Oh, look, more Authorized Journalism, from the same person who presented Sam Hunt to us as “country’s most forward-thinking stylist”:
The year’s best country album comes from Maren Morris, and if the trophy gods deliver justice at the 50th annual CMA Awards on Wednesday, she’ll win a prize for it. The 26-year-old is a straight-talking, forward-thinking fountain of dash, and she’s funneling it into some great country music.
Uh, NOPE. I’ve heard bits of the Maren Morris album — as in, 30-second samples of all the songs on Amazon — and it sounds a whole lot to me like some unholy hybrid of Pink and Kelsea Ballerini. Not country in the slightest, in other words. My take wasn’t quite as virulent as Trigger’s, but then that was probably because I didn’t really have high expectations in the first place. To be honest, I really didn’t think “My Church” was all that, either. I’d been hearing people singing its praises, and I heard it and was rather baffled. Sure, it was more substantive than Kelsea Ballerini, but beyond that I thought it was kinda meh. It was all the more confusing that I heard the song on 95.9 the Ranch. I can only guess that they were playing the song because Morris is an Arlington native, but then if they were going to play artists just on that criterion we’d have been hearing this monstrosity.
Can I think of albums that better deserve that Album of the Year nominee slot? Why yes, yes I can — pretty much any of the albums mentioned here that were released during the CMA eligibility period, for one, and we can now add to that list Courtney Patton’s So This Is Life.
Yeah, I know. I catch a lot of crap in some corners for my bitching about mainstream country music. I hear people say things to the effect of, “why don’t you just ignore it and concentrate on the good stuff?” And I try to do that. After all, of course, country music is a lot more than the mainstream crap that’s played on the radio. And of course, Chris Richards is just one person, and he’s far from the only one whose observations about country music are way off base.
But here’s the deal — this is about more than just crappy mislabeled music that is at best the musical equivalent of mystery meat casserole. It’s about giving idiots space to write things like this…
Musically, (‘Daddy Lessons’) draws on country, folk, soul, and other genres made popular by Black American musicians in the 19th and 20th centuries. One could argue that, in doing so, Beyoncé was attempting to reclaim these styles from the Elvis Presleys, Iggy Azaleas, and countless other white entertainers who decontextualized them in the decades that followed, even if her efforts fell on deaf ears throughout many corners of Nashville. (One particularly not good article over at CMT asked, ‘What’s So Country About Beyoncé?’) Perhaps not unrelated, the 2016 CMA Award nominees are almost entirely all white.
…which forces people to admit that Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons” might be more country than, say, anything Sam Hunt or Thomas Rhett ever put out. But the problem with that is that it obscures the larger, more important point — which is that Sam Hunt as a country singer, or Thomas Rhett as a country singer, never should have been a thing in the first place. It brings to mind the old Thomas Pynchon quote: — “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”
(Also, anyone who points to Alison Bonaguro as any kind of authority is a flaming idiot.)
Because you know what is definitely more country than anything Sam Hunt ever put out? George Strait, that’s who. There is no good reason whatsoever that he and Alan Jackson — or, for that matter, Sturgill Simpson, Aaron Watson, Jason Boland, or the Turnpike Troubadours — shouldn’t still be played other than the recent demographic shift that’s killing the genre anyway. These people talk about evolution of the genre and all that, completely ignoring the fact that they’re setting the stage for the genre of country music to be burned down with no hope of ever rebuilding it to anything approaching its former beauty.
Which reminds me of this:
There’s not any cool rock bands any more.
Oh, Jason Aldean. Surely that couldn’t have anything to do with rock music’s boundaries being destroyed as people started categorizing rock music as “anything white people listen to” and calling pretty much anything rock, could it? Nah, that couldn’t be it.