Discussion: Quantity or Quality?

Country Universe has featured two country acts in the past couple of days who have taken vastly different approaches to their careers – Kenny Chesney and the Dixie Chicks. Kenny Chesney, it can be argued, has approached his career with a view towards quantity – the quantity of singles put out to radio and the quantity of stadium seats filled. Furthermore, Chesney’s music – primarily bland and happy – is also geared towards appealing to the maximum number of people possible. As a result, Chesney has achieved nearly unparalleled airplay and phenomenal ticket sales; however, the quality of his music has rarely matched his popularity.

The Dixie Chicks, on the other hand, have only put out two albums (compared to Chesney’s five) in this decade, and are known to disappear from the limelight for long periods of time in between albums to spend time with family and wait to be re-inspired. They have stated that they’d rather take their time with the music and put out the best product possible, even if the time away hurts their sales. As a result of this approach, the Dixie Chicks have 13 Grammys lining their shelves, but they may have lost or frustrated some fans in the process.

We, as fans, have little say in all this, but, if given the choice, which would you prefer? Would you prefer your favorite artists to approach their careers in terms of quantity or quality?

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31 Comments

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31 Responses to Discussion: Quantity or Quality?

  1. Chris D.No Gravatar

    I would prefer a happy medium, but I have to go with the Chick’s approach. Some similar artists are Lee Ann Womack, Trisha Yearwood, Terri Clark, Shania Twain, and even Nickel Creek, and some could argue Martina McBride, which all happen to be some of my favorite artists.

    If they make quality music, then I (the fan) can listen to the album for much longer, so I stay happy longer and appreciate the work and artist more. Everybody wins, except for maybe the artist’s sales, which for some artists (Like Yearwood who’s rich AND married to Garth Brooks) is negligible because it doesn’t really matter if the album sells anyway because they don’t need the money.

  2. MarcNo Gravatar

    I think given the situation of Chicks and their anti Country-right actions, its a bad comparison to make.

    That said, understanding your point, I think its almost silly to ask this website’s audience.. I’d say everyone would rather have Quality, when presented with only these two options.

  3. rockymtrangerNo Gravatar

    Personally, I like the Chicks’ approach, and I doubt that they give anyone else consideration when contemplating their timeline. Having said that, Kenny’s had some good music during that timeframe. It’s just been inconsistent.

  4. I guess the issue is whether or not more time in between would lead to more consistent albums from Chesney. I’ve always suspected George Strait’s albums would be just a bit better if he didn’t churn them out so quickly, but who knows?

  5. Kent

    Can’t we just have both?

  6. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Kent, I knew that would be brought up.:)

    Kevin, I’ve thought the exact same thing about Strait. I can’t believe how fast he churns out those albums.

  7. I think Chesney pretty much has to churn out music as fast as he does considering the speed at which his singles climb the charts compared to just about everyone else. And I’m with Marc on the Dixie Chicks being a special case that doesn’t make for a good comparison. Without the political fallout, I think they would have continued on with an average release schedule. Willie would probably be good example of an artist that churns out music all the time with inconsistent quality. Personally, I’d prefer artists make the best record they could every time around, regardless of how long it takes.

  8. This is why I like Ryan Adams; you pretty much get both quality and quantity, plus a lot of very charming weirdness, to boot.

  9. JaneNo Gravatar

    I’m happy to wait for a cd from my favourite artist if it means that it’ll be the best album. There’s no point in putting out bad music, and I’d rather wait longer for a better product.

  10. Dan, you must have not heard Ryan’s newest album. :)

    Seriously, it depends on the artist. Quantity is better from most commercial artists, with some level of quality mixed in.

  11. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar

    I agree that the comparison/contrast of the two artists may not completely work, but it does lead to interesting discussion. With the Chicks, who knows? Between Fly and Home, they had a three-year waiting period. It’s all speculation really, and they, just like Shania Twain, have different schedules than most artists.

    I also agree with Kevin. From radio and print interviews, it seems that Kenny was recording this album at the same time as his previous one, and in some cases the songs are 3-4 years old. He’s also talking about wanting new music for the fans every time he makes the touring rounds. It would only make sense that the quality would suffer due to the rush, but even with ample amount time, does he have the artistry and vocal talent to pull off something exceptional?

    I know Patty Loveless has gone on record saying (and mentioned to me as well) that she rushed during the ’90s to produce albums at a yearly pace, and she’s felt relieved this decade with fewer commercial considerations and more freedom. I’ve referenced this earlier in the week, but Lucinda Williams waited six years between albums in the ’90s because she was so gosh darn meticulous. The result (Car Wheels) was brilliant. Some artists just need time to let the music simmer.

    I like Ryan Adams’ charming weirdness, too.

  12. Had the Bush incident not happened, the Chicks would have put out several more albums this decade than they did, filled more stadiums than Chesney, sold more albums and had just as much radio success. Maybe not the exact same number of singles, but I don’t think they would have chosen to take so many years off between each new album. But fate sort of lead them to where they are now.

    I can take or leave Kenny. He songs are all sounding the same to me now. But if his large fanbase enjoys it, I don’t have a problem with him capitalizing as much as he can while he can. Fame can fade very quickly.

    This is a difficult comparison for me due the unusual circumstances that took them off radio.

    Comparing the years both acts were on the radio (without the extraordinary Bush situation) things are pretty much the same in terms of # of albums – only bigger and better shows, bigger sales and more radio play for the Chicks:

    Dixie Chicks
    1998: Wide Open Spaces
    1999: Fly
    2002: Home

    Kenny Chesney
    1999: Everywhere We Go
    2000: Greatest Hits
    2002: No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems

  13. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    I think it’s a bit of a mischaracterization to call the Chicks “quality” and Chesney “quantity”. There are a number of excellent tracks on Chesney’s albums and some clinkers on the Chick’s albums. I think the Chick’s best tracks are better than Chesney’s best tracks, but the Chick’s nadir is lower than Chesney’s, as well.

    They appeal to different audiences and there certainly is room in the genre for that and for boith audiences to co-exist

  14. Lynn DouglasNo Gravatar

    I really didn’t intend for these two artists in particular to be compared, I just used them as examples of a differing approach – both of which have merit. However, they’re not bad examples. Kenny has said that he tries to get music out there to the fans as frequently as possible, and the Chicks have said that they prefer to take their time with the music and put out the best quality product as possible, however long it takes. Both approaches have pros and cons for fans. If it helps, you can replace them with any two artists you choose.

  15. Lynn DouglasNo Gravatar

    Paul, I agree that not everything is quantity with Kenny and quality with the Chicks. It was a gross generalization to make a bigger point.

  16. Trailer,

    Depends on whether you’re talkin’ Easy Tiger, Follow the Lights, or Cardinology (which I haven’t heard yet, but should hopefully be reviewing for the site). I certainly don’t think his body of work is faultless, though it is usually interesting, at least.

  17. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    I am one to side with those who take their time and craft the best album they can, regardless of how long it takes. Of course, there’s always the danger that some of them can become self-indulgent, and that has happened on occasion; but most of them know where the line between art and self indulgence is.

    With the Chicks, I feel that the reason they took their time for TAKING THE LONG WAY was to put their feelings, political, personal, and otherwise, into cohesive musical shape, and frame them in a musical format that they felt most comfortable with, which in their case smacked much less of current-day Music Row and much more of 1970s-era Los Angeles. They were lucky to have Rick Rubin in there with them, as he gave them the freedom to bring it together and not worry about how the outside world might react.

    I suppose when it comes to Kenny Chesney, apart maybe from the brooding “A Lot Of Things Different”, I feel he does the Jimmy Buffett homages to excess. But it obviously works for others, so…

  18. AaronNo Gravatar

    I’m with the majority of the people here…I prefer quality rather than quantity. If an artist takes a while to release a new album because they want to release the best product, then I’m willing to wait.

    To me, when an artist, like Chesney, releases a new album every year, I get tired of hearing from them. They get old pretty quick because there’s no time to get over their last release. It kinda gets old even faster if the music is exactly the same…like Chesney.

    On a side note, I’ve attended a Chesney show every year for the past 3 years (mainly for his opening acts) and he rarely includes a song from his latest album that isn’t a single. I find it weird that he tours to promote an album when he rarely performs non-single songs in his setlist.

  19. Like someone stated earlier, why do the two have to be mutually exclusive? Im frankly at a loss as to why it takes so long to make an album to begin with? I understand that for those that write a substantial amount of their own material, it would bog down the process quite a bit, but if were realistic, this isnt the case in Nashville right now.

  20. TomNo Gravatar

    contrary, to some earlier posts that actually have a point in saying that chesney vs. chick is a less than perfect comparison, it’s still an interesting starting point for a discussion.

    eventually, it boils down to the fact that, if kenny chesney stopped his career tomorrow, two years down the line, hardly anybody would miss him and his music, whereas the chicks are the kind of artists legends are made of.

    kenny chesney’s work has, in my view, “pizza and coke” quality. goes down nicely almost always and everywhere but is really nothing to write home about (exceptions granted)and might make you throw up, if you overdo it.

    lately, however, i’ve delveloped a great deal of respect for him. his arena concerts provide a great platform for fellow artists, also new ones, to play in front of big crowds. the line-up of these shows is often great for fans, even if they don’t like the headliner that much. On top of that, it’s not a piece of cake to entertain such big crowds – a quality that kenny chesney obviously possesses. the guy is quality quantity, which isn’t a bad thing at all and there’s still the possibility that he gets eaten by a shark and become legendary in a somewhat tragic way.

  21. GailNo Gravatar

    All I know is that I’m so burned out on hearing about Kenny Chesney that I’ve totally been turned against him through the years. I’ve gone to his concerts and to me a lot of his opening acts steal the show. So many talented artist are overlooked because Nashville can’t get off the Kenny bandwagon. I think the idea that oh, it’s Kenny Chesney is more interesting than the real Kenny Chesney. Sorry, but this is how I feel about him!

  22. vpNo Gravatar

    I feel the same Gail, I think he pumps out the singles too fast and since he is KC alot of other good artist or good singles get over looked and missed by many. As I speak both the local country radio stations are playing two different KC songs oh one just ended so I’ll probably hear another within the hour it makes me sick.

  23. This is somewhat off-topic, but I’d like to hear what people think about what Kenny should do with his career now. Someone mentioned earlier that fame fades quickly, so one thing I’m hoping for is that Chesney does the opposite of what he’s been doing for the past couple of years(not that what he’s doing is bad to listen to.) and just see him make an artist type album, that’s less commercial.

    I prefer a happy medium as some said, but if I could only choose between the two I’d rather wait a while for a long period of time, especially if that wait’s worth it. The thing with artists that just release as much new material as soon as possible, is that people usually start losing interest in them because their albums are nothing fresh to them.

    To me it’s not as much about quality or quantity, but more about the artist and what they do for each album, if they can hold that fresh appeal to each album or change things up for the better, than I’d consider that successful.

  24. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar

    “and just see him make an artist type album, that’s less commercial.”

    Kenny tried that with his Old Blue Chair album. It only had one charting single – unsolicited airplay I believe – but it did sell platinum.

  25. I actually think that a good balance can be reached by an artist focusing on a full blown great record every 2 to 2 and a half years, but by releasing a live record, a songwriters demo, something that won’t be mass marketed and a single wont come from, but something that the fans can pick up and enjoy.

  26. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    1) I think that the pressure of producing two albums a year resulted in more variety. Willie produces two or three albums a year, and yeah they can be inconsistant BUT the funny thing is, albums he’s done that I think mediocre are often someone else’s favorite Willie album and some that critics have hated have been among my favorites

    2) I would rather have an album that had some covers of great older songs, than an album that has all original,material, much of it mediocre.

    3) There doesn’t seem to be a very strong correlation beyween the length of time it takes to issue a new album, and the quality of the album

    4) Artistic integrity has little, if anything, to do with the length of time between albums. The two factors that do enter in the equation are the time spent touring and the desire for some leisure time. The money in touring is so good these days that artists don’t need to work as hard as they did in the past. Porter Wagoner or Ernest Tubb worked 300 dates a year and issued two or three albums – George Strait plays maybe 50 shows and puts out an album a year

    The Dixie Chicks have made so much money that they’ve gotten a bit lazy. They could double their recorded output without sacrficing quality, although it might mean doing a few more covers and sacrificing a few songwriter royalties

  27. The Chicks have put their work in service to their family. That’s a laziness that any great parent who could afford it would embrace.

  28. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar

    The Dixie Chicks are guilty of a few mistakes (as clearly shown in the comments on this site, quite a few with which I agree), but saying that they are lazy is a little unfair and assumes what their reasons are for not touring and recording as often. They’re all mothers, and while their personal lives surely haven’t gone as planned, I’d imagine family is priority. Quite a few artists have taken time off in the past for this reason and other equally important ones.

    Thank goodness for those pioneers that paved the way for today’s stars. The truly great ones are surely appreciative for the sacrifices made so that they can enjoy better benefits with less strain and effort.

  29. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    I’m sure Charlie Robison agrees

    Okay, maybe “lazy” was a bit harsh but the fact remains that many acts these days coast on their past successes because they are awash with folding green – Strait has been doing it for years as far as touring is concerned and we haven’t heard much from Shania or Garth in a long time

    Acts that are “hungry” tend to work harder on their recordings and live shows

  30. I’m always amazed how comfortable some people are taking potshots at the personal lives of celebrities, as if their public position makes them fair game. It’s so easy to tear people down, yet those who do it seem so impressed with themselves, as if they’ve actually accomplished something.

  31. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    “might mean doing a few more covers and sacrificing a few songwriter royalties.”

    C’mon, plenty of artists write their own material and aren’t accused of only trying to cash in on the writing royalties. In fact, the Chicks have sung plenty of other people’s songs: Darrell Scott, Patti Griffin, Bruce Robbison, Radney Foster, etc. Usually, we have more respect for people who write their own material, not accuse them of being greedy. Right?

    The Charlie Robbison comment was a cheap shot, because plenty of artists (and regular people) get divorced for various reasons. It’s not fair to blame one person for it and it’s no indication that she wasn’t dedicated to her family.