The Hodgepodge: Five Ways I Would Fix Country Radio

Alan Jackson

I don’t think it’s much of a secret how I feel about country radio. Anyone who has followed Country Perspective and The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music in particular know my distaste and at times outright anger towards country radio. At times they can get it right, only to screw up again. But one thing I have come to accept compared to when I first started to track country airplay charts is that I don’t entirely represent their target audience. As much as I want to hear Jon Pardi, Maddie & Tae and Eric Church get played on country radio, the person down the street simply prefers Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt. We all have different tastes and country radio doesn’t always deliberately play the worst music being released. Some people choose to listen to this music and I respect this choice, even if don’t understand it or agree with it.

But I think something all country fans can agree on, especially in light of what has happened so far in 2016, is there’s a clear lack of direction at radio and several other problems accompanying it. There’s a lack of traditional country music still, even if there has been some notable accomplishments by traditional artists on the airwaves this year. Most female artists continue to be ignored and older artists are still shunted aside. Not to mention there seems to be this never-ending chart clog, as every label desperately tries to push their new act so they can become established. That’s a lot of issues and it got me thinking of how exactly I would go about fixing this issues. And by fixing that doesn’t mean removing every artist from the airwaves I don’t like, as much as I would love to ban Sam Hunt from country radio. So after doing some thinking, I came up with what I believe to be five sensible solutions that would go a long way in helping fix country radio and turning it into something that can appeal to both traditional and modern fans.

  • Ban the On The Verge Program

iHeart’s On The Verge program looked like it could be a useful program at first for country radio. It seemed to promise to help up and coming, new artists at radio and give them a chance to make a successful career. Well after a couple of years of observing this program, I would call it an absolute failure. The only two acts to actually benefit from it and help them launch successful careers is Sam Hunt and Old Dominion. The rest of the artists chosen for the program haven’t really done much since being chosen. Even a quality artist like Cam has failed to produce a hit since “Burning House” was chosen for the program. Maren Morris is struggling right now at radio with “80s Mercedes” after “My Church” was chosen for On The Verge and she’s probably been one of the biggest breakouts recently in country music. It reminds me similarly of A Thousand Horses with “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” stalling out after “Smoke” landed them a #1 hit. The latest On The Verge pick though has really exposed this sham of a program, Lauren Alaina’s “Road Less Traveled.” She isn’t a new artist by any stretch and has had plenty of time to establish a career. Alaina is undoubtedly a talented artist, but this is not the way you build her career up because I don’t see the followup to this netting her another hit and establishing her as a star.

The whole situation with On The Verge is very forced and inorganic. It represents a problem that has been plaguing country radio, which is why I would end it effective immediately. It’s not creating stars and it no longer serves a purpose. Why continue to run something that is ineffective and only strokes the egos of label executives? It’s just causing problems and getting the hopes of young artists and their fans. You can’t force radio and people to like a song, no matter how hard you push it down their throats. Speaking of which…

  • A Song Can Only Be On The Airplay Charts for 25 Weeks at Max

This solution is 100% directed at labels pushing the likes of Chase Bryant and Canaan Smith down our throats when nobody cares about them and their music. Just look at the chart right now and you can find songs that have been on it for over 30 weeks. As glad as I was to see Jon Pardi hit #1 with “Head Over Boots,” I cringe when I see it took over 45 weeks to reach this achievement (ironically it took exactly 11 months). Chase Rice infamously pushed a song for over a year to reach the top ten. This kind of gerrymandering bullshit needs to end and that’s why I would cap the limit for charting at 25 weeks. This gives labels just over six months to push their single at radio. After 25 weeks it must leave the chart and go recurrent. I think this is a good balance between giving labels enough time to push songs, as well as account for slower growing songs. It’s more than enough time to determine the true peak of the song. If this type of rule were to ever be implemented I could just see labels crying this is unfair because they can’t push their newest project for 40 weeks. And to them I say this: Perhaps this demonstrates how you shouldn’t waste time and money on artists that simply don’t connect (looking at you Curb Records).

  • The Top 30 on Both Mediabase & Billboard Airplay Charts Must Contain At Least 10 Songs with Female Artists

Now this solution and the next one are bound to be controversial, especially since I just said that you shouldn’t force music on the charts. But hear me out. Tomato Gate did absolutely nothing to improve the standing of women being played on country radio. A bunch of words and think-pieces have been churned out, yet no viable solution has been put on the table. Having the same three female artists in the top 30 is not enough progress. So in my opinion the only way you reverse the discrimination of country radio against women is to implement a rule like this one. Radio programmers aren’t going to willingly change their ways, so you have to force feed it down their throats so they will comply. Women deserve a fair chance and this is the only way I can think of them getting it. Notice I say it doesn’t have to be songs by solo female acts, but it simply must have a female artist on the song. The reason I word it like this is because major labels aren’t equipped at the moment to have ten female solo artists on the radio. They simply aren’t enough to be pushed, but by implementing this rule it would force them to sign more female talent and more importantly push them to radio when they’re guaranteed to have a chance. Now I realize not all of these pushed female acts would connect with audiences and if they don’t, they simply fall out of the top 30 in favor of a new one. Nothing would be forced.

  • The Top 30 on Both Mediabase & Billboard Airplay Charts Must Contain At Least 2 Songs by Artists 45+ Years Old

While women have been the victims of sexism and misogyny at country radio, the other big problem country radio has always had is ageism. As soon as an artist gets older, they casted aside and ignored by country radio. This is bullshit. Alan Jackson, Reba and George Strait are all still making music and want to be played on country radio. There’s plenty of people who still want to hear them on country radio. I say they should still be getting played and this rule would force radio to continue to consider these senior acts. Why should Chris Lane be getting played over George Strait when Strait can outsell and outperform him in his sleep?

  • The Implementation of a Quality Assurance Panel

This last one is pretty self-explanatory, but might also be the most important. I would establish a Quality Assurance Panel for country radio. It would consist of ten people whose job would be to vote on whether or not a single should qualify for country radio. In other words, is the single country enough for country radio? This would eliminate pop carpetbagging and outsiders hijacking the format. It would also still allow for pop country songs, which many people enjoy and wouldn’t be taken off the airwaves. A strict checklist would have to be met for the song to get passed by the panel (instrumentation, lyrics, etc.). So while I’m not banning Sam Hunt off the airwaves, a quality panel would force him to either start making country leaning songs or get the hell out and go to pop radio. Kelsea Ballerini would be forced to incorporate more country elements into her music too if she wants to stay on country radio.

For the fun of it, I decided to apply my hypothetical solutions to the current chart. Here’s what the top 30 would look like after removing all songs that would fail to be on the current chart and applying my rules:

  1. Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls”
  2. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory”
  3. Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime”
  4. Zac Brown Band – “Castaway”
  5. Miranda Lambert – “Vice”
  6. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be”
  7. Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time”
  8. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All”
  9. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song”
  10. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute”
  11. Jerrod Niemann & Lee Brice – “A Little More Love”
  12. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night”
  13. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry”
  14. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
  15. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl”
  16. Michael Ray – “Think A Little Less”
  17. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”
  18. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”
  19. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill a Word”
  20. Eli Young Band – “Saltwater Gospel”
  21. Runaway June – “Lipstick”
  22. Mickey Guyton – “Why Baby Why” (“Heartbreak Song” is not country)
  23. Easton Corbin – “Are You With Me”
  24. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You”
  25. RaeLynn – “Love Triangle”
  26. Ashley Monroe – “Dixie”
  27. Toby Keith – “A Few More Cowboys”
  28. George Strait – “Goin’ Goin’ Gone”
  29. Maddie & Tae – “Sierra”
  30. Margo Price – “Hurtin’ On The Bottle”

Let me know in the comments what you think. These are all hypothetical solutions and are closer to fantasy than reality. If you have any ideas you would like to add I would be glad to hear them.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow the following albums will be released:
    • Dwight YoakamSwimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
    • Reckless KellySunset Motel
  • Next week the legendary John Prine will release his duets album For Better, or Worse
  • William Michael Morgan will release his debut album Vinyl next week too
  • Wayne Hancock will be releasing a new album titled Slingin’ Rhythm on October 28

In Memory of Windmills Country

Country writer Grady Smith brought to us the unfortunate news this past week that beloved country writer, chart analyst and all-around wonderful person Windmills Country (real name Devarati Ghosh) has passed away. Her loss will be greatly felt throughout the country music insider community, as her kindness and insight was second to none. I know she influenced several of my best posts on this blog and inspired me to take on many challenging topics. While I never met her in real life, her advice and presence will be forever felt. May she rest in peace.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Born on the Bayou” – I’ve been digging into CCR’s catalog lately and they’re probably one of the most unsung acts of the 60s and 70s in my book. The way they blend soul, R&B and that swampy rock sound is infectious and memorable. You really can’t go wrong with any of their music.

Tweet of the Week

Yep! Also ties into last week’s Hodgepodge.

A Spot-On Review of the New Jason Aldean Album

all-of-aldeans-songs-sound-the-same

I’m still unable to listen to the new Aldean album, but I don’t have any plans to do so when I can anyway. According to people I trust on country music opinions, they all echo this above review: every song sounds the same. Based on what I’ve heard on the previews and Aldean’s track record, I’m not surprised. After all you don’t want to get too “songwriter-y.” Aldean is such a meat head.

The Hodgepodge: Salad Gate Needs To Be About More Than Female Artists on Country Radio

Miranda_Lambert
Miranda Lambert and other female country artists deserve to be on country radio. But not all female artists.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past week, the country music industry has been abuzz over comments country radio consultant Keith Hill made in the weekly Country Aircheck. Here are those comments again to refresh your memory:

Many people, including myself, are rightfully in an uproar over these comments. Then again I wasn’t that surprised. As you regular readers know, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay chart every week and observe the shenanigans taking place. There aren’t too many female country artists populating the chart right now. It’s been a sausage fest for the last few years. Many country artists, male and female, have also spoke out against Hill’s comments. Miranda Lambert had a pretty straightforward response:

And there were several more tweets expressing distaste in Hill’s comments. Of course Hill doesn’t know better to shut his mouth and went on to make a bigger ass of himself in articles on CMT and The Tennesseean. Not even bro country artists have been dumb enough to say something stupid (yet). But the flames continued to build bigger over the weekend when country radio personality Carson Johnson not only backed Hill up on his comments, but made even dumber comments himself:

Now you probably expect me to tear into these comments, but there’s been more than enough of these articles. Many great articles that do a better job than I could, have already been published and are well worth your time reading. Windmills Country has a great, data-driven post on MJ’s Big Blog. Trigger at Saving Country Music has weighed in with his always intriguing thoughts and ForTheCountryRecord.com has several posts giving analysis on the situation too. So I’ve been sitting and observing all of this stuff happening. No doubt I’m thrilled that this issue is finally being given the attention it deserves, as this problem has been persistent in country music for years. I’m a big champion of female country artists and we feature several talented artists right here on the site. But I see a problem with this movement.

People are not looking at the whole picture. This is bigger than not enough female country artists being played. This is about not enough quality country artists being played. This needs to be about all quality artists being left out, not just all female country artists. Why? Not all female country artists deserve to get airplay and quite frankly some people getting involved with this movement don’t need to be involved. For example, Maggie Rose getting involved:

Really? You’re the same artist that recorded “Girl In A Truck Song” in 2014. It was one of the worst songs of the year. It completely pandered to bro country and in my opinion tarnished Rose’s image. So in one year’s time Rose went from bro country supporter to female empowerment? I’m supposed to get behind an artist that was just pandering to radio? This is called bullshit trend riding and seems to be the only thing Rose is willing to do in her career. Speaking of bullshit…

https://twitter.com/mrBobbyBones/status/604378638037970944

Go away, Bobby Bones. I don’t want you involved in this at all. You’re part of the establishment poisoning country radio right now and really you don’t belong in country music period. Take your pandering and shove it up your ass. Kelsea Ballerini doesn’t belong on country radio either. She’s a pop artist. Her music is not high enough in quality to play on country radio. See why I have issues with this movement? People equate female country music to quality, just like the idiots who run country radio equating chart success to quality. Neither are the case.

More female country artists deserved to get played on radio. But so do underplayed male artists who make quality music. Eric Paslay and Jon Pardi put out some of the best albums in mainstream country music in 2014. They barely get any radio play. Pardi’s new EP is wonderful and yet there isn’t a single from it in the top 60 on the airplay chart. Mo Pitney is one the most promising upcoming artists in mainstream country music and where’s his airplay? Multiple Texas country artists such as Aaron Watson, Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers should be on mainstream country radio. Sturgill Simpson had a huge year in 2014 and didn’t even sniff country radio, despite the fact that he outsold several mainstream artists in album sales. He achieved a top ten album without any airplay or major label push. Yet I have to hear that untalented hack Cole Swindell on the radio?

Country music’s biggest problems are what I’ve been saying all year: there aren’t any gatekeepers to vet the quality of the music or even if it’s country at all, the payola going on behind the scenes (specifically On The Verge), and dirty politics. This is what is holding back not just female country artists, but all quality country artists. Luke Bryan no doubt has a huge fan base, but he wouldn’t be near the star he is without the pushes he has gotten from his label and radio. This goes back years and I hope to talk about a little unknown story from before he became a big star in a future Hodgepodge. It’s really interesting. All of the bro country artists (Swindell, Chase Rice, Thomas Rhett, Michael Ray) wouldn’t be nothing without the support of radio and their labels. In a world with justice they remain obscure and never become the stars they are right now. Country radio executives wanted mimbos with hunky looks who were willing to do whatever it took to get to the top and willing to perform brainless, watered-down music filled with cliché hooks. They didn’t have standards and were looking for dollar signs.

If Kacey Musgraves got the same kind of push Cole Swindell has gotten, she would have #1 hits on radio. But she doesn’t conform to what the sexist, clueless pigs at country radio and country labels want out of an artist. You can say the same thing about Mo Pitney. So you shouldn’t be campaigning for more female country artists. You should be campaigning for more quality male and female country artists on the radio. You should be demanding the crap currently populating radio being taken away. However demanding things won’t get you your desired result. You want to make an impact? Boycott country music radio indefinitely. Don’t listen at all. Tell everyone you know not to listen to country radio. Hit them where it hurts and that’s in their bottom line. Listen to your own music library or your CDs. Listen to radio stations that play quality country music. It’s the best way to make a difference. In the summer of 2015 I’m declaring war on mainstream country radio and I hope you join me in doing the same.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • A Thousand Horses will released their major label debut album Southernality next Tuesday. Their lead single “Smoke” has had a lot of success on the airplay charts and will reach #1. It’s also got a lot of hits right here on the site. We’ll definitely be reviewing that one.
  • Montgomery Gentry’s new album Folks Like Us will also come out next Tuesday. It was originally supposed to come out in the early spring, but it was pushed back until now. I’m really not sure what to expect with this album, as their music has been a mixed bag in the last five years or so. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to review it.
  • Chris Hennessee, signed to Jamey Johnson’s Big Gassed Records, will release an album next week titled Greetings From Hennessee. I listened to the lead single from it and I thought it was pretty good. Johnson has an eye on for talent, so I’m definitely giving this one a listen.
  • Hunter Hayes just recently came out with his new single, “21.” There will be a review on this one soon.
  • Kip Moore announced on Twitter last week that his new album will finally be released on August 21. It will be called Wild Ones. So you only have to wait a little longer for an album, Kip fans.
  • Kellie Pickler just released a new song titled “Feeling Tonight.” It was originally released exclusively to Spotify, but is now available in most music outlets. I’m sure we’ll get around to reviewing it.
  • Brett Eldredge will release his new album on Friday, September 11 and it will be called Illinois.

Throwback Thursday Song

The Dixie Chicks – “Not Ready To Make Nice” – Yeah this fits this Hodgepodge perfectly. Country music needs The Dixie Chicks back. Save us Dixie Chicks! I would love to hear what they think of Keith Hill.

Non-Country Song of the Week

Guns N’ Roses – “Welcome To The Jungle” – One of my favorite rocks songs from one of my all-time favorite albums, Appetite For Destruction.

Tweet of the Week

So many choices this week, but I’ll go with Twitter king Jason Isbell’s comments on Hill.

iTunes Reviews That Rock!

%22Real Life%22 is Real Bad

This week’s reviews are for Jake Owen’s new song “Real Life.” Thank you to reader Ben for sending this one in! Looks like Owen’s own fans felt the same way you and myself also felt about the song. Remember Jake if you’re going to copy 90s music, copy 90s country radio, not 90s pop radio.

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

The Hodgepodge: Hey Taste of Country, Music Reviews Still Matter!

Jason Aldean
Somebody has to call out Jason Aldean when he puts out a bad song. And I have no problem doing it.

When it comes to the corporate country blog Taste of Country, I like to generally ignore it because I have no respect for the blog, as I outlined in this piece months ago. They bring zero journalistic integrity to the table and are a glorified public relations arm for artists and labels. Today I want to talk about a piece they actually seemed to put some time into and offered some sort of opinion. Shocking, right? They actually took a break from kissing major labels’ asses and writing fluff pieces to offer an opinion from an actual person. The topic of the piece? Do Record Reviews Matter in the Age of Social Media?

First off this is pretty damn ironic coming from Taste of Country, considering the fact that they don’t review music. As I said they are a PR machine and don’t offer opinions and analysis on music. Every song is a unique little snowflake and every artist is a creative ball of sunshine and rainbows. Nothing is bad and everything is good. You get the picture. So to the piece itself now. They begin the article asking the question above of record reviews mattering in this day and age. They then cite an NPR article from 2013 in which indie band Arcade Fire talks about receiving negative reviews for their Reflektor album, yet it was still a major chart hit. The NPR piece and band basically brush off negative reviews and say it really has no bearing on the fans. Taste of Country then writes the following:

There are plenty of examples of this in country music; in fact, the disparity between artists who are seeing the biggest commercial success in the genre and those who are the most critically applauded has arguably never been greater. Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, Sturgill Simpson and more of country’s most respected singer-songwriters have received glowing reviews, while generally finding little-to-no support from country radio, with only Musgraves scoring a Top 10 single there. Meanwhile, some of the biggest superstars in the genre routinely score commercial hits with songs that either receive lukewarm or outright negative reviews.

Hey, this is correct. But you want to know something about those radio stations that aren’t playing Musgraves, Clark and Simpson, Taste of Country? The same labels pulling the strings behind radio are the same pulling the strings behind your site. You are essentially why they’re “held back” and not on radio. The labels are pushing the trash to radio and not the genuinely good music, but you conveniently ignore these simple facts. But wait this article continues to get more ridiculous! Taste of Country goes on to cite Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night” as an example. They quote the reviews from Country Weekly and Country Universe bashing the song (those mean blogs!), along with Zac Brown’s quote that he thought it was the worst song he has ever heard. After that they write about how Bryan still accomplished a bunch of accolades with that song and his 2013 album Crash My Party. Then this gem of a line:

With that being the case, it’s not hard to see why many people feel professional reviewers are simply talking to themselves and their peers at this point, rather than influencing the tastes and decision-making of the fans.

Are you kidding me? Where the hell do I begin with this? I’ll start with the easy point: reviewers without a doubt are influencing fans. I know because you guys have told Derek and myself that you’ve found great new music thanks to us. Go to Saving Country Music and there are fans constantly telling Trigger that they’ve found music thanks to his reviews. I’ve seen this with my own eyes. But Taste of Country can’t say this because they don’t write reviews, so how do they know? They have no idea what they’re saying.

The second big crux that this Taste of Country article is insinuating is that because Bryan’s Crash My Party was a huge success chart wise and sales wise, it’s great. I’ve said this point a hundred times, right here on this site and I guess I am going to have to say it once again. Chart success, radio success and sales success doesn’t mean the music is of high quality. I’ll use the cheeseburger example to further illustrate this. McDonald’s sells billions of cheeseburgers a year. They’re one of the wealthiest companies in the world and are statistically a success. Now tell me this: Does McDonald’s make the best cheeseburger? I’ll venture to say most of you would say no. It’s not the best cheeseburger. Maybe you think your mother makes the best cheeseburger. Maybe you know a little hole in the wall that makes the best cheeseburgers ever. I know one of my favorite places to get a cheeseburger is Five Guys. They don’t sell near the burgers a year that McDonald’s does. But they sell the most! That says nothing about the taste and quality of the product. It says they have the greatest access to the public at large and are simply more present than Five Guys. A personal example: There are a total of 10 McDonald’s within a 40 minute drive of where I live. There is only one Five Guys within that area.

Taste of food is subjective, just like music. Music is a highly subjective art form. It is not black and white, only gray. The quality of music can’t be measured with numbers and metrics. Music is something that you need to hear for yourself. It’s a human interaction that engages your mind, body, heart and spirit. A robot can’t listen to a song and tell you how it feels, but a person certainly can. While iTunes, Spotify and YouTube can certainly give you suggestions, it simply isn’t the same as getting suggestions from a real, live person. When you call tech support when dealing with a faulty product, would you rather be greeted by automated messages or a real person? I know I would choose the latter every single time. People want to replace everything with a machine in today’s world, but some things just can’t be replaced with a machine. Only a person can do a certain job and a reviewer is certainly a job for a real, live human.

The rest of the article is really nothing special. The majority of it is getting the perspective of publicist Claire Cook, who does promotional work for Average Joes Entertainment (the label that is home to hick-hop acts like Colt Ford and The Lacs). Her comments are pretty neutral on the subject, although she does mention how she views reviews as a promotion vehicle for artists and that good reviews can help. Taste of Country tacks on after this:

It’s getting harder and harder for individual acts to get positive reviews from respected sources, in part because there are more acts competing for exposure than ever, and in part because so many outlets simply don’t publish in-depth reviews anymore.

If this is insinuating why Average Joes’ artists don’t get good reviews, I got news for Taste of Country and that label: they don’t get good reviews because their music sucks. I have been pitched numerous times by Average Joes and I refuse every time because hick-hop is horrible and not a valid art form. I don’t consider it a part of country music. It would be a waste of time to review it because it all sounds the same and has no respect for the roots of country music. There are many others that feel the same way. And the problem of outlets not publishing in-depth reviews anymore? That’s on you Taste of Country and the other blogs you cite that have dropped reviews from their sites. Rolling Stone is part of the problem too, as I don’t consider a paragraph a review. LA Weekly dropped them because they said they didn’t get a lot of hits on reviews. Maybe that’s a sign that people don’t like your reviews? I don’t know because I don’t read them, but I certainly have no problem getting hits for my reviews and I think our reviews are pretty in-depth compared to most other blogs’ reviews.

I’ve blubbered on enough about Taste of Country for one day, so to my final point: reviews definitely still matter. If they didn’t I wouldn’t have started this site. Multiple independent country blogs wouldn’t still be doing reviews either. People still read and appreciate hearing thoughts from reviewers. Not only that, but it brings fans together in comments sections in reviews everywhere. Do you see people coming together on iTunes comments or Taste of Country comments section on music reviews? No you do not because they’re lifeless reviews that in no way are constructive or helpful to people reading them. You tried really hard to bring an opinion to the table, Taste of Country, and unfortunately for you it was completely off base. Now run along and go back to praising Florida Georgia Line or ranking country artists with their shirts off (this is a real thing on their site). Let us music reviewers get back to doing the job you should be doing.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Billy Currington’s new album Summer Forever is coming out next Tuesday. Based on the track listing, I’m expecting a mixed bag. There will surely be some summer anthems and bro country, but I think there will be a few deeper songs too.
  • Gloriana is releasing their third album, Three, next week. You gotta think this is an important album for them, as their relevancy on the charts and radio has waned considerably in recent years. I’m really not sure what to expect with this one.
  • The new collaboration album between country icons Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard is also slated to be released on June 2. It’s titled Django & Jimmie, as the two pay homage to guitarist Django Reinhardt and country musician Jimmie Rodgers. You can get an early listen on it, as it’s currently available for streaming at NPR.
  • Lindi Ortega has released another song from her new album Faded Gloryville, slated to come out on August 7. It’s a cover of the Bee Gees’ song “To Love Somebody” and it’s fantastic. Can this album get here already?
  • Joy Williams, the former one half of The Civil Wars, is releasing a solo album on June 30 titled Venus.

Throwback Thursday Song

Dwight Yoakam – “Guitars, Cadillacs” – I heard this song come on the other day on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country station and it still sounds as good as when it came out. Who doesn’t enjoy a little hillbilly music from Dwight?

Non-Country Song of the Week

The Black Keys – “Gold On The Ceiling” – The Black Keys were on my long list of artists I’ve put off for far too long to give an in-depth listen to and I’m definitely a fan now. “Gold On The Ceiling” was one of the most successful singles off their brilliant 2011 album El Camino. I definitely recommend listening to this song and that entire album.

Tweet of the Week

So for those on Twitter, Tuesday night was pretty heated in the world of country music on the social media platform. Keith Hill, a radio programmer, said the quote above on the weekly Country Aircheck. Pretty damn ridiculous. This situation is now being termed #SaladGate. Not only do I recommend checking out Grady Smith’s timeline on all of this, but definitely recommend checking out Windmills Country’s timeline too. She took Hill to school on Tuesday night! Windmills is an absolute must-follow for all country music fans and people interested in the industry. Oh and female artists are noticing the quote too:

There are a lot of fed up people over the situation with female artists on country radio, but the female artists are by far the most fed up. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them steps up and calls out radio for its bullshit. They have nothing to lose because radio already hates them. When Carrie probably misses out on another airplay #1, I hope she has the guts to say something.

iTunes Reviews That Rock!

Kick The Dust Up Great Reviews

So I heard that Luke Bryan’s new single “Kick The Dust Up” was getting some backlash on iTunes and I went to look for myself. Holy crap, it’s true! These are the three top reviews under it and one of them is a Bryan fan who hates it. Please please please please please let this be the beginning of change in mainstream country music.

One More Thing…

No it’s not bad news this week! It’s great news. I’m going to be at the Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati next Friday and Saturday covering it. So if you’re at it be sure to say hi if you see me. The lineup is great and I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’ll have a post on the site recapping my experience and the artists performing.

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

Review – Craig Wayne Boyd’s “I’m Still Here”

CWB I'm Still Here

The start of 2015 for Craig Wayne Boyd looked bright and promising. He kicked off the year with his debut major label single, “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face,” which went #1 on the Hot Country songs chart on Billboard. Boyd was signed to Dot Records/Big Machine Label Group and everything looked just right for him. As I said in my review of that single though, it just didn’t sound like Boyd and I found the single to be completely forgettable. Radio felt the same, as the song was sent for adds and no radio stations were interested in it. It just felt off. Then throughout the spring there was no word on Boyd releasing another single nor an album release date. Many speculated he was kicked off the label, but nobody knew for sure. Then last week on The Voice Boyd performed his new single, “I’m Still Here.” After show it was put on iTunes and under the single information it said it was released under independent label, Long Haul Records.

This confirmed that Boyd was no longer with Dot Records. But did he leave on his own or was he kicked off the label? Boyd clarified this on Twitter with a fan, saying he “ask[ed] off of the label.” So it was a mutual decision between both parties. Deb Bose, aka Windmills Country, has a great writeup on Boyd’s situation over at MJ’s Big Blog that I highly recommend reading if you haven’t read it yet. She found a great quote from Scott Borchetta, who heads up Big Machine Label Group and Dot Records, from a few months back where he seems to be referring to Boyd in a radio interview. You can listen to the interview here. Around the 3:45 mark Borchetta says some artists are “unteachable, that they’re not going to get it, and you have to terminate the relationship, which is very hard to do.” It sounds like Boyd and Borchetta didn’t see eye-to-eye, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Boyd seems like a pretty genuine guy who wants to make actual country music, while Borchetta only cares about the almighty dollar. Borchetta probably pitched him some songs about dirt roads and tailgates and Boyd said no because he has standards (see why I love that song so much from Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers?).

So now Craig Wayne Boyd is a free man who can make the music he wants to make. Is his new single “I’m Still Here” better than “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face”? 100% yes. This is a complete 180 from the first single he released back in January. The song is about basically what just happened to him, as his recent departure from Dot absolutely influenced this song. He sings about how he’ll never stop performing and won’t ever give up. The hook of the song, “I’m still here,” could be viewed as some shade thrown towards Music Row, especially in light of the comment earlier this from former Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton, where he said if you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist. Boyd clearly exists and isn’t going anywhere. Performing this on The Voice in front of a national audience was a smart move on Boyd’s part, as it gains him more sympathy and you can tell he sang this song from his heart. The production is a little too polished and the theme is slightly broad, but it works well in this situation.

This new single from Boyd confirms that his previous single was a complete concoction from his label. Good on Boyd for getting out of Dot Records and making the music he wants to make. It’s further proof of what I’ve said before and that’s some country artists would be better off independent than on a major label. Sure by doing this you’re guaranteed not to be played on mainstream radio, but do you really want to be played on today’s mainstream country radio? In the long run fans will remember integrity over sales and radio play. “I’m Still Here” is a very good song that I recommend checking out and I’m definitely looking forward to hearing a new album from Boyd. Now that he’s free from being shackled creatively, Boyd is an artist to keep an eye on.

Grade: 8/10

 

The Hodgepodge: Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” & Country Radio’s Hypocritical Line Drawing

Little Big Town Girl Crush

Country music radio in 2015 could be best described as regressing, in disarray and disillusioned. It looked like in the latter half of 2014 and very early 2015 that country radio may actually be improving and regaining substance. We even got a positive score for the first time ever for The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music in January. Ever since then things have regressed so much that I’ve lost a lot of hope I had for mainstream country music improving in 2015. Zac Brown Band, Jana Kramer’s “I Got The Boy,” and Carrie Underwood’s “Little Toy Guns” are the only bright spots amongst new material released in 2015. Everything else has been generic, mediocre R&B or down right terrible.

This leads me to Little Big Town’s latest single “Girl Crush.” While many critics praised Little Big Town’s 2014 Pain Killer, I considered it generic, 80s pop rock material. I had no idea what people heard with this album and why it got so much praise. Sure it looks great next to the likes of Sam Hunt, Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean. But in the whole scope of things it’s a fairly forgettable album to my ears. Anyway back to “Girl Crush.” This is the one song where I agree with many in that it’s actually a good song. I wouldn’t call it great, but it’s good and is a big improvement over many songs playing on country radio right now.

Karen Fairchild’s smokey voice and the airy instrumentation work well in this song. Of course the main allure of this song is its subject matter. On a casual first listen this appears to be about a woman falling in love with another woman, a rare country song about a homosexual relationship. You’ll realize though upon multiple listens that it is indeed not about a lesbian relationship. Instead it’s about a woman being jealous of another woman who is with the man she loves. It’s a jealous lust towards the other woman, not a lust for the woman herself. Anyone who takes the time to listen can figure this out easily.

When “Girl Crush” entered the top 30 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart on March 14, I was glad to see it. Then the following week it fell right out of the top 30 and has even dropped more since then. What gives? I speculated last week that it could be because country radio finds the song to be too risqué to play on country radio. This is ridiculous for the reasons I spelled out above of course. Then this post drops on For The Country Record. Vickeye Fisher, who runs FTCR, wisely reached out and had a current music director for a country music station in Texas “pull back the curtain” on country radio and what is happening with “Girl Crush.” The music director, identified as TexMex, wrote this in the piece:

When I first came in contact with the song, LBT’s record label sent me a hard copy to listen to. There it was in BIG letters on the front “GIRL CRUSH”… I am not going to lie, at first I thought, probably no chance this makes the air and chuckled to myself. I listened to the first couple lines and again thought to myself, “Wow!! How does LBT think this makes the air?” And then, when you are least expecting it… BAM!! They hit you with the hook. It is a jealousy song, lyrically crafted by an obvious wordsmith and something of a genius. I think LBT knew this would be the reaction of many. What they couldn’t have predicted, and neither did I, was that people would still complain about the song’s “obvious” lesbian meaning. What? Did you listen to the song all the way through? Do you not like songs about women being jealous of a mistress? This is the foundation of female country music subjects most of the time.

To my surprise, after explaining the song to more than a handful of people, every one of them responded with basically the same thing (paraphrased): “You are just promoting the gay agenda on your station and I am changing the channel and never listening to you ever again!!”

As a result, despite TexMex’s pleads to keep it in heavy rotation, the song was pretty much reduced to barely getting any plays. I’m sure this same thing happened at several other radio stations across America. Now we all know why “Girl Crush” has been dropping on the charts: hard hearing country fans and radio bosses who refuse to see that this song for what it is.

Now before I go on to make my greater point let me address a few things here with my argument. This is not about gay rights and where I or anyone else stands on the issue. Here at Country Perspective we do not engage in talks about political issues, as it’s unproductive and not related to the topic always at hand, which is music. Another thing I see many critics and fans pointing out is how “Girl Crush” was intended to be controversial and that this was all planned. Little Big Town has even retweeted on their Twitter account tweets about how the song is being pulled off radio for political reasons. They may very well have planned this whole thing, but none of us can know for sure. However I will point this out: Have you ever known Little Big Town to be controversial or to engage in this kind of territory? I certainly haven’t and that’s why I believe this wasn’t planned. I believe Little Big Town for once actually stumbled upon a song with clever lyrics. So basically I believe Little Big Town didn’t plan for this to happen, but now that is is they’re rolling with it because nobody turns down free publicity. (If you want to see a planned “outrage,” see Brad Paisley’s little leaking stunt on Twitter last year)

Now to my overall point, where I point out how hypocritical and stupid country radio is, along with some of its listeners. Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit that is Florida Georgia Line’s “Sun Daze.” This song enjoyed a nice run in the top ten of the Billboard Country Airplay chart and reached the very top. It’s still recurrent even at this moment. Yet this song contains the following lyric: “I sit you up on a kitchen sink/Stick the pink umbrella in your drink.” For those country fans out there who were too slow to understand “Girl Crush,” I’ll spell this lyric out for you. It’s a guy sticking his penis into a woman’s vagina and screwing her. Not to mention the entire song is about getting hammered and stoned. Where are your complaints country fans? Why didn’t you pull this song off radio for being too risqué, country programmers? All yeah you wouldn’t.

You could pick out almost any song off of Florida Georgia Line’s 2014 album Anything Goes and call it risqué. But country radio kisses their feet like they’re gods. Florida Georgia Line and host of others have been churning out these songs that encourage drinking and smoking for the past few years, yet no complaints. It would take me forever to point out all of these songs, so I’ll point out another song that was highly popular on the radio, but wasn’t considered too risqué to play: Tyler Farr’s 2013 smash hit “Redneck Crazy.” It peaked at #3 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart and got overplayed as hell on my local country stations. Let’s take a look at some of the lyrics from this song. Here’s the chorus:

I’m gonna lean my headlights into your bedroom windows
Throw empty beer cans at both of your shadows
I didn’t come here to start a fight, but I’m up for anything tonight
You know you broke the wrong heart, baby,
And drove me redneck crazy

Or what about these lyrics?

Did you think I’d wish you both the best,
Endless love and happiness?
You know that’s just not the kind of man I am
Yeah, I’m the kind that shows up at your house at 3 A.M.

This is the modern-day version of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” or as I call it, “The Stalker Song.” That song I can at least laugh at it and mock it for its overall stupidity. But if I hear “Redneck Crazy” it sends me into a rage. It’s a song about a whiny douchebag who can’t get over being dumped and has to resort to breaking or threatening to break numerous laws to make himself feel better. He threatens violence, destroys property, trespasses and stalks a girl in the middle of the night. How is this song not considered too dangerous to play on country radio? For all of the fathers out there reading this, would you want your daughter mixed up with a boy like the one in this song?

The point is this: “Girl Crush” is nowhere near being a “risqué” song and it’s being labeled as such. Meanwhile country radio gleefully plays songs that encourage bad behavior, from excessive drinking to stalking to guys getting girls drunk enough so they can get in their pants. Country radio listeners and programmers are just fine with these type of songs. They’re drawing lines where they shouldn’t and not drawing lines where they should. It’s a damn joke. Rejecting “Girl Crush” shows they’re nothing but hypocrites with a double-standard. This really isn’t a surprise though and I’m sure this controversy will blow over soon. I think the main thing to take away from this is it’s yet another reminder of how country radio is a very crooked and political place. There’s so much more going on than meets the eye and it’s a problem that continues to grow out of control.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Josh Turner is set to release his first new album in three years next Tuesday. Turner or his team have yet to announce a name for the album, which is kind of odd. This album may be pushed back. We’ll have to wait and see.
  • Darius Rucker is releasing a new album next Tuesday and it’s titled Southern Style. Based on the track listing confirmed by Windmills, it doesn’t sound good at all. One song is called “Half Full Dixie Cup.” Perhaps a candidate for Country Perspective’s 2015 Worst Album of the Year award?
  • In an interview with Radio.com (highly recommended read), Jason Isbell said that they’re shooting for an early July release date on his new album. It would be the first one since his critically-acclaimed 2013 album Southeastern.
  • Brett Eldredge is getting ready to release a new album this year. The first single from it is called “Lose My Mind” and will debut on iHeartRadio on April 21, impacting country radio shorty after. No word on an album release date yet, but Windmills has tracked down a number of possible tracks on it.
  • Jason Michael Carroll will be releasing a new album on May 5 titled What Color Is Your Sky. It was funded through Kickstarter and will be his first album in four years. He also just released the first single from it, “God Only Knows.”
  • Now I want to address two albums that were set to come out this week, but have been delayed. The first is Montgomery Gentry’s new album. The name of it is Folks Like Us, with the album’s title track being the lead single from it (currently at #59 on the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart). I originally saw it was pushed back to April 21, however a recent interview by the group with Billboard indicates otherwise. From the interview: “Troy and Eddie have finished their upcoming album (which will be their first in four years) and are hoping to have the record in the hands of fans this summer. “As of right now, we’re getting such good response with the single that we’re going to wait and let it breathe at radio for a little while before we release the record — which tentatively is going to be in June sometime.””
  • The other album that was set to come out right around now was Easton Corbin’s new album. The name of the album is said to be It’s About To Get Real. I dug around and the only clue I could find for a release date was on his Wikipedia page, where it says the album is set to be released on May 19. However there was no source cited. The only other information I could find about it is an interview he gave with The Roanoker. This is what he said about it in the interview: “It’s natural as artists to grow over the years,” he said. “What you experience changes, and the music follows.”

Throwback Thursday Song

Alan Jackson – “Three Minute Positive Not Too Country Up Tempo Love Song.” This song just feels appropriate to post because it still rings true today. Can we get Jackson back on the radio?

Non-Country Album of the Week

Kendrick Lamar’s new album To Pimp A Butterfly may be my favorite album of 2015 so far. It’s definitely the best hip-hop album, with Lupe Fiasco’s Testuo & Youth just behind it. This is an album that gets better every time you listen to it. The funky beats, the gripping lyrics and even all of the guests on the album work flawlessly. Snoop Dogg actually sounds good! I haven’t said that in a while. If you’re a fan of hip-hop you definitely need to hear this album.

Tweet of the Week

I’m guessing this is Sunny responding to Gary Overton stepping down as the head of Sony Nashville?

An iTunes Review That Will Make You Face Palm

Michael Ray Fan

This week’s ridiculous iTunes review was sent in by reader Ben, who found this review under Michael Ray’s new single “Kiss You In The Morning.” Rebekah used real country in CAPS, so that must mean it’s true! Thanks for the great submission, Ben!

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