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After having my first cup of iced coffee this morning (Aug. 1), I began the ritual of scanning my Reader feed for noteworthy news items. Of course, the first one I locked my eyes on was Billboard’s story about Florida Georgia Line and their hick-hop smash “Cruise.” The song has officially spent 22 weeks at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs and is the longest-running song at the summit in the history of forever and ever amen.
I should add that Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” also broke a record after the new controversial chart methodology was implemented last fall. The completely pop song broke Connie Smith’s previously held record for a solo female and spent 10 weeks at the top. But I digress. (Note: I bring this up because both acts are on Big Machine).
Anyways, “Cruise” is now the hottest song to ever be released in country music, due mostly from a remix featuring rapper Nelly…
Sure, collaborations have been a huge part of what makes this genre so great. They’re unexpected, exciting and open up new doors to the music I love. At some point, however, it becomes more about utilizing washed-up artists to catch a buck and hit that pop success than it is about the art. I mean, even Luke Bryan’s new single “That’s My Kind Of Night” screams T-Pain remix. In fact, the lyrics name drop Conway Twitty and T-Pain in the same sentence (which is atrocious on so many levels). He’s already hinted at such a concoction in interviews earlier this year.
When does it stop? And when did my favorite genre turn into such a mosh pit of generic melodies and beer/party/hot girl anthems? Where are the stories with substance? Where are the heartfelt and wholly raw songs that give me chills?
Thankfully, we have the women of country releasing the best material this year. Anything from Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Holly Williams, Caitlin Rose, Lori McKenna, Kacy Musgraves, Kellie Pickler or Pistol Annies will suffice. At least they take risks, challenge the stereotypes and push the envelope.
With “Cruise” setting such a record, it clearly sets a precedent that to become a huge male act, you have to degrade your art to a catchy hook about a girl taking her clothes off or smashing a beer over your head. This will surely set a firestorm of other male artists vying for that pop crossover. Luke will inevitably collaborate with TP and perhaps have the biggest hit of his career, which is actually pretty frustrating in and of itself as he’s capable of great material. But instead, he’ll feed that blood-thirsty monster that is the new version of modern country music.
Now, many of you might not consider Taylor Swift, Carrie or Miranda country or beacons of hope in our genre, but at least they hold onto the traditions of the legends that came before — OK, Taylor is debatable. Carrie and Miranda, however, incorporate rock and pop influences into their music while clinging to the face of what makes this genre so special. Over the past year, these two ladies have released some of their best material ever (see: Carrie’s “Blown Away” and “Two Black Cadillacs,” Miranda’s “Mama’s Broken Heart”). Oh, and of course, Kacey is great, too (if only radio would get on board but that’s another rant for another early morning).
So, what is the point of all this? Country music is giving in to the mono-genre, a term that has been thrown around every minute this past year. I never fully comprehended this term until today. The traditions of the past are gone. I mean, come on, Taylor went fully pop this past year and the genre still claims her as its own. Artists are choosing to use outside sounds to define a genre that doesn’t need it. It was fine the way it was. We are on the verge of having no genres. It might not be in the next year or even the next five years, but something is happening to the music I adore. “Soon,” it’ll all be called pop.
You can call me a purist, if you like, but I demand substance from my country music. You should, too. At some point, the bubble is gonna burst (or at least I hope), and I can proudly say that I have never supported this hick-hop trend and never intend to. I find comfort in knowing that I can turn off the radio and look to roots-traditional music (like Holly, Lori, Caitlin, etc) for my authentic country fix.
So, as FGL and Scott Borchetta celebrate this week, I hang my head in disappointment as the country music I’ve known and loved since birth is slowly dying a painful and agonizing death.
Photo Credit: Big Machine Label Group