Actively writing single reviews again has me also looking at the radio charts again. What a bleak landscape of interchangeable singers and songs! I can’t remember things ever being this generic and bland. We flirted with it back in the Kellie Coffey days, but the bottom didn’t fall out.
Today, is there even a bottom? An old friend of mine listened to country radio for the first time in presumably years and asked, “Am I crazy, or is everyone getting drunk on country radio?”
He’s not crazy. What can we do to fix this?
Today’s Top Five asks: What five songs would you immediately put in heavy rotation on country radio?
They can already be singles, or could be unreleased songs that you think should be singles, but they should be current enough to be featured on an artist’s most recent album.
Wasn’t there anyone who could tell him that this wasn’t going to work? It’s a terribly awkward effort to force a classic concept into a current framework. (See also: Lorrie Morgan, “1-800-Used-To-Be”)
Reba McEntire & Kelly Clarkson, “Because of You”
This could’ve been great. Two great singers, one great song. The fatal flaw is that it just doesn’t work as a duet. The lyrics don’t make sense when it’s two people singing to each other.
Lonestar, “Mr. Mom”
Mr.Mom was the first movie that I saw in theaters. Back then, the concept of a stay-at-home Dad was novel. By the time this song rolled around, it was hard to even take the conceit of the song seriously. This guy’s not struggling because he’s a guy. He’s struggling because he’s a bumbling fool.
Kenny Chesney, “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”
The song that made Chesney a superstar doesn’t involve him lounging around on a tropical island, but it sure does make me thankful that he stopped singing about country living.
Kellie Coffey, “When You Lie Next To Me”
It’s rarely the prototypes that are terrible. It’s usually the copies. By the time “Where Were You” became “I Raq and Roll”, the post-9/11 song was insufferable. Here’s what “Breathe” finally devolved into: a schlocky mess that is such a lazy copy that “Just breathe” becomes “Just be.”
Toby Keith, “Stays in Mexico”
Though it’s a fairly tasteless song to begin with, production choices sink this one in the end. Silly sound effects and a backing track that makes “Hot! Hot! Hot!” seem subtle and understated push this dangerously close to novelty status.
Rascal Flatts, “Bob That Head”
A desperate attempt to come off like edgy rockers.
Taylor Swift, “Picture to Burn”
Criticizing Swift for being an irrational teenager is like criticizing water for being wet. But this really is Swift at her absolute worst. Not only is a juvenile lyric coupled with a disastrous vocal performance, both of which are bad enough in their own right. But the underlying message that most of Swift’s songs send to her teenage girl audience is on most naked display: Your happiness and self-worth are solely determined by the men and boys in your life.”
John Michael Montgomery, “The Little Girl”
The most horrific “inspirational song” that I’ve ever heard is directly ripped off from an urban legend that showed up in songwriter Harley Allen’s inbox.
Chad Brock, “Yes!”
Nothing captures how country music embraced mediocrity better than this Chad Brock single, which actually spent three weeks at #1. The storyline is completely unbelievable, the production is as generic as a Karaoke track, and Brock’s performance is so faceless that it might as well be a demo recording.
As awful as some of the other songs on this list are, they at last aspired to make a larger point. Spectacular failures can still demonstrate a noble ambition. “Yes!” aspires to be nothing more than radio filler, and it succeeded in dulling down the radio dial during its entire run. Hearing it again on satellite radio last month was the inspiration for this list. The song’s only indication of personality being the exclamation point in the title? That secured its place atop the list. It truly does represent country music being drained of all of its heart and soul until just a token fiddle is all that’s left to identify it as such.