Zac Brown is widely known for having called out Luke Bryan’s 2013 bro country anthem “That’s My Kind of Night” as
the worst song he’d ever heard.
So this week, when the news broke that the Zac Brown Band would
release the EDM single “Beautiful Drug” to country radio,
many fans were disheartened and felt betrayed. This subject has been discussed over and over on other blogs, and I debated whether or not to bring it up. But it needs to be addressed.
Zac Brown Band is one of my favorites in any genre, so the moment their new album, Jekyll + Hyde, became available, I purchased it. I didn’t preview any tracks ahead of time; it was ZBB, they always deliver. It should be noted here that while they have never done EDM or pop country, the group is known for experimenting with their sound. In fact, one of my favorite songs from them is “Overnight” from 2012’s Uncaged, which is an r&b bedroom song featuring Trombone Shorty. They also do many songs tinged with reggae, and having seen them live, I’ve seen them play Southern rock as well. So as a ZBB fan, it really did not come as much of a shock to me when “Beautiful Drug” came on. Even when the EDM beats kicked in at the chorus, I was not terribly shocked. A lot of people criticized Zac Brown then, saying he should never have started an album with this song and that this was a betrayal to his core fans. As a core fan, I can say that although it was a surprise, I did not consider this a betrayal. “Beautiful Drug” is indeed a club song, but it is a love song; a betrayal would have been a song about tailgating in the moonlight. I actually like “Beautiful Drug,” although it is not country. Jekyll + Hyde was all over the place in terms of sound and can be criticized for not being country, or not really sticking to any genre. Having said that, I liked “Beautiful Drug” as an EDM song, I liked “Home Grown” as a country song, and I liked “Junkyard” and “Heavy as the Head” as rock songs.
The real betrayal of Zac Brown was when he announced that “Beautiful Drug,” an EDM club song, will be released to radio as a crossover hit. I should mention that “Heavy is the Head” was released to rock radio and gave the band a No. 1. Why then does “Beautiful Drug” need to be on country radio? They should have sent it to pop radio where it belongs. This is a betrayal. This is not the Zac Brown that called out Luke Bryan. When I turn on the radio, I can usually count on hearing good singles from Zac Brown Band mixed in with all the crap being marketed as country. They stand out as hope for country music, even if they experiment with other genres. The statement they could have and should have made would have been to release “Beautiful Drug” to pop radio, as well as another single to country radio. This marks a difference in genre and sets up boundary lines, which is something Zac Brown seems to have stood for in 2013. Most people who have called out this song hate “Beautiful Drug” and/or think ZBB should have never recorded it in the first place. As someone who was not offended by its appearance on a Zac Brown Band album, I am here to say it does not belong on country radio. Zac Brown Band has been the biggest bright spot for country music in the last five years, managing to break the airplay barrier with fiddles and lyrics of substance. The news of this release to country radio means that the Zac Brown who would once fight for country music has now surrendered to a trend. This is disheartening to say the least and a slap in the face to Zac Brown Band fans who count on them as the last hope for country music.
Tomato of the Week: Gwen Sebastian
She flies under the radar a lot, but I think she could have real potential as a good pop country artist. Her full article will be featured on Female Friday.
Random Country Suggestion: Tyler Farr: “Suffer in Peace”
The excellent title track from his new album that will never be a single because it has too much heart.
Non-Country Suggestion: Zac Brown Band featuring Chris Cornell–“Heavy is the Head”
The previously mentioned No. 1 on rock radio that stayed where it belonged.