The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [July 2011]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from July 18th, 2011.

  1. Jason Aldean – “Dirt Road Anthem” -5 [Worst Song]
  2. Chris Young – “Tomorrow” +2
  3. Blake Shelton – “Honey Bee” 0
  4. Zac Brown Band & Jimmy Buffett – “Knee Deep” +1
  5. Justin Moore – “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” +3
  6. Lady Antebellum – “Just A Kiss” -1
  7. Dierks Bentley – “Am I The Only One” -1
  8. Luke Bryan – “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” -5
  9. Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood – “Remind Me” -1
  10. Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter – “You & Tequila” +4
  11. Jake Owen – “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” +1 (I’ll explain why later on)
  12. Trace Adkins – “Just Fishin'” +2
  13. Eric Church – “Homeboy” +3
  14. George Strait – “Here For A Good Time” +2
  15. Billy Currington – “Love Done Gone” +2
  16. Toby Keith – “Made In America” 0
  17. Rodney Atkins – “Take A Back Road” -1
  18. Scotty McCreery – “I Love You This Big” -2
  19. Eli Young Band – “Crazy Girl” -1
  20. Keith Urban – “Long Hot Summer” -1 (I actually think this is a good pop song. But if we’re going by country standards…)
  21. Thompson Square – “I Got You” 0
  22. Brantley Gilbert – “Country Must Be Country Wide” -2
  23. Jerrod Niemann – “One More Drinkin’ Song” 0
  24. Steve Holy – “Love Don’t Run” 0
  25. Darius Rucker – “I Got Nothin'” +2
  26. Ronnie Dunn – “Cost Of Livin'” +5 [Best Song]
  27. Frankie Ballard – “A Buncha Girls” -2
  28. David Nail – “Let It Rain” +2
  29. Craig Campbell – “Fish” -3 (Yes Craig, we get it…)
  30. Joe Nichols – “Take It Off” -2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +2

Even with two outright atrocious songs we managed to net a positive score! Out of 150, a positive two isn’t really that impressive but hey, it’s better than the charts in 2016.

As for our best songs, Ronnie Dunn’s “Cost Of Livin'” takes it running away with what I consider to be one of the best songs mainstream or otherwise of the past couple years. Even though radio was a little different back then, I’m shocked a song like this cracked the top twenty. Today I doubt it would chart. And while Kenny Chesney has been the butt of many jokes throughout the years, I’ve always liked the guy, and “You and Tequila” may be his best song ever. Other than that, there were a couple other good ones like “Homeboy” (although, I’m curious to hear what you guys think of this one), and “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away”.

Now, you might be wondering why I gave Jake Owen a positive score. If there has ever been anyone who could pull off a “bro” sound and actually make it somewhat enjoyable, I think it’s Jake Owen. He’s just got a natural charisma that often at least adds some life to his songs. I don’t think “Barefoot…” is a great song, but I never quite understand the hate for it.

As for the bad songs, they’re pretty easy to spot. Jason Aldean takes the “worst song” award easily with the horrendous country-rap song that was “Dirt Road Anthem.” “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” was ironically the first time we had to really come down hard on Luke Bryan for cutting a bad song. Other than that, Craig Campbell’s “Fish” always annoyed the heck out of me, and there are some other stinkers here too. Overall though, not a horrendous chart.

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

Review – Scotty McCreery’s “Southern Belle” Is Formulaic Bullshit

Scotty McCreery Southern Belle

In the world of mainstream country music, there are a lot of amazingly overrated artists. It’s easy to point fingers at Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line, but I like to believe there are a lot of people who are aware of how overrated they are and good portion of people loathe their music. One artist I’ve always had near the top of my most overrated artists in mainstream country that never gets mentioned is Scotty McCreery. It makes me sick how much credit this guy gets and the praise his fans give him. Every time I see him get labeled as a “traditional country artist,” I throw up in my mouth a little bit. Why? He isn’t a traditional country artist. Sure he has the ability to be one, but he chooses not to be one, at least with his singles. His last single “Feelin’ It” was a blatant bro country song with a creepy vibe and the previous single “See You Tonight” was also bro country. Spare me the traditional labeling, especially since his newest single “Southern Belle” is even worse than the last two singles.

The song starts out sure enough with an acoustic guitar, but it’s immediately replaced with an adult contemporary sound and drum loops. Then McCreery begins to sing some of the most formulaic, clichéd, bullshit lyrics I’ve ever heard. Just look at the chorus lyrics:

Ain’t nothin’ ring like a southern belle
Those angels singin’ down in the Bible Belt
Well brother, if lovin’ those sweet tea, blue jean dreams is wrong
Well, I can’t help it
Ain’t nothin’ ring like a southern belle

The people responsible for these unimaginative and uninspiring lyrics are Sean McConnell (who helped write Will Hoge’s “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To,” proving he’s capable of a lot more) and Jason Saenz (has wrote songs for Little Big Town and David Nail, amongst several others). I’m shocked Dallas Davidson wasn’t a co-writer. But hey it gets worse! McCreery also uses auto-tune at various points in the song, the first being at around the 40 second mark. It’s only right I warn you if you wish to listen to this drivel. Again, this guy is considered a traditional country artist. I’m pretty sure traditional country artists don’t use auto-tune and it’s certainly not an evolution of country music. This song was made purely to net airplay, as McCreery has never went higher than #8 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart in his career.

There is nothing redeeming or anything close to being considered quality or traditional in “Southern Belle.” It’s another bro country lyrics meet adult contemporary sound song that panders to radio and the gullibility of mainstream country fans so hard, the only people who can’t see this are either McCreery super fans or delusional individuals. Perhaps both, as these aren’t mutually exclusive. Scotty McCreery continues to prove how overrated he truly is with this single. He’s about as much of a traditional country artist as Justin Moore is a tall, outlaw country artist. Avoid “Southern Belle” at all costs and really the majority of McCreery’s catalog of music. There are plenty of actual talented traditional country artists out there who run circles around McCreery and you’re much better off listening to them.

Grade: 0/10

 

Ranking Mainstream Country Artists: Grade D

After looking at the very best, the very good and the very in-between, it’s now time to take a look at the artist hurting country music much more than they’re helping. Let’s just say I wouldn’t miss their music if they stopped making music. If you missed the first three parts of these rankings you can find them in the corresponding links below:

Grade A

Grade B 

Grade C

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

Grade D

These artists aren’t the absolute worst of mainstream country music, but they’re pretty close. They have one or two redeeming qualities that save them from the dreaded F grade. Derek and myself have given these artists a lot of negative reviews probably too. If you’re a fan of these artists, don’t get angry because you think I’m attacking them (I’m not). I’m simply giving my opinion of them. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Rascal Flatts

Rascal Flatts – These guys have never been country and never will be. Their music is pop music with token fiddles thrown in and then marketed as country to the masses. Their latest album was their saddest offering yet as they desperately try to remain relevant with their own takes on bro country. I will say this though: I don’t get as angry as others do about their music. I just kind of roll my eyes and chuckle. Each of the members of the group seem like nice guys and is really the reason I didn’t put them at an F grade. Being nice isn’t going to make me like their music, but it also prevents me from saying really mean things about them too.

399px-Toby_Keith Public Domain

Toby Keith – You know I really thought about putting Mr. ‘Murican at an F grade. I think I get more angry about Toby Keith’s music than anyone else I know. I absolutely despised “Red Solo Cup” a few years ago because it officially confirmed to me that Keith is only still making music for the money and simply does not give two shits about making quality material anymore. Really ever since 9/11 there’s been no other artist that has cashed in and pandered harder to the sweeping American patriotism across the country. Throw in some F-150 trucks and some beer and you have yourself the material for every single Toby Keith song since 2001. What prevented him from an F grade? He made some good music early in his career.

Lady Antebellum – I gave Lady Antebellum a pass for several years, but this year I finally ran out of passes. What caused me to finally sour on this group? “Bartender” is what caused me to sour. It’s such a stupid song and would have easily won worst song of the year several times in pre-bro country years. But since bro country is so terrible this song doesn’t get enough flack for it’s awfulness. Their new album 747 is a straight pop album. They didn’t even try to make it country. I think I might actually enjoy their music if they went pop though because it makes for decent pop music.

Little Big Town – Some people will cry foul with this position for Little Big Town, but I’m going to explain why they absolutely belong in the D category. It feels like it has been 10 years since I’ve enjoyed a Little Big Town song. The only two songs I have ever even liked from this group are “Boondocks” and “Little White Church.” The rest is nothing special to me. I also loathed “Pontoon” more than anyone else I know. Before I discovered the greatness of country music in the independent scenes, I was stuck with what was on radio. You know what got overplayed to the point I wanted to kick my radio? “Pontoon.” Yes I listened to “Tornado” and I don’t think it’s anything special.

Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney – I originally had Chesney at a C grade because his music has never annoyed me as much as other country critics. Then I go and listen to his early material. It’s pretty good stuff. Of course the last ten years he has made beach music and raking in the dough. This makes me angry because here’s an artist that is capable of making a great country album and instead puts out mediocre crap. This is just shear laziness. He promised better music in his new album too and he didn’t deliver anything too much different from what he has been doing the last ten years. Get your head out of the sand, Kenny.

Billy Currington, Lee Brice, Randy Houser, Justin Moore, Dustin Lynch, Chris Young, Joe Nichols, Easton Corbin and Josh Thompson – All artists that made good country music in the past and now have sold their souls to the bro country devil all in the name of the almighty dollar. Enjoy your money, boys. You just had to trade your respect to get it.

Darius Rucker – I always cut Hootie a break when he joined country music because he was new and seemed to want to be a part of the genre. Then he covered Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.” Now believe me I’m appreciative of the positive aspect of this song becoming a big hit for him. This exposed a lot of people to Old Crow Medicine Show and their music, which was just fantastic. They absolutely deserved it. The negative aspects of this becoming a big hit for Rucker? One there are several misinformed people out there who think this is his song. Two some are actually aware of O.C.M.S and still say Rucker’s version is better (what the hell are you hearing?). Three this is pretty much the best we’re going to get from Rucker. How long has he been milking this song? He was still playing it at an awards show earlier this year. Get new material!

Hunter Hayes – Pop country boy who will become an afterthought once puberty hits for him. He belongs in the pop genre.

Scotty McCreery – American Idol teen heart throb who could probably sing a good country song, but chooses instead to put out songs like this one (listen at your own discretion):

 

But hey he did give me this comic relief during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a few years ago:

 

Montgomery Gentry – They used to be a reputable country group who put out decent songs. Then they put out a song called “Titty’s Beer.” Screw you Montgomery Gentry.

Aaron Lewis – I’m not going to beat around the bush. This guy is a douche and just another rocker trying to cash in on country music’s popularity. All he did in his first album was beat his chest about how American he is and then he went and botched the national anthem in the World Series. This guy is a Toby Keith reject with an even worse personality.

 

Parmalee, Thompson Square, Dan + Shay – If these artists stopped making their bad pop country music, would you notice? They just all sound like everything else you hear on country radio nowadays. These artists are bad, but easy to ignore.

That’s all for part four! The fifth and final part will be coming soon!