Own the Night
Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” is a once in a career kind of hit. That drunk-dialer ballad became a such a huge cross-genre smash hit that is was virtually inescapable no matter which radio format you tuned into. The Grammy-winning hit pushed Lady Antebellum to instant add status on country radio, which is where they stayed even as their single releases gradually slid downhill in quality.
The downward slide continues on the trio’s third album Own the Night – an uninspired effort that savors strongly of an act coasting along on their superstar status, while resting on their laurels artistically. One could present the easy-out criticism that the album is not country, and indeed it makes little effort to sonically resemble country, but the real issue is not simply that these are pop songs. The issue is that, pop or country, they’re just flat-out not good songs.
But the fact is that country music was changed as well. Here are the four biggest ways that it did, for better and for worse.
1. Alan Jackson Becomes a Legend
He was still getting solid radio airplay and record sales in 2001, but it seemed like his glory days were behind him. Then, he stepped on to the CMA Awards stage and debuted “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” to a stunned industry crowd on national television.
Although I might append a “-ly Cool” to that “Ridiculous” depending on the day you asked me.
But yeah, let’s talk about this. She’s playing up her primary marketing persona to such an extreme as to make its artifice glaringly, even amusingly obvious. In a way, that doesn’t bug me – it’s not like any of us ever actually believed her to be a vengeful pyro/ex-girlfriend/abuse victim.
It’s always interesting to see how music industry awards reflect (or don’t reflect) larger narratives in the industry itself.
If you’re interested in the narratives behind this year’s CMAs, look no further than the two men who’ve made the biggest strides on the ballot: Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean. Both show up in Entertainer and Male Vocalist, plus Album and Single, plus assorted other stuff. But the marketing approaches that have gotten them there are vastly different.
Tailgates & Tanlines
Got a little boom in my big truck/Gonna open up the doors and turn it up. – “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)”
Girl you make my speakers go boom boom/Dancin’ on the tailgate in the full moon. – “Drunk on You”
Looking at those two lyrics from Lyke Bryan’s new album, you can assume one of two things: Either Bryan was heavily influenced by hip-hop pioneers L’Trimm and their hit “Cars With the Boom,” or Tailgates & Tanlines falls victim to lazy songwriting. With all due respect to Tigra and Bunny, it looks like it’s the latter.
I’ve had the Adele album for a good bit now, and “Someone Like You” is my favorite track on it. I’d already heard how the song shot to #1 in the U.K. after she performed it on the Brit Awards.
I checked out that performance, and thought it was good. Not great, but good.