Tag Archives: Easton Corbin

Random Thoughts of the Week: The Top Five Signs of Hope for Mainstream Country

2015 has been the year of the sellout in country music. The two most disappointing sellouts of the year for me were easily the Zac Brown Band and the Eli Young Band, the former with the release of the EDM single “Beautiful Drug” to country radio, and the latter with the terrible single “Turn it On” and the subsequent EP, as well as the horrible “country remix” of “Honey, I’m Good” with Andy Grammer. Keith Urban was a close third, using his talent to give us the brilliant “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” a song that personally pisses me off about as much as “Kick the Dust Up” because Keith Urban knows better. Easton Corbin used his George Strait-esque voice, previously used for “A Little More Country Than That,” to record an album full of bro country pickup lines. Brett Eldredge, though never really carrying a torch for traditional country, was never really working aginst us until his recent r&b album Illinois. Danielle Bradbery has remade herself into a wannabe pop star for the sake of reviving an already struggling career. Even the legendary Alabama sunk to the low of releasing “Southern Drawl,” a desperate attempt to be cool that failed in every respect, coolness especially. And now, Eric Paslay’s new single, “High Class” seems to have finally pushed everyone off the deep end with its blatant metro-bro bullshit lyrics and style–and this coming from the person who obviously knows better, as “She Don’t Love You” so effectively proved. In times like these, people start saying we should forsake country altogether and start calling ourselves Americana fans, that we should just surrender our beloved “country music” to these sellouts, country carpetbaggers, and metro-bro douchebags, and go listen to Americana. They say that all hope for “country” as we knew it is lost.

Well, here are some signs of hope, in no particular order of importance.

Dierks Bentley

Dierks Bentley is not selling out, as his latest single, “Riser,” has proven. I will be incredibly shocked if he succumbs to the trends, as he has no reason to. He has found the perfect balance between quality and airplay and doesn’t seem to care that he often does not get the recognition he deserves. He has made quality music throughout his career and has no reason to change that now; he’s found a formula that works for him even in this country radio climate.

Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood is not a traditional country artist, but she’s here because she defines what actual pop country should sound like. She takes the best of pop and country and blends them well, offering songs that both display depth in storytelling and are radio-ready. Although I was not as impressed with her new single, “Smoke Break,” as many, it certainly does not follow the current trends, and her new album, Storyteller, could be a factor in turning back the tide of mainstream country music to a real pop-country sound–what we have now is straight pop poorly disguised and incorrectly labled as country.

Cam

True, Cam has only given us two singles and an EP so far, but the reason she’s in my top five signs of hope for mainstream country is that On the Verge supported her. Her first single, “My Mistake,” was a nice pop country blend, but “Burning House,” the sponsored single, is a completely acoustic, traditional country song. The fact that this program supported an artist like that signals change. Cam’s debut album cannot come soon enough!

Chris Stapleton

Some would argue whether Chris Stapleton is mainstream, but I don’t see why. He’s on a major label and has even received some airplay. Traveller is nominated for Album of the Year by the CMA, and Stapleton is nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year and New Artist of the Year. Stapleton with three nominations is a sure sign of hope.

Maddie & Tae

I have written a lot about these ladies, but I’ll say it again–they can bring those that think “country” = Sam Hunt and Kelsea Ballerini back to country. Radio has actually given them a shot. They’ve proven they’re not afraid of fighting for country; they’ve spoken out against drum machines and their debut single was “Girl in a Country Song.” The fact that Scott Borchetta and Big Machine are behind them and that they’re actually getting played is a huge sign of hope.

Despite all the selling out, there are still a lot of reasons to hope for mainstream country, perhaps now more than ever. More and more independent artists are seeing success in album sales that mainstream Nashville can’t ignore. Country legend Merle Haggard, a name-drop in many of today’s songs, is openly speaking out. Represented above are established artists and newcomers alike, fighting for real country music. I didn’t even mention Mo Pitney, Ashley Monroe, Kacey Musgraves, Jon Pardi–the list goes on. Not to mention Tim McGraw’s new album will unashamedly be titled Damn Country Music. I wasn’t thrilled by the lead single, but the album title certainly intrigues me. The point of all this is that mainstream country is far from hopeless–in fact, after years of fighting, we are finally seeing numbers on our side, artists speaking out, and more traditional artists being signed and getting airplay. In short, although it is happening slowly, we are seeing results. Why should we give up now? The day we leave our own fight and run to Americana is the day that country music will be lost.

Tomato of the Week: Jamie Lin Wilson

I featured her friend and fellow Texas country artist, Courtney Patton, last week, so this week, I am covering Jamie Lin Wilson. Check out her full article on Female Friday!

Random Country Suggestion: Randy Rogers Band–Burning the Day

A great album from one of my favorite Texas/Red Dirt bands.

Listen to album

No non-country suggestion, just go listen to these glaring signs of hope.

Random Thoughts of the Week: Songwriting and the Artist Identity Crisis

I have been wanting to address the lack of good songwriting in mainstream country music since I started this blog, and now is the perfect opportunity. Many of you have heard Danielle Bradbery’s terrible new single, “Friend Zone,” a pathetic attempt at relevancy that relies on fake drums, rap, a token banjo, and confusing sports metaphors to save Danielle’s already underwhelming career. (I had actually planned to rip apart this song, but SCM and Country Perspective have already done it for me, and this song is not going to save Danielle’s struggling career by any stretch of the imagination, so I’ll save my ranting for other worthy songs.) If by chance you haven’t heard it, here it is, consider yourself warned.

This song, as well as The Band Perry’s worse single “Live Forever” (I can’t bring myself to even post this piece of crap), have caused many to wonder if these artists have any sense of identity. Are they sellouts, or are they being forced to sing this bad pop music because they have no idea who they want to be? In both Danielle Bradbery and The Band Perry’s cases, Scott Borchetta was blamed for “turning his artists” into bad pop crossovers. Borchetta probably had a lot to do with it, but as much harm as he has caused the genre, it’s important to be fair here–and in the spirit of fairness, Borchetta also gave us Maddie & Tae, who produced the best mainstream country album of 2015 so far. So why do Maddie & Tae get to have their own “vision” for their music, while other artists are forced to sing whatever the label assumes will sell? I think it boils down to an artist’s identity, or lack thereof. If you watch The Voice for more than ten minutes, you will hear the phrase, “You know [or don’t know] who you are as an artist.” This is a crucial part of an artist’s career; a lot of people can sing, but not many have this part figured out. Maddie & Tae seem to have it figured out, but Danielle and The Band Perry obviously don’t, so they will sell out and sing whatever their label tells them will sell.

So what is causing this identity crisis in country artists? I think a large part of it has to do with the way many of today’s mainstream artists view songwriting–as an art, or as a business. Songwriting should, especially in country music, reveal things about the writer. Good songwriting should tell a story and often reflects the writer’s thoughts and emotions. This makes the art of songwriting relatable and is one thing that makes country music stand out among other genres. Say what you want about Taylor Swift, but there is a reason her music is so popular–she is an excellent, relatable songwriter. Songwriting also helps artists discover who they are and gives them individuality, which is another lost concept in country right now. This is songwriting as an art, and artists who recognize it as such will write good music and/or choose well-written music to release. But somehow, in the past five years, songwriting on Music Row has turned from this personal experience of connecting with the listeners and discovering artists’ identities into a formulaic hit-making process requiring at least three contributors. Thomas Rhett’s latest train wreck, “Vacation,” took fourteen songwriters, and it is one of the worst songs I have ever heard. How can Thomas Rhett or any of these artists ever hope to have an identity if they only contribute a line or two to a song, or rely on the Dallas Davidsons of the world to churn out #1 hits which relate to no one except frat boys and preteen girls? This is songwriting as a business, and if you recognize it as such, of course you would have no artist identity–you have never had to write anything from your heart.

I haven’t reviewed a great deal of albums and singles on this site yet, but one thing that has set good music apart consistently so far has been the songwriting. Jason Isbell, Alan Jackson, Courtney Patton, Kacey Musgraves, Maddie & Tae, and Kasey Chambers all immediately come to mind as names whose songwriting stood out–there were obviously others, and I mentioned them in the reviews, but I named these to illustrate the diversity in style among these albums. Not all of these albums were strictly country; represented here are both men and women, Americana, traditional country, Texas country, pop country, etc. They all stood out because they contained honest, relatable songwriting with the storytelling that sets country music apart. Each of these albums told me, both as a reviewer and as a fan, something about the respective artists. Rather than listening to polished-up, radio-ready singles, I was hearing something real from each of these artists. In short, the albums they made reflected their identities.

By contrast, the albums and singles I have ripped so far have had formulaic, unrelatable songwriting–Luke Bryan and Easton Corbin’s albums, Thomas Rhett’s aforementioned train wreck, and Kelsea Ballerini’s “Dibs” come to mind here. Not all mentioned here were strictly non-country; in fact, Easton Corbin’s album was pretty country musically. However, all of these lacked honest songwriting containing substance and relatability. Rather than telling honest stories, these songs were marketable singles written for the sole purpose of appealing to specific groups of people–in other words, these artists and writers have taken the art of songwriting and made it into a business. Every song I have given a negative review to has lacked the storytelling for which country has always been known best. And without a story to tell, how can an artist be expected to have an identity? And without an identity, why not sing whatever you think/hope will sell? Enter singles like “Friend Zone”–a song that desperately screams for us to relate to Danielle Bradbery when she can’t even relate to herself.

Tomato of the Week: Kacey Musgraves

I debated whether or not to do a Female Friday over Kacey Musgraves because she is well-known, but I think it is needed. Too many people know her and typecast her only for “Follow Your Arrow,” and she is much more than that. See Kacey’s full article on Female Friday!

Random Country Suggestion: Miranda Lambert–Revolution

If you want to find some good country songwriting, early Miranda Lambert is a great example of it. Both this and her first album, Kerosene, display her songwriting in full force.

Listen to Revolution

Non-Country Suggestion: Fleetwood Mac–Rumours

One of the most personal, relatable albums in history, written while all five members were going through separations. Two separations were within the band. They wrote honestly, and this produced the biggest album of their career.

Listen to Rumours

Billboard Country Airplay and Country Albums Chart (September 5th)

Billboard Country Airplay

1. Frankie Ballard–“Young and Crazy” (up 1)
2. Sam Hunt–“House Party” (up 1)
3. Dustin Lynch–“Hell of a Night” (up 1)
4. Thomas Rhett–“Crash and Burn” (up 2)
5. Chris Janson–“Buy Me a Boat” (up 2)
6. Keith Urban–“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” (up 2)
7. Zac Brown Band–“Loving You Easy” (down 6)
8. Brett Eldredge–“Lose My Mind” (up 1)
9. Kenny Chesney–“Save It for a Rainy Day” (up 1)
10. Michael Ray–“Kiss You in the Morning” (down 5)
11. Eric Church–“Like a Wrecking Ball” (up 1)
12. Maddie & Tae–“Fly” (up 1)
13. Chase Rice–“Gonna Wanna Tonight” (up 1)
14. Florida Georgia Line–“Anything Goes” (up 1)
15. Cole Swindell–“Let Me See Ya Girl” (up 1)
16. Luke Bryan–“Strip It Down” (up 7) [biggest gainer]
17. Old Dominion–“Break Up With Him” (up 2)
18. Dan + Shay–“Nothin’ Like You” (down 1)
19. Jake Owen–“Real Life” (down 1)
20. Lady Antebellum–“Long Stretch of Love”
21. Kip Moore–“I’m To Blame”
22. Blake Shelton–“Gonna” (up 4)
23. Cam–“Burning House” (down 1)
24. Carrie Underwood–“Smoke Break” (entering top 30) [most added song this week]
25. Chris Young–“I’m Comin’ Over”
26. Big & Rich–“Run Away With You” (down 2)
27. Brothers Osborne–“Stay a Little Longer”
28. Parmalee–“Already Callin’ You Mine”
29. Tim McGraw–“Top of the World” (re-entering top 30)
30. Jason Aldean–“Gonna Know We Were Here” (entering top 30)

  • new #1: “Young and Crazy”
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “house Party”
  • “Kick the Dust Up” mercifully fell out of the top 30 from #11. I hope I never hear that shit again.
  • Kelsea Ballerini’s “Dibs” fell from #30 to #31
  • Hunter Hayes’s “21” fell from #29 to #33
  • when you look at 13-17, suddenly 13-15 and 17 look like gems thrown in next to the atrocity that is “Strip it Down
  • Carrie Underwood’s “Smoke Break” enters with Jason Aldean’s “Gonna Know We Were Here” to fulfill the “crap must enter with each good song” quota

Billboard Top Country Albums

1. Luke Bryan–Kill the Lights (This makes me want to throw up)
2. Elvis Presley–Elvis Forever [debut]
3. Sam Hunt–Montevallo
4. Zac Brown Band–Jekyll + Hyde
5. Pat Green–Home [debut]
6. Eric Church–The Outsiders
7. Alan Jackson–Angels and Alcohol
8. Jason Isbell–Something More Than Free
9. Little Big Town–Painkiller
10. Florida Georgia Line–Anything Goes
11. Jason Aldean–Old Boots, New Dirt
12. Brantley Gilbert–Just as I Am
13. Various Artists–Now That’s What I Call Country, Volume 8
14. Michael Ray–Michael Ray
15. Luke Bryan–Crash My Party
16. Kacey Musgraves–Pageant Material
17. Zac Brown Band–Greatest Hits So Far…
18. Chase Rice–Ignite the Night
19. Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard–Django and Jimmie
20. Blake Shelton–Bringing Back the Sunshine
21. Cole Swindell–Cole Swindell
22. Kenny Chesney–The Big Revival
23. Carrie Underwood–Greatest Hits: Decade #1
24. Tim McGraw–35 Biggest Hits
25. Miranda Lambert–Platinum

  • Michael Ray follows in the footsteps of Canaan Smith, Kelsea Ballerini, and Easton Corbin, falling from his debut at #4 to #14
  • Texas artist Pat Green’s Home debuts at #5
  • at least Luke Bryan no longer has three albums on this chart

Source: Billboard

Billboard Country Airplay and Country Albums Chart (August 22nd)

Billboard Country Airplay

1. Michael Ray–“Kiss You in the Morning” (up 1)
2. Zac Brown Band–“Loving You Easy” (up 2)
3. Frankie Ballard–“Young and Crazy”
4. Sam Hunt–“House Party” (up 4)
5. Dustin Lynch–“Hell of a Night” (up 2)
6. Luke Bryan–“Kick the Dust Up” (down 5)
7. Thomas Rhett–“Crash and Burn” (up 2)
8. Brantley Gilbert–“One Hell of an Amen” (down 3)
9. Jason Aldean–“Tonight Looks Good on You” (down 3)
10. Chris Janson–“Buy Me a Boat”
11. Keith Urban–“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” (up 1)
12. Brett Eldredge–“Lose My Mind” (down 1)
13. Kenny Chesney–“Save It for a Rainy Day” (up 1)
14. Eric Church–“Like a Wrecking Ball” (down 1)
15. Maddie & Tae–“Fly”
16. Chase Rice–“Gonna Wanna Tonight”
17. Florida Georgia Line–“Anything Goes” (up 2)
18. Cole Swindell–“Let Me See Ya Girl”
19. Jake Owen–“Real Life” (down 2)
20. Dan + Shay–“Nothin’ Like You”
21. Old Dominion–“Break up With Him” (up 1)
22. Lady Antebellum–“Long Stretch of Love” (up 1)
23. Kip Moore–“I’m To Blame” (down 2)
24. Cam–“Burning House”
25. Big & Rich–“Run Away With You”
26. Chris Young–“I’m Comin’ Over” (up 2)
27. Brothers Osborne–“Stay a Little Longer” (down 1)
28. Parmalee–“Already Callin’ You Mine” (down 1)
29. Blake Shelton–“Gonna” (entering top 30)
30. Tim McGraw–“Top of the World” (entering top 30)

  • new No. 1: “Kiss You in the Morning”
  • next week’s No. 1 prediction: “Loving You Easy”
  • Jana Kramer’s “I Got the Boy” and Hunter Hayes’s “21” fell temporarily out of the top 30 this week

Billboard Top Country Albums

1. Sam Hunt–Montevallo
2. Alan Jackson–Angels and Alcohol
3. Zac Brown Band–Greatest Hits So Far…
4. Zac Brown Band–Jekyll + Hyde
5. Jason Isbell–Something More Than Free
6. Eric Church–The Outsiders
7. Little Big Town–Painkiller
8. Chase Rice–Ignite the Night
9. Jason Aldean–Old Boots, New Dirt
10. Florida Georgia Line–Anything Goes
11. Brantley Gilbert–Just as I Am
12. Various Artists–Now That’s What I Call Country, Volume 8
13. Ashley Monroe–The Blade
14. Blake Shelton–Bringing Back the Sunshine
15. Kacey Musgraves–Pageant Material
16. Luke Bryan–Crash My Party
17. Luke Bryan–Spring Break…Checkin’ Out
18. Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard–Django and Jimmie
19. Big & Rich–Gravity
20. Kenny Chesney–The Big Revival
21. Big Smo–Bringin’ It Home (EP)
22. Carrie Underwood–Greatest Hits: Decade #1
23. Cole Swindell–Cole Swindell
24. Darius Rucker–Southern Style
25. Easton Corbin–About to Get Real

  • Zac Brown Band’s Greatest Hits So Far… moved up from No. 17 to No. 3
  • Ashley Monroe’s The Blade fell from No. 2 to No. 13
  • unfortunately, Sam Hunt is back at No. 1

Source: Billboard

Billboard Country Airplay and Country Albums Chart (August 15th)

Billboard Country Airplay

1. Luke Bryan–“Kick the Dust Up” (up 3) [really?]
2. Michael Ray–“Kiss You in the Morning” (up 1) [again, really?]
3. Frankie Ballard–“Young and Crazy” (up 3)
4. Zac Brown Band–“Loving You Easy” (up 1)
5. Brantley Gilbert–“One Hell of an Amen” (down 4)
6. Jason Aldean–“Tonight Looks Good on You” (down 4)
7. Dustin Lynch–“Hell of a Night”
8. Sam Hunt–“House Party”
9. Thomas Rhett–“Crash and Burn” (up 2)
10. Chris Janson–“Buy Me a Boat” (up 2)
11. Brett Eldredge–“Lose My Mind” (up 3)
12. Keith Urban–“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” (up 1)
13. Eric Church–“Like a Wrecking Ball” (up 2)
14. Kenny Chesney–“Save It for a Rainy Day” (up 3)
15. Maddie & Tae–“Fly” (up 1)
16. Chase Rice–“Gonna Wanna Tonight” (up 3)
17. Jake Owen–“Real Life” (up 1)
18. Cole Swindell–“Let Me See Ya Girl” (up 3)
19. Florida Georgia Line–“Anything Goes” (up 3)
20. Dan + Shay–“Nothin’ Like You” (up 5) [biggest gainer]
21. Kip Moore–“I’m to Blame” (down 1)
22. Old Dominion–“Break up With Him” (up 1)
23. Lady Antebellum–“Long Stretch of Love” (up 2)
24. Cam–“Burning House” (up 2)
25. Big & Rich–“Run Away With You” (up 2)
26. Brothers Osborne–“Stay a Little Longer” (up 2)
27. Parmalee–“Already Callin’ You Mine” (up 2)
28. Chris Young–“I’m Comin’ Over” (up 2)
29. Jana Kramer–“I Got the Boy” (entering top 30)
30. Hunter Hayes–“21” (entering top 30)

  • new No. 1: “Kick the Dust Up”
  • next week’s No. 1 prediction: “Kiss You in the Morning”
  • Luke Bryan and Michael Ray have albums coming out Friday, and they have the No. 1 and No. 2 slots…how convenient
  • once again, a good song (Jana Kramer) enters the top 30 and is balanced by crap (Hunter Hayes)
  • Brad Paisley’s “Crushin’ It” and Canaan Smith’s “Love You Like That” fell from No. 9 and No. 10, respectively, to out of the top 30

Billboard Top Country Albums

1. Alan Jackson–Angels and Alcohol
2. Ashley Monroe–The Blade [debut]
3. Sam Hunt–Montevallo
4. Jason Isbell–Something More Than Free
5. Zac Brown Band–Jekyll + Hyde
6. Eric Church–The Outsiders
7. Little Big Town–Painkiller
8. Jason Aldean–Old Boots, New Dirt
9. Brantley Gilbert–Just as I Am
10. Florida Georgia Line–Anything Goes
11. Kacey Musgraves–Pageant Material
12. Various Artists–Now That’s What I Call Country, Volume 8
13. Luke Bryan–Crash My Party
14. Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard–Django and Jimmie
15. Chase Rice–Ignite the Night
16. Luke Bryan–Spring Break…Checkin’ Out
17. Zac Brown Band–Greatest Hits So Far…
18. Easton Corbin–About to Get Real
19. Cole Swindell–Cole Swindell
20. Kenny Chesney–The Big Revival
21. Big Smo–Bringin’ It Home (EP)
22. Blake Shelton–Bringing Back the Sunshine
23. Carrie Underwood–Greatest Hits: Decade #1
24. Miranda Lambert–Platinum
25. Kelsea Ballerini–The First Time

  • Alan Jackson’s Angels and Alcohol hits No. 1 after all
  • Ashley Monroe’s mostly great album The Blade debuts at No. 2
  • Luke Bryan will probably have three albums on this chart next week…
  • if Sam Hunt weren’t in the way, this would be the best top five albums I’ve seen in awhile…sadly, he is infecting it
  • who is buying these Now That’s What I Call Country albums???

Source: Billboard