Is Green River Ordinance getting screwed? But maybe getting screwed means you’ve finally arrived. Kinda?
Here’s the truth. Radio country sucks. It’s just as bad as pop-metal and ghetto-fabulous (c)rap. Genre music –– or the creative output of musicians (and sometimes teams of songwriters) who hew to certain, established standards of technique, arrangement, and instrumentation –– is created by young people for young people. And a lot of people 25 and under today are idiots.
The difference now –– between Elvis and the Beatles, the Beatles and arena rock, arena rock and glam, and glam and grunge, the last genre to dominate the entire West by virtue of there being only three ways to get turnt on to new music back then (MTV, radio, and Rolling Stone) –– is that kids today have unprecedentedly poor decision-making skills. Maybe not in classrooms. There are still millions of tweens and teens murdering standardized tests. That’s not what I’m talking about. I mean the idea expressed in Developmental Science and written about last summer in The New Yorker, a very smarty smart-person magazine that I read/skim because, y’know, I don’t want everyone to know I’m borderline brain-dead. Like a teenager.
“Many recent innovations — cars, Ecstasy, iPhones, S.U.V.s, thirty racks, semi-automatic weapons — exacerbate the mismatch between teen-agers’ brains and their environment,” writes New Yorker staffer Elizabeth Kolbert. “Adolescents today face temptations that teens of earlier eras, not to mention primates or rodents, couldn’t have dreamed of.”
Have you heard that Adele song that the globe stopped spinning for a couple of months ago? The chorus is just one semi-melodic phrase repeated loudly. That’s it. You could just see Adele’s major-label fat cats reclining in their fat-cat sun-drenched lounge chairs, buckets of fried chicken all around, smoking fat-cat cigars, swirling their greasy index fingers around in their hairy belly buttons. “Gotta follow that formula, boys,” one of them grunts to the rest. “Radio is still the biggest medium, and the only people who listen to it today are kids. Kids! They’re too stupid to appreciate true melody or nonlinear songs, so let’s just pound these dolts over the head with repetitiveness!”
“Hello” is horrible. So maudlin. So gratuitous. Just like pretty much everything else on Billboard’s assorted charts.
Which brings us to GRO.
The Fort Worth quintet, celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, recently released its ninth studio recording. Featuring the wholesome, genre-rific sounds of fiddle, some twang, and some mandolin a-pickin’ and a-grinnin’, 15 is as country as country can be, at least to anyone who’s been exposed, undoubtedly on accident, to that genre over the past several decades. Uh-uh-uh, clucked the good folks at Billboard. With very little explanation, according to the blog Saving Country Music, Billboard honchos said the album was not country enough for the Country Albums Chart, relegating GRO’s handiwork to the “Rock Chart and Folk Chart,” according to the blog.
“For the last couple of years,” writes SCM’s Trigger Coroneos, “country fans have been questioning how chart managers for Billboard and other entities could listen to certain songs or performers and consider them country in the slightest. Yet here is a band making music that’s more country than it is anything else, and more country than most of what you hear on country radio, and Billboard is denying their admittance on the country charts.”
The difference? Between being on a Country chart or a Rock chart or a Folk one? Who knows. But according to a recent Nielson study, rock is by far the most popular genre in the United States. Question: Would having your album classified as rock by Billboard expose you to new ears, or would your album not even reach that chart because of the sheer amount of competition? The point is you may have never thought hairs could be split any finer than when it comes to categorizing music for money. Lots and lots of money.
“Similarly,” Trigger goes on, “acts outside of country that release albums in the country format such as Lionel Richie, Bon Jovi, Steven Tyler, Don Henley, and many others have not been recused from charting on the country charts just because they released albums or singles in other formats previously, not to mention the scores of current acts that offer little to no resemblance to country who find no question from Billboard in being included in country charts.”
Who exactly are those country artists with “little to no resemblance to country” that he’s talking about? I don’t know. And I’m proud of that fact. Want an answer to the question? Ask a teenager.
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