There’s been a lot of talk about the current state of country music as of late. As the genre continues to become increasingly mainstream, country music as we know it is losing the “country” factor. Whether fans want to admit it or not, country radio has changed drastically in the past five years. Everything from the subject matter of the songs, to the lyrics, to the production is now more commercial, catering to the new “country” demographic. While some artists argue that it’s good for the genre to expand and grow, others are saddened by the shift.
Zac Brown recently spoke out against the current state of country music admitting, “There’s not a lot of the country format that I really enjoy listening to.”
The Georgia native spoke very candidly about the topic with Barbara Beam from 93.7 JRfm in Vancouver. He opened up about the Zac Brown Band’s sound and went on to explain his distaste for what’s currently being played on country radio.
“What we do is not necessarily traditional country, but we play all of our own instruments, we write the best songs that we can, and we put harmony on the songs, we have a real band…a lot of it’s just about subject matter. We really write about real life, songs that come from life and our heart. To me country music has always been the home for a great song,” he explained. “If I hear one more tailgate in the moonlight, daisy duke song, I’m gonna throw up. There’s songs out there on the radio right now that make me be ashamed to be even in the same format as some other artists.”
While he clearly isn’t a fan of where the genre is headed, Brown admits that there are still artists making great music. “Now, there are still great artists that are in the country format and there’s still artists to that do a great job with a song that care about their lyrics and it’s not just mindless dribble,” he said.
However, Brown’s comments about country music’s most popular songwriters weren’t so forgiving. “You can look and see some of the same songwriters on every one of the songs. There’s been like 10 number one songs in the last two or three years that were written by the same people and it’s the exact same words, just arranged different ways.”
So how does he feel about Luke Bryan’s latest single? “I love Luke Bryan and he’s had some great songs, but this new song is the worst song I’ve ever heard. I know Luke, he’s a friend. [‘That’s] My Kinda Night’ is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. I see it being commercially successful, in what is called country music these days, but I also feel like that the people deserve something better than that. Country fans and country listeners deserve to have something better than that, a song that really has something to say, something that makes you feel something. Good music makes you feel something. When songs make me wanna throw up, it makes me ashamed to even be in the same genre as those songs.”
Brown isn’t criticizing everyone though. When Bean asked who he was listening to, he didn’t hesitate. “This week, I’ve been listening to Sheryl Crow’s new record. There’s really the most country song that I’ve heard since like George Jones back in the day on her new cd. She wrote it with Brad Paisley, it’s called ‘Waterproof Mascara.’ It’s sad to me to think that country music won’t even play that because they’re playing dance club songs that have cliche country lyrics in it.”
So why the sudden outburst? “I’m opinionated because I care so much about the music and the songs,” Brown says.
Zac Brown isn’t the only country artist speaking out about the genre. In a recent interview with Larry King, hitmaker Gary Allan admitted, “I also feel like we lost our genre.”
“I don’t feel like I don’t make music for a genre anymore,” he continued. “I did 10, 15 years ago. But since the Clear Channels and the Cumulus’ and the big companies bought up all the chains, now it’s about a demographic….You used to be able to turn on the radio and you knew it was a country station just by listening to it. Now, you’ve got to leave it there for a second to figure it out.”
When asked if he likes the current state of the genre, Allan said, “I personally don’t like it. I loved the character of country music and I loved what it is and the lifestyle of it. It’s still songs about life, but it’s definitely changed.”
How do you feel about the state of contemporary country music? Do you agree with Brown and Allan’s comments, or are you happy with the direction country music going?