Discussion: Country Music Pet Peeves

A less cheery discussion tonight, just because I read something that annoyed me.   Here’s an article about songwriter Jeffrey Steele:

NASHVILLE (Billboard) – One could forgive Jeffrey Steele if he had an inferiority complex.

The writer of scores of hits, Steele is cursed with the same affliction that troubles songwriters worldwide: The public knows his songs, but not him. It comes with the territory, even for someone who has twice been named songwriter of the year by performing rights group BMI.

Artists ranging from Faith Hill to Rascal Flatts to Tim McGraw and Trace Adkins have topped the charts with Steele’s compositions, but as a solo artist the best he could do was a No. 33 finish on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs with “Somethin’ in the Water” in 2001.

“They were saying I was too rock’n’roll for country, blah, blah, blah,” Steele says. “I could never fit into that mold of being a traditional country artist.”

But Steele is doing just fine, thank you, and starting to draw attention. Along with Craig Wiseman, Bob DiPiero and Tony Mullins, he starred in the GAC reality show “The Hitmen of Music Row” in 2007. And after a Best Buy representative saw Steele last summer as a judge/mentor on NBC’s “Nashville Star,” the electronics retailer contacted him about selling his product in its stores. “I’ve been knocking on it all my life, but that show opened the door to finally get some product out there,” Steele says.

What’s annoying about this?  Lazy journalism.  Rather than buy into the “songwriter in the shadows” myth that Steele is selling here, the writer should’ve pointed out that Jeffrey Steele had several hits as an artist.   He was the lead singer of Boy Howdy, who had three hits in the mid-nineties, including the top five “She’d Give Anything” and “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Anymore.”   His first hits as a songwriter were sung by him!

I don’t blame Steele for pushing that angle, but a more conscientious writer would’ve been aware of the ruse and called him on it.  I haven’t forgotten “Bigger Fish to Fry”, Mr. Steele.  Your Howdywood days will follow you until the end.

What are some of your country music pet peeves?


  1. I can see where Steele was going with the angle that he’s not known although he’s probably made MORE money being the songwriter than the guy who wrote and sang them.

    My pet peeve is radio’s inability to open the play lists back up.

  2. I actually had no idea about Jeffrey and Boy Howdy until now…

    My biggest pet peeve is how country radio these days is trying too hard to appeal to teenagers (mostly of the girl persuasion) and that’s one of the reasons we get the poppy-crap music we have these days. Not offense to teenage girls, some of them actually have taste, but it’s just bad. Growing up in the ’90s, I was captivated by country music by its different styles that were represented, and that’s what got me. Nowadays, I really yearn for those days, when music was better (IMO) and traditional country or neo-traditional stuff was more often played.

  3. non music videos on music video channels.

    Also.. is anyone else finding this site CRAWLING the last day or two? This is easily the only one I’m having the issue with, both loading the site and posting.

  4. The way that people who normally don’t even listen to country think Rascal Flats and Taylor Swift are representations of country music. Every time I say I listen to country, someone who doesn’t asks me if I like either Rascal Flats and Taylor Swift.

  5. It’s not really country music related, but it is kind of part of my Pet Peeve. One trend I’m noticing a lot lately is how fast it is to rise to stardom. On the country side, Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift. Now, I’m not a Rascal Flatts fan by any means, but they brought out something and they became instant stars. Me and My Gang helped a lot, but they were big before that album. As for Swift, I kinda like her music but this is her second album and she has kind of taken over as face of mainstream country music. I’m sorry but who is she? Other than Love Story, which I find catchy, I don’t think she’s done one song that I’ve found memorable, yet she’s become so big and people automatically love her.

    From the non country side, this same trend is happening with Hannah Montana, High School Musical, and some dude whose going to be in a movie called Twilight that girls are going gah gah over. First off, we have High School Musical 3? When did one and two come out? Secondly, Miley Cyrus and her father are getting annoying. Thirdly, this guy who was going to be in this movie was in San Francisco a week ago and the girls were all over him. Either I’ve been in a coma for the last week, or not cared, or this unknown person has taken over the celebrity limelight. Who are these people and where did all the good people go.

  6. Greg, by his 2nd album Garth Brooks was leading the pack in country music. So was Shania Twain. It happens.

    As for your other comments,HS Musical was HUGELY Successful on Disney Channel. They made the 3rd one a feature film in theaters and are reaping the rewards. They could’ve done the same thing with #2 but didn’t. The industries want the tween/teen market because parents still purchase stuff for them. It’s a huge market.

  7. Matt,

    Well, there’s no accounting for quality I guess. It’s just even after one album, Taylor Swift has become the face of country music. At least Twain and Brooks were older when they rose to fame.

    As for High School Musical, I only brought it up because I saw Pet Peeves and one of my favorite shows attacked HSM this last week. It was hilarious. I don’t watch Disney Channel, so this whole musical thing just blew right by me. It did seem like it got popular overnight.

  8. Bogus co-writer credits. It seems that on every album, the artist, particularly a new artist has five or six co-writes with already famous writers.

    After their “one and done” album deal, rarely do any of these names show up as authors again on songs recorded by themselves or others

  9. My pet peeve is that artists such as Kenny Chesney, George Strait, and Alan Jackson get away with releasing dull songs with boring vocals so often.

    Kenny Chesney duet with George Strait, “Shiftwork”, was an abomination. Although I don’t mind Alan Jackson’s latest single “Country Man” as much as most of his stuff, his vocals could almost be described as talking. There is simply no liveliness in his performance.

    Compare these song to the likes of “You Look Good in My Shirt” by Keith Urban, who delivers a very interesting vocal performance. Then take a look at most of Carrie Underwood’s catalogue, and notice her use of her vocal range and her ability to spice things up, rather than bore us.

    My final example is Josh Turner, who has had his fair share of both. “Everything is Fine” is extremely dull, while “Firecracker” is more exciting and lively.

  10. – but who says Steele was ‘selling’ a ‘songwriter in the shadows’ myth??! That’s a tad harsh…just as U condemn the journalist 4 lazy journalism (yawn!! – how many good interviews/journalistic pieces/press releases do U read these days which R anything close 2 stellar? LOL!!), it seems 2 me U R drawing conclusions which R not correct. Of all the Nashville songwriter stable, surely JS is the best-known? i’ve met many of ’em, but his recognition in recent years has outrun the rest…so he hardly can qualify as a ‘songwriter in the shadows’…just that songwriters PER SE tend always 2 b in the shadows, which was probably the point he was/is ‘selling’…just sayin’ if U ever meet JS, he’s a pretty humble guy who seems aware of his great good fortune & career, etc…but if someone is capable of more, i.e. a performing career as an artiste in his own right, why not? What’s so goshawful terrible about branching out to Hollywood?? Ohmigod yeah i forgot Hollywood is a cesspit whereas Nashville is honest-2-goodness-pure-lily-white dammit yeah U R right his Hollywood days WILL follow – nay, HAUNT him…TILL THE END TA-TAHHHH!!!!!!

  11. Greg M said “I only brought it up because I saw Pet Peeves and one of my favorite shows attacked HSM this last week. It was hilarious.”

    Funny, my favorite show attacked HSM this week too. Could it be the same show? ;) Quote: ‘So this is what’s cool now? I will be home killing myself, you guys’.

    Oh, and I’m gonna go with Kevin on the pet peeve issue. Lazy journalists who interview country stars and have done zero research. They tend to ask the same tired questions and really end up looking foolish to readers who follow the genre. Shame on your, writers who don’t do your research …. tsk tsk

  12. “Kenny Chesney duet with George Strait, “Shiftwork”, was an abomination.” = Understatement of the decade!

    Not to be outdone, Alan Jackson’s “Good Time” wants on that list.
    Songs like that and Brooks & Dunn’s “Put a Girl in it” are like saying “WE’RE OFFICIALLY OUT OF IDEAS!”.

    Other pet peeve:
    + Songs with the three stages of something happening… chilhood, middle years, and then again as someone elderly is dying.
    + How “country” someone is, especially a girl.
    + Cowtowing to country music fans by singing about sterotypical country stuff in an overexagerrated “twang”.
    + Country “stars” who are so shiny and perfectly primped that they don’t even look real.

  13. South Park’s newest episode – which aired the same night as the CMAs – totally tore into High School Musical. Love that freakin’ show!

  14. Heh. I’ve watched that South Park a couple of times since it aired, but have yet to revisit the CMA’s. If it wasn’t for the liveblog, I would’ve switched over to it.

  15. The CMAs actually inspired my peeves…

    *The mention of Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, our brave troops, or “King George” to get cheap applause.

    *Using Dolly’s “attributes” for a punch line. Turn the page. Of course, if she’s actually there, it would help.

    *Line dancers used to dress up a boring song and performance.

    *Songs about teen angst.

    *Songs from the beach that should stay on the beach.

    *Lyrics full of cliches dressed up as “statements”

    *Hollywood comes to Nashville once a year. Is Shania presenting an Oscar this year? Maybe Montgomery Gentry can hand out Best Supporting Actor or Hank, Jr. can announce “Original Score.”

  16. I agree with many of the things that you guys have said.

    And as a 15 year old I’d like to defend the smart people of my generation.

    1. We don’t like Miley Cyrus, and we fully expect her to end up like the next Britney, and yes we do like Britney’s “Womanzier” song, yes it’s totally contradicting itself but you gotta love the rise in electronica.
    2. We know Taylor stinks at singing, but we just pray that her songwriting keeps getting better.
    3. We do remember the 90’s and are very found of the country and pop music back then.
    4. We hate High School Musical, and can’t believe the kids below us are watching a said interpretation of Grease for the 21st Century.
    5. We really don’t want a Twilight movie, and we know the book and the movie are a rip off of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel.
    6. We wish we grew up in the 90’s.
    7. And to stop the confusion Generation Y started in 1991, so we can’t be called slackers(yet :P)

    So don’t fret there are still smart teens out there, we’ll just be dreadfully jamming out to Miley, to make sure you can’t pick us out from the rest of them ;)

  17. Kevin: Yr slightly-2-transparent ‘sour grapes’ (presumably over yr being a ‘songwriter in the shadows’?!) is a wee bit obvious…U may not like my online spelling but there aint nuthin’ wrong w/my reading skills/ability/comprehension…tho’ the fact that they peeve U (shucks! – guess that means ANOTHER pet peeve 4 U?) b/c i ‘get it’ all 2 well – maybe even BETTER than i oughtta?! – doesn’t surprise me @ all = wouldn’t be the 1st time…frankly! ;)
    OK so we’re on the same page regarding journalists & so far as the other matter matters, all i can say is; Good luck w/yr songwriting career & hell NO, we won’t be lookin’ 4 U on a Hollywood stage any time now or in future LOL!!!!

  18. Eve,

    Your “reading skills/ability/comprehension” still leave much to be desired. (All of which have nothing to do with spelling, which is a writing skill.)

    The post criticizes the writer of the article for not noting that Steele’s songwriting career took off because he was the lead singer of Boy Howdy, and co-wrote their big hits.

    I never mentioned Hollywood, which you’ve since used as the basis of two of your rants. I mentioned Howdywood, a play off of the title of Boy Howdy’s first album, the cover of which is included in the post you’re having so much difficulty understanding.

  19. Ah yes, Boy Howdy. I downloaded a couple of their minor-hit singles (“Our Love Was Meant to Be” and “Thanks for the Ride”) a little over a year ago, having vague recollections of what they sounded like, and they’re prime examples of how badly dated the production style of so many early-90s country acts sound now.

    Maybe they were more talented than, say, Little Texas, but they aren’t going to make my “Stars That Should’ve Been” list– though the guy in the white shirt on the album cover is notable for having just about the most spectacular mullet in the history of hair. Even puts vintage Billy Ray Cyrus to shame.

    As for pet peeves, I have three currently: “List” songs (like Alan Jackson’s “Good Time” or that horrid new Rodney Atkins single, which mistake easy points-of-reference for substance); bogus songwriter credits (as Paul mentioned upthread); and the use of Auto-Tune in both the studio and concerts (because God forbid that someone who makes a living by singing professionally actually be able to, y’know, sing).

  20. I wholeheartedly agree with Paul’s pet peeve. I can hardly stand it. I would add big name artists who never write songs, but are suddenly listed as co-writers with The Warren Brothers. I won’t name names though…unless someone prods, of course.:)

  21. Jake, I still slightly consider myself amongst the “teen” category since I still am 20 and feel pretty young (as I should lol). I think if given the chance, teens would like to hear more better music. I think it’s just what radio feeds us that messes it up, and the record companies thinking that turning the volume up and throwing in heavier drums and electric guitar means it will make a hit. They know we young ones like that stuff, and rhyming words and such, but I don’t think some of us young people are as dumb as radio thinks we are.

  22. CF, Chris D. and Jake,

    You guys are an awesome sample of young people. I don’t believe in judging people because of age, just taste and you guys pass.:) It’s unfair to suggest that people can’t appreciate the history of country music because of age. You all obviously have a good grasp on it and are willing to keep learning, just like me. Furthermore, you guys are truly appreciated on this site; you always positively add to the discussions around here, for which we are grateful.

  23. Thanks Leeann, I love to feel appreciated. xD

    I just realized I never posted my pet peeve!

    I guess I hate when radio won’t make truly great artists popular, or just stop playing certain songs or artists. Major examples include Trisha Yearwood (“This Is Me You’re Talking To” should have been a massive hit, and “They Call It Falling For A Reason” is stellar as well!), SHeDAISY (Their latest and most ignored album is by far their best), and Little Big Town (“Fine Line” and “I’m With The Band” are much better than almost everything on the radio). There are so many more artists I could list, but that would take far too long.

  24. PS: I actually like Twilight! I’m going to read the second book, but the thing that bugs me is the inherent sexism in the protagonist; she’s so helpless… Besides that the story is very engaging and exciting, if mushy at times. My friend asked me to go to the movie next weekend when it comes out, so I guess I’ll tell you guys how the movie is, of course that’s assuming anyone here cares. XD

    I also wasn’t aware a new “generation” started in ’91, I guess I’m from generation Y!

  25. DIAMOND … LOVE your list!

    CMA pet peeve: The misconception that just because someone can sing and/or play guitar that means that they also have comedic timing and hosting abilities.

    + Mentioning a popular name in a song to get the listeners attention.
    + Songs named after a performer to get attention.

    + Major pet peeve: A song that is not even almost kinda-sorta country… as in if the performer wasn’t signed to a “country label”, they would basically qualify as a rock reject.

    + Showing my age: I always think of “Boy Howdy” as the beer can cartoon from the old “Creem” magazine.
    I know… REALLY showing my age!

  26. WOW – everyone has some great points! Especially you, Diamond.
    I have many, many pet peeves – too numerous to mention…heh heh… Here’s some;
    Big country stars turning to “Country Weekly” with their airbrushed album pics to promote a new project, but clam up when asked anything that might be considered personal – meanwhile, when Kenny or Tim or Faith or Big Star is ready to talk, they leave pathetic little “Country Weekly” in the dust and turn to “People” or “Newsweek” to tell their story!
    Pet Peeve #2 – Everyone knows the older artists have one hell of a time getting ariplay, but the few that don’t have a problem RARELY speak out against it…obviously fearing Mr. Program Director will cut them from their 14-song daily playlist. I love George Strait as much as the next dude, but remember when he and Alan won for “Murder on Music Row” and George back-peddeled and tried to pass the song off as a joke when accepting the award? My heart sank that night – there HAS been a murder on music row…Dolly and Jones are slumped in a heap outside of Tootsies as I write…
    Pet Peeve #3 – When radio stations do play a great song by a great 80’s artist they ALWAYS have to reassure the audience that the song was a “classic”. Why can’t radio mix in Ricky van Shelton with Keith Urban? Janie Frickie with Carrie Underwood – Just play the damn songs back to back – to call out a song as an “all-time favorite” makes people think its is outdated and irrelevent.
    The Grammy Awards – for such a prestigious award, they sure treat country music like the stumbling drunk at the preacher’s birthday party.
    Leann Rimes and Wynonna Judd – No question these two ladies own two of the most impressive set of vocal cords in Nashville, but with every record they try to drive the traditional country fan further and further away… “Wilbur and Naomi want us to sing country?! we’ll show them!!!” Ok, ladies – you’ve showed ’em, now its time to sell some records, bring back the steel guitar and fiddles…its not too late

  27. One thing, Leann Rimes’ Family is more country than most mainstream- not saying much but still. It at least has the right instrumentation: see “Nothin’ Better To Do”, “Upper Hand”, and “Pretty Things”. Besides those songs, it’s mostly poppish, but not more so than other mainstream artists.

  28. I agree Chris, Its just when I hear them do something great on the country side, it makes me wish they would pull a Loveless or Womack and make a great country album, Wy’s Flies on the butter is a great example (even if country did ignore it)

  29. My pet peeves:

    When my local country radio station plays 1 female singer for every 6-7 songs.

    Martina McBride and her belting. It’s awful.

    LeAnn Rimes’ singing technique. She sounds like she sings with a frog stuck in her throat. I seriously don’t understand when people say she has great vocals. It pains me to hear her. I don’t mind it as much when she has a catchy song. I only liked her singing in “Blue,” “The Early Years,” and “You Light Up My Life.” As she got older, she developed the strange singing style that she uses now.

    Carrie Underwood has very catchy songs but I hate the way she is so perfectly primped every time she appears on TV. She looks like she’s walking the red carpet every time I see her face, even when she’s not at an awards show. Even movie stars don’t look like that unless they’re on the red carpet. Please try to minimize the makeup and the hair doesn’t have to be hugely styled for every TV appearance.

    Someone please convince Taylor Swift to take vocal lessons!

    The singer-songwriter trend. Seems singers who were only known for their voices in the past decided to songwrite much more only when it becames popular to do so, that they did it when they noticed that the public started to respect those who also were able to songwrite more than those who didn’t. (The public favoring the singer-songwriter is more evident in pop music, which is why I believe singers like Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, etc. all became songwriters at around the same time). Also seems that no singer nowadays is taken seriously unless they write their own songs too. “Wow, Miranda Lambert writes her own songs! So does Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, etc.” The only ones who don’t songwrite are the older ones who’ve already made a name for themselves, like George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack, and Faith Hill.

  30. Obviously my peeve(as it were) is how so called “country music fans” can sit and complain continuously about 10% of todays country music (Pop Country), and then when asked how they feel about the rest of todays music(country), have no idea what you’re talking about. It happens quite a bit.

  31. I’m going to have to go with tired cheesy cliches (e.g., “Live Like You Were Dying,” “So Small”). Or perhaps turning a movie quote into a song (e.g., “You Had Me From Hello”). My gag reflex kicks in around this point.

  32. Thanks for the compliment Lee Ann. BTW, 1991 is what I heard is the starting date of Generation Y, but there’s no official book that says when it started, funny that people say Generation Y starts in the year Grunge music moved Mainstream lol.

    As for other pet peeves, I watched a Garth Brooks special last Sunday on GAC, and he mentioned how the music industry “builds people up just to tear them down”, so that’s a major one for me.

    Another one would be sexism in the country music scene. The one thing I like about the 90’s is that women were becoming equal to men. But I have yet to see when women get as much airplay in country as in other genres(which also don’t play enough great songs by woman.) The macho cowboy thing has to go with that too. How many more men in cowboy hats do we have to see? Wearing a cowboy hat doesn’t make you country.

    And here’s another major one that ties into that. Many singers in country music think country means, that you grew up in the country, that you’re a farmer, cowboy, etc. When really country music is (and I empathize)’real’ music. I live out in the country but that doesn’t mean people who grow up in the city won’t understand this ‘country-thang'(A way overused accent there!) Country music should be about real people, real problems, and what life is really about.

    With that, I think I just vented myself out :P

  33. I agree with some of the songwriting peeves, however, you have to give Taylor credit for writing her own songs by herself (or co-writes even) and rising as far as she has.

    I’m not going to play the age factor, because people talking about Taylor Swift’s age is annoying.

    I mean she’s written songs that have gone high on country and pop radio. And the pop songs don’t even have the whole “ooohh ahhh oh yeah mhmh” that all pop songs pretty much have.

    Although now that i think about Sugarland did kind write a song with nothing but “ooohh”s.

  34. Oh yeah, that reminds me of another PP of mine. The people who don’t know that Pop Music is an industry, not a specific genre. Example is post #43.

  35. im with you eve completely……… no matter who you are pointing this at kevin, you dont know what your talking about which is the case with most wanna be journalists or songwriters of your ilk.
    boy howdy fame was cut short after an accident nearly killed one of their members. jeffrey also has a major scare nearly losing his voice in the mid 90’s,which is why he stopped singing . he also lost his son . he has never been a major star.he is just now getting noticed for writing some of the greatest songs of the last 15 years. my town, speed, hell yeah, something to be proud of, my wish every day, what hurts the most, me and my gang every time i hear your name, whisky years ,international harvester, cowboy in me, chrome ,im tryin, help somebody,when the lights go down, here,brand new girl friend, and on and on ,couldnt last a moment unbelievable etc .5 time writer of the year
    he is frikkin 47 years old and smokes anyone ive ever seen on a stage most of his show are 3-4 hours non stop .
    he has been so off the radar for so long and is finally getting his due as a peformer. i sit here and read these things written yet i have seen him on stages with areosmith sebastian bach bb king
    lynyrd skynyrd ,michael mcdonald, mcgraw , faith , keih urban ,zz top . velvet revolver, willie nelson allman brothers kris kristofferson ( who says,” he’s me all over again”, he knows the lyric )
    i was able to make his show in l.a. his first there in 12 years with his band and it was mezmorizing ! and he had a cold
    yet every review i see here on him or anything he’s done is threaded with harsh words .
    have you heard countrypolitan his latest release it is an absolutely amazing tribute to his heroes or hell on wheels which any music lover should own .we should be cheering him on now that he has a chance to be the anti star the real deal , the authentic original artist that has slipped through every digital crack known to music .

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