Why Florida Georgia Line isn’t the death of country music (a counter-rant)

This morning Jason, after drinking his first cup of iced coffee, wrote a rant (his words) about Florida Georgia Line and how their song Cruise is the death of country music. If my counting is correct, this is actually the second article like this that's appeared on NashvilleGab; the first was by Vickye who, as far as I can tell, really, really doesn't like Florida Georgia Line and is definitely not afraid to say it. 

The post this morning was insightful and a much better written article than I could ever write. I'm more of a bada bing, I'm out of here sort of writer … Jason's not. That's why I love him and Vickye and all my other writers, they're all much better than I am at the long and insightful stuff.

So why exactly am I writing this post after Jason so eloquently expressed his feelings about Florida Georgia Line this morning you ask? Simple, I don't actually agree with the view that Florida Georgia Line and their brand of music is leading the way to country's untimely demise. No, I just think they're leading us down the path of if you don't like it, put your money where your mouth is and listen to something else. I'm not here to say that Jason is wrong in any way, because I certainly don't think that, I'm just giving my two cents because I see things differently. 

My husband and I have this exact same conversation every single time we listen to the radio together or watch something where a modern country star performs … my husband is an old timer in the country music department and prefers music from decades ago, I'm one that actually enjoys modern country music, including Florida Georgia Line. I call it bubblegum country – music that may lack substance, but I like the sound of it coming from my stereo. I'm simple that way. That said, I also love a good story in my music and choose my music depending on my mood. Heck, sometimes I just like some good opera. Go figure. 

That's the beauty of things, we have many choices in what we listen to, AND we can disagree and still live harmoniously in this messed up world of ours. 

So, my country music friends, does liking Florida Georgia Line, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and all their other not-very-traditional-country brethren make me horrible? A bad country music fan? Crazy? Perhaps, but I don't think so, it just makes me human with different taste in earworms than others. 

Here's the thing — we live in the year 2013. This is an age of if you want it, you can get it — usually delivered right into your living room without ever having to leave the house. If Florida Georgia Line isn't your cup of tea, go to YouTube, find someone that you love and play the heck out of their videos. Then head over to iTunes or Amazon or some other music purchasing website and put your money where your mouth is and buy some unknown artist's music. Support the alternative! Then head over to your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MySpace, Google+, or whatever and promote the heck out of them. Let others know what they're missing out on. 

Don't like bubblegum country on your radio? Get Sirius and find a station that fits your taste. Plug in your iPod and play your own taste of music to your heart's content. Listen to CDs, preferably ones that you burned from the music you purchased from those independent artists you fell in love with on YouTube. Switch to AM radio (this is how my husband gets his country music fix). Find a station on your computer and listen to that. Don't like CMT and the music they're playing? Change the channel and listen to the music on one of the hundred other music channels out there on cable and satellite. Don't like the bubblegum country stars playing at your local arena? Head to a bar or coffee house and check out a local band cranking out the real country that you love. Then support them by buying their CD that they put their heart and soul into when they recorded it in their basement. Don't like bubblegum country OR real country, then there's electro country and punk country and just about every other mix of musical tastes that you could ever think to put together. It's all out there for your listening pleasure, you just have to put in the effort to find what you like.  

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It's 2013, if you can't find a way to hear the type of music you love then you're doing it wrong.  

The problem with attacking one band and calling them the death of country music is that all you're doing is showing how unwilling you are to simply find something else to listen to. Fight the man! Ignore what the big labels are trying to shove down your throat and find alternatives because alternatives are everywhere. 

I've been writing NashvilleGab for over 5 years and one thing I've learned is that most of the real talent out there isn't found on the radio. I get CDs and digital music in my inbox all the time that proves that real country music is alive and thriving and out there if you care to just open your eyes and look for it. 

The only thing I find truly sad about the direction country music is going in now is that there are so many more traditional sounding singers out there who will never get the big bucks and recognition they clearly deserve. They'll never be able to purchase a $17 million house with cash, they'll never step on the awards stage to collect awards that they definitely deserve, they won't have Big Machine and whoever else knocking on their door. They will never step on a stage in front of 55,000 of their biggest fans. They won't have songs that will break records on the charts. They may never hear their voices on the radio. It's unfortunate, but it's the way the business is. Record labels push what sells and unfortunately for those who don't like it, it's bubblegum country with lyrics about partying and a sexy girl in cutoff jeans that's selling these days. It's this group collaborating with that rapper that ends up giving them the hottest song to ever be released in country music.  

Unfortunately, some of your favorite artists are playing right into mainstream country's money-hungry hands and dumbing down their music, bumping up the base, adding some rappers, and selling out just so that they can be big stars. But do you blame them? If you could eat caviar instead of ramen noodles and live in a 20 room mansion instead of a rented studio apartment, wouldn't you do that? At least for a while? The stars that say they would never sell out are more than likely the ones who have never had that option. If you yourself said no then you're either a saint or a liar. Don't give up on your favorite stars just because they've sold out to the man. Just wait until they lose their record deal since that's generally when you see artists start being true to themselves and making the music that they and their fans truly love instead of what is marketable. Thankfully there's Kickstarter, iTunes, and loads of independent labels out there giving artists options once mainstream country kicks them to the curb.  

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All that said, I still don't think that country music is actually dying or dead, it's just branching out, something it's been doing since it first started being identified as a musical genre. There is no "real" country music, just different branches of a genre of music that people identify with. That's the reason Taylor Swift and George Strait can both call themselves country artists, because technically they are, they're just two artists on different branches of the same tree with the root of that tree being a love of what they identify as country music. Traditional country or old time country or whatever you prefer to call it isn't dead, it's just harder to find and not making near as much money as the mainstream branch. The charts and popular radio stations may not reflect the branch of the country music tree that you like, but who cares? There are so many options out there if you just take the time to find them. 

It's almost like hating bananas but eating nothing but bananas and then griping about it the whole time. Dang it, head to your local grocery store and get some apples or pears or tangerines. Liven things up a bit. 

I respect every opinion regardless of whether it clashes or coincides with my own and I don't ever try and control what my writers say because I respect them and their opinions. I love diversity. Besides, I know that there will be literally hundreds or thousands of other people out there who feel the exact same way. The problem I have, though, with calling one band basically the death of an entire musical genre is have you stopped to think about what you're saying about all those people, those fans, out there who genuinely like that band? People shouldn't feel embarrassed because they like a certain band just because it's the type of music someone else loathes (unless you're a Justin Bieber fan – then by all means, please be embarrassed). Is making a whole group of people feel bad about a band or musical style that they like really the way to make friends and influence people? 

Yeah, actually it is. That's why there's a whole group of people out there right now on Twitter, Facebook, and in the comments who are expressing just how much they loved Jason's article this morning. Heck, I loved Jason's article and I disagreed with much of it. 

I just feel that music, like much of life, is a personal choice. You shouldn't feel bad because your opinion differs from someone else's. If you love bubblegum country then keep right on blasting it. If you dig the country music of the past, then keep right on blasting it. There's enough room on this big old planet for whatever branch of that diverse country music tree you love. 

In honor of the 'Locked and Re-Loaded' tour stopping in Hartford tomorrow night, I dug up an old clip of…