Several people have commented in the past few months on the sad current state of mainstream country music. Last year I was so completely immersed in local music, in the amazing, growing Fort Collins music scene in particular, that I barely even hear snippets of mainstream music all year. It was great. There are some fantastic country acts in and around Fort Collins, including Constitution, Patti Fiasco, Christopher Jak, the Hollyfelds, Southbound Honey (Tara Keith and her new band), and Matt Skinner. Add in all the great solo singer-songwriters, bluegrass bands and folk/Americana bands, and you’d really never have time to worry about what Jason Aldean, or whoever the new mainstream booted, drunken cowboy stud is, happens to be singing about now. (I really do like Jason Aldean, and he had some pretty solid, serious songs so far in his career, not just the disposable party song crap that clogs the genre now. I just wish we heard more of Jason’s music and less of the industry’s version of who he is.)
I had to write a post to tell my readers here about this article I shared on facebook, by Collin Raye (on Fox News, of all places!). This is a very well-stated piece about the decay of the mainstream part of the country music genre. There will probably always be great country musicians, regardless of what the industry does, but the ones who can pay their mortgage payments and electricity bills with their music earnings are still a bit dependant on the industry to market their music beyond their own local scenes. After all, most people have heard of Jason Aldean, but who has heard of Matt Skinner before? (He’s a very tall, handsome redhead, fyi, and unfortunately married.)
The article I shared today hearkens back to this youtube video that has had a lot of attention since it was posted a few months ago, made by a man who was trying to do an end-of-the-year post looking at the great moments in country music for 2013. It is very funny, and sad, and makes me cringe a little inside whenever I hear anyone in the genre mention a truck or a country road.
One at a time, some of the songs that explore these country staples are pretty nice. I like Dierks Bentley’s music, and he has always had a lot of country roads and alcohol in his music, and even a few trucks. I am also a mid-30’s woman, not particularly fond of being called ‘girl’ by drunken cowboys, so I am not exactly the type of audience member mainstream music is going for. The target female listeners are young women in painted on, cut-off/torn jeans who are ok with being called ‘girl as they slither into truck cabs to be felt up by said drunken cowboys, or older women who still daydream about those days long past (or who fantasize about being someone who would enjoy such an adventure). The rest of their target audience is the drunken cowboys who want their staggering, idiotic leering and noisemaking to be interpreted by any nearby ladies as cool and sexy, rather than pathetic and immature (or, again, sober responsible men who fantasize about being drunken irresponsible cowboys in pickup trucks with sexy young things on their laps) .
But the majority of the music-consuming public is actually not in the 16-24 age group, and for some reason the country music industry seems to have gotten into a rut of selling music as if everyone were in this youthful category. On the plus side, if it stays this bad for much longer, maybe indie country and local country will pick up more of the market that this beer-soaked mainstream country music isn’t satisfying. But as Collin Raye pointed out, it isn’t fair to the artists who are being pushed to be the flavor-of-the-month drunken cowboys for the industry. I am sure that most of these artists started out writing songs and being serious musicians with something to say and their own voices with which to say it.
I, for one, would love to hear what these artists have in them besides the beer, trucks and country roads. I’d be willing to bet that some of these musicians might even come up with something more romantic or more interesting to say to me than just ‘girl’. Certainly the lovely local musicians in the photos accompanying this post have more substance to their music.