Review — Mickey Guyton’s “Black Like Me”

This song is amazing, but I would be remiss if I didn’t ask: Why did her label wait until yet another instance of racist police murder to release it? Why not release this during a “normal time”? Why wait until something happens? Why did the label not try to spark the conversation whenever instead of looking like they’re being opportunistic and exploiting a situation for profit? And even if this song was just written, it still begets the question of why hasn’t Mickey Guyton been allowed to release a full album? For crying out loud it’s been five years since she released an EP, which was brilliant by the way and I still maintain that “Pretty Little Mustang” should have been a hit. Capitol Records Nashville needs to stop screwing around and forgetting about her because from the outside it appears they treat her presence on the roster as tokenism and that’s wrong. We can get angry at country radio for their bullshit, but these major labels need to be called out and held accountable too.

As for the song, it’s a strong and powerful message that everybody needs to hear: the uncomfortable reality in which African Americans find themselves in every day in this country. Constantly feeling uncomfortable, being shamed and excluded for the color of their skin is the norm for African Americans, something that Guyton clearly explains that’s always been a present issue from childhood to now. The chorus is not only catchy, but sends a loud and clear message with the white picket fence imagery and asking the listener to understand what it feels to be black like Guyton. And of course Guyton’s voice sounds brilliant as always, reminding us she has one of the most dynamic voices in country music. The song fittingly ends with a hopeful message of envisioning the day this oppression ends and how Guyton will always be proud to be black.

This is a song that should be played far and wide for all. This song could be an important moment for country music if it chooses to make it so. I honestly don’t have confidence country music (specifically radio) will do this, but I remain hopeful. And I know I will keep playing this song, as it’s undoubtedly one of the best you’ll hear in music this year.

Grade: 10/10

Click here for ways you can help Black Lives Matter. 

The Hodgepodge: Pop Duets Ignore Country’s Rich Talent Pool of Female Artists

Dierks Bentley feat. Elle King – “Different for Girls”

Brad Paisley feat. Demi Lovato – “Without a Fight”

Kenny Chesney feat. P!nk – “Setting the World on Fire”

One of the most recent musical trends out of Nashville, as you can tell by the above pairings, is partnering a male country singer with a female non-country singer to record a non-country song, probably in hopes for a crossover hit. Three big, veteran names in country music are using the big names from female pop acts to gain even more exposure and revenue.

This isn’t a terrible trend, and Paisley and Chesney’s songs aren’t terrible. “Different for Girls” has some backwards lyrics, but Dierks and Elle sing the song well, and I like the production to the tune. My only gripe with this trend is that it blatantly ignores a large, talented pool of female singers in country music. Females who already struggle to get songs on the radio by themselves. To be fair, Dierks Bentley also recorded “I’ll Be The Moon” on Black with newcomer Maren Morris, a song which received quite a bit of album promotional play and press before the album’s release. However, the label decided to move forward with the Elle King duet as the single, not the Morris duet.

I know the answer to this question is money and marketability, but why not record these same songs with country newcomers? Mickey Guyton has a vocal power similar to Demi Lovato, and could easily fit into “Without a Fight.” In Fact, on several occasions while on tour with Paisley, Mickey Guyton sang Allison Krauss’ role in “Whiskey Lullaby.” I think Mickey Guyton could have sung Lovato’s parts and “Without a Fight” could still be just as good.

Like I said, I know that there’s a certain marketability that comes with having Demi Lovato’s or P!nk’s name attached to a song as opposed to Mickey Guyton or Cam. Outside of the obvious pop demographic (which the songs are clearly catered toward), those two names are just simply more well-known. But even some singers like Kellie Pickler and Lauren Alaina are good singers themselves and have the American Idol notoriety surrounding their name.

Obviously the larger purpose of songs like the ones mentioned above is the fact that these females attract a non-country audience to song and probably double the listening potential. But coming off a year in which the problem of females on country radio, or lack thereof, was headlining everywhere, it’s odd to me that producers would gloss over that potential talent pool.

Chris Young recently had a number one song on the Airplay Charts that he recorded with Cassadee Pope. “Think of You” is just as Adult Contemporary sounding as the three aforementioned songs. So don’t try to argue that “country females won’t sell” because clearly a duet between male and female COUNTRY singers sold and succeeded.

I’m probably just beating a dead horse and screaming at a brick wall because complaint’s like this haven’t helped. Even with Tomato Gate on everyone’s mind last year, Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini are still the only females getting consistent radio airplay. Yet women like Lori McKenna, Brandy Clark, Aubrie Sellers, and Margo Price have all released great albums this year. Why don’t we hear them on the charts? Why aren’t labels pursuing duets with these talented singers? Yes, Aubrie Sellers has recently signed a deal with Warner, and Lori McKenna has seen excellent success as a songwriter from “Girl Crush” and “Humble and Kind.” However, it’s still a shame that several of country’s talented female singers are overlooked for a cash-grab pop duet.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • Mo Pitney has announced his debut LP through Curb Records. Behind This Guitar will be released October 7.
  • William Michael Morgan announced his debut album, Vinyl, will be released on September 30.
  • Reckless Kelly will release Sunset Motel on September 23.
  • Also on September 23 Dwight Yoakam is releasing a bluegrass album titled Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
  • Jack Ingram will release Midnight Motel on August 26. Hear the new single, “I’m Drinking Through It.”
  • The Cadillac Three will release Bury Me in Boots tomorrow.
  • Cody Johnson will release Gotta Be Me tomorrow.
  • Next Friday, both Cody Jinks (I’m Not The Devil) and Kelsey Waldon (I’ve Got a Way) will release albums. A day which is sure to be a good day for new country music.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” by Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn With all the talk of country duets today, what could be better than a duet from two of country’s best singers? Sit back and enjoy this 1973 hit from their duet album of the same name.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Foo Fighters “Everlong” The only non-country music I’ve listened to this week is the Foo Fighters Greatest Hits album, so I recommend what is probably my favorite Foo Fighters song.

Tweet of the Week

I told myself not to mention a certain country group that I wrote about in last week’s Hodgepodge, but this tweet pretty much sums up my opinions on “Comeback Kid.”

iTunes Review for Big Smo

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This guy hates the fact that country fans call Big Smo not country. Especially when later on in this review, he clearly states how Big Smo raps. Sure we don’t technically own the word “country” but we know which music is actually country music and which is actually rap or hick hop.

The Hodgepodge: Why is the Music Industry Image Obsessed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

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

Throwback Thursday Song

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

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


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

Tweet of the Week

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

iTunes Review

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

The Hodgepodge: Mainstream Country Artists Doing It Right in 2015

When looking at mainstream country music it’s easy to just dismiss it all as bad music and move on with your life. After all Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, Cole Swindell and Luke Bryan are all still very big parts of mainstream country music at this moment and show no signs of leaving soon. But if you sift through all of the garbage you’ll find yourself a good group of promising artists who could be the key to turning the quality around in mainstream country music. Throughout 2015 these artists have been releasing quality music and have made an impact in some way or could be very soon. I’ll start first with the artist inspiring the most optimism in me that things could be getting better for mainstream country music…

Chris Stapleton Traveller

Chris Stapleton

I think it’s safe to say now that he’s a mainstream country artist. After his monumental performance with Justin Timberlake and winning three awards at the 2015 CMA Awards, the world is now familiar with this bearded traditionalist. Currently his debut album Traveller sits atop the Billboard 200 chart and according to industry experts could be poised to stay there for a second straight week. His songs have populated the top 50 on the iTunes all-genre chart and Traveller is still the best-selling album on iTunes chart as of this writing. Notoriously slow to react country radio is even taking notice, as his newly released single “Nobody To Blame” sits at #46 on the Billboard Country Airplay and was the second-most added song at Mediabase radio stations this week (only trailing Eric Church’s new single “Mr. Misunderstood”). This is all on top of the critical acclaim he had been receiving for months. There’s nobody hotter in country music than Chris Stapleton and he has done it all making the music he wants to make. There’s no telling how big of an impact Stapleton could have on the genre in the coming months.

Maddie & Tae

Just like Stapleton, this up and coming duo makes country music their own way and have seen their own share of success. While their sophomore single “Fly” didn’t experience the huge success of their mega debut hit “Girl In A Country Song,” it still performed in a radio environment not ideal for this type of song. Their debut album Start Here was full of excellent songs and very good potential singles, all maintaining a traditionally rooted sound. With the backing of Scott Borchetta, the sky is the limit for Maddie & Tae. They will be instrumental in turning the genre around and in the meantime have brought integrity to a genre sorely lacking it.

Kacey Musgraves Pageant Material

Kacey Musgraves

Country radio still won’t play Kacey Musgraves, but she doesn’t give a shit. This is quite evident from her interviews and in listening to her newest album Pageant Material. It’s one of the most traditional mainstream country albums of the year and there certainly isn’t any evidence of Kacey trying to appeal to radio on any of the songs. She calls out country radio on “Good ‘Ol Boys Club.” She doesn’t need the support of radio though, as she has a passionate fan base who packs theaters across the country and her album still reached #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. She’s even been exploring airplay on Americana radio and George Strait tabbed her to open up for him at his Vegas shows in 2016. Musgraves is determined to do it her own way and while this might not earn her radio play, it earns her respect and that’s something much more important than kissing the asses of radio programmers.

Dierks Bentley

If there’s one artist who has consistently throughout their career deliver quality music that appeals to traditional country roots and mainstream attention, you won’t find anyone more fitting than Dierks Bentley. There hasn’t been one point throughout his career where I thought to myself that he’s a sellout. Even his dumber songs like “Drunk on a Plane” aren’t bad. Yet I feel like Bentley gets overlooked a lot and deserves more credit for his music. His label wanted no part in releasing the emotional “Riser” as a single, but Bentley passionately insisted because he likes the song so much and wants as many people possible to hear it. It’s currently rising up the chart and will probably perform better than his label expected. In addition to releasing quality singles, Bentley tabbed the talented Maddie & Tae to open for him on his tour. As the years pass I continue to respect Dierks Bentley more and 2015 has been no exception.

Jon Pardi The B Sides

Jon Pardi

I was praising Jon Pardi last year when hardly anyone was talking about him and this year everyone else has finally started to get on his bandwagon. Just like Bentley, Pardi released a passion project himself this year with his EP The B-Sides, 2011-2014. These were all songs that didn’t make his very good debut album Write You A Song and this was even better than it. Pardi’s sound is like a combination of Dwight Yoakam and 90s country and very much a fan of steel guitar in his songs. While many of the new artists around him have went with trends, Pardi has stuck to what he wants while also finding a balance that appeals to radio. This is clearly evident in his current single “Head Over Boots,” which if you haven’t noticed has steadily been moving up the chart and should reach the top 30 soon. Pardi was candidly nervous about this single performing well and it looks like sticking to his guns will pay off. This is a young artist that needs to be on everyone’s radars in the years to come.

Other Mainstream Artists Doing It Right:

  • Miranda Lambert – While her single choices haven’t been the best lately, she’s still an artist who can bring quality to the table. I also have a really good feeling about her next album. 
  • Maren Morris – I just reviewed her EP and I think this Texan has what it takes to shine.
  • William Michael Morgan – He’s only released one single so far, but it’s a good one. If Morgan keeps releasing songs like “I Met A Girl,” his future could be really bright.
  • Eric Church – Google Play finally has his new album and you’ll have to wait until Monday to hear my thoughts on Church now and this album…
  • Tim McGraw – His new album Damn Country Music is even better than expected.
  • Carrie Underwood – Her new album Storyteller takes a lot of risks and her single releases continue to be good.
  • Ashley Monroe – Despite The Blade being underwhelming to my ears, it was still solid.
  • Mickey Guyton – Her lead single “Better Than You Left Me” has caught people’s attention, but she has drifted out of the spotlight a little. She still has a ton of potential though.
  • Mo Pitney – I’m still worried Curb is going to mess him up, but his talent is great enough to overcome it.
  • Cam – One of the biggest surprise hits of 2015 has been “Burning House” and we’re about to get more from her when her new album Untamed comes out in December.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Justin Timberlake is officially sending “Drink You Away” as a single to country radio. This is pretty big news and I’m still formulating my thoughts on it. This will be given a full review soon.
  • Chris Young will release his new album I’m Comin’ Over tomorrow.
  • Wynonna Judd announced her band Wynonna & The Big Sound will be releasing a new album on February 12, 2016 through Curb Records.
  • Loretta Lynn announced she’s releasing a new album titled Full Circle on March 4, 2016.
  • Frankie Ballard is releasing a new single titled “It All Started With A Beer.” We’ll have a review on that soon.
  • The Band Perry announced they’re delaying the release of their new album Heart + Beat until 2016 now. It was originally slated to come out on November 20. The trio says a last minute pop collaboration came up (rumor mill says Nicki Minaj possibly) and that’s the reason for the delay. Despite this delay, I still think it’s going to bomb.

Great Music Currently at Country Radio

The very best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly.

Throwback Thursday Song

Willie Nelson – “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” – This is just one of those songs you need to know, not only as a country fan, but as a music fan. When I heard Old Crow Medicine Show perform this live I got chills. It’s one of those special songs that I just enjoy and brings a smile to my face when I hear it.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Eh I don’t have anything this week, as I’ve been listening to nothing but country and Americana this week. So here’s the Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake performance from last week that will never get old.

Tweet of the Week

There are a lot of great accounts on Twitter, but Jason Isbell might just be the best.

iTunes Review That Rocks

Stapleton Killed Bro Country

The Chris Stapleton Effect! This was left under Cole Swindell’s new EP and now that the public has been exposed to a real artist, they want the bros out. Out with the old and in with the new!

Thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in below! 

Album Review – Mickey Guyton’s Self-Titled EP Once Again Reaffirms Her Great Talent

Mickey Guyton EP

Anyone who follows Country Perspective knows that I’m a big proponent of Mickey Guyton. I was immediately impressed with her last fall when I listened to and reviewed her single “Better Than You Left Me.” It was refreshing to hear, not just a great country sounding song, but a beautiful voice like Guyton’s. In the early part of 2015, “Better Than You Left Me” started to get a lot of attention and rise up the airplay charts. I thought that country music was finally recognizing this talented artist, but unfortunately the song has yet to crack the top 30. One good piece of news for Guyton though was Brad Paisley choosing her to open for him on his tour this summer. I may not like all of Paisley’s music lately, but choosing Guyton for his tour was a very good move and will undoubtedly raise the stature of Guyton. Even better news was Guyton recently releasing a self-titled EP with three songs. While I would’ve loved a new full album, I’m sure we’ll get it in due time. For now though I gave a listen to her new EP and she continues to prove she’s the real deal. Since this is such a short EP, I’m going to grade each song individually…

“Why Baby Why” – The first track on the EP is similar to the theme of “Better Than You Left Me.” The woman in the song is trying to move on from a relationship, but she can’t shake his memory and he just won’t let her move on. It’s a feeling many go through when getting out of a meaningful relationship. Guyton’s voice is great as always and for those few who thought she over sung on “Better Than You Left Me,” I think her voice sounds better controlled here, allowing it to come out as more powerful and projecting. The production is well-arranged and I like the sweeping piano that interludes throughout it. This is a pretty good love ballad that probably won’t be a single, but quite enjoyable for fans of Guyton. Grade: 9/10

“Somebody Else Will” – This song definitely has a more pop-y arrangement, but there’s a palpable country sound too. So this is pop country that is done well. “Somebody Else Will” is about a man not loving a woman enough and her friend telling her that if he doesn’t love her like he should then someone else will come along and do so. The song has a very uplifting feel that empowers women to stand up in relationships that aren’t working out. The beat of the song is quite catchy, as well as the lyrics. This song kind of reminds me of a song Carrie Underwood would do, which makes sense considering Guyton has a powerful voice like Underwood. While I don’t love this song as much as “Why Baby Why,” I enjoy it and could be the next single for Guyton. Grade: 8.5/10

“Pretty Little Mustang” – Just like “Somebody Else Will,” “Pretty Little Mustang” has a pop/rock country arrangement. The song is about empowering a woman to be who she is and not be afraid to put herself out there. The lyrics are a tad lightweight, but it’s very catchy and the theme has a good message. I was a little worried when I first started listening to this song that it would be overproduced, but it avoids this pitfall. The electric guitar interlude in the bridge is a nice touch and gives it a good climax point. If you gave this song to an average female vocalist, this song wouldn’t come across nearly as good. But Guyton’s top-notch vocals bring it to another level and is the mark of a talented artist. I think this song could also be a future single for Guyton and may be the best suited to get her significant airplay. Songs like this usually bore me, but as I said Guyton’s talent makes it a quality song. Grade: 8/10

“Better Than You Left Me” – For those who didn’t read my review on this song last fall, here’s a snippet of it: “Better Than You Left Me” starts off with the sound of a mandolin and guitar. The song is about a woman who’s ex left her and as time has passed she has grown into a better person since ending the relationship, much to the surprise of the ex. Even though she was heartbroken when the relationship ended, she realizes she is better off without him now. Despite attempts by the ex to win her heart back, she isn’t falling for his tactics. The songwriting is pretty good for this song, painting a picture of the situation in the listeners’ heads and showing the emotion of the woman in the situation. Guyton co-wrote the song with Nathan Chapman, Jennifer Hanson and Jenn Schott (props to Windmills Country for this information too). Grade: 9/10

This self-titled EP from Mickey Guyton, while short in quantity, is large in quality. In each song Guyton’s voice shines and is front and center. This is how it should be on all of her songs, as you simply don’t hide this kind of voice behind the instrumentation. The songwriting is pretty good, but I definitely think it could be even better for her full album. I would love to see Guyton tackle some really deep material, especially heartbreak ballads as her voice has the emotion to really connect with listeners. If I had to give advice to her label, I would tell them to look at Carrie Underwood’s trajectory because I believe Guyton is at the same level of talent as her and could be as big as her. In a time when radio is lacking female artists, they have one right in front of them in Guyton who should be a consistent presence on the radio. I definitely recommend checking out this EP. It’s one of my favorite releases from mainstream country in 2015 and I can’t wait to hear more new music from Mickey Guyton.