Worst Country Artist 2016 Tournament: Vote on Pop Artists Region!

Sam Hunt Destroying Country Music

Welcome to the first round of voting in Country Perspective’s 2016 Worst Country Artist Tournament. We start off with the Pop Artists Region. Remember that you have until Thursday 1 PM ET to vote, so get your votes in! If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below.

Polls are now closed! Stay tuned for the updated bracket and details on the round of 16 voting!

 

 

 

 

Country Perspective’s 2015 Worst Song of the Year Nominees

Sam Hunt Destroying Country Music

One of the biggest stories in country music this year has been the palpable influence of R&B and EDM on the genre. This has not just impacted mainstream country music, but independent country music and Texas Country to certain degrees too. The result? Some of the most godawful music I’ve ever heard in my life. Derek and myself have had the misfortune to listen to and review some pretty terrible music. Bro country may pretty much be dead, but it’s been replaced by something even worse. To give you an idea of how bad it is, “John Cougar John Deere John 3:16” and “High Class” didn’t even make the nominees list. And it’s straight bro country.

When determining the worst song of the year winner, we will take into consideration a few key aspects: stupidity of the lyrics, terribleness of the production and instrumentation, how did it affect the artist’s career (last year’s winner “Donkey” sunk Jerrod Niemann’s career), did the artist sell out and of course how uncreative it is. In other words, this song has to be legendarily bad. Last year we only had five nominees for this award, as we found it easy to pinpoint the top candidates. This year though it’s more than doubled in nominees, as there were just so many bad songs.

Derek and I will ultimately make the call on who wins, but you the readers will have a voice in this too. Be sure tell us who you think should win this dishonorable award, as your feedback will most certainly be considered. Without further ado, here are the 15 songs we fill are worthy of being considered Country Perspective’s 2015 Worst Song of the Year award winner.

Kelsea Ballerini – “Dibs”

Pop country artist Kelsea Ballerini made her arrival onto mainstream country music this year and the music hasn’t been very damn good. While her lead single “Love Me Like You Mean It” was bad enough, she managed to top it in awfulness with her second single “Dibs.” Not only is the spoken word delivery grating to the ears, but the lyrics are garbage.

Thomas Rhett Crash and Burn

Thomas Rhett – “Crash & Burn”

I’m going to get to why this song ultimately doesn’t work: Rhett himself. You give this song to Bruno Mars, take out the awkward production, replace it with Mars-like production and you have yourself a mega pop hit. I would also enjoy the hell out of it. Rhett’s version of this song is terrible because Rhett does not have the charisma and soul of Mars to pull the song off. You need a high energy singer with great chops to make this song great and Rhett simply doesn’t have that. I feel like the instrumentation swallows his voice on this song. You notice everything else on this song before Rhett’s voice. This is by design of course because the catchy beat is what will pull in gullible casual listeners. They don’t care about the fact that this song isn’t country in any way possible.

Cole Swindell Let Me See Ya Girl

Cole Swindell – “Let Me See Ya Girl”

The lyrics are a complete train wreck, cliché and stuff we’ve already heard from Swindell before numerous times. Tailgate? Check. Hot girl shaking her ass? Check. Moonlight? Check. Parking on a dirt road? Check. Name drop a southern state? Check. But wait to stay hip to the new modern themes of metropolitan/Sam Hunt trash he makes sure to mention a dance floor and a club. Clubs are apparently the new fields/river banks. The theme of the song is Swindell trying to have sex with a girl in a truck on a dirt road. How original! I was shocked to find out Dallas Davidson had no part in writing this song. This seems to fit the Davidson catalog perfectly. That’s the only surprise of this song.

Eli Young Band – “Turn It On”

Right away you can tell this is just another pop country, minus the country, party song that caters to radio. The opening lyrics indicate it’s a guy in a bar or club talking it up with a girl and of course trying to get lucky. It’s yet another hookup song. Also it’s under neon lights because that’s supposed to make this song hip and cool. The instrumentation in this song is your generic, adult-contemporary sound with the nothing special guitar lyrics. In other words, same shit different song. The chorus of this song is an annoying ear worm meant to get stuck in your head and drive you nuts. Not in a good way either.

RaeLynn – “For A Boy”

All I know is this is another song where RaeLynn suggests the girl should let the boy be in control and dictate the relationship. This type of song has not only been done to death by country music, but by RaeLynn herself. She can’t sing a song about anything else other than boys? Is it impossible for her to dig deep and sing something with depth? So far, based on her library of songs released, the answer to both is yes. The only thing I can say I liked about this song was the banjo, but it was pretty much buried throughout the song in favor of heavy pop influences and instrument machines. RaeLynn’s twang in her voice when she sings is still as thick as peanut butter and drags the quality of her music down even further. I mean it’s bad enough the lyrics are uninspiring and terrible, but her over-twanged voice just makes the song even worse.

Luke Bryan Kick The Dust Up

Luke Bryan – “Kick The Dust Up”

This isn’t as bad as “That’s My Kind of Night,” but I don’t think even this trio of writers could pen such a terrible song that could top it. “Kick The Dust Up” is still a horrendous song that only contributes more to the gaping black-hole of creativity on country radio right now. Bryan is still churning out the same exact music he was putting out in 2013. In two years time he hasn’t changed a thing. Why? He hasn’t changed because he knows the mainstream country music fans will gobble this turd up just like the previous ones. We can blame these assholes making bro country all we want, but if fans out there keep accepting this kind of trash as music then they’re just as much to blame for country music’s problems too.

Danielle Bradbery – “Friend Zone”

“Friend Zone” is just all-around terrible and quite frankly offensive. The first offense is the most token banjo ever being thrown in at the very start. In fact this token banjo play is looped throughout the song, brainwashing gullible mainstream country fans into thinking this song is country when it’s anything but country. The song is really a pop rock anthem that panders to country radio, in a desperate attempt to make Bradbery relevant. The theme of the song is about a girl lecturing a boy on not pursuing a girl properly and as a result he’s going to be stuck in the “friend zone.” While this is meant to come off as witty and playful, to my ears it comes off as bitchy, preachy and annoying. How is this song meant to be enjoyable?

Michael Ray – “Kiss You In The Morning”

They promised it was going away! This shit is old and no one is amused anymore. Bro country is like a damn cockroach. You think you’ve killed it but this bug continues to slither along. The chorus for this song is even worse. Wanna take a guess what the main theme is? If your answer is kissing, you’re correct. It doesn’t exactly take a Rhodes scholar to figure it out. But it’s not just kissing! It’s about kissing all over the place. From the moonlight to a red light to neon light to the morning, there’s kissing. How creative! Even Richard Dawson thinks this is overkill in the kissing department. You know what’s sad though? Those aren’t even the worst parts of the song. No, the worst part and also most laughable comes after the first chorus. It’s when Ray utters the line: “Oh you little outlaw.” Hahahahahaha! Wait I’m not done yet. Hahahaha!

Old Dominion

Old Dominion – “Break Up With Him”

It starts out with the spoken word, pseudo rap bullshit that Sam Hunt started to use in all of his songs and is now spreading like wildfire through country music (hello Jake Owen and Keith Urban). It’s annoying and adds nothing to the music. Why people get amusement out of this is beyond my comprehension. The song itself is about a man who’s drunk and calls up a girl he likes. Then he proceeds to tell her that she needs to break up with her current boyfriend and hook up with him. Say what? Basically this guy is whining and advocating for a girl to break up with her boyfriend, who is never mentioned to have done anything wrong throughout the song. This guy is such a whiny douche that he thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to break up a relationship, which by all indications is going fine, for his own gain. Could you find a clearer definition of an asshole than this guy?

Luke Bryan – “Strip It Down”

This is basically Bryan’s version of Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down.” For a song that’s supposed to be sexy, Bryan sure sounds serious. And who the hell finds this crap to be sexy? All I picture is a 40 year-old Bryan lurching at a 16 year-old girl across the bar thinking she’s 18. The definition of creepy! Also this isn’t country at all.

ZBB Jekyll + Hyde

Zac Brown Band – “Beautiful Drug”

Then Jekyll + Hyde finally arrived to our mailboxes and we ripped off the plastic wrap as quick as we could for an album we all anticipated to be great. The first track on the album? The song Zac Brown predicted to be a crossover hit, “Beautiful Drug.” And then it happened. The moment Zac Brown Band took the metaphorical knife and stabbed it in our backs. Of course we didn’t recognize it yet, as the faith was still there, despite it being reduced. My ears didn’t know what to think. The rest of the album was rocky too. It took several listens for the anger and realization to sit in: Zac Brown Band cut an EDM song and blatantly led the album off with it. Betrayal and disappointment immediately came to mind.

 

Sam Hunt – “Break Up In A Small Town”

Is this a country song? Fuck no. “But hey he’s singing about a small town! That counts right?” No, it does not gullible bro country fan. I’m sick and tired of hearing about small towns in “country” songs. “Break Up In A Small Town” features spoken word in the whole first minute of the song. When Hunt is “singing,” it’s borderline rapping (shitty rapping I may add). There are also synths and electric beats that are laden throughout this song too. I just can’t anymore. Fuck this song.

Florida Georgia Line – “Sippin’ On Fire”

These two had a relatively quiet year, but they still managed to put out a terrible enough single to make the list. It’s a shame “Sun Daze” was released officially in 2014, otherwise it might have won. But “Sippin’ On Fire” is pretty bad too.

“Sippin’ On Fire” is about drinking Fireball, but that’s name-dropped in every Florida Georgia Line song. At this point it’s just getting boring. I guess this song is supposed to be a slower song, but to me it’s just another bad song.

Jason Aldean – “Gonna Know We Were Here”

Aldean breaks out the sexual innuendos on “Gonna Know We Were Here.” There’s a lyric that mentions “make a few marks, leave a few stains.” This doubles as a reference to driving around in a car and sex because I’m pretty sure cars don’t leave stains. Ugh. This song feels like a trashy Brantley Gilbert song, which really sums up this entire album. Aldean becomes Gilbert and behind the overproduced instrumentation are shallow and boring lyrics.

And finally a song we didn’t review, but we certainly would have been remiss to leave off the nominees list…

Haley Georgia – “Ridiculous”

Remember this pile of shit of a song? It was so damn bad that Derek and myself refused to review it. Haley Georgia makes RaeLynn sound better by comparison, which is truly impression. While it never made the impression her camp had hopes of making on radio and mainstream country, it’s hard to forget a horrendous song like this one. And despite not getting a review, it could end up easily winning our 2015 Worst Song of the Year award.

That’s your nominees! Tell us who you think should win below. 

The Hodgepodge: Mainstream Country’s Lack of Artistic Integrity

hodgepodge

More and more every day, country music finds another artist to release a pop song to pass off as the next country hit. Honestly, ever since the official departure of Taylor Swift from country into pop, it seems that mainstream country is simply trying to chase after her in their own world. Curiously, it’s the pop world that seems to find women with sustainable music careers with the likes of Katy Perry, Nikki Minaj, and Swift herself releasing hit after hit. Whereas in country music, it’s the male acts who have that same sustainability.

Seemingly, in order to fight the controversy of TomatoGate and compete with the pop world, country music has severely tainted itself by turning towards pop music. While the slew of EDM-inspired music from acts like Sam Hunt, Chase Rice, Luke Bryan, etc. can’t be ignored, it seems to be the female acts and female led groups who most notably deliver pop songs in the shadow of stars like Perry, Minaj and Swift.

It was Danielle Bradbery’s newest single, “Friend Zone” that fueled this post. In the comments below the review, a conversation began of who’s to blame for a country act churning out a single like this. To some extent, I believe labels, executives, and producers need to be held accountable. Music is a business, and a business first when it comes to Music Row in Nashville. As evidenced by the bro-country onslaught and recent pop garbage, mainstream label executives are chasing the dollar signs. And that means molding singers into whatever style allows for the biggest audience.

Now I don’t know how songs on music shows like The Voice are selected, but look at some of the titles Danielle Bradbery sang while on the show: “Wasted” (Carrie Underwood), “Maybe It Was Memphis” (Pam Tillis), “Heads Carolina, Tails California” (Jo Dee Messina), and “Born To Fly” (Sara Evans). Now if you listen to those songs in comparison with Bradbery’s first singles of “Heart of Dixie” or “Young In America” you’ll hear a common theme of pop country that still sounds very much country. If I had to guess, I’d say this is the kind of music Bradbery would prefer to sing, especially if she was allowed to choose said songs while competing. This sort of pop country mold is where I think her musical wheelhouse resides and where she shines as a singer. And I think the only reason we’re seeing the terrible pop song “Friend Zone” is due to the fact that she was strongly encouraged by Big Machine to be more appealing to younger pop fans.

And if we move further and look at the musical arcs of The Band Perry and Dustin Lynch, we can see similar shifts. From the folky self-titled debut album with songs like “If I Die Young” and “Postcard from Paris” to singles like “DONE!” “Chainsaw” and now “Live Forever”, The Band Perry are all over the place musically. We’ve talked about evolution a lot this year, and there’s no natural evolution of The Band Perry’s sound from their first album to the second, to now. My theory is that they were pushed to make a more pop rock type album for Pioneer, and now they’ve essentially been molded to be a crossover act with “Live Forever.” And Dustin Lynch has moved from the excellent pure country sound of “Cowboys and Angels” to bro-country and R&B inspired songs. A recent interview even reveals Lynch’s admiration for Luke Bryan’s career and how Lynch would like to emulate that with his own music.

All this begs the question of do these acts have any artistic say in these decisions and directions? Does Danielle Bradbery really, truly want to be the “female Thomas Rhett” or does she want to release music that carries the spirit of Dixie? Does Dustin Lynch want to be a pretty boy pop singer in a cowboy hat, or want to sing country songs like his lead single or album cuts like “She Wants A Cowboy”?

One theory proposed in the “Friend Zone” comments suggests that these younger singers simply don’t know who they are and who they want to be. And I think that has some traction. But I think Bradbery, Lynch, and The Band Perry all know what they want: to be famous, successful singers and musical acts. However, the way they’re accomplishing that life mission is through a willingness to sing whatever their label suggests they sing. There’s no artistic integrity to the music; they’re just singing whatever will bring in the money, even if that means releasing a new album that’s a 180 degree difference from the one before it. Music is a business first, and these are just some examples of the puppets that help labels become successful businesses.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

Today in Country Music History

  • Merle Haggard’s Mama Tried is released in 1968.
  • In 1995, Littlefield, Texas celebrates Waylon Jennings Day with Johnny Cash joining Jennings in concert during the day.
  • Faith Hill has the number one country song on Billboard with “Mississippi Girl” in 2005.

Today’s Country Music history facts come courtesy of RolandNote.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Gone Country” by Alan Jackson. I love this Alan Jackson song; it’s one of my favorites from him. The song almost acts a critique of how everyone wants to come to country music because that’s where the money is. Funny, this song was released 21 years ago and is still relevant today. “The whole world’s gone country”….. most in name only, though. Perhaps the best thing about this song, though, was Jackson’s performance of the song on the ACMs as a protest to singing along to pre-recorded tracks. Keep your eye on the drummer in the video above.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


T. Hardy Morris Hardy & The Hardknocks: Drownin on a Mountaintop. This is one of the more interesting albums I’ve heard this year. Farce the Music tweeted about this album and described it as “grunge country” which seems to be the most fitting description. There is some undeniable country influence in a few of the songs, with a steel guitar being a prominent instrument throughout the album. Most of the album, though, sounds like hard rock with a steel guitar. However you decided to look at it, it’s an entertaining album to listen to with some unique production you won’t find in many other artists.

Tweet of the Week

I think this has been mentioned numerous times on the site, but hits and #1s are not the only way success can be achieved. There are many ways singers can be successful without having a radio hit. I think if a singer follows the assumption that #1s is the only way to be successful, than that singer has missed the point of music entirely.

An iTunes Review That Makes Me Shake My Head

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 2.51.52 PM

This was left under Thomas Rhett’s Tangled Up. While “Crash and Burn” and “Vacation” are the only songs available for download from iTunes currently, reviews and comments are already swarming in. Apparently Thomas Rhett’s music is magical and evokes a lot of emotion to this listener and reviewer. Therefore, we must be open-minded about what country music is because the music of “Vacation” and “Crash and Burn” is magical (the absurdity of that felt necessary to repeat). But I disagree with this reviewer, so that must mean I’m a hater.

Review – Danielle Bradbery’s “Friend Zone” Is A New Level of Suck

Danielle Bradbery Friend Zone

Mainstream country music in 2015 continues to amaze me. And not in a good way. Throughout this year we’ve had a variety of terrible new songs from mainstream country artists and there appears to be no end in sight. The newest monstrosity to rear its ugly head is the new single from Danielle Bradbery, “Friend Zone.” Bradbery of course won season four of The Voice, a show that promises to make new stars. What the show really does is boost sales for its most popular judges Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, while also creating a bunch of forgettable C-list and D-list country artists. These artists are simply filling space and time for labels and radio stations. Bradbery is one of these filler artists. Is she a bad singer? No, she’s actually good. The problem is her music is forgettable and disposable in the whole spectrum of things. I had no plans to review Bradberry’s new single, but then I heard how awful it was and you know how I can’t resist providing commentary on a train wreck.

“Friend Zone” is just all-around terrible and quite frankly offensive. The first offense is the most token banjo ever being thrown in at the very start. In fact this token banjo play is looped throughout the song, brainwashing gullible mainstream country fans into thinking this song is country when it’s anything but country. The song is really a pop rock anthem that panders to country radio, in a desperate attempt to make Bradbery relevant. The theme of the song is about a girl lecturing a boy on not pursuing a girl properly and as a result he’s going to be stuck in the “friend zone.” While this is meant to come off as witty and playful, to my ears it comes off as bitchy, preachy and annoying. How is this song meant to be enjoyable? But the absolute worst part of this song is the chorus:

Let me break it down to the facts
You will never get a girl like that
You gotta step up to the plate with a bat
That’s all I gotta say about that

There are multiple problems with this part of the song. Bradbery’s delivery of the lyrics is done in a Iggy Azalea-like fashion because you know country has to rip off old pop music to be “cool” and “hip.” Seriously I thought there was going to be an interlude of “Fancy” at some point in the song. So they completely misuse a talented singer like Bradbery by making her stoop down to Azalea’s level. Then there’s the line about stepping up to the plate with a bat. At best this is a clunky attempt at pandering to male listeners because it’s a sports reference. At worst this is a faux pas that shouldn’t be uttered in a song about trying to date a girl because the idea of a male with a bat and trying to get a girl’s attention leads to domestic assault like imagery. On top of that the song appears to be going for a trap like sound with the guitar play in the chorus.

I think you get the picture with “Friend Zone.” It’s a terrible song that stinks in any format you put it in. The more I listened to it, the more I got angry. Keep in mind, Bradbery is part of Big Machine Label Group, who appear to be the most egregious offenders of mainstream country music this year. Bradbery is just another artist along for the ride. I’m sure some people will defend Bradbery for this song and say she needed to make it so she could stay with the label and make her own music later, but I’m not going along with this anymore. These artists have a voice and if they’re uncomfortable with it, they need to say so. Going along with it means you’re fine with it and that opens you to criticism from reviewers like me. You can add “Friend Zone” to Country Perspective’s Zero Zone, making it another candidate for Country Perspective’s Worst Song of the Year.

Grade: 0/10

The Hodgepodge: One Year Writing for Country Perspective

It was late July 2014 when, while browsing the internet and looking at various country music reviews, I stumbled upon a website called Country Perspective. For the life of me, I can’t remember how I found the site, but I’m glad I did. Because a couple of weeks later, Josh posted an announcement that he was looking for another writer to join the site. After giving it some thought on if I wanted to devote the time and make a long-term commitment (assuming I’d be accepted), I reached out and expressed my interest in joining. The rest, they say, is history.

I’ve always had an affinity for writing. In college I began writing screenplays and ended up writing three feature length screenplays along with some short films. Also included with that were two blogs which had short lives and a personal website that acted more like an online resume more than a blog, but I’d do an occasional movie review or something along those lines on the site. I’m not a full-time writer, but having it as a hobby/part-time side gig is awesome.

My first article published on Country Perspective was a call-out to mainstream country about bringing women back to the forefront. Taylor Swift had recently announced her move to pop, and it left a gaping hole in country music, and I offered up 5 options (aside from Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Kacey Musgraves) on who could fill that gap. One year and 2 days and 91 posts later, I’m still here and not ready to leave anytime soon.

As a writer and reviewer, I like to think I’ve grown and improved over the past year. I quickly learned that to write a thorough album review, I’d have to shut the rest of the world off for 45 minutes and simply listen and take notes. And the more I listened and reviewed and read others’ reviews, the more I was able to pick up on. The production and instrumentation were probably my weakest area on figuring out what nuances and qualities of the production compliment the lyrics well. Drawing out the stories and subtext from lyrics took a little work, but it’s honestly one of my favorite parts of listening to music and reviewing it, figuring out the story and sharing it. One of my most favorite reviews I’ve written was for Diamondwolf’s Your Time Has Come. The depth and complexity of the lyrics in some of the songs made the review fun to write.  Also, as a writer, I felt challenged to improve my writing, especially in that review, in order to articulate my thoughts on the album accurately.

I’ll keep this short because I don’t like the prattle on about myself, but I enjoy being a part of Country Perspective. I’ve seen the site grow in readers and in the respect we have among other writers and blog runners. While I can’t take any credit for the creation of our hit features like The Pulse, The Hodgepodge and the podcast, I’m proud to be a partner and contributor to a site that’s become a staple to many of you who come looking for country music coverage beyond the mainstream. I’ve had a lot of fun interacting with artists, fellow bloggers, and readers.

Here’s to another year, and a better year (because there’s always room for improvement) at Country Perspective!

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Tomorrow, the long-awaited debut album from Maddie and Tae will be released. Start Here is streaming on NPR if you want to listen to it early.
  • As announced last week, Carrie Underwood will release her next studio album, Storyteller, on October 23rd.
  • The Josh Abbott Band will release their fourth studio album in November. Front Row Seat is described by Abbott as a concept album and an honest look at the singer’s divorce. The album’s lead single is called “Amnesia”.
  • Michael Ray has announced his next single will be “Real Men Love Jesus.”
  • Danielle Bradbery’s next single will be called “Friend Zone.”
  • The Voice winner and country music singer, Jake Worthington, will release his debut EP this October.

Today in Country Music History

  • In 1974, Charley Pride records the Johnny Duncan-penned “I Ain’t All Bad.”
  • The Dixie Chicks’ album, Home, is released in 2002.
  • In 2005, CMT released a list of the “20 Greatest City Songs” with Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee” coming in at number 1.

Today’s Country Music history facts come courtesy of RolandNote.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter. This is one of country’s most famous duets, and for a good reason. From John’s deep baritone to June’s higher register, their voices complement one another perfectly. Sit back and enjoy this Opry performance of “Jackson” from 1968.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


Andy Grammer’s Self Titled Debut. Last week, I had the chance to see a free concert from Andy Grammer. The only song I knew from Grammer before the show was “Honey, I’m Good”, which I still think is an obnoxious song. I was pleasantly surprised by the rest of his music and quite frankly, Grammer’s a good entertainer on stage. He can beat box well, can play a variety of instruments, and sings nicely live. It was a good show. So his debut album, the one without “Honey, I’m Good,” is my non-country suggestion for this week.

Tweet of the Week

And all the people said, “Amen!”

Two iTunes Reviews That Made Me Laugh

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These were both left under The Band Perry’s “Live Forever.” Based on sales and early response, The Band Perry pop experiment doesn’t appear to be working as well as some may have hoped. These two people weren’t fooled at all.