I don’t tend to listen to FM music stations much, so maybe this sort of thing is par for the course in this crazy mixed-up world these days. But the other day I’m on a road trip and I decide to dial around a bit, and I run across a light rock station playing some tune or another–no recollection of the name of the song, just that it was sung by a woman and struck me as mildly pleasant to listen to at the time. So I was fairly startled when, a few minutes later, I came across a country station playing the exact same song, by the exact same singer–except that this version seemed to have that country-western type steel guitar music slathered into the mix, rendering it generally whiny and horrible.
Does anyone know–did I imagine this? Was it a trick of my relatively cheap car audio system, where perhaps the nasty country guitar track just wasn’t picked up the first time for some reason? Or are record companies these days actually releasing two versions of songs these days, one with steel guitar and harmonica accompaniment for the country music stations, and another version without said accompaniment for the “non-hideous” music stations?
This happens a lot with sappy mushy teenybopper ballads. An example of this is the song “I Swear,” from the mid-90’s (I think). Two versions were released at about the same time - one recorded by pop boy band All 4 One, and another by country singer John Michael Montgomery. (“I Can Love You Like That,” another All 4 One song, was also recorded by a country artist, although I can’t remember whom.) Can’t think of anything more recent, but I’m sure they’re out there.
Exact same song? Okay, I’ve heard that a lot with country singers/writers “stealing” hit pop songs because they seemingly don’t have the imagination to come up with their own hits. But the same singer? I’ve never noticed that. Of course, I don’t listen to much country radio. On the other hand, I don’t listen to pop radio anymore, either.
I’m aware of Shania Twain, Faith Hill, etc. being crossover artists. Do the record companies change their songs to suit the format of the radio stations?
Dig deeper, dude. There’s a subgenre called “alt country” that’s producing some of the best music out there today. Listen to KEXP’s “Swingin’ Doors” show on Thursday evenings for some stellar examples. He also plays the old stuff; it’s a great show. Read his playlist for a dangerous shopping list.
Just played some Jimmie Dale Gilmore this morning. Other names that come to mind: Robbie Fulks, Jo Carol Pierce, the Mavericks, the Blacks, Iris Dement, Lucinda Williams, Jim White, Johnny Dowd, Victoria Williams–there is some serious twang happening out there. But if you wait for it to displace Shania on the pop-country stations, you’ll be waiting a long time.
At least IME, yes. When the Dixie Chicks’ cover of “Landslide” was big(gish) [summer of '02 or '03, I forget which], they played it a lot on pop/top 40 stations, but the arrangement was different from the version played on the “popular country” stations. The vocals were the same, but the instrumentation was different.
spoke : Absolutely, the hits crossed over. But they did so, I feel, without actively seeking a crossover sound. Unlike the post-Garth Brooks wannabes of today. The pop-charts of the late 50s/early 60s reflected a much broader range of music than the charts of today.
And lissener, I’m sure you’re right. Maybe if the local radio around my area played a little bit more of that, I wouldn’t be so down on moden country.
I admit, there are modern guys I like. Dwight Yoakam has a classic sound in a lot of his earlier stuff. And (much like the classic rock genre) the new stuff by old artists is often quite good. Dolly Parton’s “The Grass Is Blue” was fantastic.
So, I apologise for making a sweepeing generalization. I’ll clarify:
I’m not sure why, but I was expecting a “South Park” thread.
On a related note, I’ll sure be glad when the new crap from old what’s-her-name and that hack from the White Stripes loses it novelty and drops from the airwaves like a pie from a cow’s ass. God, its awful.
“Ballad of a Teenage Queen” was obviously intended for a pop audience. It is not in any way a country song (unless someone wants to argue that Johnny Cash’s Southern accent standing alone makes it “country”).
And Patsy Cline and Eddie Arnold were actively seeking broader (i.e. “pop”) appeal as a way to increase record sales. Arnold in particular wanted to give country music a smoother sound that would be palatable to a national audience (for which he has been pilloried in some circles).
But as I say, I agree with your basic premise that what passes for “country music” on most country music stations today in no way qualifies for the moniker.