March 9, 2009
What follows is a guest piece from Country Universe reader VP exploring the latest wave of country artists who have crossed over to the pop charts. Part II, written by me, will follow later in the week. – KJC
I have always found the country music industry to be a reputable one. Generally the artists seem to be intelligent, hard working, honest and all around nice people. However, my thoughts after hearing Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” on a pop station was, “When is it okay to have your music crossover, and when is it just wrong?”
I was quite surprised when I first heard “Love Story.” I thought this is the kind of music Taylor should be making, nothing that is vocally challenging or out of her reach. She is a soft singer, and this single was reminiscent of “Tim McGraw”, which was the only song I appreciated off of her debut album.
Then while flipping through the stations, I found the pop remix. I wondered, “Where did the fiddle go? Where is the steel guitar? Where are the country elements that were once part of this song?” This type of crossover I don’t agree with.
To take a song from its original form off of its original album and have someone re-cut it to fit the format of pop radio is unethical to me, a slap in the face to country music. Now I started to take notice of country music when Shania came around (being Canadian and all), but in the beginning her songs crossed over with barely noticeable remixing.
Then followed Martina, Faith, and Lee Ann to the AC charts. Shania even come out with a dual disc for Up!, one country and one pop. She made two cuts of all the same songs for two different formats. She laid it out there, and there was no disguising it.
These women were the ones who I believe invented mainstream country, and were the last surge of country artists before now to feel the crossover affect. Now you have Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, who are both popular mainstream country artists. Carrie has publicly stated that when she was approached to reformat “Before He Cheats”, she said “absolutely not. Either you like it how it is or you don’t.”
It ended up one of the the biggest natural crossovers to date, the anthem for scorned women everywhere, and is still going strong three years later. Taylor has yet to make a statement that I know of about crossing over, but we do know it is what she has done, including MTV appearances, promoting this remixed version that is not available on the album, but can be bought as a digital single. When she performed it on Saturday Night Live, she used the pop remix. For all the praise she received for being one of the few country artists to perform on that show, she didn’t actually sing her song in its country form.
I wonder, did the Shania generation do it right? Did they teach the new generation to be ethical about it and maintain their country roots, or did they teach them to make it all about the money, fame and glory? Should country songs be remixed for pop radio, or should they sink or swim based on their original arrangements?