Some really annoying trends have arisen in Modern Country Music in the last few years. For many of you, Country music is in itself is an annoying trend! Stay with me…. I have been listening to Country music for over 3 decades. I “speak the language” you might say. In recent years, a particular technique Nashvillian (hidden pun) songwriters have been using has just become nearly laughable. It works like this: If you name lots rural nouns or Country music legends in your song, you’ve somehow earned “Country Cred.” Like somehow your song is more country and the artist is more ‘backwoods!??’ Since unique ideas in country music seem to be at a minimum these days, this sort of thing is a requirement. The formula-driven, soul-sucking, and dumbing down of this genre has been in full effect for a while. MInd you, the writers/producers are smart and they know exactly what they’re creating. This excludes the newbie country songwriters trying to break in, who have already drank the boots-buckles-new cowboy-hat I say ‘y’all’ now, KoolAid. They’re lost altogether.
If a song title could ever b-slap you into the trite plastic fake rural world in under a second, “John Cougar, John Deere, and John 3:16″ Will! In fact, you probably just felt the sting of it from only reading the title! These songwriters took an overdose of bad-lyric-steroids before birthing that steaming pile of a song. The most disappointing part of it is that the song came from the amazing pens and minds of 3 musicians Modern Country Music heavies who I REALLY respect; Dan Huff, Shane McAnally,and Keith Urban!!!
Here’s a short list (???) of “things” in their song they just had to mention: Marilyn Monroe, Garden of Eden, John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 Mark Twain, Mississippi, Hemingway, Wheel of Fortune, Gibson guitar, Victrola, Pepsi Cola, Chevy, John Wayne, Superman, California, Kris Kristofferson, and Don McLean! This is like a college level songwriting assignment come to life.
Forget the construction of lasting meaningful imagery. That takes wayyyy too much time and skill to develop! We need fluff, digestible, disposable, common-gut-feeling, don’t-have-to-imagine-it, “STUFF.” These writers take already-created-images and simply through the names of such into their song.
In this pathetic day and age most writers are making virtually little no money except the “A-List” writers. The A-List is now the 5% of the writers who are A) connected and getting cuts because they’ve gotten cuts prior B) are uber-careful to keep their close circle closed for obvious reasons (loss of cha-ching) UNLESS to get a large cut off introducing a new/ younger/hipper writer (cha-ching) who’ll do the same thing later on to someone else when the original A-List has either died or retired and they themselves are not as ‘relevant’ (cha-ching). Perhaps, we should give the Modern Country Writers a “well done!” for figuring out a way to quickly connect with the audience, programmers, and advertisers in a cheap “heroin-into-a-new-users-vein” type of way? After all, the single is king and Nashville is in the business of moving product…much like the Mexican Mafia is! BTW- “Connecting with the audience” is 100% arguable. If I play an average song to you 100xs, it might still be average, but you’ll be singing after we’re done, which is exactly what Clear Channel will do to any song in the top 40.
“John Cougar, John Deere, and John 3:16″ is still played on Modern Country Music radio stations and it sounds especially saccharine, empty, and gimmicky (especially with it’s up a half step and back down, modulation). Originally, I heard that song immediately followed by by Brett Eldridge & Scooter Carusoe’s 2013 “Mean to Me,” a gorgeously well crafted song. There was simply no comparison, with the latter dwarfing the former.
Gimmicky have been around for ever. Sedaka’s “Calendar Girl” comes to mind, and so does “The Streak.” It’s Nothingness and for all of it’s cleverness, it’s equally packed with forgettable-ness.
So, where does Modern Country Music go from here? So far, it seems like downwards!