For me, it’s the most important trait an artist can possess, it’s what keeps me coming back for more, keeps me looking ahead, keeps me examining. When you talk to die-hard fans of artists like Eric Church or Kip Moore or Miranda Lambert they often point to the no-bullshit approach. The honesty. While they may experiment with a different arrangement on a song or a new subject matter, you are never left confused about who you are listening to. The music strikes the same chord today as it did seven or 10 years back. Honesty.
I have to bring up Sam Hunt in this case. He’s a lightning rod for debate anytime he has new music.
You can think Sam Hunt’s music is the biggest steaming pile of dog shit you’ve ever heard, but you have, I repeat HAVE, to give him credit for this, he’s honest. Listen to Sam Hunt’s mixtape Between The Pines, then listen to his current music. Listen to songs he wrote for other artists like Kenny Chesney (“Come Over”) and tell me he’s changed. He’s always been the same guy, making the same music some love, while others say ruined country music. Sure, his fashion style has gotten weirder, but that’s not important. Here’s the truth, any way you slice it, and people working deep in country music will tell you this, certain artists copy Sam Hunt. And it couldn’t be more obvious. They change to sound like him, or try to carve a new niche that’s not them, hoping it will be the springboard so they can “blow up.” Hunt had his unconventional approach from the days as a songwriter, to the days headlining a monster tour. He’s been him from day one.
I’m not saying every artist copies Sam Hunt by any means, what I am saying is artists see a guy like that blowing up, and think shit, I need to do more of that. The same actually happened with Florida Georgia Line – there was a long list of copy cats following them (our poor ears).
Unfortunately, it’s the business of mainstream country music. As a fan first and foremost, I am right there with you getting annoyed when an artist completely abandons the draw that put them on the map in the first place. For the labels, it becomes more about positioning their artist on a calculated spot within a graph, than it does allowing them to stay honest with their music.
If you listen to our podcast you’ll hear us bring up Thomas Rhett quite often. Thomas has admittedto being drawn to pop more these days. It’s good to hear that he’s honest about his current approach – there’s no doubt he loves Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake (as is evident with his dancing attempts). For me, as a country fan, my favorite Thomas Rhett songs were “In A Minute” or songs he wrote like “I Ain’t Ready To Quit” (recorded by Jason Aldean).
Need a refresher? Here is Rhett performing the song five years back…
Is the real Thomas Rhett the guy above, or the guy taking dance lessons from Justin Timberlake’s choreographer?
There’s no doubt he had an eclectic taste in music, and as time went on, and the landscape of artists changed, along with the sound, he bolted for the pop sound and did away with songs like “Beer With Jesus.” Did he always want to make songs like “Craving You” or is this filling a gap in the country music space to pave the way for the next megastar? Comparing “I Ain’t Ready To Quit” to “Craving You” is like comparing apples to toasters. Now, new artists will try to copy Thomas Rhett.
Thomas Rhett’s fan base has exploded with his new sound, while many fans that were there at the beginning would do anything to hear more of that old sound. So what he’s doing is working, and yes, maybe this is the sound he always wanted to have. However, the uncertainty left with certain fans is the biggest bummer. It’s not just Rhett, I can list out a bunch of artists right now. Chris Lane seems like a nice guy from what we can tell, but he left his country boy music for pop/R&B.
Listen to “Starting Tonight” below (four years ago).
And compare it to “Fix.”
Let’s not forget about the promise, and very warranted excitement we had for Dustin Lynch when this was released.
But then, it all went to shit.
This is the mainstream country music machine.
Finding that spot on a graph, making sure you take advantage of the current trend, and running with it.
Maybe sometimes an artist changes his or her sound to finally do what they always wanted to do, but we’re not always that lucky. For me, honesty matters most, and it’s who I spend my money on. It’s who I want to see at a Friday night show. It’s who I will listen to today, and in 10 years.
Whiskey Riff is the most entertaining country site…ever.