The Hodgepodge: Is Pop Radio Better Than Country Radio Right Now?

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A look at the current state of country radio and really mainstream country music in general.

Yesterday in this week’s current pulse of mainstream country music, I was pretty frustrated and exasperated with country radio. The reasons being of course is that nothing new is being tried by country radio and the songs with substance are getting harder to find. They’re simply rehashing the same old crap. Case in point: Jason Aldean’s new single “Tonight Looks Good On You” is surging and will undoubtedly reach #1 on the chart. It’s just another version of Aldean’s 2014 hit “Burnin’ It Down.” On top of that it’s a Dallas Davidson song. I mean come on! I thought country radio had moved passed Davidson’s bullshit, but apparently not.

So as I normally do when I get frustrated with terrible music, I go listen to music I enjoy. As I sat and listened to Hozier’s excellent 2014 debut album, an idea came to me for this week’s Hodgepodge. Why not take a look at pop radio and compare it to country radio? It’s a perfect time to do so when many country stations across the nation are playing blatant pop music. When Kanye West and Ed Sheeran are getting airplay on country radio, you know shit has hit the fan and country stations have run out of answers. So to conduct this comparison, we’ll take a look at the top 20 on the Billboard Top Pop Songs chart from last week and compare it to the top 20 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart from last week. The same exact rules will apply to this as the current pulse that runs every week.

The -3 score on last week’s pulse will not be used, since it’s the cumulative score of the top 30. Only the pulse of the top 20 will be used. By taking away the bottom ten songs, the pulse of the top 20 is 0. That will be the score we use to compare to the pop chart. Today you will get to see the very rare occurrence of yours truly evaluating pop music. See what you’ve done to me country radio? So without further ado let’s take a look at the Top Pop Chart:

  1. Taylor Swift – “Style” 0
  2. Maroon 5 – “Sugar” 0
  3. Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud” +1 (Sheeran is awesome)
  4. Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson – “Uptown Funk” +1 (This song is great, despite being overplayed)
  5. Pitbull & Ne-Yo – “Time of Our Lives” -1 (Pitbull sucks no matter what genre he is in)
  6. Ellie Goulding – “Love Me Like You Do” -1 (A terrible Fifty Shades of Grey song)
  7. Kanye West, Rihanna & Paul McCartney – “FourFiveSeconds” 0
  8. Natalie La Rose & Jeremih – “Somebody” -1
  9. Calvin Harris & Ellie Goulding – “Outside” 0
  10. Ariana Grande – “One Last Time” -1
  11. Nick Jonas – “Chains” +1 (I’m surprised I liked this)
  12. Zedd & Selena Gomez – “I Want You To Know” +1
  13. Taylor Swift – “Blank Space” -1
  14. One Direction – “Night Changes” -1
  15. Lillywood & Robin Schulz – “Prayer In C” 0
  16. Flo Rida, Sage The Gemini & Lookas – “G.D.F.R.” -1 (Flo Rida is the Toby Keith of pop music. He just keeps hanging on.)
  17. Jason DeRulo – “Want To Want Me” -1
  18. The Weeknd – “Earned It” -1 (Another terrible Fifty Shades of Grey song)
  19. Usher & Juicy J – “I Dont Mind” -1 
  20. Tori Kelly – “Nobody Love”

So the total current pulse of pop music is -8. Wow! It’s even worse than country radio! Yet country radio is borrowing from it. It shouldn’t be borrowing period from pop music, whether it’s better or worse. Still country radio is borrowing from a genre that is even worse. There are genre lines for a reason. The only common denominator between both groups of songs is the club theme. You can thank Sam Hunt for bringing this into country music. Music about going to the club is just plain dumb and it’s why people laugh at artists like Pitbull and Flo Rida. I will say though I would take pop’s club music over country’s club music.

After this not very surprising revelation, I think I can safely say that all of radio is nothing but a vast wasteland of garbage songs. Country radio isn’t the only one lacking substance. However it’s imperative if I point out the big different between both. Country radio and pop radio historically have been viewed completely different by listeners. Pop radio is a mix of several different genres all in one place for casual listeners to hear. Upbeat, fun, party songs are the norm for pop and everyone pretty much knows this. You don’t hear a lot of songs that you would consider classics get on pop radio today, save for the likes of Adele and Hozier maybe. In years past you had icons like Michael Jackson dominating pop, but I don’t see any singers like Jackson on the horizon.

Country radio on the other hand was always viewed by people as a place to go for songs about life, love and other themes that explore deeper meaning. It was the genre of substance. You could hear a song like Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High On That Mountain” and be brought to tears. George Strait’s “Give It Away” or Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” connected with anyone out there whoever had their heart-broken. Go back a little over ten years and you could hear a song on country radio like Josh Turner’s “Long Black Train” that had a great message to anyone of any age. These are the kind of songs that made country music what it was. It was what made you and me fans of country music.

Now an entire generation views country music as a laughing-stock full of songs about drinking, debauchery and partying. That respect country music once held in popular culture has eroded away. People turn on country radio and don’t even recognize the genre. Some people don’t even turn on the radio. Sure there is plenty of great independent country music out there and sites like this help spread the word of it. But why would people seek it out? After what they hear on country radio, it makes them run away from the genre. They’ve got such a sour taste from country radio that they won’t even try the good country music. Country music fans need something to believe in and hear to reaffirm their faith in the genre. Will we get that before it’s too late? For the sake of country music, I hope so.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Will Hoge will come out with his new album Small Town Dreams next Tuesday. A couple of months ago we got a taste of what’s to come on the album and based on that I’m expecting this to be a good one. Derek will be reviewing this one, as Hoge is one of his favorites.
  • Kristian Bush’s debut solo album Southern Gravity will also be released next Tuesday. The lead single “Trailer Hitch” was a surprisingly good song, so it’ll be interesting to hear what the rest of the album sounds like and whether the sound of Sugarland is evident at all.
  • The third notable release next week and the biggest in the independent realm is Pokey LaFarge’s Something In The Water. This could quietly be one of the best releases in April.
  • On Monday, Jason Isbell tweeted: “New new album is done and mastered.” So maybe we’ll get this sooner than July? I certainly hope so. We should at least hear the first single from it very soon.

Throwback Thursday Song

George Jones – “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” – You know how I was saying up above about how country music was the genre about life and connecting with everyday people? This song articulates that point perfectly. And it’s a song many country fans wonder today.

Non-Country Song of the Week

AC/DC – “Shoot To Thrill” – This is one of my all-time favorite AC/DC songs. The high notes blow me away every time.

Tweet of the Week

Anti-Bobby Bones tweets are always great. He’s another problem hurting country music, but that’s another post for another day.

Two iTunes Reviews That Will Make You Face Palm

Stupid EYB Comment 2

 

Stupid EYB Comment 3

 

I’ve been sitting on these gems for a couple of weeks. These were under Eli Young Band’s new EP Turn It On. The first one justifies this terrible EP by saying everyone’s going pop in country, so it’s fine. The other says it’s fine because they wrote all four songs. Here’s an easy way to determine whether or not a song or group of songs suck: people having to list reasons to justify why it’s good. People making excuses for it. A great song speaks volumes on its own merit and doesn’t need to be explained why it’s good.

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

Album Review – The Swon Brothers’ Self-Titled Album is a Rocky Listen

Source: mjsbigblog.com
Source: mjsbigblog.com

The music talent show, The Voice, has churned out a few country artists in recent years. They’ve all came from Team Blake (Shelton) of course. I’ve reviewed two of his proteges from the show already, Gwen Sebastian, who I feel has potential, and RaeLynn, who doesn’t exactly impress me. Today I review another from Shelton’s team, Zach and Colton Swon, the duo known as The Swon Brothers. I remember watching these guys on the show too and I thought they sounded pretty good on the show at the time. Looking back now I still feel the same. They performed a lot of great traditional country songs, including a heartfelt tribute to George Jones just after he died. I thought their performance of “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” did justice to The Possum. So when they released their first single, “Later On,” I was pretty disappointed they went the pop country route because they proved on the show they could perform great country songs. Not only that, but they have likable personalities and seem like they’re genuinely nice people. So going into their first album on a major label (Arista Nashville) I wasn’t sure what I was going to get from The Swon Brothers.

The album starts off with “What I’m Thinking About,” a song about a man trying to hook up with a girl in the bar. Sigh. I swear every damn song from a mainstream male country artist today is about trying to have sex with a girl. This has a pop country sound and cliché lyrics. The same old shit, different day. Next is their minor hit single, “Later On.” Their biggest hit is a bro country song of course. It has all of the typical tropes you hear in bro country. It’s another song about trying to have sex with a girl. Nothing here you haven’t heard before. The vocals are decent at least. Two songs into the album and I’m beginning to wonder why I’m even listening to it.

“Chasing You Around” is thankfully a much better song. The song is about a woman who dumped a man, leaving the man wondering if the woman loved him or loved chasing him around. She dumped him out of nowhere and now he’s picking up the pieces. This is more of what I want to hear from this duo. It tells a story and conveys some emotion in the listeners. Their harmonies are good and it has a traditional country sound. Unfortunately the duo goes back to their bad side with “Songs That Said It All.” This song is a giant cliché. How many country songs have we heard like this in recent years? I’m tired of songs about songs. This isn’t necessarily bro country, but it’s certainly checklist country music. It’s also boring and completely forgettable.

The next song, “Pray For You,” is about a man who’s praying for a friend to get through a rough patch. It does a decent job of telling the story and painting the situation in the listener’s head. I felt the lyrics were just a little bland and again cliché sounding. The pop country sound did nothing for me either. “Breaking” is one of the four songs on this album that I would consider good. The song is about a man deeply in love with a woman, even when she’s breaking his heart. He can’t shake his love for her. The instrumentation is more stripped down in this song and allow the brothers’ harmonizing to shine. This is a good love song with emotion. Not bad at all.

The duo follows this up with two absolute duds. Of course these will probably be their next singles and skyrocket into the top ten in the charts. One song is called “95.” I knew before I even heard this song it was about a hot summer day and 95 would reference 95 degrees outside. Unfortunately I get no reward for being absolutely correct or listening to this boring, brotastic song. Vapid, shallow lyrics that degrade women litter it throughout. What a terrible song! “Pretty Beautiful” sounds more like a bad R&B song instead of a bad country song. The Swon Brothers go above their range in this song by a long shot. They should never go this high with their voices. If I wouldn’t have known better I would’ve thought it was another Usher song that everyone would have to ignore. I can’t take this song seriously. The brothers attempt being serious with “Colder” and they do okay. Sonically I’m puzzled as how to describe it. It kind of reminds me of Eric Church’s album. The theme of this song isn’t quite clear either. It’s a heartbreak song I guess. This song comes off weird to my ears and I actually have trouble finding words to describe it to you. That isn’t a good thing.

After these three songs, I’m not expecting much out of the last two songs. Sure enough the duo does a complete 180 and give me a complete surprise. After the bizarre sound of “Colder” they follow it up with a traditional country sound in “Same Old Highway.” The man in the song is used to going down the same old highway and seeing the same old faces, including the woman of his life. But she’s gotten tired of the same old stuff and has ditched him and the same old town. Finally a realistic look at small towns! The duo’s harmonies shine and this is easily one of the best songs on the album. Yet they top themselves again with the final song, “This Side of Heaven.” Out of nowhere this fantastic song blows me away. The song takes a realistic look at life and how much hell we can experience on “this side of heaven.” The lyrics in this song are heartfelt, sincere and real. Carrie Underwood comes in on the second half of the song and elevates it even more. This is one of the best songs I’ve heard from mainstream country music in 2014 and is a dark horse for Country Perspective’s Song of the Year.

It’s unbelievable how up and down this album goes. One minute I’m furious and ready to throw my computer out the window. The next minute I’m praising the duo for their strong harmonies and traditional country sound. It’s astounding. You can tell one part of the album is for commercial purposes and the other is music they truly want to make. In the commercial part they’re trying to be a Florida Georgia Line copycat. We already have one Florida Georgia Line and they’re destined to flame out eventually. If you’re reading this Swon Brothers, head my advice: go with your heart and make traditional country music. You’ll stand out a lot more this way and get more respect in the process. Don’t chase trends and just make good music. I think The Swon Brothers have the talent to make great country music and I hope they don’t use their talents instead for crappy commercial music. This album has some truly good songs and bad songs that make me cringe. My recommendation: check out the four good songs and avoid the rest of the album.

Grade: 4/10