To the Fanboys and Fangirls of mainstream pop-country,
What you all call “country music” is nothing more than a mislabeled pop/hip hop/rock hybrid of music, or also called a mono-genre. To start, I’m going to give everyone the dictionary definition of “country music”:
“A style and genre of largely string-accompanied American popular music having roots in the folk music of the Southeast and cowboy music of the West, usually vocalized, generally simple in form and harmony, and typified by romantic or melancholy ballads accompanied by acoustic or electric guitar, banjo, violin, and harmonica.”
You’ll notice nowhere in that description does it mention computer generated beats and grooves. You know, the sound of the “music” in Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down” or pretty much everything on Sam Hunt’s debut album. And don’t give me any of the BS about how “country music must evolve.” No, that’s just your bogus, political excuse to make you feel better about the bad music your precious artists’ record. George Strait and Alan Jackson were more than happy, they were damn proud to record country music along the lines established by Cash, Jones, and Haggard. Did we forget what Sam Phillips told Johnny Cash in Walk The Line?
“If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing *one* song. Huh? One song that people would remember before you’re dirt. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin’ me that’s the song you’d sing?… Or… would you sing somethin’ different. Somethin’ real. Somethin’ *you* felt. Cause I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear. That’s the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain’t got nothin to do with believin’ in God, Mr. Cash. It has to do with believin’ in yourself.”
Whether or not that’s an authentic quote, it absolutely sums up music, regardless of genre. Anyways…
Florida Georgia Line’s recent album release, Anything Goes, has been heavily criticized. Trigger at Saving Country Music declared it the worst album ever; it received the first ever “0” rating for an album here on Country Perspective, and FGL fans lashed out. The go-to argument for many of these fans was “if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it.” Here’s the problem with that argument, though. We can’t help but listen to it; it’s on country radio. I listen to country because I don’t like pop or hip hop music. When I’m driving to work, I don’t want to listen to One Direction, Nicki Minaj, or Imagine Dragons. I want to listen to country music. You know, real country music like Alan Jackson, George Strait, Wade Bowen, Will Hoge, most of Dierks Bentley, early Zac Brown Band, Kellie Pickler, Sunny Sweeney, Holly Williams, and the list goes on.
However, when I play “country” music stations today, I hear the same regurgitated pop/hip hop/rock hybrid songs that are grossly mislabeled as country music. With the exception of “Dirt”, tell me what aspects of Anything Goes qualify it as country. The only thing “country” about “Sun Daze” is the mention of Haggard in the first verse. It’s not country music. None of the rest of the songs come close to that definition above. And how can you honestly defend Cole Swindell, Chase Rice and Sam Hunt as “country” when they don’t bring anything remotely country to the table?
Now if you like Florida Georgia Line, fine. I won’t judge you, I have no problems with people’s taste in music; you like what you like. I don’t care if you are one who likes “Burnin’ It Down” or “Leave the Night On.” Music is meant to be enjoyed, and who am I to tell you how to have a good time. But let’s not call it country when there’s nothing country about it. That’s why country music blogs like Saving Country Music and Country Perspective listen to these albums and review them; we care about country music. When we turn on the radio or look at the charts, we want to hear and see actual country music. I’ll give credit to Taylor Swift, she’s declared herself pop because the music she’s making is pop music. “Out of the Woods” has more country elements than “Burnin’ It Down”, yet we don’t listen to it or review it because she’s properly labeled it as pop. Lady Antebellum have always had a glimmer of country elements in their music. But their recent album, 747, is from start to finish adult contemporary pop music. Since it’s labeled as “country” music, we look at that album from the lens of country music. From that lens, the album is terrible because it’s not country music; it’s pop music. Now if the album was classified as a pop album, and I reviewed 747 as Lady A’s first official pop album, I guarantee you that I’d have given that album a favorable review. But the producers are trying to pass off the music as country when there’s nothing about the songs to earn that classification.
Yes, we are hating on Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Chase Rice, and everyone else who tries to say their hybrid music is country. We hate because their generic, mislabeled pop music is taking attention and potential airplay away from talented, pure, soulful country music that truly deserves to be heard. Look at the artists Josh and I have given high praise to on this site: Sturgill Simpson, The Secret Sisters, Sunny Sweeney, Lucette, Old Crow Medicine Show, Angaleena Presley, and Jason Eady to just name a few. These artists play country music, or a true “evolved” form of the simplistic blues of Hank Williams. If Florida Georgia Line want to avoid all the backlash, then stop pretending to be country. Call yourself a pop duo and move on. Your fans can rest easy, and country music purists can rest easy. If this NASH Icons project takes flight and finds a national audience for artists who wish to play the traditional styles of country music, then this debate will die. But until such a time, we will not rest easy, and we will not stop hating on your precious pop music. These guys have no respect for the genre and it’s history, and neither do many of their fans. To reiterate Waylon, “I don’t think Hank done it this way.”