Country Music: We’ve Always Been Cool!

The networks don’t seem to believe that Country Music, and its’ artists, can carry an awards show off on their own. 

Written by Chuck Dauphin
Country Music: We’ve Always Been Cool!
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

First of all, I will start this off by saying opinions are like ….well, you know. But, a lot of people in Nashville – and out – are a little upset this week because of the CMT Music Awards. The consensus thought – among those I have seen on social media and talked to – that Country Music has become too dependent on acts from other formats to appear on its’ multitude of Awards Shows.

On the Wednesday night telecast, you had Cheap Trick, Pitbull, Pharrell Williams, and Elle King (whose pairing with Dierks Bentley worked very well, I might add) – among others. Of course, let me say this is not exactly a Nashville decision – at least 100 percent. The networks don’t seem to believe that Country Music, and its’ artists, can carry an awards show off on their own, as far as ad revenue and ratings go. I’m not qualified to answer that question, but I will say that I don’t think the CMA’s or the ACM’s would have lasted from the 60s until the early 2000s, when this trend became relevant unless we didn’t have an audience who cared.

But, what I want to comment the most on is this feeling that Nashville (again, to an extent), and the producers seem to feel that we’re just not cool enough. It’s almost like we’re the Science Club, and for us to be considered good enough, we have to have the football players come by and bail us out.

Pardon me, but that’s a bunch of ……crap. The Country Music format is as vibrant and as fresh as it has ever been. But……long before acts like Sam Hunt and Kelsea Ballerini brought a young and exciting feel to the format, we’ve always been good enough. Whether you are thinking about acts like the Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks from the 90s, or artists such as Keith Whitley, Dwight Yoakam, Reba McEntire from the 80s, yeah….we’ve had it going on for years. Think George Strait wasn’t cool? And, who else but Conway Twitty could rock a perm so well – and actually became bigger in the 80s because of it. Tammy, Dolly, Loretta, the Possum. I’ll put our best against Pop Music, any day of the week, month, or year.

What I knew this would open is that can of worms about how Country Music isn’t “Country” no more. News Flash: It hasn’t been since the Carter Family. Jimmie Rodgers was a Blues singer, more or less. Ernest Tubb plugged up his guitars in the early 40s (Uncle Dave or Acuff sure didn’t do that), and the best of Jim Reeves or Patsy Cline sure wasn’t steeped in tradition. That’s not the point. Am I against collaborations of various genres? No, if it works. In the sense of acts like Lionel Richie, Sheryl Crow, or John Fogerty….it works and works beautifully. And artists who blend that line aren’t the problem either – there were so many people in 1975 who thought Armageddon was upon us when John Denver and Olivia Newton-John were winning awards. Guess what? We’re still here. The Eagles? As country as most stuff coming out of Nashville in the early 70s. So, to quote RJ Curtis’s excellent article on the same topic on All Access, I’m not saying “Stay out of my yard.” Collaborations between various genres are a good thing – if they work. I’m just saying that the Country format is – and always has been cool enough – without anyone joining our club. Plus, we’ve got Carrie Underwood and Blake Shelton – who earned the biggest response of the night with his collaboration with – The Oak Ridge Boys – in our ranks. What can Pop artists offer that can touch them?

Your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!