As those within the “circle” are already aware of, there has been a lot of internet speculation as of lately regarding the sad state of mainstream country music, and even more notably, last nights laughable excuse of a “country music” awards show via the ACM showcase on the CBS Network, with the exception of particular performances such as Joe Walsh’s tribute to Chuck Berry, or Chris Stapleton unveiling a new song from his highly anticipated upcoming album. But public debate now resides around the subject of whether or not listeners, and longtime fans of country music like I, or those at We Hate Pop Country have the right to speak out, criticize, mock, and/or question the direction in which mainstream country music has been heading over the last 20 years.
Per the usual (and utterly exhausted) argument, our concerns are quickly denounced by any and all pop-country fans through the power of suggestion that our views are merely outdated relics standing in the way of progress, and the natural evolution of country music as we know it, because after all, so many have mindlessly embraced the shallow; “if it’s selling, then they must be doing something right” philosophy. Personally, I refuse to believe that. Milli Vanilli sold well. Honey Boo Boo sold well. Anything-Kardashian sells well. That argument is a moot point, because as we all know, ignorance sells in today’s day and age. It’s why more people can name you the entire cast of Jersey Shore, while too few even know what the four elements are.
Sure, music changes. That music is a given. Everything in this life must evolve in order to survive in today’s cutthroat marketplace, including the country music genre. But if the radio, the artists, and the recording labels that boast them have utterly distanced themselves from the rich roots, sounds, and traditions in which this entire music genre was built upon ….Then I ask you, how can it even logically be labeled as such anymore? Country music already exists. Rock already exists. Hip hop already exists, and electronic dance music already exists. Cramming every other aspect of popular music into oneself, and then carelessly claiming it as their own is in no way progressing, evolving, nor revolutionizing the genre, but instead, is nothing more than a blatant example of corporate over-commercialization in order to reach outside audiences that would never listen to country music, and therefor, couldn’t care less about the rich history, nor the evolutionary progression of its future.
But I’m a firm believer that when listeners are presented with a positive alternative, they’ll likely side with sincere artistry every time. It’s why Taylor Swift was knocked from her glittery throne by Adele as the worlds leading pop star, and why a sweaty, long haired, overweight, bearded, howlin’ and growling, multi-platinum selling country and southern rock singer like Chris Stapleton is outselling today’s “biggest” clean cut slim and thin, bedazzled skinny jean wearing mainstream country performers like Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, Kane Brown and others. And there’s a hell of a lot more where that came from. Such as Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell, who are now Grammy award winning country artists. Similar to Isbell, the Turnpike Troubadours, Blackberry Smoke, Aaron Watson, and even then-82 year old Willie Nelson have all celebrated #1 Billboard chart topping country albums in the last 2 years despite receiving absolutely no mainstream publicity or FM radio airplay of any kind.
This is why we bitch. This is why we moan. This is why we gripe. These artists that corporate record executives, radio programmers, and others would like you to believe are the biggest and greatest things to come along since sliced bread, are actually being outsold, outperformed, and filling fewer seats than those that literally didn’t need them, doesn’t give a shit about them, and have proven to be more successful without THEIR interference, influence or formulaic patterns. Until these people have been recognized for their efforts to preserve the foundation of country music by the industry and consumer base that claims to be “big enough for all styles of country music”, then the bitching and moaning will continue, just as I’m sure the wannabe boy bands of “country” radio will continue to rap and blab about their endless back roads, frat boy parties, rusty tailgates, and T-Pain mix CD’s. But like Sturgill Simpson sings, “It ain’t all flowers,” and millions have awoken to the vast variety of modern traditional and outlaw country music that’s out there. From Cody Jinks and Colter Wall’s breakthrough success, to the thriving underground and red dirt scene, there’s something for everybody, especially those who have become alienated by the mainstream country music circuit that once embraced people like us.
Be sure to