When I was growing up, my family listened to country music. Not today’s songs about Chevy trucks and women wearing skimpy attire. We listened to the kind of country that had staying power. Songs that I still listen to today and I’m taken right back to the moment I first heard them. Songs like the acoustic version of Lonestar’s “Everything’s Changed” that had my dad, sister, and me trying to hold back tears in the living room on Weston Avenue. Or, hearing Marty Robbins instantly takes me back to an 8 track player in Grandpa Larry’s basement. Country music used to evoke emotion. Songs like Kenny Chesney’s “That’s Why I’m Here” would make me have to pull the car to the side of the road until I could compose myself enough to keep driving.
Country music has evolved into something unrecognizable. When I was growing up, the CMA Award shows were classy, for the most part. Occasionally, artists would show up in jeans, there were always cowboy hats, but it was country. It was music and television that parents didn’t have to worry about censoring for their children. That is the country music I love and miss.
People wonder what happened to country music.
Well, everything has to evolve. Some for the better, and some for the worse. There is no one answer to the question What Ruined Country Music. Some may even say that country music is not ruined at all. There are still country radio stations in existence, artists touring, and hit after hit making the airwaves. Maybe my ears are not as finely tuned as they used to be, but if you’ve heard one new male artist, you’ve heard them all. When Garth Brooks comes on, you know it’s Garth Brooks. Same goes for Alan Jackson, George Straight, George Jones, and Willie Nelson. You’d never mistake Vince Gill for Toby Keith. They have voices that are clearly their own.
Turn on the radio today and a Thomas Rhett song sounds just like a Luke Bryan song, which sounds exactly like Brantley Gilbert and Jake Owen singing. The songs all sound the same. The voices all sound the same. And the males have taken over country radio with occasional appearances by Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood.
These five songs didn’t solely ruin country music, but they did for me.
Five Songs that Ruined Country Music
#1 “Tim McGraw” by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift came into the music scene and country music pretty much went to hell in a handbasket. She looked cute, could play three chords on the guitar, and rhyme words. Someone in Nashville thought that this was good enough for stardom, and boy were they right. Little girls in elementary and middle schools across the nation, Cover Girl, and autotune sent her career soaring. Every live performance I have ever seen has not been able to match the radio quality of Taylor’s music. You go to a Martina McBride concert and not one of her songs can even come close to the radio version because she actually has talent. Taylor Swift is a manufactured artist and I cannot say I was disappointed to see her leave country for the pop world.
#2 “Play It Again” by Luke Bryan
I was like, oh my God, this is a song playing on the radio?
I was like, oh my God, Taylor wrote Luke a song?
I was like, oh my God, what high school cafeteria was this song written in? Of course, it starts off with a tailgate and tan legs. Every country song today needs those two crucial components to make it to the radio today. When I heard him sing the I was like, oh my God line, I threw up in my mouth a little bit and said, Luke, you just ruined country music.
Prior to writing this blog entry, I had never had the displeasure of seeing the video. Honestly, I only watched the first 27 seconds and I guarantee I will never watch the rest of it. A crappy song needs an even crappier video, and Luke certainly delivered. Was all of Reba McEntire’s hard work for nothing? She paved the way for artists when it comes to videography. Some of her songs were turned into 7-10 minute videos, which later evolved into full-length movies. Live performance videos are a copout. Complete laziness. I was told never to do anything half-assed. This song was written half-assed. This video was produced half-assed. My four-year-old nephew could have put together something of greater quality using my old iPhone 3. I’m embarrassed to even have this garbage on my blog.
#3 “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” – Trace Adkins
What is so sad about this one is that I love Trace Adkins. His voice is one of those voices in country music that can give you goosebumps. From the same person who delivered “Arlington”, “Help Me Understand”, and a version of “Wayfaring Stranger” that beats every other version ever recorded of that song, this was an incredibly disappointing waste of his talents. I think the title says enough.
#4 “Somethin’ Bad” by Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood
The first time I heard this on the radio, it sounded like awful karaoke. The way they say clappin’, happen, and laughin’ is worse than listening to an intoxicated tan-legged girl in cutoff shorts puke all over the back of the tailgate. I know Reba and Linda Davis set the bar high with “Does He Love You”, but certainly these two could have at least tried to accomplish something in the studio together. When I think of “Vocal Event of the Year”, the goat singing along to Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” wins over these two, hands down!
#5 Pretty Much Every #1 Song in 1992
Check out the #1 Hits of 1992 Collin Raye hit the top of the charts twice that year with “In This Life” and “Love, Me”. Both beautifully written and still to this day are very popular at weddings and funerals. Mark Chestnut’s “I’ll Think of Something” and “The River” by Garth Brooks both hit number 1 that year. Reba, Alan Jackson, Wynonna, and Randy Travis all made the list, as did Doug Stone, Sawyer Brown, Alabama, and Brooks and Dunn.
Country music didn’t stand a chance of getting any better after the ’90s. There are great songs that have been released since 1992, but comparing 1992 to 2014’s list of number ones is disappointing. I still have hope for country music. Unfortunately, the raw talent that is country music is playing at open mic nights at The Bluebird and working “real jobs” waiting for their turn to “make it” in the business. Hopefully, the real musicians out there stay true to their roots and refuse to conform to what the radio defines as country music.