Between watching Ken Burns’ terrific “Country Music,” and seeing great concerts by Maren Morris (pictured above) and Kacey Musgraves in the past couple weeks, I felt like revisiting this item from March 1, 2014.
The other day, after I dropped my wife off at the train station, I got behind an SUV with a bumper sticker that read, “Alan Jackson: Country Music the Way God Intended.” (Apparently, it also comes in T-shirts.) — Or at least it did, when I checked the link, it was dead.
I’m no Biblical scholar, so maybe someone can tell me if this verse exists anywhere:
“And so a man will come from Georgia, a lanky man with blond hair and a mustache. He will wear a cowboy hat and jeans, and he is the one chosen by God to sing country music, and his followers will buy his albums and fill arenas far and wide. He will be hailed for his prowess with many awards.”
I’m obviously kidding. I’m not an Alan Jackson expert, but apparently, he’s still going strong. I don’t know a lot of his music, but I remember “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” as a touching, moving song after Sept. 11, 2001.
The point of the bumper sticker and the T-shirt, obviously, is a way for Jackson’s fans to stand up for traditional country music against what they see as the infringement of more pop-oriented acts like … I don’t know … young woman … tall blonde … known for singing a lot about boys …
Yes, Taylor Swift is not a favorite of the traditionalists. Fine, she’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for some reason, country stations keep playing her songs, and the various organizations keep giving her awards.
And millions of people enjoy her songs. (And now, of course, she’s one of the biggest pop stars in the world.)
Artists like Jackson and George Strait (who could probably sell out stadiums until he was 90) still have a lot of fans, but country music is changing, and no one gets to say what that is. Nelly rapped with Florida Georgia Line on “Cruise,” and the band knows what it did for them.
“Not only did the song steam up the charts in both country and pop, but it also brought new fans to the duo’s shows, something that really gets them excited.
‘Cruise’ has earned the spot of No. 1 country digital single of all time, and it has streamed its way into the ear buds of fans of both country and mainstream sounds.
‘The fans, you see a lot of different ages and a lot of different colors even,’ FGL’s Brian Kelley says. ‘You’ve got tons of different people coming to our shows. That’s what it’s all about man. We want everybody. Come party with us. Seriously.’”
They’re not the only ones. Jennifer Nettles covers Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock,” and in her regular job as lead singer of Sugarland, they do a cover of Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” that I prefer to the original.
I could go on and on. But if country music is sounding a lot more like pop, then pop music doesn’t sound like it used to, either, certainly not like it was when I was growing up. That stuff is practically oldies now, or on one of the “Mix something-or-other” channels playing “the best of the ’80s, ’90s and today” that exist in every single market.
As a matter of fact, I don’t like a lot of today’s pop music, which has me turning a lot more to … country … which I hated when I was a kid.
However, just as it’s pointless to pigeonhole artists, it makes no sense to limit fans to liking one type of artist or one type of music, especially since iTunes now lets you sample bits and pieces of everything. My playlist isn’t eclectic in the sense that most of the people on it are mainstream, whatever the genre, but depending on my mood I can listen to Adele, Carrie Underwood, Eminem, Jason Aldean, Metallica, Pitbull, Tim McGraw or Train.
As a matter of fact, the best music I heard all of last year was by the London cast of “The Commitments,” with Killian Donnelly singing soul classics as Deco. Seriously, the dude brings it.
Like or don’t like whomever you want, but just enjoy the music and don’t worry about what box they fit into.