Category Archives: Say What?

Carrie Speaks Out

Sorry for the delay in posts lately, but here’s something for you to read. Entertainment Weekly scored an in-depth interview with Carrie Underwood on the eve of her sophomore album release. Carnival Ride, according to EW, is a “country record through-and-through”, unlike her debut album which featured some pop-leaning songs.

Read the whole thing, but here’s the exchange that jumped out at me:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: At next month’s CMA Awards, you have three nominations, but not Entertainer of the Year, the biggest prize. In the last six years, no women have been nominated for that. Why do you think that is?
CARRIE UNDERWOOD: Um, I don’t know. And frankly, I get mad when I think about it. I feel like we have to work three times as hard as the guys just to be almost where they are. I don’t think it’s fair, and I don’t think it’s right, and I’m hoping I can do something about that.

I’ve heard people say it’s because that award is primarily about touring, and the guys are the ones who play the big arenas.
‘Cause they get the opportunity! People like Martina McBride, it’s not like they’re singing in front of 25 people — they’re singing in front of thousands and thousands of people every single night. Someone like that should be nominated.

Way to represent for the ladies! I think it’s pretty clear that Underwood has the best shot at getting some estrogen back in the Entertainer lineup, though don’t discount Reba if she tours to back up her breathtakingly successful duets project.

Earlier in the interview, she also talks about her refusal to remix songs for pop radio:

Is it true that your label asked you to record pop versions of some of the country tracks on Some Hearts, like ”Before He Cheats,” and you said no?
I didn’t have to put my foot down, thank goodness. I hate it when country artists do that. You’re listening to a song on one station and you turn it and you hear a different version? It’s like, ”All right, it’s not good enough for everybody this way, so let’s change it to make it good enough.”

Underwood is the first country artist to make the cover of Entertainment Weekly since Gretchen Wilson and Big & Rich shared the front in 2005. Only two other country acts – Dixie Chicks (2003) and Alan Jackson (2002) – have been on the cover of the influential entertainment magazine this century, putting Underwood in some elite company. Anyone think she might score a Rolling Stone cover to boot?

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Say What? – Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton on starting her own label:

I put it on my own label because many of the majors really didn’t want me because of my age, thinking I was over. But I feel different about that. I figured the major labels are pretty much a thing of the past anyway, kind of like they thought I was! The way music is being played today, why not make all the money, if there’s any money to be made. I’d rather have all of something than some of nothing.

Ouch! Pretty nasty indictment of the major label system, mostly because it’s entirely accurate. The system is dying, with legends like Paul McCartney and, if rumors are true, Madonna jumping ship to make more money elsewhere. Are we slowly getting to the point, with all this new media and direct marketing potential, that the major label system will meet its demise?

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Say What? – Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks spinning his decision to not release his music digitally:

“For people who have all the records, to have them come get this compilation of 33 songs and then 33 videos and know that Wal-Mart is gonna have it probably somewhere between 11 and 14 bucks. I feel really good about that. When you go online, if you wanna pay 99 cents for all of them at 33 bucks…the math’s pretty easy.”

Isn’t that magnamonious of him?  He would release his music digitally, but he doesn’t want the consumer to get ripped off and have to pay all that extra money!

Except for one little problem.   iTunes and other digital music stores allow an option to sell the album only, and they also have flexible pricing.   Even the standard price for a double album is $19.98, but he could have them charge as little or as much as he wants.

I suspect his real concern is a digital release would mean that consumers could just go and buy the four new tracks, and not be forced to buy a ton of music they already own again.   And even if they sold the album only, digital technology would make it fairly easy for people to share the album with their friends.

Quite frankly, Garth is showing his age.  He’s still stuck in a twentieth century mentality.  If he wants to remain relevant to the younger generation of music consumers, his music has to be available for them to download.    If he seriously thinks a teenager is going to get “Friends in Low Places” at Wal-Mart when they can’t find it on iTunes, instead of just hitting Limewire, he’s delusional.    Heck, I’m 28, and I’ll just spend my money on something other than The Ultimate Hits if I can’t get it on iTunes.     Why he continues to limit the options of his potential audience – first with his exclusive deals and now by stubbornly refusing to go digital – is beyond me.

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Say What? – Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts

Rascal Flatts’ lead singer, on not winning Album of the Year for Me and My Gang:

“We deserved it last year. To sell more than anybody, I think that qualifies for album of the year.” – Gary LeVox

Source: Billboard, “Industry Accolades Still Lag Behind Rascal Flatts’ Sales Success.” – Aug. 25, 2007. Page 22.

The article implies that he is referring to not winning Album of the Year at the ACM’s, where they lost to the bigger-selling Some Hearts by Carrie Underwood. The reference to last year makes me wonder if they meant to refer to the 2006 CMA’s, where they lost to Brad Paisley’s critically acclaimed Time Well Wasted.   They didn’t receive a nomination for Best Country Album at the Grammys.

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Say What? – Trace Adkins

The 9513 flagged this quote last week from Trace Adkins, which was originally reported at Billboard’s website:

“I’m kind of talking out of school here, but we’re going to try to get the album out before the end of the year,” Adkins says. “We have a couple singles we can choose from, and I don’t really care which one it is because they’re both strong. It doesn’t matter where ‘I Wanna Feel Something’ is. It’s had its run in my opinion, and I just don’t have the patience that I used to have anymore. I just don’t.

“You send a song to radio and they play it for 16 weeks or whatever, and then you can just tell it’s not going to be one of those records they’re going to jump all over. And if we kept working at it, could we get it top 10? Yeah, we probably could. But you know what, those numbers are just not that important to me anymore. It would be a long, labor-intensive work record, and I don’t have time for that.”

I’m a big fan of “I Wanna Feel Something”.  As I noted in my review of the single earlier this year, it’s one of his best singles to date.    This is the kind of quote that will piss off people in the industry, especially at radio and his label, but he’s speaking to a problem that has grown dramatically larger over the past decade.   The slow turnover of singles at country radio and their increasing dependency on recurrents and gold titles means that fewer songs get exposure at radio.

Back in the nineties and earlier, the life cycle of a single was about three months, meaning hit artists could work four records a year to radio.   The really big ones could sometimes squeeze in five, and B-list artists were good for three.    The quicker turnover meant more artists could be heard on the radio, more careers could be sustained, and more music could be discovered by listeners.

Radio would also jump on a new record from an artist coming off of a big hit.   Adkins put out a killer ballad to follow-up his multi-week #1 “Ladies Love Country Boys”, and radio barely touched it.    How could they, when they were still spinning that hit incessantly?  “I Wanna Feel Something” never netted more spins or audience impressions in a week than that hit, which would still be in the top 25 if recurrent rules hadn’t forced it off of the chart.    New singles from Emerson Drive and Billy Currington are struggling for the same reason; radio just won’t stop spinning the big hits that came before them.    Unless you’re an A-list radio artist – think Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Carrie Underwood, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban – you don’t have much of a chance at consistent radio action.

When country music was at its peak of popularity – the nineties – the list of non-superstar artists who scored four top ten hits or more from an album was lengthy.   Tracy Byrd. BlackHawk. Diamond Rio.  Pam Tillis.  Trisha Yearwood.   Joe Diffie.  Toby Keith.   Patty Loveless.  Martina McBride.  Billy Dean.  Mary Chapin Carpenter.  Deana Carter.  Clay Walker.  Tracy Lawrence.  Mark Chesnutt.  Doug Stone.  Jo Dee Messina.

All of these artists managed to get their records spinned enough to sustain lengthy careers, even while radio gave the bulk attention to its superstars of the day, and each one of them can still release music today because of their established success back then.    Imagine how many of today’s artists could be in the same position if radio returned to a faster turnover and longer playlists.

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Say What? – Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mary Chapin Carpenter has written a song about the Dixie Chicks called “On With The Song”, which will be released on her forthcoming album this spring. From her mailing list:

I especially look forward to recording a song that I wrote soon after the Dixie Chicks album came out. I was so bloody sick of the right wing bloggers and columnists and even Time Magazine’s snooze of an article, with sidebars about major artists who have been far more vocal and pejorative about their oppposition to this administration, without nary the consequences that the DCX have had to face. Then I managed to catch them on Larry King, who couldn’t even make the effort to get each lady’s name correct when he addressed them. I swear, they should have worn name tags for that one. But I found them to be gracious and honest about their experiences since “the incident” and King was obvious (at least to me) in his skepticism towards them. Having been a guest on the King show myself a few times, I can tell you that he doesn’t even listen to your answer, and he interrupts you constantly. One time I think I actually told him “I’m not finished yet!”. Thought that would get me a kick under the table, but it didn’t. He ignores you completely during the breaks. Going in and out of commercials, they replayed footage of these radio jocks at their microphones from 3 years ago urging folks to bring out their DCX cd’s for a big ol’ bonfire and tractor smash. I was disgusted by it all. So I wrote a song that kind of addressed all my frustrations with EVERYTHING. Probably won’t win me any new fans who love Bush and hate the DCX, but as the title of the song says: “On With The Song”. For the first time I think in my recording career I have too many songs for the record. It has been hard to pick the 12-14 that will make the record. We may not even have time to cut 14. But there will be no fewer than 12. I expect it to arrive next spring in time for touring to begin.

Wow, she’s got some fire back in her. It’s nice to have some confirmation that she still has a pulse. She’s so much better when bitter.

Source: Chicks Rock! Chicks Rule!

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Say What? – Dolly Parton

Early candidate for best quote of 2005:

“I think of country radio like a great lover. You were great to me. You bought me a lot of nice things, and then you dumped my ass for younger women.”
- Dolly Parton, addressing Country Music Disc Jockeys

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