Posts Tagged ‘Zac Brown’

The Worst Country Songs of 2013, Part II: 10-1

December 3, 2013

Last August, when Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” became the biggest country single of all-time by logging the most weeks at #1 by a song in the history of the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart, Jody Rosen of Vulture defined the current strain of mainstream country trends as ‘bro-country’ or “music by and of the tatted, gym-toned, party-hearty young American white dude.” Bro-country is by and large one of the worst epidemics to ever strike mainstream country, far worse then the Urban Cowboy era, 90s Hat Acts, or The Nashville Sound. The roots of this ‘sub-genre’ are 80s arena rock and 90s hip-hop and are about as far away from the traditions of country music as Sidney, Australia is from New York City. This drivel is a surprising hit, and why not? It appeals to the adolescent and college set who buy songs and fill stadiums. It also, unequivocally, makes for the worst music in the history of the country genre.  Compiling this list was easy, with ten reasons why most people cannot even stomach mainstream country anymore:

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10. Parking Lot Party – Lee Brice

is there a chance Lee Brice may be the only male country singer to understand the concept of balance? I could knock him for recording this awful cliché-drenched ode to tailgating, but it comes on the heels of “I Drive Your Truck,” a surprisingly substantive moment in mainstream country this year. It’s just too bad he needs to offset a steel-heavy ballad with a desperate attempt at remaining a hero to the teen and college set.

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9. Days of Gold – Jake Owen

One of the benchmarks of a great country song is the ability to be drawn in by the story through production and vocals that help, not hinder, the listener’s ability to understand the lyrics. That simple logic has been thrown out the window here, which in part is smart given the vapid nature of this song. There’s nothing here but summertime cliché after summertime cliché sung in rapid-fire succession behind a wall of irritating sound. Owen wants more substance in his music, but if he keeps playing to radio, he’s not going to achieve that goal anytime soon.

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8. Southern Girl – Tim McGraw

Twenty years into his career, Tim McGraw proves he’s a master at curtailing his music to fit whatever trend will help him score huge radio hits. “Southern Girl” isn’t as nonsensical as “Truck Yeah” but with dumb rhyming schemes and irritating echoes, it’s just as annoying.

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7. Aw Naw – Chris Young

Like it or not, Chris Young’s traditional country career ended the second “Neon” stalled at radio. In the course of three singles songs like “The Man I Want To Be” and “Tomorrow” were out of fashion as the new wave of bro-country swept in like a tsunami. So what’s a twenty-something guy to do? Make like Dierks Bentley and suppress his artistic sensibilities in an effort to stay in the good graces of country radio. “Aw Naw” is the first, and certainly not the last, example of the theory working wonders for Young. Oh, how I miss the days when an artist could record quality songs and be rewarded with big hits.

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6. DONE. – The Band Perry

Imagine my immense disappointment when the group that gave us my favorite country song so far this decade (“If I Die Young”) churns out this mess as their new single. “Done” is an appeal-to-the-tweens breakup anthem that’s too loud and would’ve even been immature coming from Taylor Swift on her debut album seven years ago. This is just another example of a worthy talent being compromised by the commercial country machine in order to make their label (once again run by Borchetta) millions.

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5. 1994 – Jason Aldean

Like most of Jason Aldean’s singles of late, ‘1994’ has no narrative to speak of, no point to its existence, or any artistic credibility whatsoever. Aldean is singing about a man once nicknamed ‘Joe Ditty,’ in a song that makes “Pickup Man” and “John Deere Green” sound like the second coming of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” When tribute songs are of a far lesser quality than the music of artist they’re honoring, is there even a point?

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4. Boys ‘Round Here – Blake Shelton

As evidenced by the massive success of Duck Dynasty there’s a redneck craze sweeping America that songs like this buy right into. Shelton is pandering like never before making him the most successful he’s ever been in his ten+ years as a recording artist.

Shelton’s embrace of the culture isn’t the problem here, it’s that he’s doing at the expense of country music. He’ll clearly do anything to stay popular including rap and chant cliché after cliché. Worst of all, though? He’s recruited a cast of fellow singers (Miranda Lambert Ashley Monroe, Josh Turner, etc) to join him in saluting his forbearers with a big ‘ol middle finger while he laughs all the way to the bank. Just thinking about it makes me sick.

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3. Cruise – Florida Georgia Line featuring Nelly

The newly minted CMA Single of the Year is the worst novelty hit in decades. The rap remix is nothing more then ‘Anti-Christ’ Scott Borchetta cementing his stronghold over commercial country, and his dominance as dictator of Music Row. He’s becoming more of a problem then his artists at this point.

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2. That’s My Kind of Night – Luke Bryan 

Zac Brown dubbed it ‘the worst song he’d ever heard’ and it’s hard to disagree. An obvious attempt at pandering to trends in order to stay relevant, “That’s My Kind of Night” is one of the laziest pieces of drivel ever recorded by a superstar in their supposed commercial prime. With the eyes of the world on him, Bryan should be using his platform to record good quality country music – not this faux-rap garbage.

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1. Redneck Crazy – Tyler Farr

Who would’ve thought we’d see the day when an up and coming country singer would score their first major (i.e. top 5) hit with a song about a guy who stalks his ex-girlfriend after she’s moved on with another man? He’s also about to get violent declaring, “I didn’t come here to start a fight, but I’m up for anything tonight, you know you broke the wrong heart baby, and drove me redneck crazy.”

Farr has defended the track, saying every woman wants a man who loves them that much while Martina McBride has squashed comparisons to “Independence Day” saying the domestic abuse in her 1994 hit is in no way comparable to the unhinged man at the center of Farr’s hit. In any event this tasteless muck (co-written by Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins of “Before He Cheats” fame) is another low for country music, in an era in which everyone seems to be trying to out do themselves for the lowest levels of douchedom. Count me out.

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Album Review – Zac Brown Band – “Uncaged”

July 22, 2012

Zac Brown Band

Uncaged 

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In four years, Zac Brown Band has positioned themselves nearly peerless among country duos and groups by crafting a fiddle heavy sound unique to their southern rock meets sandy beach brand of country music. By standing out, they’ve racked up eight number one hits in eleven singles and proven trustworthy for inventive (and sometimes emotional) lyrics framed in tasteful production.

With Uncaged, they look to expand their formula by building upon the benchmarks that have afforded them a creative license to do whatever they want. Their willingness to build from their solid foundation gives Uncaged a sense of familiarity that allows longtime fans to continue on the musical journey, while the inclusion of new sounds will allow them to grow at the same time.

There’s no better example of this growth than lead single “The Wind,” a Brown, Wyatt Durrette, and Levi Lowrey co-write that fuses the romping fiddle stylings of Charlie Daniels with the Bluegrass meets country concoction Ricky Skaggs made famous in the early 1980s. Sunny and bright, it chugs along at a breathless breakneck speed and brings the energy of their live performances to a studio recording for the first time.

“The Wind” also sets the bar extremely high for the rest of Uncaged and while the album mostly lives up to that promise, it could’ve and untimely should’ve gone much further. But that isn’t for lack of trying, as Zac Brown Band are still a welcomed ripple in the stagnant pool of plateaued ambition, even if that ambition hasn’t been fully realized yet.

The best moments on Uncaged are the ballads, which the band uses to showcase their tight harmonies, exceptional musicianship, and instinctive abilities to write a complete emotional story. Songs like “Sweet Annie,” “Lance’s Song” and “Natural Disaster” are all excellent, and some of the strongest mainstream material we’re likely to hear all year.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for  Brown and Durrette’s “Goodbye In Her Eyes.”  The lyric is wonderful, but the lack of fiddle on the first half of the song suggests a move towards a popper production, as it appears they aren’t really that country without it.

The upbeat material also gives me pause, as it fails to have an added spark and rise above mediocrity. The Brown, Durrette, and Jason Mraz co-write “Jump Right In” is too sing-a-long and the often-repated “As the Southern wind sings again an island lullaby” grows grating on repeated listenings, while “Island Song”  stands as a second rate attempt at re-creating the magic of “Toes” and “Knee Deep” but lacks their by the water freshness.

The collaborations aren’t much better as the Trombone Shorty assisted  “Overnight” borrows too heavily from jazz and reggae. “Day That I Die,” the duet with Amos Lee, sounds like we’ve heard it before; a retread from You Get What You Give.

But the weakest spots on the whole project should’ve been some of the album’s strongest. The title track is an unnecessary rock screamer that leans much to heavily on aggression to tell its story and Mac McAnally’s “Last But Not Least” starts off excellent but descends into a bizarre free-form vocal mixture that sounds both random and out of place.

Uncaged adds up to less than the sum of its parts because the songs ultimately fail to excite the listener while the lack of welcomed surprises leaves Uncaged feeling very caged in.

After the excellent first single, I had extremely high expectations for the overall sound and musical quality of this project and I’m not afraid to say they let me down. The dabbling in other genres through the collaborations and island themed songs seemed out of character from the band that brought us “As She’s Walking Away.”

I totally understand an artists need to grow, but why can’t some mainstream country act just do it within their own genre? Is that too much to ask?