Pop Goes the Country, Part I

by

March 9, 2009

taylor-swiftWhat 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?

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  1. highwayman3No Gravatar says:

    I agree with Carrie Underwood, the song is the song, you either like it as it is or you don’t. Alan Jackson shared the same sentiment when pop radio wanted him to remake, ‘Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning) His quote was along the lines, “I didn’t come to Nashville to be a pop singer” If pop stations dont like the country verions they dont have to play them. I wonder, did Taylor Swift come to Nashville to be a pop star.

  2. Emily_TNo Gravatar says:

    I respect Carrie so much for not changing who she is to sell more cd or singles and i lose some respect for taylor for changing her songs just to sell more. if her music is good enought it will “cross-over” all by its self just like Before He Cheats did for Carrie she did not change a thing about it and its still a huge song
    So Carrie keep doing what you are doing and never change MUCH LOVE
    to Taylor is you are going to say you are a Country artist stay with the country music and if you want to make pop songs then call yourself a pop artist but you have to decide

  3. connieNo Gravatar says:

    I also was running through stations trying to find something I liked going across country a few days ago. Came upon Love Story on a pop station and stopped to listen. I was amazed at the difference and really can’t believe that the country community is putting up with that. I guess she is going to get a pass no matter what she does. Big mistake in my opinion.

  4. vpNo Gravatar says:

    I do think “Love Story” had the ability to cross-over in its original form due to her fan base. She has a very young fan base, which alot of them will not listen to country radio for hours on end to hear her music, so I am sure they would of demanded it on the pop stations just the way it was.

    My nieghbour said to me that she like that new TS song, and I new it was the pop one so I challenge her to listen to the country version a few times and get back to me. Not being a fan of country, a week later she came over and said you were right I like the country one better and don’t like to hear the remix anymore.

  5. AndieNo Gravatar says:

    i complety agree with carrie underwood, if a song is that good that everyone wants it without any changes then good, but remix it, thats just not good, i love carrie and respect her a lot for not remixing her songs, coz we all know if she would have wanted to remix her song sthe pop world would have oppened her every door, but she is staying true to her roots

    with taylor i personally dont have a problem i always saw her as a pop artist, remixing her song it just another step in that direction for her

  6. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    Has it occurred to anyone that these are not country songs that are being remixed for the pop market; that it is actually the other way around? These are pop songs with a little bit of fiddle, steel and banjo added in order to give them a more country feel. Can you imagine trying to remix a Loretta Lynn song for the pop market? It can’t be done.

    I don’t understand why Carrie Underwood is continually praised for not remixing “Before He
    Cheats.” There is very little about this song that is country to begin with. She and her record label (who most likely made the call; she wouldn’t have this much control at that stage of her career) are clearly sensitive to the charges that she’s not country enough. They guessed — correctly — that pop stations would play the song without it being remixed. Doesn’t that speak volumes about how un-country it is to begin with? It’s been decades since a real country song crossed over to the pop and AC charts.

  7. Martin in NYNo Gravatar says:

    This is a very thought-provoking article. I don’t really love Taylor or Carrie’s music, but find some of their songs to be somewhat guilty pleasures. However, I don’t think that Taylor is as terrible as she’s often made out to be. I do give her some credit for her music. As far as her thin voice goes, I often like a lot of singers with less than perfect voices. As far as her songwriting goes, there are a ton of less-than-great country music hits written by people much older than her.

    I do believe that folks (including me) are often okay when an artist they like crosses over, but as soon as someone whose music they don’t care for crosses over, they bash them for not being authentic and country. (When the Dixie Chicks remixed “Landslide” I was totally okay with it, because I love their music so much.)

    I think if the quality of the music is really great, we are more tolerant of how or if it crosses over. Carrie’s fans really adore her to the point that sometimes she is allowed to get away with what I consider to be very pop-music leanings without being grilled on authenticity the way Taylor is. I am just not as impressed as others seem to be with Carrie refusing to remix “Before He Cheats”. To me, there’s something very pop about it already.. Even though the instruments kind of sounds country, it still sounds like pop to me. Many of her other songs sound very, very pop. So anytime Carrie Underwood is seen as the voice of authentic country, I think we have a problem.
    .
    Of course, they have crossed over to the pop charts, as they are pop artists.

  8. idolcarrieNo Gravatar says:

    I completely agree with this article. I feel that if a country song is to cross-over, it has to be in its original format, not remixed to a pop song. I honestly feel that if Love Story wasn’t pop remixed it would still make it big on the pop charts. I think Taylor is just afraid that it wouldn’t have done well.

    I completely support Carrie’s decision to not have BHC remixed and it’s success showed that it didn’t have to be.

  9. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    “I feel that if a country song is to cross-over, it has to be in its original format, not remixed to a pop song.”

    How do you know that the pop format isn’t the original one?

  10. CherylNo Gravatar says:

    GREAT ARTICLE! It is about time someone had the guts to call Taylor out on her manipulative pop remixing. She puts out a press release that she put a COUNTRY song at number 1 on the pop charts, but that was a lie. The pop remix made number 1 on the pop charts, NOT the country version. She and her team are all about making money and false promotion of Taylor by Taylor. She has no ethics or lines that she draws. They lied about selling out the Staples arena too. It was only halfhouse, not a full house that was sold. They misled the public to believe she sold out the entire arena, which was a big lie.

    Her songs are pop to begin with, and then when she remixes them all they sound like club remixes at some nyc nightclub. She is about as country as Snoop Dog… and I am tired of country radio and the industry being too afraid to call her out for what she is, a fraud.

    If she could at least sing, that would be one thing. But she can’t sing a note on key to save her live. So I think she would fit right into Pop and she should stay there, as pop singers generally don’t need to sing well. They lip sync and are all digitally enhanced like Britney Spears, who, coincidentally, is taylor’s idol. That says alot about Taylor that she worships Britney Spears.

  11. CherylNo Gravatar says:

    Ps- I forgot to add that I applaud Carrie Underwood’s integrity in not remixing her songs. She lost alot of money from potential pop fans for refusing to pander to Pop radio, but I respect her so much for that.

  12. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    It’s a weird thing to have one mix of a song for one particular format, and another mix of that same song for another format. And it’s also, to put it mildly, a tad bit dishonest. I may be biased in my opinion, because I’m neither a Taylor Swift fan nor a Carrie Underwood fan, but I call a spade a spade here. Even Faith Hill’s “Breathe” was remixed slightly for the pop/AC market–and that song is now closing in on ten years since its release.

    I remember distinctly in the late 70s and early 80s when country music legends like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings were played with quite a bit of frequency on pop radio (indeed, Willie’s 1982 version of Elvis’ 1972 classic “Always On My Mind” was a monstrous crossover smash), and of course there was Linda Ronstadt crossing over between pop and country in the late 1970s without even trying. And lest we forget the Dixie Chicks, both before and after The Incident?

    So exactly what are Nashville radio and record bigwigs scared of? That the idea of steel guitars, fiddles, and other straight country instruments will turn off potential listeners? It really seems like it to me. Why this attempt to appeal to an adult contemporary audience that has no real allegiance to the country music form to begin with? And in the meantime, a lot of other potential country stars slip under the Nashville radar into the alternative country/Americana realm. I’m sorry, but the Nashville mainstream is doing a lot of damage to country music by doing these gimmicky remixes, and one day it’ll come back to bite them.

  13. vpNo Gravatar says:

    @Martin and Razor I can garauntee if Gretchen Wilson were to of sung this song you would not have any problems with it, that is a fact, it is the same old story it is the artist not the music when it comes to a few bloggers.

    The article mentioned many other women and I have yet to see a comment on them, this is not a question of who’s music is pop or country it is about remixing originals.

    Good thing for mp3′s cause some of the bloggers not only here are so obsessed with “traditional” country, they must not be able to listen to the radio. It is obvious that you do or you would not know these so called “pop” songs/artists. There is obviously something that draws you to them because on all country blogs not just here it is the same old story over and over ” I want to see them grow”, “I want to see her do something more traditional”. At least I come here and listen to the authors suggestions, check out all the music, whether it is my cup of tea or not.

    I don’t know about Taylor, but Shania, Faith, Carrie etc. have always said they were country but and different country, a mainstream country they don’t hide it and they don’t ask for you to like it or buy it, but it is what it is and they will continue to make their kind of country.

  14. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    “Ps- I forgot to add that I applaud Carrie Underwood’s integrity in not remixing her songs. She lost alot of money from potential pop fans for refusing to pander to Pop radio, but I respect her so much for that.”

    How did she lose money when the song got played on pop stations anyway? If anything, there was more profit because they didn’t go to the expense of remixing it.

  15. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    “@Martin and Razor I can garauntee if Gretchen Wilson were to of sung this song you would not have any problems with it, that is a fact, it is the same old story it is the artist not the music when it comes to a few bloggers.”

    I can guarantee that you are dead wrong. I do not hold Gretchen Wilson in high regard at all and would be just as hard on her as I am on the others.

    “There is obviously something that draws you to them because on all country blogs not just here it is the same old story over and over ” I want to see them grow”, “I want to see her do something more traditional”.”

    All I want to see them do is go away.

    “The article mentioned many other women and I have yet to see a comment on them, this is not a question of who’s music is pop or country it is about remixing originals.”

    I don’t understand this comment. My remarks were referring to all of the women mentioned in your article. I only mentioned Carrie by name because she’s being held up as an

  16. Matt B.No Gravatar says:

    So Razor, just for discussion, who is country to you?

  17. vpNo Gravatar says:

    “All I want to see them do is go away.”

    But yet you still listen.

    “I don’t understand this comment. My remarks were referring to all of the women mentioned in your article. I only mentioned Carrie by name because she’s being held up as an”

    I think I can guess the end of your sentence. Sorry no you didn’t reference any of the other women, only Taylor and Carrie, as you usually do on all blogs if there names are even mentioned, you are on it like white on rice.

    You know why those artist get overlooked by Nashville because there is not a demand for their, or your type of country.

    Why is it the topic at hand always gets lost with some?

  18. JoeBNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t understand why so many country fans are so possessive of original country mixes and so passionately hateful of remixes. As a country fan, I embrace remixes of any sort because it strikes me as obvious that having a remixed or “reinterpreted” version of a song I love is … simply … a good thing. How can an alternate mix of a song you love be a bad thing? The more options, the better. For all fans.

  19. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    No surprise, but I’m with Razor and Martin on this one…I think they both make similar and excellent points.

    Carrie is an excellent vocalist, and Taylor is an excellent songwriter, but neither sounds especially Country to me, so if either one of them wanted to crossover to Pop, it would be a very narrow river they’d have to cross. They wouldn’t even need a bridge, just a short hop. skip or a jump…heck, they wouildn’t even need to break stride.

    I think the same can be said of Martina, Shania, and Faith…as well as Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban. I’m still waitin’f for the whole lot of ‘em to crossover and become genuine Country artists…These are all extremely talented singers, and in the case of Shania, Taylor, and Keith, very talented songwriters as well….I’m just tired of hearing their music called “mainstream country”…and having them redefine an entire genre. I don’t think any of these singers need re-mixing at all, to be well received and accepted as Pop singers. And I think pop-country or country-lite is a more accurate designation for their music.

    I’ve said it before, but I think it is the height of irony that many of Taylor’s most vocal critics are often (but not always) Carrie’s biggest fans.

  20. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Razor’s kind of Country is my kind of Country as well…and Nashville is becoming a wasteland of mediocrity because of some of the singers we have been discussing (as well as others.)

    The good stuff, the Traditional sounding stuff will survive, it has before and it always will. It may have to retreat to the Hills where it was born, and to Americana and alt Country radio stations, but it will indeed, survive.

  21. AaronNo Gravatar says:

    Very thought provoking article vp!!

    I for one think that Taylor knew all along that she wanted to be the next pop star. I think her people knew that going to Nashville and trying to make it big in country music would be easier to do than going straight to pop. I think she kinda used Nashville as a pit-stop on her way to pop stardom. Now that she’s got it, she’s basically giving country the cold shoulder. I think it’s disrespectful to use the country genre as a stepping stone to get to her real passion. This is just my personal opinion, I’m not saying any of this is true, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was her plan.

    Carrie, I think, wants to be a true country artist. However, like it’s been said before, I think she wants to be somewhat successful at the same time so she’s making more pop leaning country music (heck, who isn’t going more pop nowaday, except the usual traditionalists??). I think that’s what she proved by not remixing her songs for pop radio and by releasing her most traditional song to radio, which is well on its way to becoming her next number 1.

    Random question, don’t you just love how random “readers” appear everytime there’s a discussion about Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood?? And how they usually defend Carrie at all times?? I find it funny.

  22. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    “But yet you still listen.”

    Actually, I don’t.

    “I don’t understand this comment. My remarks were referring to all of the women mentioned in your article. I only mentioned Carrie by name because she’s being held up as an”

    I’m not sure why that got caught off. It should have read “… held up as an example of someone who doesn’t remix.”

    I think I can guess the end of your sentence. Sorry no you didn’t reference any of the other women, only Taylor and Carrie, as you usually do on all blogs if there names are even mentioned, you are on it like white on rice.”

    Where did I mention Taylor?

    “You know why those artist get overlooked by Nashville because there is not a demand for their, or your type of country.”

    What artists? Faith, Martina, Shania, and Lee Ann? Those are the other artists you mentioned.

    “Why is it the topic at hand always gets lost with some?”

    You’re the one who’s trying to change this into a discussion about certain artists not being in demand. You’re the one who brought Gretchen Wilson into the discussion. You’re the one misquoting me and making assumptions about my listening habits.

  23. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    “So Razor, just for discussion, who is country to you?”

    It’s not a question of who is country “to me”. The question is why have we allowed the term to be co-opted to mean anything that radio and the record labels want it to mean? This whole thread illustrates how many of you are missing the point. Do you not see that if the songs in question weren’t already pop to begin with, that it wouldn’t be possible to remix them for the pop market? Everyone is getting bent out of shape because certain artists are remixing their songs to exclude the fiddle and steel. Nobody seems to have caught onto the fact that the “country” mixes of these songs are really the remixes. The fiddle and steel were added in the first place to fool people into believing that they are country songs and many of you are playing right into it.

    I don’t get why everyone is so upset about remixes when what they should be upset about is the fact that this stuff is on country radio stations in the first place. Once again, try and imagine the pop remixes of “On The Other Hand”, “Mama Tried”, “All My Exes Live in Texas” or “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Would those songs sound pop if the fiddle and steel were stripped away?

  24. Martin in NYNo Gravatar says:

    @VP

    Your article is eight paragraphs and five of them focus on Taylor and Carrie. They are the two most prominent faces of country music right now, so their names are going to come up, particularly in a discussion about pop remixes.

    Your article examines crossovers and country/pop music, and therefore, ideas about traditional country will come up. When you pose such a provocative question in an article, commenters will disagree with you. I thought the article was meant to be the core of this discussion and elicit a number of different opinions. I guess I am not used to sites where someone writes what appears to be an objective article, opens it up for comments, then starts critiquing the comments.

    I find your comment regarding Gretchen Wilson to be out of left field, as I don’t really care for her music.

    By the way, I like a lot of pop music. And I don’t like only traditional country. There are a lot of assumptions in your response that just aren’t correct.

  25. vpNo Gravatar says:

    “Actually, I don’t.”

    Well if you don’t then you know nothing about their music and should not be commenting.

    I always held CU in high regard to all he other country blog sites, but alas it has been taken over, from the same people and the same old story, the same reasong I don’t post anywhere else anymore.

    I can’t even comment on my own article because the way the conversation has gone.

    @Razor – The meere mention of Carrie’s name you bring out the same comments every where that you post, and you cry the same tune as well. The first start to them going away would be for people to start discussing them, so since you said you want that so bad why don’t you only post on article’s that pertain to artist you do like, if there are any.

  26. vpNo Gravatar says:

    @Martin – my apologies after reading your post back, my thoughts were not directed at you. I have had alot of experiece listening to Razor, he speaks of artists’ fans coming out when their names are mention, well of course they are going to comment on an artist that they like, but he is guilty of the same, when ever a particular artists name is mention on any site he pulls out the big words and ellaborate post to show his disregard for them.

    I did not open a discussion of why Carrie and Taylor are pop or not as many are only talking, I asked when do you think it is okay to cross-over or not at all!

    Also just as the article is critiqued comments will be as well, that is the point of a blog people’s opinions and lots of disagreements.

  27. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    “@Razor – The meere mention of Carrie’s name you bring out the same comments every where that you post, and you cry the same tune as well. The first start to them going away would be for people to start discussing them, so since you said you want that so bad why don’t you only post on article’s that pertain to artist you do like, if there are any.”

    I wasn’t aware that commenters were restricted to only commenting about artists that they like — or that you were in a position to implement such a policy.

    I didn’t say anything that slammed Carrie or anyone else — I just pointed out that her music is not particularly country. I am truly stunned by your reaction. I’ve never seen anything quite like this where someone blogs about a discussion topic, and then proceeds to tell the commenters to shut up.

  28. Speed RacerNo Gravatar says:

    Racer X says:

    “I don’t understand why Carrie Underwood is continually praised for not remixing “Before He
    Cheats.” There is very little about this song that is country to begin with”

    Not according to the pop world. The PD of Z100, the most influential pop station in America, said that BHC could not be a more straight up country song and it shocked her that top 40 was willing to accept it.

  29. Speed RacerNo Gravatar says:

    Source from http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20047251,00.html

    Go ahead, pigeonhole yourself. Early in Idol’s run, it was assumed that any finalist would be chasing a Kelly Clarkson-type mainstream pop career. No longer. Underwood and Daughtry have proved that defining your identity more narrowly can actually broaden your appeal, counterintuitive as that might seem. Underwood has sold close to 6 million albums, making her the biggest music success story of the last two years — even with most of her hits getting airplay only in the country format. The single that brought her back to Top 40 radio and MTV in a major way was, unexpectedly enough, the most blatantly country-sounding track on Underwood’s album: ”Before He Cheats.” ”That song is so country it’s almost comical,” says Z100′s Niko, ”but our audience loves it — and they love her for saying ‘This is the kind of music I’m gonna make regardless of what show I was on.”’

  30. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    One of the reasons I green-lighted this thread was because it’s a contentious topic that deserves respectful exploration. It’s impossible to do that if people are criticized for holding their opinions. There’s a difference between respecting another person’s ideas and embracing them as truth. In fact, it’s the disagreement that requires respect in the first place.

    Everybody is free to express their opinions here, including those who think that country music would be better off without the pop influences and can’t see the merits in Carrie Underwood.

  31. Matt B.No Gravatar says:

    Razor,

    Your response to my question was fair enough. I’m not a CU or Taylor ‘apologist’ in the least bit, so I won’t/haven’t discussed that. The songs you mentioned could be remixed, but you are right, they’re so etched in the brain that they’d sound mighty different if they were remixed for airplay. As for your thought that everything’s more or less pop now anyway, I think you’re right. But that’s ‘evolution’ of the genre to make it appeal to more people than it used to. While I like most of the classic artists, I have never been married to the ‘three chords and the truth’ sentiment as far as melody goes. I still want most of the songs to have ‘the truth’ but that doesn’t mean the truth can’t be silly at times.

  32. Martin in NYNo Gravatar says:

    @VP, thanks so much for your post and clarification. Your article was great and clearly thought-provoking.

    @Kevin, this site continues to be amazing!

  33. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    Matt,

    I would argue that it’s devolution, rather than evolution. I’m not saying that country music should be completely free of pop influences, or that new sounds shouldn’t be introduced from time to time. But when you try to appeal to more people, you run the risk of creating music that is so diluted and watered down that it loses what made the music special in the first place. And I think that’s the point we are at today. What’s the point in attracting new fans if all the old ones are alienated? Isn’t country music as an artform worth preserving?

    My original point was not to get baited into a contentious argument about Artists X, Y and Z. My point was that I don’t understand why these pop mixes upset people so much, because if the song can be stripped of its “countriness” so easily, then it wasn’t much of a country song to begin with. And that’s the real problem.

  34. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    If this thread is about remixes, then Razor’s premise that the songs in question don’t need remixes to appeal to pop audiences, that these songs are ALREADY essentially pop songs pretending to be country, is ENTIRELY relevant to the discussion.

    And I agree, the real remixes are the pop songs that are so pervasive in Nashville now being passed off to us as “country” music. Well some of us ain’t buyin’ it…literally and figuratively. We cannot be fooled with token additions of fiddle and steel..we know when something is Country to the core, and when it’s not, and these songs ain’t it. No matter many awards they receive from country institutions that have lost their soul, or how much revenue they generate, most these songs are nothing more than pop music sung with a Southern drawl.

  35. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    Martina, Faith, Lee Ann Womack and Shania “were the ones who I believe invented mainstream country”. My cow. You would think some quality control would prevent an essay like this from getting posted.

    This topic has been done to death: the Nashville Sound, countrypolitan, 70′s pop (Olivia Newton John, John Denver), Urban Cowboys and Rhinestone Cowboys, 90′s country pop. And there’s nothing new in this essay to justify revisiting crossover country.

  36. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    “You would think some quality control would prevent an essay like this from getting posted.”

    While, admittedly, my personal philosophy on this topic runs closer to Razor, Martin and Steve (though not perfectly), I think Kevin provided sufficient reasoning for why this was posted. Clearly, it generates passionate discussion and both sides are worth exploring.

  37. GailNo Gravatar says:

    All I can say is that I’M SICK of seeing or hearing TAYLOR SWIFT….I don’t care what she sings…..she is on all radio stations, on every magazine, every entertainment site! As much as they ran Gretchen Wilson and Carrie Underwood in the ground when they both came onto the music scene, Taylor has topped them both! But to their credit, at least Gretchen & Carrie can sing live, but Taylor cannot. I fell to see anything outstanding that she has done, but Nashville is acting as though she is the saviour of country music. She’s already labeled a superstar, but I guess that goes to anybody that has one hit song! I know, I know, she’s had more than one. I will be glad when all the hype about her dies down. But, I hear now, she’s off conquering the whole world!! Excuse me while I go hurl! BTW, if she wins Female Vocalist next month at the ACMs, I’m through with Country Music and I’ll just go back to the Oldies but Goodies!

  38. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    Leeann, the essay is exceedingly poorly written. It asks ridiculous questions (“did the Shania generation do it right? Did they teach the new generation to be ethical about it . . .”) and makes ridiculous assertions (i.e., that mainstream country music was “invented” by a small handful of female artists).

    And then there’s an affliction here which is common to other Country Universe posts: a weird fixation on Taylor Swift, whose primary offense seems to be that she’s crossing over as a teenager instead of waiting until her 20′s like Dolly Parton.

  39. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    “And then there’s an affliction here which is common to other Country Universe posts: a weird fixation on Taylor Swift, whose primary offense seems to be that she’s crossing over as a teenager instead of waiting until her 20’s like Dolly Parton.”

    I can’t speak for Country Universe as a whole on this matter, since we’re all free agents to a point, but I think I’m pretty fair about Taylor Swift. I don’t love her, but I’ve defended her quite regularly during the run of her debut album. I’ll admit, however, that I’m much less enchanted with the production of this new album. Dan, on the other hand, likes her new album much better than the first one. So, between the two of us…:)

  40. dudleyNo Gravatar says:

    “I don’t understand why so many country fans are so possessive of original country mixes and so passionately hateful of remixes. As a country fan, I embrace remixes of any sort because it strikes me as obvious that having a remixed or “reinterpreted” version of a song I love is … simply … a good thing. How can an alternate mix of a song you love be a bad thing?”

    Simple. An alternate mix of a song can be a bad thing when the mix strips away what made the song work in the first place because for some reason, pop radio acts like its very existence is threatened by the use of a fiddle instead of lush strings and by the use of such oddball instruments like a banjo and a mandolin.

    I’m not a Taylor Swift fan, but if Taylor’s remixes were any good, that is, if they worked with her lyrics and melodies and offered a genuine reinterpretation of the original songs, then I wouldn’t have a problem with them. But the pop remixes of her songs have simply added beats (like the “Mamma Mia” beat on “Love Story”) and/or replaced a plucky banjo with a heavy electric guitar (which doesn’t work with Taylor’s thin voice, since she struggles to sing over heavier instrumentation, as on the pop remix of “Our Song”). They don’t make sense for her songs.

    From what I remember of Carrie’s comments to Entertainment Weekly prior to the release of Carnival Ride and her subsequent comments to another media outlet whose name is escaping me at the moment, what Carrie is resistant to the “dumbing down” (she has used that exact phrase) of the music to fit another format. I wouldn’t agree with her if she were saying that there can only be one valid arrangement to a song, but I do agree that remixes shouldn’t dumb down the song. In my view, Taylor’s pop remixes have down exactly that.

    I think “Before He Cheats” is plenty country in lyric and style, albeit with a heavy blues influence. The beginning evokes the western in C&W, with its saloony feel, for example. I find Carrie’s delivery to be fairly country, as well. I don’t agree that the song is pop, especially when you consider that there was absolutely nothing on pop radio that sounded remotely like it when it had its run on the Top-40, Hot AC and AC formats.

    That said, I do feel like there is a tendency in some corners of the Carrie fandom to over-venerate her for her decision not to court pop radio. Yes, Carrie has stuck to her guns about not remixing her songs and she hasn’t done interviews with pop radio stations to get airplay, etc. I respect that. But that doesn’t automatically make all of her music more country than that of her colleagues. Yes, some of Carrie’s singles do feature strong country elements (BHC, “Last Name,” her cover of “I Told You So”; I would argue that “Don’t Forget to Remember Me” has a strong country feel to it despite being country-pop, as well). But many of her singles have strong pop-rock elements (“So Small,” “Just a Dream” and “Wasted,” for example) that stand out more than any country elements they might have.

    Based on Carrie’s live performances, I think that Carrie’s country sensibilities are genuine and that her voice is most naturally suited for a purer brand of country than much of what she sings. Whether her music evolves to reflect that more remains to be seen.

  41. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    My two cents is that I don’t like Taylor’s needless remixing (though I’m not against remixing as a philosophy), as Dudley has explained accurately for me, but I also don’t think that Carrie is especially “country” with her original recordings either. Carrie, in my opinion, is pop country and pretty good at it. As Dudley has fairly said, she has many influences in her music, so a little too much credit is being given to her for “refusing to crossover.” I believe she’s committed to country music for sure, but I don’t think she’s committed to being traditional. And, frankly, that’s perfectly fine with me. She’s good at what she does, even if it’s not always my cup of tea. I actually don’t think that either party is more culpable than the other.

  42. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    “And then there’s an affliction here which is common to other Country Universe posts: a weird fixation on Taylor Swift, whose primary offense seems to be that she’s crossing over as a teenager instead of waiting until her 20’s like Dolly Parton.”

    First, to be fair, the world seems to have a weird fixation on Taylor Swift right now, so it’s to be expected that people (such as vp) would use this kind of outlet to express their reactions to that. But I’m with everyone who thinks she’s been very over-exposed. I’m ready to talk about something else.

    Second, I’ve never heard the “teenagers shouldn’t cross over” argument levied against her. Not saying it hasn’t happened, but where?

  43. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I’ll also add that I think both Taylor and Carrie are good for country music. As a young teen, I loved the sounds of pop country and didn’t think much of the twangy parts of country music. As people likely know by now, my taste has changed considerably since then. I definitely lean more toward traditional country music with pop country as more of an indulgence from song to song. But pop country is what initially drew me in. I don’t know that I would have gotten there any other way.

    Even if Carrie and Taylor don’t show up on my ipod too often, I think these two women are talented and represent country music quite nicely. Both women are considered country artists at this point and they show class in public, which makes me respect them. I don’t have to like their music a whole lot in order to respect both as artists…though I like some music from each, by the way.

  44. Craig R.No Gravatar says:

    Great article.

  45. Matt B.No Gravatar says:

    Razor,

    Fair enough and while I’ve often been ‘perplexed’ at your positions on things, I’d never want to be considered someone who thinks your opinions are wrong, just like I think you’d do the same for me. We may not agree on stuff but we do agree in our passion for Country music, be it the traditional form or (at least) some of the newer stuff. And, in the context of THIS article, I can definitely see your point about ‘crossovers’ being pop already. At least, for the most part, the lyrics aren’t as ‘cross-over’ ready as the melodies appear to be.

  46. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    Dan – The world has a fixation, but it’s not weird. She’s pretty, she’s young, she writes her own songs about what she knows, she has an ear for a hook and she’s personable. She doesn’t have the strongest voice, but she sings well enough. If the world didn’t have a fixation, it’d be weird.

    The weird fixation is constantly singling Taylor out for any number of sins quickly forgiven in others. But I guess I should be a little more generous: Rascal Flatts usually gets the same treatment too.

  47. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Taylor got a 3.5 rating here at Country Universe, which is a better than average/the album is recommended rating here. I can’t deny that she does draw some criticism though. She’s got strengths, but she’s definitely got weaknesses as well. For the record, I’d take Taylor over RF any day.

  48. Canadian BoyNo Gravatar says:

    I personnally don’t like it when a country artist remixes their songs so that they can becme big hits on the pop charts. The first time this bothered me was when Taylor Swift made a pop-remix of her song “Teardrops on My Guitar”. Originally I actually liked the song, but when this remixed version came out I was really mad because it only managed to be come a top 20 hit when it was remixed and I ended up no longer liking the song. I find it’s like a smack in the face to country radio, because it’s as if they don’t think that the country version
    of their song isn’t good enough to crossover so they make a pop version just to be successful in other genres.
    Taylor Swift is obviously the leader of “country” artisit who remix their songs for pop radio. I find she’s barely country to start with, so then making pop remixes of songs that are barely country in the first place puts Taylor on a whole new level of her own. Yet she is still able to manipulate country radio around her little finger, so far all of her singles released to country radio, except one (not counting “White Horse” since it’s still a current single) have reached the top 3 on the country chart. So it really bothers me when artists who release actual country music are beaten out by Taylor Swift (not to mention they release better material than her).
    Oh, and I thought that I’d also say how I feel about the Carrie Underwood not remixing BHC and it still becoming the biggest country crossover hit in years topic. To be honest I don`t actually like `Before He Cheats`that much and I`ve always found t overrated, but at least it was able to become a top 10 hit on the Hot 100 and go double-platinium on its on merit and not because it was remixed.

  49. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Cutting the Treacle,

    Do a little research and you’ll find that our treatment of Swift has actually been pretty good compared to our treatment of most mainstream artists. Fearless got a 3-star rating (which ain’t bad), Kevin gave her current single an ‘A-’ and has given previous singles ‘B+’s, and Leeann and I have both spoken well of her in comment threads. If I had reviewed Fearless, I would have given it a full 4 stars, although I wouldn’t call it a country album by any stretch. I certainly couldn’t offer the same praise for Rascal Flatts’ most recent album, or for most mainstream artists’ recent albums, for that matter. If you think we’re using Swift and the Flatts as scapegoats for the ‘sins’ of mainstream country, by all means, expound on your position. Give us examples of posts where you think we gave other artists better treatment without a logical justification for doing so.

  50. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Oops, sorry, I thought the Fearless album was given a half a star more than it was I guess.

  51. vpNo Gravatar says:

    I too like Leeann was brought over to country music by mainstream (pop) country artist, had it not been for them I would have not explored the whole world of country. It is still my country of choice, and no matter how much people say it isn’t country will not change my mind.

    I think there are many different forms of country hence all the different classification they have, and I don’t think any one is less relative then the other they all have influences on the industry whether they are radio popular or not.

    So whether you think the song is crossing over to pop or country, in this article it is about my type of country crossing over to pop, and I do not think it is right for Taylor to throw a cold shoulder to country music when pop comes calling, she is still claiming to be country and breaking so called country records. If you dig deep into these record breaking moments such as the most country digital downloads with “Love Story” more than 65 % of those downloads were of the pop version, now that is what I mean by it not being ethical to take the benefits, and accolades from country music under a false pretense.

    I do have positive things to say about Taylor, but that will have to wait till I have the time.

  52. If the song is remixed is it really a crossover or just a re-make, as if another artist had remade the song? The song that’s coming out after Love Story is even more redone.

    Part of me, as a traditional country fan, absolutely hates this and thinks it is something that shows a lack of integrity. But the practical side of me says that this girl’s career may last 30 years or may last 5 and she better make all the money she can now because she has a long life ahead of her. It’s hard to blame her or her people for wanting to take advantage of her popularity even though I don’t personally like it.

    When “I Hope You Dance” was remixed for AC radio, I lost a lot of respect for LeeAnn Womack. She is one artist I never thought I would hear about something like that.

    To me, someone like Shania is a pop singer so it doesn’t bother me, maybe that makes me hypocritical. :) I love Shania’s music and she transcends genres. I kind of consider Taylor a young pop artist as well who has had success on country.

    Heck, even Patty Loveless, Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton have released dance remixes of their songs. Maybe that’s what Loveless, Tillis and Mattea need to go to get on the radio today, take their brilliant music and remix it (only half kidding).

  53. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Taylor Swift has gotten quite a bit of positive coverage at Country Universe. I even gave her last single an A-. I’ve said countless times that I’m simply not Swift’s target audience and the music doesn’t interest me much. The only think that irks me is horribly off-key singing, which I catch on award shows and such. I’ve given some positive reviews (“Our Song”, “Should’ve Said No”) and some negative ones (“Love Story”, “Picture to Burn”), but I think I’ve been fair.

    I’m excited to see the passionate response to this thread and I’m looking forward to posting Part 2. My take is quite different but will hopefully be a conversation starter as well.

    I appreciate VP getting this conversation started, and as far as quality control goes, I found her original essay quite diplomatic and the questions it asks interesting.

    Did Shania’s generation do it right? That is a valid question. That was the era where the pop remixes became a reality, as opposed to earlier eras where the original versions were indistinguishable from pop in the first place (I’m looking at you, Eddie Rabbitt!) Which is a bigger compromise of the music, or they equally bad (or equally inoffensive?)

    Other multi-genre artists tweak their songs for different radio formats all of the time. That’s been going on since at least the eighties. Is it unfair to fans who hear a song on the radio in one mix to go and buy the album, then find the song’s original version is quite different?

    Has anybody ever heard the album versions of Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me” and “Foolish Games”? Crikey, are they awful. That set sold ten million copies, even though the hit versions aren’t on it. How many of those buyers felt duped? And that was before you could digitally download!

  54. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Roger,

    I’ve heard Pam Tillis and Patty Loveless remixes, and let’s just say the songs need to stay in their original versions!

    With Shania, there are quite a few songs that I prefer the pop mixes of, but just as many that I’d rather hear in their original form.

    I didn’t like the Womack remix of “I Hope You Dance”, but I think the alternate version of “Something Worth Leaving Behind”, which closes the album of the same name, is far more powerful than the original mix that kicks it off.

  55. Matt B.No Gravatar says:

    Roger,

    I’m sure that the dance remixes of any of these songs (even “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” had one) are much much different than what fans who love or even tolerate the original versions would think. Kinda like LeAnn Rimes’ remixes.

  56. CherylNo Gravatar says:

    While I am a Carrie fan, I would never pretend that she is traditional country or that her music doesn’t have some pop leanings in it. For that reason I respect the people here who may prefer more traditional country music, and I have no issue with you.

    However, the key difference between Carrie and Taylor is in their appreciation and respect for country music. Carrie adores the Grand Ole Opry and shows respect for the genre by refusing to remix her songs. She appeared 4-5 times a year at the Opry since she started in Nashville, and never goes on MTV or TRL or panders to the pop world the way Taylor does. Taylor rarely goes to the opry, as it doesn’t make her any money and she doesn’t get her picture up on wireimage or People magazine.

    While Carrie’s music may be too pop-country for some, I think Carrie is fundamentally a country girl at heart, and she is satisfied with being a successful country star. She is not remixing her album for a pop release to try to take over the world as a pop artist like Taylor is. Carrie grew up singing in church and has a true country upbringing.

    Carrie grew up on a farm in the south to a family with a dad as a cattle rancher/paper mill worker, and a relatively modest income.Taylor is from Pennsylvania and is from a very wealthy stock broker father. She dragged her entire family to Nashville to promote her career, which is pretty ridiculous if you ask me. Taylor does not have an ounce of country in her attitude, voice, upbringing, songwriting, or music as a whole. It feels like she is using the genre to promote herself, with her eye on the real prize, the pop charts.

    Taylor has openly admitted that she is promoting herself overseas as a POP singer, not a country singer. This is a direct quote from her own label, not something I made up for effect here. She is trying to play both sides of the fence, and is coming off as a fake chameleon in my book. Her team announced that she had somehow broken a country record by putting a country song to number 1 on pop with Love Story. What they conveniently, and intentionally, neglected to admit in that press release was that Love Story’s pop remixed, club version hit number 1 on pop radio, NOT the country version. So basically, a pop song hit number 1 on pop radio. Big deal. But they put a spin on it to create false hype over her, which is what they seem to thrive on.

    Taylor is the first and only country artist to lip sync in concert, twice now. She did it at the ACMS during her “shower” scene, and then again at the American Music awards. Too bad the vocals still sounded bad. Carrie can at least sing live, which I consider to be a true test of talent. Anyone can digitally enhance poor vocals to make them sound passable on a cd. Britney Spears created an entire career on it.

    What I don’t understand, is why country radio continues to let her get away with this, when Shania, Faith, and Leanne Rimes, etc., were given the cold shoulder for doing the very same pop remixing that Taylor is doing now. I don’t think it is fair that Taylor is getting a free pass from Nashville for doing the very thing that Nashville despised in the past.

  57. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Cheryl,

    That’s a very fair post, and you raise some strong points. One thing: Taylor is not the first country artist ever to have lip-synched. I’m almost certain Shania Twain did at the CMAs when she and Billy Currington did “Party For Two” (it was even hinted at in a CMT recap on the event), and I’m sure it happened a number of times before that with other artists. Not saying it’s excusable (except, in my opinion, when it’s a technically complicated event like the Super Bowl), but Taylor isn’t the first.

  58. dudleyNo Gravatar says:

    “I’m almost certain Shania Twain did at the CMAs when she and Billy Currington did “Party For Two” (it was even hinted at in a CMT recap on the event)…”

    I believe you are right, Dan. And Shania was singing with live pitch correction when she honored Dolly Parton with a rendition of “Coat of Many Colors” at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2006. Still don’t understand that one, because it made her voice sound electronic.

    Here’s the link to that performance. Alison Krauss sings a beautiful harmony. : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo3oRuBYE6A

  59. Emily_TNo Gravatar says:

    i dont understand why people make such a big deal about the country females make a song that might sound alittle country-pop and not traditinal country , but why are people not making a big deal about the male country singer that sing country-pop
    just a thought
    I LOVE CARRIE

  60. Canadian BoyNo Gravatar says:

    Emily_T,
    Well I CAN’T speak on behalf of everyone how has posted their opinion, I think that most of us don’t actually have a problem with country-pop, I personally enjoy country-pop, it’s just that we don’t like when country artisit release pop remixes of their songs. I don’t mean to sound sexist but it seems like female country artists tend to release pop remixes of their songs a lot more than male country artists. If you know any male country artist who release pop remixes of their songs then by all means they should be getting as much criticsm as the female country artists who have been put ibnto the spotlight of this conversation.

  61. TejasNinaNo Gravatar says:

    You’re right on Canadian Boy (and I didn’t find that sexist). I think Rascal Flatts remixed “what hurts the most” as a single for pop, but that’s all that comes to mind in recent years. It was a smash hit anyway.Of course the same “they aren’t that country to begin with” argument applies to them same as Carrie Underwood et al. but they never deny that they are crossover, genre-blending artists. They even came up with the term “flatt-erizing.” They don’t pretend to be anything they’re not I don’t think, and I appreciate that.

  62. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    dudley,

    I forgot about that one, but I’m glad you brought it up. That was awful, especially for an event as momentous the Kennedy Center honors. I can’t figure out what was going through their heads – is Shania such a bad live singer that she couldn’t handle it at all, or was her voice just screwed up that day?

    That said, I do really love the studio version of that cover on the Dolly tribute album.

  63. arwNo Gravatar says:

    sheesh…by some of the comments one would think the start of country pop started with shania. read a list of the country hits of the 70.s and 80′s and you would see the same mix of 3-chord country vs. the softer more pop-ier stuff of the time. but the whole thing goes even further back. how about some history, facts and truth before we start proclaiming the death of country music at the hands of carrie and taylor. interesting no one has mentioned sugarland????

  64. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Emily,

    I have a slightly different take on it.

    As someone who favors the Traditonal sound, I also have a big problem with male artists like Rascall Flatts and Keith Urban and the whole crop of new country boys who sound more like Justin TImberlake than they do George Jones. They sound very pop, and Keith and RF utterly dominate the awards shows. I think they are talented (especially Keith) but I just don’t think they are very country. So it’s not just the female singers that I blame for the watering down of Country music today. These guys had a lot to do with it as well.

    But there does seem to be a double standard in this day and age…female artists pretty much HAVE to sound pop to succeed in todays country market and to get any air time on country radio and TV…Carrie, Taylor, and earlier Faith, Martina, and Shania…all pretty much sing country pop, and all have had great sucess doing so. At the same time, Traditionalists like Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, and even Leeann Womack to some degree, struggle for sales and airtime under current circumstances. Sara Evans started out with a real Traditional sound, and went nowhere until she released her country pop song No Place That Far, and then her very strong pop flavored album Born to Fly. I’m not happy about this situation at all, but I certainly don’t blame the ladies, they are doing what they have to to succeed in the present market. I don’t understand why the market(the public), media programers, producers and managers all expect the ladies to be pop singers.

    The men, on the other hand, are much more widely accepted then the ladies are when they stick to their Traditonal inclinations. NeoTraditonalists Alan Jackson, George Strait and Brad Paisley, for example, can (and do) succeed right along with pop-country singers like Keith Urban and Rascall Flatts. There is a real double standard here, and I don’t like it and do not understand it at all. I’m glad the guys CAN succeed as Traditonalists if they choose, I just wish the ladies had that same option open to them.

  65. CarsonNo Gravatar says:

    I love Taylor Swift, however with her and her label repeating, “Country always comes first, they’ll get the singles first, etc.”, they better starting showing some of that…and I think Taylor should go back a bit in her roots. She’ll be in the Hannah Montana Movie (think of that as you wish), and in the movie Miley Cyrus goes back to Tennessee to learn about her country roots…something Taylor Swift should do herself. She’s dated a Jonas Brother, became friends with the Disney kids, and died on CSI…in the words of Jewel, “The rest is rock n’ roll cliche/I hit the bottom when I reached the top.”

    I think Taylor is deeply talented, but if she wants to keep her country crowd and fans, she better start showing her country side more respect. The pop mixes are downright terrible. Disgusting. She remixed some of her singles from her debut album for her internation release, and these international songs are SO much better than the pop mixes, however her country songs/originals have so many pop country influences that no pop mixes are needed and it’s encouraging because for the international release, none of the songs off “Fearless” were remixed, hopefully signaling no more pop remixes for her new singles from this album.

    If the pop crowd didn’t like Taylor, they wouldn’t have helped her sell 3 million copies of her debut CD, a CD that was just COUNTRY.

    I do have to give props to Carrie Underwood, even though I prefer Taylor Swift over her, maybe because of my teeny-bopper age, but Carrie had a HUGE hit with SOO much crossover hits on country and top 40 and pop, and there was no remixing, just 100% original that they played on country radio, and what’s sad is that this song that was a huge hit on pop radio has more country in it then one of Taylor’s country songs.

    Taylor has even said she would love for one of her songs to be a bridge to a rap song *shakes head in disappointment*

    But, like I expressed, Taylor has to pay more respect to her roots and her country fans. Saying this all, I am a majorly huge Taylor fan despite my somewhat disagreement with some of her current pop songs and remixes, and I’m definitely seeing her in concert this summer.

  66. CarsonNo Gravatar says:

    What I’m not too fond of are the current country artists who cite Rascal Flattsor Keith Urban or Carrie Underwood as their country inspiration.

    These two artists are very popular and I really enjoy Keith and Carrie, they’re great performers, however I would not consider them to be inspiration for a band who call themselves COUNTRY…. I mean if you’re looking for a modern country inspiration, even Tim McGraw or Martina McBride, I believe, are better country aspirations.

    But then again, this may just be me being picky.

  67. I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives up to date information `;’

  68. daraNo Gravatar says:

    i like pop country. there’s nothing nasty or wrong with it. why disect some of these artist. you dont like them , dont listen to them. love taylor swift and carrie underwood. they opened the door for me to explore country music.

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