We Need to Stop Blindly Hating Artists
"He's not country!"
"Luke Bryan? Never heard of her."
"He's probably never rode a tractor in his life."
Every time I see a "hate country" meme, I see each of these comments, without fail. I'm not switching views on what I said in the controversial article I wrote a while back. I'm hear to make another point entirely. We need to stop blindly hating artists.
I don't know how many times I've heard someone completely dismiss an artist like Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Brantley Gilbert, Keith Urban, or even Florida-Georgia Line because of their recent hits on the radio. Every single one of those artists I just listed has at least one good song in their repertoire.
Jason Aldean started getting mass hate at two moments: when he and his wife divorced when Aldean started seeing his now current wife and when he released Burnin' it Down. I am not going to defend that song. It is truly atrocious. Admittedly, I haven't really listened to his music since it was released. However, that doesn't take away from the fact that his first three albums are great. Each album after that has the occasional good or great song, but the first three were above average quality.
Luke Bryan is the most hated country artist. I'm saying that because Sam Hunt really is the most hated, but he's not a country artist, so he doesn't count. I'll get to that later. Luke Bryan has always hopped on stage and shook his hips for the girls. I am not going to hate an artist for using sexuality to sell. Just ask Miley Cyrus. Luke Bryan's Spring Break EPs and his hip hop songs are garbage, but he records them because he knows they'll sell. Sorority girls eat his music up. At least he finally quit it with the Spring Break EPs. He finally accepted that he's 40.
However, Luke Bryan is a full-grown country boy. He hunts and fishes. He is a redneck. Denying his country credentials is impossible. And on his first 2/2.5 albums, he proved it. Even on his newest record, he showed his old self with To The Moon And Back and Scarecrows.
The Voice. Divorcing Miranda Lambert in favor of fellow judge Gwen Stefani. Footloose. Pizza Hut commercials. Blake Shelton is easy to call a sellout. He has caught flack for saying:
If I am “Male Vocalist of the Year” that must mean that I’m one of those people now that gets to decide if it moves forward and if it moves on. Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, “My God, that ain’t country!” Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.
I have listened to every single LP and EP released by Blake Shelton. They haven't all been good, but I would take 500 more Hillbilly Bone's over another Sangria. His last truly good album was his 2011 album Red River Blue. His most underrated and underperforming album was Pure BS, which has some amazing songs on it.
As I said in my review for the god-awful Wacky Tobaccy:
To some, Toby Keith has been known for years as the face of the downfall of country music, pretty much inventing the laundry list. To others, he's a goddamn flag waving, terrorist slaying, middle finger waving, purebred American who farts more Patriotism than Captain America punching Hitler in the mouth.
Keith has had some bombs in his career. They may have performed well, but they were dumb. From 2005 until 2013, Toby Keith released an album every year. When you release music at that rate, it is impossible for each one to not be watered down by filler songs.
Even when his music isn't good, at least it's country. You can't hate him for betraying the genre. When you have a career as long as Keith's, you know that there are some amazing songs hidden in the discography somewhere.
Die hard Brantley Gilbert fans will punch you in the fucking mouth if you trash talk him. They swear that he is a country music God. He has the 2nd amendment tattooed to his back. He has Psalms 144:1 tattooed on his fist. He has handcuffs tattooed on his wrists. His microphone has brass knuckles on it. You will be deafened by the sounds of motorcycles at his concert.
Brantley Gilbert writes his own songs. Notoriously sober, he writes about partying. He writes about what he thinks we want to hear. However, he also writes songs that will tear your heart out. When he gets rid of the heavy metal influences, he can be downright amazing.
New Zealand-born Keith Urban has a lot of haters, including one of the co-founders of this very website. Some hate him for not being American, which is such a stupid argument. Some hate him for his voice, which is a taste thing, I suppose. Few argue that he's not one of the best guitarists in the genre.
When looking past some of his recent singles and albums, you find that early in his career, he was singing some of the most heartfelt and genuine country music out there. Recently, his best song was Raise 'Em Up, which had the help of Eric Church being featured on the track. Defying Gravity was his last truly great album.
Florida-Georgia Line is a hard one to defend. The majority of their songs are bad. The majority of their songs are not country songs. However, they are not entirely terrible. Most know of their song Dirt, which went number one. That song was an example of what they could do if they weren't so focused on just trying to sell out arenas. However, back in the day, years before Cruise was even a thing, they had an self-released EP called Anything Like Me. One song from this EP came onto my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, and I couldn't believe it was them when it played.
I do not like Florida-Georgia Line, but I won't deny a good song just because their name is attached to it.
The point I am trying to make is that we need to stop living in this echo chamber of hatred towards artists. Actually sit down and listen to an artist before judging their music. Don't just see that Saving Country Music or Farce the Music article and blindly follow what they say to like or hate. Hell, I took the time to listen to all of Sam Hunt's music on Spotify just to see if he had any redeeming songs. He doesn't. I can say that, though. He does not perform country music. Sure, he helped write I Met a Girl. That doesn't forgive his other music. Even Pants by Walker Hayes isn't the worst.
I am not telling you to like these artists. I am not telling you to hate them. But if you're really afraid of random people on the internet hating you for saying "I actually like this song by so and so," I can't help you. Like what you like. Hate what you hate. But every artist is not black and white.