Jan 5, 2012
The Final Straw
"…one of the most real country songs I've ever had the pleasure of listening to." - Country Standard Time
"A masterpiece that is as timely as it is well written and sung." - That Nashville Sound
""Cost of Livin'" is a remarkable artistic triumph that any artist would have just cause to be proud of." - 1 to 10 Country Review
"…the most frighteningly real song of 2011. – Dan Milliken (Country Universe)
"This track is a masterpiece, which I can’t praise enough…" - My Kind of Country
"…the song and Ronnie’s performance are a potent reminder of music’s gift and potential for reflecting life as it is — and for offering messages that truly matter." - Country Music Rocks
"If it doesn't reach the top 5, I'm done with country radio, other than making fun of it. This is a signature song of our times." - Farce the Music
"Shame on the program directors and station owners who don’t have the testicular fortitude to play “Cost Of Living…" - The Music Junkyard
So, here we are. 2 months have passed since Ronnie Dunn's "Cost of Livin'" peaked at #17 on the Bob Kingsley Countdown (and at similar rankings - mostly lower - on other charts) and I, true to my word, have not listened to top 40 country by my own decision in some time. To be fair, I rarely listened to it anyway, other than morning shows to hear traffic and weather reports, but still. This unforgivable snubbing of a masterful and universally praised song is the end. Screw you, country radio.
I'm not going to put this on the listeners for a change. Sure, 20-30% of listeners probably hated this song because it was too slow, too sad, too country, too real - but the rest either loved, liked or tolerated it. Surely that's about the same numbers for any given hit single on the radio. So why did "Cost of Livin'" get frozen out (of the top 20 in many cases)?
Could this theory be correct? I think it's very possible. I won't say it's a government conspiracy - more likely a business conspiracy. Big business would like to put forward the idea that the economy is improving - there's the axiom "as you think so shall you be" - no matter how slowly this may be so. And just maybe, they'd be so brash as to nudge Clearchannel into putting the kibosh on this song. Ronnie Dunn didn't, and for that, I applaud him.
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” - Mark Twain
This was originally going to be one of my "sackpunch" articles, but country radio programmers have no balls. I doubt anybody was going to lose a job over playing Dunn's song, so why'd they stop playing it? If I knew the inner workings of single promotion and demotion, I'd have a stronger case here, but there's undoubtably enough blame to go around. I'm guessing programmers do as they always do - follow. Follow the lead of higher ups. Crank the happy stuff, the revolving-door redneck stuff, the mild 'she-left-me' songs with hopeful endings, the drivel that sells ads. Eyes on the bottom line.
In a way, eyes on the bottom line got us here… to this economy. Buying the cheapest crap, hiring the cheapest labor, resting on the cheapest of excuses. Get it now! Live for today! While that may be a good plan for the individual on some levels, it's not conducive to society's long-term success. I'll get off my lame attempt at making sense of America's financial situation, because I have no idea what I'm talking about.
I just know what I like to listen to. I just know I want something aimed at the heart, not the wallet.
How dare anyone in power determine for the listener what he or she wants to hear? Yet, this is country radio's business model. The 'failure' of Ronnie Dunn's "Cost of Livin'" is a microcosm of what's wrong with commercial radio and I'm done.
I know traditional country won't be played on mainstream country radio anytime soon. I've come to accept that. What I can't accept is that they won't even play something that makes the listener feel any feeling other than happy or blissfully ignorant.
For that, I feel that they can kiss my ass goodbye.