Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Curse of Pop

Adoring fans, thank you for your patience during this long layoff. To be honest, I'm finding it a bit more difficult than I anticipated to write as regularly as I'd like. Alas, this is reality -- so if you'll just bear with me, I promise I'll try to do a bit better on updates. I'd also like to take this opportunity to announce that I've been working on some very exciting music-related projects, which I hope I'll get to share with all of you in the coming weeks.

Today though I'd like to mix it up a bit and offer a review of a recent hit song and my thoughts on a questionable artist management decision. So let's begin shall we?

"Lover, Lover" by Jerrod Niemann -- Jerrod Niermann is a relative newcomer to the country scene and "Lover, Lover" marks his first major top 40 hit. The song has received considerable airplay in recent weeks and it's likely due to the unique chorus -- a multi-part harmony with minimal instrumental accompaniment. This innovative (and refreshing) production decision works like a charm in accomplishing its desired goal -- the song stands out. If you were driving down the highway listening to good old country radio and this tune came on, you'd know it, it just wouldn't blend in with everyone else you've been hearing. Not to say this tune is a rousing success. The verses are almost intolerably drab and generic, and Niemann often has to drag out syllables to make the verses work rhythmically, but overall this song is a breath of fresh air. Great production decision to cut out the music at the end and allow all the parts to go acapella in a great ending harmony. Check it out at the end of this post.

Now I'd like to wax poetic a bit on the decision of the Zac Brown Band to open for Dave Matthews on their upcoming summer tour. Listen, I've had my Dave Matthews phase, as I'm sure many of you have, and their music is great. There's a reason they have been one of the most successful and critically acclaimed bands of the last 15 years, and I know Dave has made a recent foray into country music (see "I'm Alive" from Kenny's Lucky Old Sun album), but I just don't think this is the right move for ZBB. True, they will get unrivaled exposure opening in front of massive crowds at huge venues for a widely diverse crowd (in terms of musical taste), and this could do a lot of good for country music. Exposing the unique country sound of ZBB to a bunch of non-country listeners could go great things for the industry, but I'm skeptical as to how this will be perceived by country purists.

ZBB has been hailed as one of country's most exciting new acts, a Georgia band that brings together awesome instrumentals (kind of a blue grass - Alabama mix) and poignant lyrics to every one of its songs. You've probably heard "Chicken Fried," but "Toes" and "Highway 20 Ride," and even the most recent hit, "Free," are equally as good. ZBB is killing it on country radio right now. Every song they release is an immediate hit. And yet, instead of opening for a major country star -- like Kenny, Brad, etc. -- or even headlining a tour themselves (an option that is not as far off in the future as you might think), they open for Dave Matthews? Is this going to allow them to emphasize their country roots or do they run the risk of crossing over into pop? If there's one thing I've learned in my years of listening to country music is that once a country artist releases a song that can be characterized as "pop," they are as good as dead to country radio. Look at major female stars of the 90's like Faith Hill and Shania -- once they toed the pop line, their careers experienced a serious fall off. To me, it's just not worth it for ZBB. Stick to country, or you run the risk of never being able to find your way back.

1 comment:

  1. WOW. Urban Cowboy, this post makes me want to “wax poetic” all over your face.

    First, what is the Dave Matthews "phase?" You point out that they are the most successful live act of the past 15 years, and, if you've attended a concert, I'm sure you recognized the spread in age of those around you. How is it a phase if young fans love their music just as much as fans who have followed the band since the early 90’s? If it is a phase, am I still in the phase? And how do I get out?

    Second, you are correct in pointing out that opening for the Dave Matthews Band will expose ZBB to enormous crowds with a variety of musical tastes. The Dave Matthews Band has every element of ZBB (in terms of musical instruments) and then some. You can’t tell me that the crowd won’t go crazy for a little fiddle action on the part of Jimmy De Martini, because they always do for Boyd Tinsley.

    Third, your generalization that Dave Matthews Band concert goers are “a bunch of non-country listeners” is completely fallacious – yours truly is an example of one, and I can think of many others.

    Fourth, who are these “country purists” and where do they live?

    Fifth, ZBB is only touring with the Dave Matthews Band for 20 DAYS! Their tour is filled with country music festivals throughout the summer. Why would they want to tour with brand name country artists when they can reach the same fans at these events?

    ZBB knows that they are getting big, and by showcasing their talents to fans of the Dave Matthews Band – who have exceptional taste in music – they give themselves an opportunity to expand their own fan base. I have tickets to the last concert ZBB plays with the Dave Matthews Band this summer, at Nationals Park, and let me tell you, it has the potential to be the best Dave Matthews Band concert I have ever been to.