Family feud, country edition

On the heels of a recent slap fight amongst rock stars comes another dust up amongst the musical fraternity, this time on the country side of the street.

So it seems that award-winner Zac Brown isn’t exactly fond of the latest song (“My Kind of Night”) by even bigger award-winner Luke Bryan.  The phrase “one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard” isn’t really ambiguous, nor is his description of his reaction to similar tracks “When songs make me wanna throw up, it makes me ashamed to even be in the same genre as those songs.”  Okay, well, that’s another precinct heard from.

After reading a companion set of comments** from Gary Allan ( a guy who does sell records & still has an occasional hit scattered amongst the stiff nowadays), I was inclined to lean toward a broad view of “live & let live, just diff’rent strokes, no worries” on the subject.  But then Allan so completely missed the mark in his comments that I had a tough time being sympathetic to the complaints.   While I can buy into what he said about how  “I don’t feel like I make music for a genre anymore” , he came across like a world class doofus when he blamed radio consolidation for how “now it’s about a demographic”.

Well duh you ignoramus, it’s ALWAYS been “about a demographic”.  It was last year, it was a decade ago, it was when Hank, Sr. was bending them guitar strings too.   Thinking that through a bit, I realized what had changed:  I don’t think it’s unfair to say that country music used to be largely about a lifestyle that people lived.  That’s a demographic.  What shifted, I believe, is that a big part of the composition of the current country fan base isn’t living the life in the songs, instead  the hit songs often reflect the life they wished they were living.   That’s different … but it’s still a demographic.  You may not like it, you may not understand it, you may not relate to it very well, but it’s still just a demographic, same as it has always been.

Given that whole misstep – which truly offended my numbers-oriented soul, along with my intelligence, down to the very core – I figured I’d like end up at least reluctantly on the Luke Bryan side of things.

And that’s true despite the fact that, if you just look at the lyrics without any other info, you’d most likely figure that is either a hybrid country rap song or simply a straight up rap song from a guy who didn’t grow up in an urban area.  Whatever it is, well, the phrase “ain’t country” does comes to mind.  It might be “today’s hit country” … but the lyrics are about as country as diamond-studded teeth.  But still, room under the tent & all that I guess.

Now let me point out here that, to his credit, so far I haven’t seen a peep about any of this from LB, so I’ve got even less beef with him at this point.  Songwriter Dallas Davidson however … well some folks must just have the knack for saying the wrong thing.

Davidson has every right to defend his song (he’s one of three co-writers), I’m cool with that.  It’s definitely a hit (then again right now Bryan could probably go at least gold by singing two pages from the Topeka, KS phone book), so you can’t blame him for defending the appeal.  All is well, right up until I get far enough into his comments to watch him shove his foot down his throat far enough to choke an average man to death.

I think the downloads and the ticket sales that come with those big hit songs are the facts, and that’s really all that matters to me.

Umm, excuse me?  {reads again}  Did you actually just launch an impassioned defense of your work, go on at length about how you just write what you know … and then admit you’re only interested in the money?  Seriously?  I’m about as monetarily motivated as anybody going these days but I’m also not going tell you what a virtuous person I am AND tell you that I’m a two-bit whore in the same interview without expecting … no, wait.  I’m not dumb enough, nor full of shit enough, to do that PERIOD, never mind apparently expecting no one to call me out for it if I did it.

I understand the need to balance artistic integrity (nebulous term that it is) and to produce a viable product someone will pay for … but I’m not sure how often I’ve ever seen someone basically disavow any integrity to their work at all, not in this particular line of work anyway.  And what a sad indictment of the entire niche that it’s apparently now considered acceptable to claim the “Justin Bieber Defense”.  Suddenly Zac Brown’s criticism seems a good bit more reasonable and understandable to me.  Next time Mr. Davidson, just invoke your Miranda rights and then Call Saul.

And then we get to the real (presumably unintentional) comedy portion of this whole mess.   For some reason or another, almost out of the blue, Jason Aldean decides to chime in with the apparent intention of defending Luke Bryan. First of all, I’m pretty sure the reigning Entertainer of the Year doesn’t need a whole lot of defending from the anybody on the B-list.  That aside, the idea that a marginally talented performer like Aldean would have the  comical audacity to utter a single word on the subject of songwriting is thoroughly mind-boggling.   This is a guy who, after all, has been the subject of consistent criticism throughout his career for the fact he doesn’t really write jack shit.   Country has long relied on performers who sing other people’s songs … but they don’t usually set themselves up for ridicule by commenting on the subject of songwriting, something that Aldean has largely failed to prove he knows anything about in the first place.  Jesse Pinkman has a favorite word … and if ever the word “bitch” seemed to apply, Aldean deserves it for his contribution here.

So what should we take away from all this?  We already know that all hits aren’t great songs and that all great songs are not hits.  We know that the phrase “country music” steadily bears less resemblance to what it means to a lot of people.  Then again, it seems that the traditional definitions are less relevant every passing day so maybe that’s simply inevitable.  We know that Zac Brown doesn’t care for that much (ironic since his work is far from traditional country either), we can extrapolate that Luke Bryan doesn’t really mind.  None of this is exactly earthshaking stuff to be honest.

Here’s what I believe we’ve REALLY learned from all this: if you say something strikes someone on the internet as incredibly ill-considered or simply outright stupid, it might end up being a blog topic for a complete stranger that you could care less whether they lived or died.  And that should get every bit of the consideration it deserves.

** Note: Gary Allan has since tried to walk back some of his criticism, fair to let you read that and judge for yourself.  The comment that put me off so badly remained intact, so I’m comfortable letting my thoughts about that stand as they were originally written.

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One response to “Family feud, country edition

  1. Pingback: With A Little Help … | Jon's Three Cents

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