Reacting to The Absolute Joke of the 2017 ACM Awards Nominations

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Let’s be honest, I’ve never been that fond of country music award shows. Outside of the 2015 CMA Awards that helped launch Chris Stapleton to a brand new level of stardom, I’ve pretty much scoffed at these shows. As I’ve said before, no other genre spends more time patting themselves on the back than country music. This is evident by the heaps of award shows held throughout the year and this trains the viewer to basically not give a shit. But nevertheless we keep an eye on these shows in hopes they get it more right each time. Well we now have the nominations for the 2017 ACM Awards and there’s no other way to put it. These are an absolute joke. My first reaction was are these the mainstream country radio awards? Because it’s mostly a list of radio darlings that programmers fall over themselves to play. After seeing these nominations it makes me not want to watch and may not. Each category seems to have its own joke, so let’s pick through each.

Entertainer of the Year

  • Jason Aldean
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban

No Eric Church or Chris Stapleton, but sure Aldean and Florida Georgia Line get nominations. Complete failure already before we even get to the more insane nominations. I know the ACMs are in the tank for Aldean, but could they be any less discreet about it? The only nomination even worthy of winning is Carrie Underwood for her excellent touring numbers and consistently churning out hits and I give her a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. Aldean and Bryan are the odds on favorites here.

Male Vocalist

  • Jason Aldean
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Keith Urban

Once again Eric Church isn’t a nomination. Church released the best album of his career and is releasing the best singles of his career. And every awards show is stiffing him. I guess the industry is pissed he isn’t giving them radio fodder anymore. But I’m guessing Church doesn’t give a shit. Another category with one worthy candidate in my mind: Chris Stapleton. Remember when Dierks Bentley was considered one of the good guys at these shows? Then he decided he wants to be Luke Bryan and make a bunch of cheesy and stiff adult contemporary schlock. No Tim McGraw. Also no Blake Shelton in any categories. Well there’s some good news.

Female Vocalist

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Maren Morris
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood

I don’t know why Kacey continues to go to these awards show when she and everyone else knows she’s just a token nomination to fill out the field. What did she do in 2016 to earn a nomination? She didn’t release any new music. And keep in mind this isn’t a jab at her. She’s one of the best on a major country label. You would think Miranda is the shoe-in to win, but with her turn towards a more songwriter/Americana-like side I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Maren Morris wins. She seems poised to usurp Lambert as the new female darling in mainstream country and is racking up awards like crazy.

Vocal Duo

  • Big & Rich
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae

Big & Rich are a Vocal Duo nomination in 2017…..hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! They released one single last year that took like 40 weeks to peak at #14 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. They’re completely irrelevant. What in the hell makes them deserving of a nomination? Maddie & Tae are a complete token nomination like Musgraves above. I don’t see Dan + Shay being quite in the position to win yet. So it’s between CMA 2016 Duo of the Year Brothers Osborne and past years favorite Florida Georgia Line. I’m hopeful the former wins, but being a radio favorites show I expect the latter to win.

Vocal Group

  • Eli Young Band
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Old Dominion
  • Rascal Flatts

Eli Young Band?! Where are they getting these joke ideas for nominations? You’re telling me Eli Young Band is a nomination, but not Zac Brown Band who at least had a song reach the top 15 in the last year and are a mainstream staple? Get out of here! Lady Antebellum was on hiatus for all of 2016. Rascal Flatts are irrelevant. Yet despite this joke of a category, the best group Little Big Town should easily walk away with this award.

New Male

  • Kane Brown
  • Chris Janson
  • Chris Lane
  • Jon Pardi
  • Brett Young

Out of all the categories, this actually might be the one I have the least qualms with because these are all new male artists who have did something notable in the last year. Despite not being a fan of him, Kane Brown is deserving based on the fact that he does sell well and has great streaming numbers. While you and me might not like him, there are many he does resonate with and it’s ironic he’s one of the few nominations where the ACM looked beyond radio. Hands down this should go to Jon Pardi, who achieved a #1 album with California Sunrise, racked up a #1 hit in “Head Over Boots” and is on his way to another #1 in “Dirt on My Boots.” And I think it actually does go to him because his accomplishments blow the others out of the water. If anyone else wins I’m calling shenanigans.

New Female

  • Lauren Alaina
  • Cam
  • Brandy Clark
  • Maren Morris

That’s right they couldn’t even fill out the nominations for this one. Hey ACMs: Margo Price and Aubrie Sellers. Did you forget they exist? How is Brandy Clark new? This is just another award for them to give Maren.

New Vocal Duo/Group

  • A Thousand Horses
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • LoCash
  • Maddie & Tae

None of these are really new, but then again barely anything else makes sense with these awards. I’m guessing Brothers Osborne or Dan + Shay win here.

Album

  • Dierks Bentley – Black
  • Florida Georgia Line – Dig Your Roots
  • Maren Morris – Hero
  • Keith Urban – Ripcord
  • Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings

This should 1000% go to Miranda Lambert for her great album. But it’ll probably go to Urban or Morris or maybe even Bentley. You could take the best material from all of the non-Lambert ones, put it in one album and it still wouldn’t top Lambert’s album.

Single

  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Maren Morris – “My Church”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

Key distinction is this is single. I’m kind of surprised Thomas Rhett’s “Die A Happy Man” isn’t here, but rather under Song below. I don’t give Lambert a chance here either sadly. I could see any of the other four winning.

Song

  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
  • Thomas Rhett – “Die A Happy Man”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Tennessee Whiskey”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

I would be happy with any of the bottom four winning, but watch one of the top two win. If I had to pick the winner I would definitely go with “Kill A Word,” being the best song of the nominations and for Church getting screwed over in general.

Video

  • Chris Stapleton – “Fire Away”
  • Various Artists – “Forever Country”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

With all due respect to the other videos, “Fire Away” is the no-brainer best video. It’s one of the powerful music videos I’ve watched in years and takes the song to a whole new level of meaning. Instead though “Forever Country” will probably win because it’s done insane numbers on YouTube and sold well (also great numbers on this very blog). The only hesitation I have of it winning is this song was specifically made for the ACM’s chief rival show CMA’s 50th Anniversary. How ironic would that be if it won an ACM Award?

Songwriter

  • Ashley Gorley
  • Luke Laird
  • Hillary Lindsey
  • Shane McAnally
  • Lori McKenna

McKenna has to win this one, right?

Vocal Event 

  • Dierks Bentley (feat. Elle King) – “Different For Girls”
  • Various Artists – “Forever Country”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All”
  • P!nk (feat. Kenny Chesney) – “Setting The World on Fire”
  • Chris Young (feat. Cassadee Pope) – “Think of You”

I could see a case made for any of these conceivably winning. I think this will largely depend on the other categories’ winners.

The Hodgepodge: Your Favorite Artist Doesn’t Owe You Anything

The best and probably the worst thing about the internet and social media is the constant contact and potential interaction fans can have with their favorite artist. Many artists will do Q&As on social media or respond to other kinds of tweets at any time. The ability to connect with your favorite artists is awesome, and one of my favorite things about using Twitter. When abused though, that same ability can become the worst thing.

Personally, one of my pet peeves about Twitter are those who randomly ask their favorite singer, movie star, or athlete for a retweet. What does that accomplish when you beg someone to retweet your message begging them for a retweet? But that’s just the beginning, as you’ll see fans beg for meet & greets at concerts, autographs, or even concert tickets through tweets and Facebook posts.

Farce the Music noted this frequently popping up on Kane Brown’s Facebook page. This is also something I’ve noticed on Facebook with a couple of artists I follow. The biggest offenders I see on my Facebook (because I don’t follow a lot of mainstream acts) are Cross Canadian Ragweed fans on Cody Canada’s page who haven’t moved on from the fact that Ragweed is a band of the past. There are those who complain about a certain Ragweed song not being played at a Departed concert or pester Canada constantly about a band reunion. I can only imagine how obnoxious that must be to the singer.

But looking at mainstream pages of Kane Brown, Cole Swindell, or Luke Bryan, you see fans desperately beg those artists for any little recognition or perk simply because they’re fans with a sob story. This happens to the point where some people actually choose to publicly share their phone numbers with the hopes that the artist will call them back.

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Screen Shot from a post on Cole Swindell’s official Facebook page

 

 

 

Other fans beg for perks from the artist simply because they’ve recently lost a relative or friend.

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Screen Shot from a post on Luke Bryan’s official Facebook Page

 

 

 

 

 

These sorts of actions further add to the notion of how entitled music fans feel about their access to music and/or artists. Josh wrote last year about fans who believed they should be paid to listen to an artists’ album. Singers don’t owe anything extra to the fans than simply providing music for you to enjoy. If your favorite singer doesn’t want to do a free meet and greet, or sign autographs, they don’t have to. All that’s really expected is that the singer puts out an album you like and performs a concert you enjoy. Outside of that, there’s nothing you as a fan are entitled to.

Now, phrased in the right way, I think there are respectable ways of asking for that sort of information. “Will there be an opportunity for meet and greet after the show?” To me, that seems like a good way to learn that information without seeming pushy or greedy. But those who say “you should do ‘x’ or ‘y’ because I’ve experience ‘z'” are the entitled fans who try too hard. Singers are people too, and they’re allowed to run their tour in any way they choose.

Don’t be the entitled fan begging on social media. Respect your favorite artists and don’t expect anything that’s not promised by the concert ticket you purchase.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Miranda Lambert will reveal a new single, “Vice,” off her upcoming album.
  • David Nail’s Fighter will be released tomorrow.
  • Also released tomorrow is Big Shoals’ Hard Lessons and Confederate Railroad’s Lucky to be Alive.
  • At the end of the month, Lori McKenna will release The Bird & the Rifle.
  • Hillary Scott will release Love Remains on July 29.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Bubba Shot the Jukebox” by Mark Chesnutt. When I was about 8 years old, a country cover artist at the local county fair brought me and my cousins up on stage to help him sing this song. All I really did was fold my hand like a pistol whenever he sang, “Bubba shot the jukebox,” but it’s a fun memory, and this song is special to me for that reason. So in honor of Mark Chesnutt’s release of his new album, this 1992 single is my throwback song.

Non-Country Song of the Week

“S.I.D.” by Rainsford Rainey Qualley, who released a pop-country EP featuring “Me and Johnny Cash” has released a full-fledged pop single under her name Rainsford. Not a bad pop single, and I appreciate the fact that she’s released the song under a different name from her country persona.

Tweet of the Week

As Pokemon Go continues to take over the world, I like the idea of song parodies!

A Mark Chesnutt iTunes Review

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I’d say some kids today understand good country music like Chesnutt, but I pretty much agree with this review. You’ll soon see our review for Tradition Lives.

Country Perspective’s Worst Country Artist Rankings [Summer Update]

Earlier this year Country Perspective launched the first ever Worst Country Artist Tournament on the blog and it was a smashing success. There was tons of engagement from you the readers, who seemed to enjoy it quite a bit yourselves. We had some upsets, some good discussions and a run-in from Blake Shelton fans. At the end of it all Sam Hunt was crowned the winner of the tournament and declared Country Perspective’s 2016 Worst Country Artist. The second annual tournament won’t be until next year, but until then I thought we could keep the fun going by having some occasional bracketology updates if you will.

Every few months or so I’ll rank the 32 artists who would make the tournament if it was held at this moment, along with who’s in and who’s out. The methodology for choosing the tournament is the same, but with a few added considerations. Your feedback in regards to seeding and the results of the tournament this year are also factored in, along with a little bit greater emphasis on what the artist has done as of late. So if an artist has released a bad album or single lately, it’s going to affect their standing. Same as if they would release something good. So without further ado here would be the current field and seeding as of this moment, with their previous seeding in the tournament in parenthesis.

  1. Sam Hunt
  2. Thomas Rhett
  3. Cole Swindell (#6)
  4. Old Dominion (#5)
  5. Florida Georgia Line (#4)
  6. Kane Brown (#9)
  7. Luke Bryan (#3)
  8. Chase Rice (#10)
  9. Keith Urban (NR)
  10. LoCash (#13)
  11. Dustin Lynch (#14)
  12. Blake Shelton (#15)
  13. Granger Smith (#27)
  14. Kelsea Ballerini (#8)
  15. Brett Eldredge (NR)
  16. Randy Houser (NR)
  17. Chris Lane (#25)
  18. Rascal Flatts (#21)
  19. Jake Owen (NR)
  20. Jason Aldean (#11)
  21. Chase Bryant (NR)
  22. Canaan Smith (NR)
  23. RaeLynn (#16)
  24. Dan + Shay (#12)
  25. Brantley Gilbert (#7)
  26. Jana Kramer (NR)
  27. Joe Nichols (NR)
  28. Kenny Chesney (#19)
  29. Dierks Bentley (NR)
  30. Tyler Farr (#23)
  31. Steven Tyler (#32)
  32. Tucker Beathard (NR)

Out From Last Year: Hunter Hayes, Danielle Bradbery, The Cadillac Three, Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry (disqualified), Michael Ray, Justin Moore, Easton Corbin, Darius Rucker, Billy Currington

First Four Out: Justin Moore, Michael Ray, Clare Dunn, Drew Baldridge

Next Four Out: David Nail, Cassadee Pope, Eli Young Band, Gary Allan

Notes:

  • The top two seeds are the only ones that remain the same, despite Thomas Rhett making a great case to be #1. The only reason I barely give Hunt the top spot still is because he’s the reigning champion, currently has a bad single at radio and still the most hated amongst you the readers.
  • Cole Swindell and Old Dominion have now moved into the top four seeds, replacing Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line respectively. Swindell knocked off Bryan in the tournament and has released two bad singles this year, along with a bad album. Old Dominion’s “Snapback” is one of the worst songs of the year. Bryan just released his first not completely terrible single in a good while and the hate has seemed to fade a little for him as a result. Florida Georgia Line released the mediocre “H.O.L.Y.” Their new album is expected in August and if it’s terrible, then they could re-take Old Dominion.
  • Kane Brown and Chase Rice both move up in the standings after really strong showings in the tournament. Brown has released two terrible singles and an EP this year, while Rice has released two bad singles himself. You told me Rice was underseeded in the tournament, so here you go.
  • There are multiple new artists that enter the standings, but none higher than Keith Urban. He didn’t even make the tournament, but now he’s a #9 seed after releasing one of the worst country albums of 2016 with Ripcord. And if he releases the Pitbull song off the album to country radio, he could rise higher.
  • LoCash is under-the-radar bad, but they still crack the top ten with releasing yet another horrible single. Dustin Lynch moves up since he’s made it clear he has no interest in being a country artist or releasing quality music. Blake Shelton was upset in the first round by Justin Moore in the tournament thanks to Shelton’s obnoxious fans voting in droves. So he moves up in the seedings, aided by his mediocre singles and album.
  • Granger Smith’s big jump might surprise many of you, as he’s easy to forget. But keep in mind he’s had two bad singles recently and a terrible album in Remington released earlier this year. Kelsea Ballerini is reluctantly dropped in the standings, with “Peter Pan” not being terrible.
  • Brett Eldredge and Randy Houser enter the fold. Eldredge releases nothing but vanilla singles, while Houser released a ridiculous 18 songs long album earlier this year. Not to mention both artists seem checked out and content to churn out mediocrity.
  • Chris Lane moves up based off hate for one song that made many of you vote him deeper than I expected in the tournament. I still feel once “Fix” has had its 15 minutes, Lane will disappear. Jake Owen debuts since he seems content to churn out generic pop country. Jason Aldean takes a big drop down to #20 because he’s released one mediocre single this year and didn’t fare that well in the tournament. With a new album later in the year though, this could definitely change.
  • Both Canaan Smith and Chase Bryan debut right around where they should stall on the airplay chart after being on it for 55 weeks. RaeLynn only drops because she hasn’t released anything new this year, although I hear her new single is not bad. Dan + Shay drop despite releasing a bad album. The lead single is decent though and their peers have released worse music.
  • The biggest tumble is Brantley Gilbert, who hasn’t really done much in 2016. The only single was not outright terrible and you the readers made it clear I overseeded him in the tournament. So he drops like a rock. Jana Kramer enters the standings since she’s decided to go back to releasing terrible singles, while Joe Nichols enters because he’s clearly stopped trying with his music.
  • Kenny Chesney falls, but his new album coming soon could change this. Dierks Bentley unfortunately has done enough in 2016 to get himself into the top 32. Two horrendous singles and a sub par album are hard to ignore and it sucks to see him fall this damn low in quality. Rounding out the top 32, Tyler Farr just barely hangs in thanks to the bombing of his latest single. Steven Tyler moves up a spot by virtue of releasing one of the worst songs this year, but since it didn’t make any impact the gain is minimal. There’s always his upcoming album that could help his case. Finally, Tucker Beathard gains the last spot based on having the worst vocal performance I’ve heard in a song this year. He probably won’t last though, as “Rock On” will go recurrent soon after a mediocre run on the charts.

The Hodgepodge: Instant Gratification and Music

Sturgill

I saw comments like this last year, and I’ve seen them this year. Something like “this has been a down year for music” or “releases haven’t been as strong this year.” I think it’s funny, and somewhat frustrating, that comments like that constantly pop up after an anticipated album is released and not up to someone’s standards. I think our culture in America has become so ingrained with the idea of “instant gratification.” In sports, every great game is an instant classic or a great player or team is immediately brought into the conversation for greatest of all time. Or if someone struggles early on, they’re immediately written off. More than anything, I think technology and social media have perpetuated a desire to be first and quick: first with breaking news, first with an announcement, quickly discussing major story lines from shows like Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black.

While music fans don’t have to worry about spoilers, and musicians don’t get blasted for having an “off night” on tour, the same mentality of instant gratification still seeps into the music world. If a single or an album doesn’t wow us right away, we’re critical. We, as fans and users of technology (yes, I’m generalizing here), have become so accustomed to responding and making up our minds right away, that we judge the music we hear in the same fashion.

And just a few things to keep in mind before we dive into this: 1) this is purely from my observations reading comments left here, on other similar sites or on social media. 2) my timeframe starts in 2014, when I began writing for Country Perspective and exploring country music in-depth. 3) I’m just as guilty of this kind of thought and behavior.

The big part of instant gratification that annoys me are comments about how music released this year haven’t been as strong as last year. That could be true, that could be false. But when I see comments like that in the summer, I think it’s stupid. We have six more months of music releases to consume before we can accurately make those kinds of judgements. Sure, maybe the first half of the year hasn’t had an album blow up like Sturgill’s Metamodern (released May 2014), or Randy and Wade’s Hold My Beer (released April 2015), but that doesn’t mean 2016 won’t have an album like either of the two.

Take Chris Stapleton’s Traveller. Released in April last year, our circle of independent blogs and fans were high and mighty on Stapleton. Sure he had a slower rise, but by the time November rolled around, Chris Stapleton was a huge name in country music thanks to some CMA hardware. That’s just one example, and someone like Luke Bell probably won’t get any mainstream attention, despite a fantastic, pure country album. Sometimes it may take an album a few months for people to come around to it, or for an artist to see the benefits of fan growth. Not everyone will be an overnight success from one album release. There are a number of albums that took me multiple listens, or even several months, before I understood the hype or praise that album received. Whenever possible, I try to listen to an album multiple times before reviewing it to fully form an opinion. Judgement on art can change, and writing your opinion in stone after one listen isn’t always the best practice.

I think another mindset that plays into the notion of a weak year for albums or whatever is the desire to compare current works with past works – be it an artist’s newest album with the one before or comparing one artist’s new album with a different artist’s great album from “X” year. As a reviewer, I may compare the albums from a certain artist to highlight a growth or improvement I noticed within the artist from release to release, but I try to judge and grade an album as a piece of art independent from others. I’m sure I’m not perfect and that I’ve made that mistake a few times. However, artists who write their songs and albums, write them with their personal life influencing the songs. Just like everyone else, life happens and things change for singers and songwriters. It’s seems likely that an album released in 2013 represents what was going on in that singer/songwriter’s life at that time. And there’s a damn good chance that in 2016, that same person’s life looks completely different and will write about something different for the album that year.

However, what appears to be a common reaction to a new album that veers off the direction or sound of the previous one is that fear or worry that the artist is abandoning his or her music. Statements like “I was a fan until this album” or “he/she/they just lost a fan because I hate this new sound” are just plain idiotic. How can you possibly know that the new, different album will completely dictate and control the artist’s entire career and musical direction until retirement? So the artist released an album you didn’t like, big deal. There’s absolutely no rule that says you must like every song and album from your favorite artist.

Case in point, Sturgill Simpson. I’d be lying if I said the release and reactions of A Sailor’s Guide to Earth didn’t have some influence on this post. However, a common critique I’ve noticed is that it’s not the same as Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Well it’s not going to be! I’d much rather have a new, different album than a direct sequel of a previous album that hits all the same marks. If you loved his first couple albums and this new one doesn’t do it for you, then that’s okay. Album number four could be more in line with his previous album and ASGTE will just be that outlier. We don’t know what the future holds, and it’s crazy to think that Sturgill will never ever make an album with hard-hitting honky tonk country like Metamodern again.

Artists want to experiment and express themselves. They’re own music and albums will be different from year to year, and country music will be different from year to year. Maybe we won’t have another album that explodes a little-known act to stardom for another 10 years, but that’s not to say we’ll be left without great music for that decade of time. And at the same time, 10 years down the road we could possibly be looking back to 2016 as a defining year for country music. We don’t know, and we won’t know until it happens. Sure the moment itself may not be as flashy, or the music might not hit you right away like albums before, but that doesn’t mean the magic is lost or that the music is on a downward spiral.

We live in a time where we have more accessibility to music than ever before, for better or worse. Maybe it takes longer to find that gem of an album. Maybe this is the year your favorite artist decides to experiment and explore something different. Whatever the case may be, immediately writing the year or artist off because it doesn’t meet any personal, preconceived standards isn’t the right way to approach music. Give it time before making an absolute judgement. And even then, don’t make that judgement absolute.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • The Avett Brothers will released True Sadness tomorrow.
  • Mark Chesnutt’s Tradition Lives will be released on July 8.
  • Lori McKenna’s The Bird & the Rifle will be released on July 29.
  • Cody Jinks‘ newest album I’m Not the Devil will be released on August 12.
  • Kelsey Waldon’s will release a new album on August 13 called I’ve Got a Way. 
  • Amanda Shires’ announced a new album for September 16 called My Piece of Land.

Throwback Thursday Song

“The Silver Tongued Devil and I” by Kris Kristofferson. One of country’s best songwriters celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


A.J. Ghent Band. This funk rock/soul band from Atlanta, Georgia was once upon time signed to Zac Brown’s Southern Ground label. This is a solid live album which I think showcases the band’s talents well. And I’m eager and ready to hear a full length studio album whenever the band releases one.

Tweet of the Week

Bro-country didn’t completely ruin the genre!

Two Stupid iTunes Review for Kane Brown

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These were left under Kane Brown’s newest single “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.” That’s a scary thought because he needs to be stopped, and at least Bobby Bones is on our side with this. But these two reviews just crack me up. From thinking this isn’t “immature like a typical pop song” to insinuating that country music “involves.”

Country Perspective’s Worst Albums of 2016 So Far

As our week of highlighting the best and worst of the first half of the year closes, we spend today looking at some of 2016’s worst albums thus far. As mainstream country has shifted away from bro-country and into pop, we’ve seen albums that are one of three things: completely pop music, bro-country hanging on by the very last threads, or a hybrid of the two. Needless to say, these albums have done nothing but continue to dig mainstream country into its hole.

As you’ll notice, we haven’t reviewed most of these albums, mainly because we didn’t want to spend the time to write a review about the album and complain about the same old things we’ve complained about time and time again. But we have listened to the albums. For the most part, mainstream country music released several boring, middle of the road albums, but there were a few that sank lower than that.

Without further ado, here are the worst country albums of 2016 so far…

Cole Swindell – You Should Be Here 

Cole Swindell’s second album pretty much did the exact same thing as his first album and any EPs he’s released. The album kicks off with an awful duet with Dierks Bentley called “Flatliner.” A majority of You Should Be Here is straight bro-country with a hint of Nashville Pop thrown into the song’s productions. “Middle of a Memory” finds Swindell lamenting over the fact that a girl he wanted to hook up with left the bar without him. The party never stops for Cole Swindell, with “Home Game,” “Up” “Party Wasn’t Over”, and “Stay Downtown” combining scenes of drinking and hook-ups. You Should Be Here is full of shallow music, and the album’s best song, “You Should Be Here” only mustered a 4/10 grade here. The icing on the cake of the album comes with the final song, “Remember Boys.” After making a name for himself as one of country’s bros, not to mention hit song after hit song about random hook-ups for just one night, Cole Swindell thinks he can be taken seriously as a “remember boy”: someone who’s serious about a relationship with someone. Please. Cole Swindell has been and continues to be a joke.

Randy Houser – Fired Up

The biggest flaw of Randy Houser’s Fired Up is that the track list is 15 consistently boring party songs with awful puns and terribly juvenile words and phrases. There’s a bonus track called “Whiskeysippi River” and “Little Bit Older” that features the phrase, “a little bit older a little Budweiser” as if it’s supposed to be some clever pun. Fired Up starts off strong with “Back,” but the rest of the album falters. The first single, “We Went,” was one of the worst singles in 2015. And the album’s second single, “Song Number 7,” essentially rips off Luke Bryan’s “Play It Again.” There was no originality brought into the album, with bro-country after bro-country. Perhaps the only bright spot of the album is that there isn’t as much pop music in the production, but at the same time, the music isn’t all that country.

Keith Urban – Ripcord

No matter which genre you stick Ripcord in, it’s a terrible album. This album felt like a to-do list of stuff Urban wanted to try because he felt like it and there was absolutely no direction planned for it. Some of it sticks like on “Wasted Time” and “Sun Don’t Let Me Down.” The rest however is pretty much a complete mess. I hear so much from country fans that an artist’s songs aren’t bad as pop music if I dismiss it as not country music. So the overall point I wanted to make with this review was to show that genre lines really don’t matter the most when it comes to judging music’s quality. Many refer to bad country music as pop and that’s insult to pop music because there’s a lot of great pop music (see Beyoncé’s Lemonade). This album even insults pop. It’s pretty simple: there is great music and there is bad music. Ripcord is bad music.

Kane Brown – Chapter 1 (EP)

Kane Brown exploded onto country music proclaiming himself to be country’s Justin Bieber. If by Justin Bieber, he means pop star, than he hit it right on the nose. Brown’s music is nowhere near country, and his first EP with Sony proves that Kane Brown is just another metro-bro clone making the same kind of music as every other solo male act. “Wide Open” is sung with no charisma and terrible vocals. The vocal effects on “Last Minute Late Night” are annoying, while Kane Brown begs for a late night booty-call. “Excuses” and “There Goes My Everything” are straight pop songs dealing with heartbreak, but Brown’s monotone vocal delivery is terrible. Chapter 1 is completely corporate manufactured pop music sung by a different puppet.

 

Dan + Shay – Obsessed

Obsessed is bro-country attitudes wrapped up in boy band pop. Sure, Dan + Shay have “From the Ground Up,” a well written love song, but it’s impossible to call this album country music. Slick computer generated beats with R&B influences, Dan + Shay are the poor man’s Justin Timberlake. This album is produced and the songs are written solely to appeal to the teenage girl demographic. As with most of the albums on this list, Obsessed falters because it’s a pop album marketed as country music.

 

Maren Morris HEROMaren Morris – HERO

Maren Morris’ debut album is anything but country music, despite how good the music actually is. The songs are well produced and well sung by Morris. When you look at Nashville Pop, HERO is an example of how it’s done right. It’s not a country album, but it’s marketed as such. Therefore, we can look it through the lens of country music and call it one of the worst “country” albums of the year. HERO will probably be the most polarizing album of 2016. Undoubtedly the biggest sin this album commits is it being called a country album. It shouldn’t have any business charting on the country albums chart too. If you’re angry about this and this prevents you from enjoying it, I don’t blame you because it would get a zero as a country record.