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.

Worst Country Artist 2016 Tournament: Vote on We’re A Group & We Suck Region!

Florida Georgia Line "Dirt"

Welcome to the first round of voting in Country Perspective’s 2016 Worst Country Artist Tournament. We continue our first round with voting in the We’re A Group & We Suck Region. Remember that you have until Friday 1 PM ET to vote, so get your votes in! If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below.

Polls are closed! Thank you for voting and be sure to check out the updated bracket. 

 

 

 

 

Review – The Cadillac Three’s “White Lightning”

The Cadillac Three White Lightning

When it comes to American country rock/southern rock trio, The Cadillac Three, I’ve really never formed a solid opinion on them. They certainly exhibit a penchant for rock driven country songs and I can tell they have potential to produce good music. There’s a reason Scott Borchetta signed them to Big Machine Records. So far though the two singles they released previously haven’t showcased the band’s talents. The first single released in 2013 was “The South” which featured guests Dierks Bentley, Florida Georgia Line and Mike Eli of The Eli Young Band. It was a hodgepodge of a song that really didn’t stand out to me. The other single they released last year and it was called “Party Like You.” In Derek’s review of it last year, he summed the single up perfectly, saying it had “shallow, generic lyrics over great instrumentation.” This has summed up the career of The Cadillac Three so far for me. So they just released their third single, “White Lightning,” and they now have another chance to sway my mind. Does the trio of Jaren Johnston, Kelby Ray and Neil Mason impress me this time?

Well….it’s an improvement I guess. The instrumentation is once again pretty good, as they stick to their rock country sound. It’s their sound and they know how to do it. The guitar play in the bridge is solid and I wish this could have been highlighted more in the song. As for the lyrics, they’re pretty basic once again. I’ll say this: at least they aren’t generic party lyrics like last time. Instead they’re just a bunch of clichés about the south repeated over and over. The song starts out with the following line, “she stole my heart.” Okay, so it’s a love song. Now let’s hear about the actual relationship. That should be the natural progression in this type of song, no? Instead we get four lines about clichés from the south that start out each line with “Faster than…” Then the line “Ooh, I saw white lightning” is repeated twice. This is followed by four more clichés. Then the white lightning line again is repeated twice, followed by four more cliché lines. The white lightning line is repeated twice again This is followed by some garbled lines about love and a cliché about moonshine. Then once more the white lightning line is repeated. That’s the song. That’s it. If you don’t believe me, take a look. For crying out loud, can you get any more bare bones songwriting than this? This song says absolutely nothing. It can’t even suck because there isn’t even enough lines to it for it to suck. All they did was insert twelve southern clichés after the phrase “Faster than…” It’s Mad Libs songwriting! Just fill in the blank and you have a song. How am I supposed to connect with this song? Why should I even care about it? It gives me no reasons whatsoever to listen to it.

Elevator music is more interesting than “White Lightning.” I only say this is an improvement over the previous single “Party Like You” because this song is barely anything at all, whereas “Party Like You” was another annoying bro country, party song. I don’t think you could possibly concoct a safer song than “White Lightning.” It’s boring, vanilla and takes absolutely no chances in terms of the lyrics, vocals or instrumentation. I thought A Thousand Horses’ “Smoke” was average, but this song makes it sound exciting. If you want the real “White Lightning,” click here and listen to George Jones show you how it’s done. The Cadillac Three’s “White Lightning” is lazy, formulaic songwriting at it’s finest. I don’t even have a thought on whether to recommend it or not. I’m going to go listen to something that’s interesting, so I can wake myself up after this song nearly made me fall into a nap.

Grade: 3.5/10

Album Review – A Thousand Horses’ ‘Southernality’ Shows Glimpses of Southern Rock Potential

New country band, A Thousand Horses, formed back in 2010 and actually had a debut album released with DGC/Intersope Records. After that, the band signed with Republic Nashville in 2014 after the label’s president, Jimmy Harnen, listened to the band. Signing with the a major label certainly helped the band as their debut single, “Smoke,” topped the Country Airplay chart this year. Lead man Michael Hobby, and his band of Bill Satcher, Zach Brown, and Graham Deloach don’t necessarily build on the country sounds of “Smoke,” but bring forth a light, fun-loving southern rock approach to their major label debut, Southernality.

Immediately from the opening guitar riff of “First Time” you can hear the southern rock influence. A few seconds later, when the whole band kicks in, you might confuse this with a Black Crowes song. The keyboard guitar melody coming awfully close to the Black Crowes hit, “Jealous Again.” Here, A Thousand Horses rock out and sing of the single, one-night stand life until there’s a woman who steals his heart. “Heaven is Close” shows a bit more depth in the writing. It’s a song about finding freedom in the open road with the one you love. A Thousand Horses find a bit more originality in their sound, too, with the production on this track. “Heaven is Close” builds nicely from an acoustic first verse all the way to a polished electric guitar solo and a gospel like choir backing up Hobby’s vocals.

As Josh wrote about in his review for the band’s lead single, “Smoke,” the song was extremely safe and radio friendly with no edge or risks taken. And with the song squeezed between two fast paced southern rockers on the album, it doesn’t help the case for “Smoke” to stand out. “Travelin’ Man” carries an interesting production. The verses are well paced with the guitars and inclusion of a harmonica creating a western cowboy feel, but that’s abandoned with the sped up, chaotic chorus of heavy guitars and drums. The “Travelin’ Man” Hobby sings about is himself, tearing from town to town and how it’s hard to love this kind of guy.

“Tennessee Whiskey” is a more country, heartbreak song. His woman left him in South Texas, and he pines for Tennessee whiskey to calm his broken heart help get her off his mind. The song somewhat chronicles a journey from El Paso to Tennessee while he sings to the whiskey. The combination of steel guitars and electric guitars works well to create nice production for this countrified power ballad. I mentioned earlier that the first song of album had some sonic similarities to the Black Crowes. Well, A Thousand Horses wrote “Sunday Morning” with Rich Robinson, guitarist from the Black Crowes. It’s no surprise that this song also carries similarities to that band. The gospel like combination of rock and country in the chorus is fitting with the context of a woman who struggles to find joy, even with a Bible right in front of her. It’s a passionate song, and one of the album’s top tracks.

The title track is a clichéd country rock song about being from the south. At the first line, I knew exactly what was in store for us with this song, and I was ready to just skip ahead: “Yes sir, yes ma’am, talk with a drawl.” It’s just another list of how southern people are. “We say what we mean, gonna carve it stone. Yeah, these roots run deep down this old dirt road.” For being the shortest track on Southernality, it sure seemed like the longest. “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” is a rather safe pop country song. It’s a song about calling up an ex girlfriend and pining for one last chance to make things right between them. The production and melody sound familiar, very similar to “Smoke.” This song is also slated to be the band’s next radio single, with an official release at the end of the month. Even with all the southern rock available to choose from, it looks like A Thousand Horses will be sticking with safe pop country for the radio charts.

“Landslide” is a southern rock anthem about being your own man. The first verse includes a slight at controlling label executives who “couldn’t hum a tune if it hit him in the eye.” But it’s not so much of a protest song as it is a prideful anthem of being yourself in the face of others who want you to do things their way. However, ironically, it relies on clichéd country buzzwords like “southern soul” and “dirt roads” to describe where their identity and attitude comes from. “Back To Me” is a more acoustic ballad where Hobby sings of longing for his girl back. She’s run off to chase her dreams and he feels that he can set her heart free.

“Trailer Trashed” is about…you probably guessed it. It’s a prideful, rocking anthem about hillbillies partying. The song is shallow, and there’s not much more to say. It’s a song I wouldn’t be surprised to hear The Cadillac Three sing. “Hell On My Heart” is another power ballad where Hobby sings of the pain of loneliness and guilt. She left him without any answers, but it’s suggested that his reckless way of life that caused her to leave. He wants to try to change to get her back, because her leaving is hell on his heart. Southernality concludes with a pop country ode to a small town, hometown called “Where I’m Going.” It’s the place where everyone knows everyone, where there’s only one red light and one radio station. It’s a typical coming back home song and loving the simple things about it.

Just like their first major label single, A Thousand Horses’ major label debut album is rather middle of the road. It rises and falls from one track to the next. Southernality has moments where the band has some great, original material, and other times where they rely too much on cliché lyrics and stories. The production is slick, polished, and balances the rock and roll with country nicely. Michael Hobby’s vocals are a nice fit with the southern rocking melodies. Overall, Southernality just bounces too much between clichéd country rock and more original artistry. You usually get a little of everything in debut albums like this, in an attempt to see what fans gravitate towards. So we may have to wait for another album or EP before we can really see if A Thousand Horses is a great new addition to southern rock, or if they’re just a loud, noisey country rocking band spitting out clichés and fluff. It’s hard to tell from Southernality.

Grade: 5.5/10

The Hodgepodge: What Is Going To Happen to Mainstream Country Music Next?

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Over the last couple of weeks we’ve discussed right here in The Hodgepodge what I think is going to happen to mainstream country music next. Two weeks ago I discussed why mainstream country music is on a path of destruction and how decision-making now can have a huge impact on the future of the genre. This would lead to the mainstream country bubble popping. Last week I then discussed what the state of the genre would be like after that bubble popping and why I advocate for it to happen. So if you haven’t read those first two posts, read them before proceeding with this post.

This week I’m keeping it short in my opener because I want to hear more from you the readers on what you think of all of this. I want to know what you think will happen next in mainstream country music. Your guess is as good as mine. We’ve discussed in the past the genre splitting, something I pretty much ruled out happening for now. But maybe you feel different. Perhaps you think we’re on the cusp of another neo-traditional movement like in the mid-to-late 80s. Whatever you feel I want to know what you think is going to happen to country music in the next five to ten years. There are no wrong answers, as I’m pretty sure none of us own a crystal ball or time machine. And if I did have one of those I would be using it to get tomorrow’s lottery numbers.

So what is going to happen to country music next? Voice your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll be there waiting to discuss.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Roots/Rock artist Pat McGee is releasing a self-titled album next Tuesday. I’ll have a review on that one.
  • The bluegrass quartet Della Mae will be releasing a self-titled album next week. I’m not very familiar with this group, but my interested to hear what they have come up with on this new album.
  • Craig Wayne Boyd just released a new single, “I’m Still Here.” Thank you Ryan for brining this to my attention. For those unaware Boyd was kicked off his label Dot Records and is now with an independent label. You can definitely sense the emotions Boyd went through after being let go by Dot on this new single. I hope to have a review on this one soon.
  • A few weeks ago I forgot to mention that Canadian country artist Dean Brody released a new album titled Gypsy Road. It was on my radar, but with so many releases it slipped through the cracks. It’ll be reviewed by Ryan.
  • Brantley Gilbert is releasing a platinum edition of his 2014 album Just As I Am later this month to commemorate the one year anniversary of it. It includes eight new songs and no I am not reviewing it. We will review singles from it though. One interesting song in particular is a pro bro country song titled “Same Old Song.” That’s right pro. If it gets released as a single, it will be reviewed. If not it will be promptly ignored.
  • The Cadillac Three just released a new single titled “White Lightning.” No, it isn’t a cover of the iconic George Jones song. Based on one listen it sounds better than their previous singles. We hope to have a review on this one soon.
  • Ashley Monroe announced she will be releasing her sophomore album on July 24. No album name has been officially announced, but you can view the track list for it here. Vince Gill is once again producing, after being the producer for Monroe’s first album Like A Rose.

Throwback Thursday Song

Sturgill Simpson – “You Can Have The Crown/Some Days” – Simpson recored this live at the Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis, Indiana two years ago before he was heralded by everyone in the country music industry as the next big thing. These two songs mesh together perfectly. It’s still hard to believe how far he has come in just a couple of years. That third album can’t here quick enough.

Non-Country Music Recommendation of the Week

You see the name Lunchmoney Lewis and you’re thinking this guy isn’t much of a singer. But you’re dead wrong. He just came out with his debut EP Bills and some of you may be familiar with the lead single of the same name. Lewis is one of the charismatic hip hop artists I’ve heard in some time. He brilliantly combines hip hop and R&B in this EP, while also mixing in some great humor. The horn production and piano play is stout too. If you’re going to listen to pop music, this is an artist worth checking out.

Tweet of the Week

I see nothing wrong with this meme. Keep our highways clean! By the way if you’re not following Farce the Music yet you’re doing it wrong.

An iTunes Review That Will Make You Smile

iTunes Hero Slams FGL

This week instead of jeering an idiot iTunes reviewer, let’s applaud an iTunes reviewer doing it right. This was under Florida Georgia Line’s album Anything Goes. Bravo to you sir or madam for this nice little takedown of a terrible album. Usually they’re compared to Nickelback (the comment above this one did this), but an N’Sync and New Kids on the Block comparison works too.

That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments!