This is a guest post by Fathomless Regression. It’s potentially controversial, so let’s hear your opinions in the comments section!
The Disclaimer: Let me start this by saying that I appreciate anyone who is genuinely pursuing the development of their art form, whatever that may be.
Through the wonder that is a radio at work, that I can’t change the station on, I have been exposed to much new country. By new country I mean the pop country (Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flats, etc). Let me say, I used to be a country fan. I grew up in the midwest in a farm town so Willie Nelson, Johhny Cash, George Strait, Reba, Dollie, Vince, etc were all staples in my house. I can still remember listening to all of them on vinyl. It was great stuff. Each artist had their own distinct sound and voice. Fast forward to 2009 and country has become a formulaic machine much like the Disney music machine of the mid to late 90’s. Remember how every mouseketeer suddenly had a record contract and everything sounded the same? We’re there again. Producers found a formula that sold records and now we’re in the copycat phase that follows. They take that formula, apply it to the same artist for as long as he/she remains popular. When audiences become bored, rather than reinventing their sound, the producers drop the artist and paste that same formula onto a new face, tricking unsuspecting audiences into thinking that this is something new.
There is another genre that follows this pattern. Enter hip hop. I used to love hip hop. Wu-Tang, 36 Chambers was my life’s blood. Tupac, Me Against The World. Dre, Bone Thugs, Eminem (pre 2001), Nas, West Side Connection, all of these were in constant rotation in my collection. Yes I really was the white boy who would bump Ring Of Fire through my same thumpin’ system and then put on some Tupac. Hell, I still am, except now I mix in a little Conor Oberst or Frightened Rabbit between them. But where has this genre, spawned from social rebellion, and poetic expression fallen? Every time I see a hip hop video or hear a song on the radio it’s the same thing. Money, women, how great the rapper is, how great is friends are as rappers, how life is so good because of all of the money. Really? Damn, why did all of the rappers with something to say have die in their 20’s?
Some time ago, a producer somewhere (probably the same one as our country example) realized that if you make a hip hop song that has a dance-along-able beat, and a catch hook (Back That Ass Up anyone?), you can sell millions. All of the high school girls and college girls love it because they can dance to it at the club. All of the guys like it because they idolize the rappers who appear to have all of the women and cash that they can handle. It’s the new wheaties box. Now you take that formula, ride it until the rapper is old news (about 3-6 months), copy, paste, find new rapper with charisma and who wants to make money, and you’re set.
Similarities that exist between hip hop and country:
Rappers are obsessed with their cars/rims/etc…Country singers are obsessed with their trucks.
Rappers are obsessed with women and frequently show them in their videos…Country singers do the same, but instead of daisy dukes and what is basically a bra for a top, country singers have girls with daisy dukes and wife beaters.
Rappers always rap about where their from…Country singers always sing about where they’re from provided it’s in the south.
Both are pretending to still be something that they’re not, or never were. Cowboys and “Thugs.”
Listen to their lyrics carefully and you’ll notice that neither will ever say anything relevant. Ever.
Also, interestingly enough, both are more likely to sell more records than any of the other genres on average. Piracy isn’t nearly as rampant in these two worlds.
This money making machine is certainly not limited to country and hip hop, it’s just most prevalent there. To site some other examples, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Jonas Brothers. Remember the Hanson brothers. Hmmm, wonder where the Jonas brothers got birthed from. Remember the boy band craze of the 90’s? Okay, now remember the boy band craze of the 80’s? Remember Tiffany in the 80’s? Brittany in the 90’s? Music has always had these copy & pasters but they’re coming in much quicker rotation in the land of country and hip hop. So the next time you’re reaching for Auto-Tune, or that same damn big band stab that I hear in every hip hop single these days, or the next time you’re thinking of writing a song about junior high angst and pickup trucks, while you’re actually in your 20’s, think again. Maybe instead of having a quick buck you’d like to actually contribute something original, be it ever so crappy and humble, to the world of music. That’s just a thought. I’m off to work on another track that no one will care about, and that won’t sell a million copies, but dammit it’s different.
Other posts by Fathomless Regression: