroe, Presley) or even making decent music (Bannen and Lambert), RaeLynn is making songs like “God Made Girls.” This amount of pandering towards male artists and bro country is vomit-inducing. She annoyed me with her voice on The Voice and she has annoyed me even more after the show. The amount of twang in her voice makes Miranda Lambert sound like she’s from Boston. It’s ridiculous.

That wraps up my ranking of mainstream country music. I’ll do an updated set of rankings in about six months, as I’m sure there will be some changes. Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts on the rankings in the comments below.

What Are You Thinking Brad Paisley?

Brad Paisley
Wikimedia Commons

As a country music fan, everyone remembers the artists they grew up listening to that made them fall in love with the genre. Many older fans grew up with big names like Cash, Waylon, Jones, Haggard, Willie, Loretta, etc. But I’m little younger. I grew up with 90s and 2000s country, which many of these traditional fans from previous eras shunned for its pop sound. Nevertheless there was still a lot of great country music being made in this era. There were three artists I could always listen to on the radio and enjoy their music. These three are the reason why I got into country music and became a fan for life. Those three artists were George Strait, Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley.

Strait just retired from touring, but is still making great country music. Jackson is sadly no longer featured on the radio, but he’s still making great country music too. He even made a pretty good bluegrass album recently. These two have stuck to their roots regardless of the current trends plaguing the genre. And then there’s Brad Paisley. I remember last year at this time I was still a fervent defender of Paisley, even though I found Wheelhouse to be sub par compared to his previous albums. There were still a few quality songs on it though and he was still regarded by myself and many others to be one of the few “good ones” left in mainstream country music.

Then in the spring of 2014, Paisley announced he was releasing a new album and released the first single from it titled “River Bank.” I was hoping for the best. Then I listened to the single and became disgusted and enraged. My first thought was he sold out to the latest trend in country music. It prompted to me to write what I believe to be my first ever negative review of Paisley. But I then convinced myself to hold out hope that “River Bank” was the anomaly of his new album and that the rest of it would be much better. That hope was squashed when I read this in an interview he had with Billboard:

Produced with longtime collaborator Luke Wooten (Dierks Bentley, “Nashville”), “Moonshine” sees Paisley adapting the modern technology of EDM and dubstep to the classic country formula. “When you hear a banjo through stutter edit, it’s the coolest thing you ever heard,” Paisley said. “I have a song that’s a basic love song, it’s got a great groove, and I cut this guitar part that gets distorted when I turn the nob up. I would say to Luke, ‘Oh, that should’ve been done 20 years ago, but they couldn’t.’ The rulebook’s gone, or was there ever one? They try, but I don’t play by it.”

EDM and dubstep? Are you kidding me? What the hell are you smoking? I had a bad feeling that after his previous album Wheelhouse didn’t perform great on radio or the charts that he could sell out (or the insane thought he could go back to this roots). And it looks to me he’s desperate to remain relevant in mainstream country. While I shun him for his desperation, I do understand the other side of the coin. As I said in my Ronnie Dunn post, it’s hard for artists to accept they’re no longer one of the most popular names in their genre. But they fail to realize that there are a lot of fans that still support them. Many of them have been supporting them for years. I still recall Paisley’s earliest material, songs such as “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” and “We Danced.” Paisley sang with two all-time country greats George Jones and Bill Anderson on “Too Country.” Remember this Paisley?

 

That collaboration happened 13 years ago. Now who’s he collaborating with? The latest monstrosity for him to release (actually leaked by Bobby Bones) is a rap remix of “River Bank” with Colt Ford. Yes, ladies and gentlemen this is not a joke. Paisley has now teamed up with Colt Ford of all people on a “country” song. He went from singing with the likes of country royalty to the bottom of the barrel in his desperate attempt to remain relevant. I’m not going to put the video of that remix in this article because unlike Paisley I appreciate my readers. If you insist on hearing it, just click the link above.

I know critics of my sentiments will counter with statements such as: “He’s evolving country music. Nobody listens to old country anymore.” “The music he’s making now is appealing to the fans.” “Have an open mind.” I’ll address each one of these statements. First, he isn’t evolving country music. EDM and rap collaborations are not evolving the genre, but rather mainstream country’s desperate attempt at popularity. Country may be the most popular genre right now, but it’s only temporary. It’s a passing fad. The bubble is going to burst eventually, so this is really hurting country long-term. You know who’s evolving country music? Sturgill Simpson on his latest album. His music on Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is steeped in the roots and traditions of country music, yet have a modern sound too. Zac Brown Band collaborated with Dave Grohl on their latest EP. The single from that EP, “All Alright,” is doing good on radio. The marriage of Brown’s sound and Grohl’s sound make great music that feels fresh, yet still country. And Old Crow Medicine Show is proof you don’t even have to evolve your sound to make great country music.

The music he’s making now is not appealing to the actual country music fans. What fans is he appealing to with his latest single and album? The fad fans. These are the fans that simply hop from one fad to the next. Five years ago these people never even bothered with country music. They’re only interested now because it’s the most popular music to listen to right now. They listen to this music for the social status (or they want to f*ck the artist singing the song), not because they truly love it. How else do you explain the popularity of such shitty music? These are the types of people who couldn’t name you one George Jones song, but could recite every song on the latest Luke Bryan album. In a few years these people won’t give a shit about country music and yet these are the people Paisley is appealing to with his latest music. I’ll still be listening to country music though. And as far as having an open mind? Look at Country Perspective’s Top Songs of 2014 so far. There’s plenty of variety. I assure you my mind is open to all forms of country music.

What’s the point of this long rant? Paisley cares more about the almighty dollar and fame than he does his loyal fans and making quality music. Once he saw his stature slipping he ran towards the open arms of Nashville executives and their dirty trends. Why does he even wear a cowboy hat still? He should just throw those in the garbage and borrow some of Luke Bryan’s ball caps. Then put it on backwards, get some dark sunglasses and start shaking his moneymaker at all of his concerts. He clearly doesn’t care about his legacy or reputation anymore. I’m not even that angry at Paisley. I’m just disappointed. He once made great country music and now he’s lowering himself to everyone else’s standards. Enjoy your temporary fans, Brad. This longtime fan is turning your music off.

The Worst Country Albums of 2014 (So Far)

Niemann Review

After covering the best of country music in 2014 last week, I’m now going to take a look at the opposite side of the spectrum. That’s right I’m going to take a look at the worst of country music in 2014. It’s going to be painful, but we’re going to get through this crap together. Bad country music has been served to us in a variety of ways this year. Whether it’s the same old bro country stuff or trying to implement rap into country, we have a whole smorgasbord of awfulness to digest. At the end of the year Country Perspective will crown the Worst Country Album of the Year. Without further ado let’s hold our ears and look at the worst country albums of 2014 so far (in no particular order):

Jerrod Niemann – High Noon

This is the clear front-runner for Country Perspective’s Worst Country Album of the Year. Never before have I seen somebody “sell-out” so hard. With this album, Niemann pretty much bent over and let Music Row have its way with him. There is nothing redeeming about this album at all. I think he committed pretty much every offense to the roots of country music you possibly could in it. There’s EDM, rap, a Pitbull appearance, a Colt Ford appearance, bro country clichés and several lyrics that are offensive to any intelligent human being on this planet. The worst song on this album by far is “Donkey.” It’s an absolute abomination in every single way and perfectly sums up what Niemann has turned into. “Drink to that All Night” is one of the most annoying songs I have ever heard. What makes it so annoying is not the EDM that permeates throughout the song, but how easy it is to get it stuck in your head. Niemann pretty much admitted in a recent interview with Rolling Stone Country that he’s trying to make hit songs and not quality music. He’s also starting to show he’s getting a pretty big ego. I’m stopping now because I could go all day about the awfulness of this album.

Cole Swindell – Cole Swindell

Once upon a time Cole Swindell was selling merchandise for Luke Bryan. He got this job because he went to same fraternity as Bryan did at Georgia Southern University. And then for some reason he was given a chance to start writing bro country songs. He wrote several songs before finally co-writing the mother of all bro country songs, Florida Georgia Line’s smash hit “This is How We Roll.” This led to him getting signed by Warner Music Nashville and releasing his self-titled album debut. Swindell is basically a Luke Bryan clone. He uses his looks and clichéd bro country songs to wow girls across the country. What’s scary about Swindell is I think this isn’t even close to the worst music he’s surely capable of making. This entire album is full of boring, generic lyrics that have been recycled so many times on country radio. While this album is truly awful, I don’t think it will even make my end of the year list for Worst Country Album of the Year. It’s not bombastic enough to even standout amongst the worst. But I predict his next album will be.

Eric Church – The Outsiders

Out of all my choices for worst country album of the year, this is probably my most polarizing choice. Let me say that I have enjoyed some of Church’s music in the past. I thought the albums Carolina and Chief were solid all the way through. Before I discovered the worlds of independent country music and Texas country music, I thought Church was one of the best in country music. But then Church started to slowly get a bigger and bigger ego over the last few years. Trigger over at Saving Country Music summed this up pretty well last week. He already annoyed me with his insistence on having an “outlaw” image, which I find hilarious because Church is one of the last people I think of when I hear the word outlaw. Now in his latest interview he had with Rolling Stone Country, he pretty much says that he’s the father of bro country. Look at the paragraph titled “On Being Forward-Thinking.” So he wants to take credit for the worst period in country music history? Okay pal. I don’t even know what to make of The Outsiders. It isn’t country music, bro country or even rock. It feels devoid of a genre. I guess Church was trying to go outside the box and instead produced the most confusing country album of the year. Whenever I hear a song off this album I just sit back and laugh because I can’t take it seriously. Some songs on the album are well-written, but have a confusing sound. Others are written poorly and have great instrumentation. The Outsiders is all over the place and is basically a giant mess.

Dan + Shay – Where It All Began

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the new Rascal Flatts. Since Gary LeVox and his band is getting too old for country fans, Music Row found these two pretty boys to take their mantle and produce bubblegum, pop country. The first time I heard “19 You + Me” on the radio I thought for sure it was Rascal Flatts (seriously I did). And then when I saw it was these two I knew exactly why they were chosen for country. These guys will make the ladies go nuts over them and find their music to be deep and romantic. And sure enough that is the case. Dan + Shay is a clean and polished version of Florida Georgia Line. While I don’t hate them as much as Florida Georgia Line, Dan + Shay still make me turn the radio dial because their music stinks of corporate influence (all about the demographics!). And what is with their obsession with the “+” sign? Is this part of their branding? Where It All Began is among the worst country albums for now, but this will probably fall off the list by the end of the year because at least Dan + Shay don’t use EDM or rap in their music.

Big Smo – Kuntry Livin’

Speaking of country rap, let’s talk about Big Smo and his latest album. It appears Colt Ford now has some company in the country rap arena. As I’ve stated on this site, there is absolutely zero room for rap in country music. Nobody has ever made a great country rap song, in my opinion. The genres simply do not blend well together, no matter how hard Nashville tries to make it happen. I tried my best to have an open mind to this sub-genre a few years ago when “Dirt Road Anthem” was a huge hit. I tried my hardest to like this type of music and I just can’t like it. I can enjoy regular hip-hop music, but throw it in with country and I want to barf. There have been several country rap albums released this year, but the reason I single out this album is because it has the most potential to impact the rest of mainstream country music. In case you haven’t been watching TV for the past few weeks, there have been several commercials for Big Smo’s new show on A&E. Kuntry Livin’ is being promoted heavily by Walmart. This is country rap’s biggest chance at making inroads to mainstream country music. I got a few songs into this album and gave up. To me it’s just hot noise. Darius Rucker, who is attempting to ride off his success of “Wagon Wheel” forever, makes an appearance on the album. He doesn’t help it. If this album has a lot of success, it will give Jerrod Niemann and High Noon a run for its money for Country Perspective’s Worst Country Album of the Year.

Come back later this week for Country Perspective’s Worst Country Songs of 2014. It’s a long list…