Country radio was good to me for many years, but it also pigeonholed me. After my first album, I was expected to fill the slot on their playlist for ‘fun, up-tempo female.’ That provided me with a space to fill on that playlist, and a string of turntable hits, but in my entire career I had only two ballads that broke the Top 10.
There have been quite a few songs, songs that never got released as singles, that I felt were stronger than a lot of the singles that came out.
Lamenting the restraints that their former labels placed on their artistic freedom is a common refrain of country artists once they go indie. But in Clark’s case, I see her point. Her first wave of hits included two ballads, but most of the biggest hits were uptempo rockers like “You’re Easy On the Eyes” and “Better Things To Do.” Her second wave was only three hits deep, a trio of upbeat numbers that all reached the top two. Radio essentially walked away when she took a turn for the serious.
Interestingly enough, she fell out of favor during Gretchen Wilson’s meteoric rise, who essentially filled that “fun, up-tempo female” slot. Radio embraced Wilson more than they ever embraced Clark, but also tired of her quickly. Radio has since backed more female artists than it did in the early part of the decade, with Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift and Sugarland regularly topping the charts. But it could be argued that Clark’s niche has never been filled again, much like Mary Chapin Carpenter and Patty Loveless were never succeeded by a younger counterpart.
Do you agree with Clark that radio pigeonholds its artists to the detriment of their music? If so, what artists are currently being the most limited by this mindset?