The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [April 2014]

220px-doinwhatshelikes

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.

While I hate to do another recent chart after having just done 2011 last week, my schedule this week is admittedly pretty busy. Therefore, I wanted to showcase another chart of songs that I am familiar with. I picked April 19th, 2014 since that’s approximately a month before Country Perspective even came into existence, and I thought it would be fun to showcase what the charts were like just before Josh stepped onto the scene.

  1. Blake Shelton – “Doin’ What She Likes” -2
  2. Randy Houser – “Goodnight Kiss” -2
  3. Jerrod Niemann – “Drink To That All Night” -5
  4. Brantley Gilbert – “Bottoms Up” -5
  5. Eric Church – “Give Me Back My Hometown” +1
  6. Rascal Flatts – “Rewind” -2
  7. Thomas Rhett – “Get Me Some Of That” -5
  8. Florida Georgia Line & Luke Bryan – “This Is How We Roll” -5
  9. Brett Eldredge – “Beat Of The Music” 0
  10. Miranda Lambert – “Automatic” +3 [Best Song]
  11. Dan + Shay – “19 You + Me” -2
  12. Keith Urban – “Cop Car” -2 (I’m sorry, I don’t get the appeal in this song at all)
  13. Luke Bryan – “Play It Again” -3
  14. Justin Moore – “Lettin’ The Night Roll” -1
  15. Tim McGraw – “Lookin’ For That Girl” -5 [Worst Song]
  16. Craig Morgan – “Wake Up Lovin’ You” +2
  17. Sara Evans – “Slow Me Down” 0
  18. Tyler Farr – “Whiskey In My Water” -1
  19. Craig Campbell – “Keep Them Kisses Comin'” +1
  20. The Band Perry – “Chainsaw” -2
  21. Hunter Hayes – “Invisible” -2
  22. Billy Currington – “We Are Tonight” +1
  23. Jake Owen – “Beachin'” -4
  24. Chris Young – “Who I Am With You” +1
  25. Joe Nichols – “Yeah” -2
  26. Sheryl Crow – “Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely” +1
  27. Eric Paslay – “Song About A Girl” -1
  28. Eli Young Band – “Dust” +2
  29. Brad Paisley – “River Bank” -1
  30. Lee Brice – “I Don’t Dance” +2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: -38

Wow, this is an absolutely terrible chart across the board. How many -5’s was that again?!? It’s hard to believe that a chart from the future could actually look better than this. Yikes.

Alright, so let’s start off with the few good songs here. Miranda Lambert is the only person with a song worthy of an 8/10 (IMO), so she runs away with best song for “Automatic”. The only other good songs come courtesy of Craig Morgan, Lee Brice, and Eli Young Band and I’m sure that even you guys will have something to say about one or more of those songs.

The terrible is easy to digest. It’s quite surreal looking back and seeing just how much bro-country really did plague the genre. There are five songs here that could compete for country music’s worst songs, and to pick the worst of all of them was tough. In the end, I picked Tim since not only does that song absolutely blow, Tim McGraw simply knows better dammit! Trust me folks, I really did consider just tying all five of these songs for worst song. I felt like Negan from the Walking Dead trying to pick a victim. Aside from that…yeah, things aren’t much better outside of those five. Just a sad chart to see.

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!

Album Review – Pat Green’s ‘Home’

Pat Green started his career as an independent artist self-releasing his first three albums. Then in 2001, Green signed with Universal Records in Nashville, which began a string of five straight top 10 albums for Green released under Universal and BNA. After 2009’s What I’m For, Green decided to move back to Texas and continue his country career through the Texas/independent scene. It’s been six years since an album of original material, but Pat Green has released his first album since leaving Nashville in Home.

The album kicks off the title track, a song about settling down back home after some time away chasing dreams. The song paints the picture of youthful naivety that life is “nothing but money and pretty girls.” However, the lyrics suggest that this song could be Green’s homecoming to Texas after nearly a decade in the Nashville side of country music. You can hear a faint fiddle mixed with a nice mid-tempo production that does a good job getting the listener excited. “Break It Back Down” explores the busy, instant gratification life of the modern-day. Green lists a range of trends in today’s world referencing Twitter, random YouTube stars, tabloids, reality TV, and the misguided notion that money is all you need to be happy. The jump is made in the chorus how he wishes for him and his baby to break it back down to just the two of them and shut the world out. While I get the sentiment Pat Green pushes for, the content varying from the verses to the chorus is too different. It’s a song that could have been better with some lyrics devoted as to how the busy world actually affects their relationship.

Pat Green is joined by Lyle Lovett to sing a pandering Texas song called “Girls from Texas.” The pair list off simile after simile of how the girls are around the nation. Take the opening stanza: “Girls from Georgia are sweeter than peaches, the ones from California are made for bathing suits and beaches. Minnesota gals sure fill out the sweater, but the girls from Texas are just a little bit better.” And that’s the song in a nutshell, simply with other states involved. When it comes to the Texas country scene, these “Texas pride” songs are just as cliché as a back road party in Nashville. “Bet Yo Mama” is more rock influenced with a heavy guitar riff carries the song throughout. Lyrically, the song deals with Pat Green telling this girl of his affection how hot the rest of her family is. Mom, sister, grandma, and aunts all get thrown in to build his theory of how good looks run in the family. I find this song to be annoying and just a bit creepy.

Pat Green strips it down with a sentimental ballad in “Right Now.” He knows that he’s not the best man in the relationship. He knows she expects more from him, and he wants to be that man she expects to see. The song acts as his declaration to change his ways for the better of the relationship. It’s a touching song made better with vocal harmonies by Sheryl Crow. While I would have liked to hear a duet between the two, Crow’s harmonies add a nice layer to the song. This is followed by Green’s current single “While I Was Away.” This song explores the relationship between a traveling musician father and his child. The chorus and the song are tied together through the heartbreaking line “the hardest part of working hard ain’t the bills I got to pay. It’s you growing up while I was away.” This poignant ballad shows the power of a country song.

The collaborations continue as Pat Green is joined by Delbert Mcclintion and Lee Roy Parnell for “May the Good Times Never End.” This upbeat, old-time rock and roll influenced song features a great harmonica and quick drum beats led by simple guitars and a keyboards. The song is simply about people enjoying life while reminiscing on the good times back in the day. Mom and Dad look happy in an old photograph, and they’re still joyous today; you can still sing along with all your favorite songs from 20 years ago. This is a fun, rocking country song. “Life Good as It Can Be” deals with the stressful monotony life can bring and changing perspective. Instead of moaning about a dead-end job, enjoy the pleasures the paycheck can bring you. The song calls for looking at the good life offers and focusing the lens on the light side. The song is accompanied by pleasant, mid-tempo production that aids in the uplifting message of the lyrics.

Pat Green sings of love in “No One Here But Us.” Green finally had his time with the girl he’s longed for. The couple took the opportunity to have their fun between the sheets, and he wants the relationship to continue. Perhaps the best part of the whole song is steel guitar in the mix of the acoustic guitars and violins. “No One Here But Us” features some excellent country instrumentation. Home picks back up with “I’ll Take This House.” This anthemic song is an ode to family and the life they’ve built. Green is more than happy with the children and work put into making the house a home. He has pride in the house and the family that lives inside.

On “I Go Back to You,” Green explores memories and the one he always turns to first. It’s the first love and the memories of that love forever stamped in his brain. To me, the song is just sort of there. It’s well-written and sung by Green, but it’s not exactly original to country music, and the instrumentation doesn’t offer anything different from what you’d expect in a song like this. However, on “Day One,” Green presents an excellent, well-written break up song. Green sings of getting over the relationship and how slowly but surely the pieces will be mended back together, but if, and only if, he can survive the first day of heartache. The song touches on the strength of getting over a tough break up while not ignoring the pain that comes from it.

The last song of the album is another collaboration, this time with Marc Broussard. “Good Night in New Orleans” is a song where the duo simply details a night out among Bourbon Street and many of New Orleans’ offerings. The song features a nice mix of country and Cajun music to fit the mood and title of the song. While it’s not the best song, it works well as an album closer. But really, I could do without it.

Overall, Home is a nice offering from Pat Green. There were a few songs that I could do without, but for the most part, the writing and the content make for enjoyable country music. Pat Green really strives in the ballad area on this album with songs like “Day One”, “While I Was Away” and “Right Now.” To me, if you drop this album down to 11 songs instead of 13, then it’s a better album. It seemed to me like there were a few filler songs on Home. But overall, Home is a good album and the kind of album you’d expect out of Texas country.

Grade 6.5/10

Review – Thompson Square’s “Trans Am”

Thompson Square Trans Am

Oh, mainstream country music. The month of March was not a good one. Really the majority of 2015 hasn’t been good for mainstream country music. Most of the music is terrible and the key 18-35 year old demographic is abandoning the genre. Things aren’t looking from any angle you look. In this past week or two there’s been a shortage of new releases in mainstream country, which was actually great for me. I needed a break from it. But then I heard that Thompson Square released a new single titled “Trans Am.” The duo is made up of husband and wife, Keifer Thompson and Shawna Thompson. They’re on the Stoney Creek Records label and have experienced some radio success a few years ago. They’ve kind of fallen off the radar though since 2013, so they’re trying to recapture attention with this new single I imagine.

Do they capture my attention? Yes, but not for a good reason. “Trans Am” is simply a mess and I don’t know where to start. Within the first ten seconds of this song you know it isn’t going to be a very country song. In fact you pretty much know this is another pop rock song trying to pass itself off as country. Sure there’s a token banjo in the background, but it’s basically a meaningless prop thrown in at the last second. The production of this song may seem fun and pleasant upon first listen, but it actually gets more annoying with each listen. This kind of instrumentation has been done to death in country the last few years.

Another thing that hurts this song is it reminds me of another song that I enjoy more: Sheryl Crow’s “Steve McQueen,” the pop hit from the early 2000s. I’m not sure what it exactly it is, perhaps the theme or maybe the instrumentation, but I immediately thought of this song upon my first listen of “Trans Am.” “Steve McQueen” is all-around better, from the instrumentation to the vocals to the lyrics. Speaking of the lyrics, they’re perhaps even more ridiculous than the instrumentation in “Trans Am.” The entire song revolves around a car and a woman:

Girl let’s fly, jump inside, take a ride in my Trans Am
Hammer down, cruise around, rock this town in my Trans Am
Everybody wants to ride, hey, everybody wants to ride, hey
Girl, you know you wanna ride, take a ride in my Trans Am

See country music is evolving! Instead of a truck it’s a car. Bro country may be pretty much dead, but it’s elements and impact are very noticeable still. Also the word “whoa” is uttered 21 times throughout the song. This is in addition to rhythmic clapping. Now Eric Church’s “Give Me Back My Hometown” doesn’t sound so ridiculous. I could list several other problems with this song, but to save my time and everyone else’s reading, I’ll just say this: this song is a combination of “Steve McQueen” and a Lady Antebellum song from their 2014 album 747. It doesn’t matter which Lady Antebellum song you pick either. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if many listeners would mistake this for a Lady Antebellum song. I probably would have if you didn’t tell me it was Thompson Square.

This duo is capable of making decent music and this is not an example of it. “Trans Am” is cookie-cutter bullshit. There is nothing original nor creative about this song. We’ve heard hundreds of iterations of it before and will probably hear even more versions of it in 2015. “Trans Am” is the first single off of Thompson Square’s new upcoming album and if it’s any indication of the rest of it, then writing the review for it will be pretty easy. Just look at the review for Lady Antebellum’s 747 album. “Trans Am” is a song I do not recommend and suggest avoiding. Same old stuff, just a different song.

Grade: 2/10