Aug 19, 2020
Jun 17, 2020
Some would imagine that the fan-friendly, upbeat country music scene of 2000-2009 would not be as likely to contain divas and d-bags as the more recent country music diaspora. Some would be very, very wrong. Here are some of the genre's most egregious offenders.
10. Jo Dee Messina
Brings a Coke can into church so she has somewhere to spit her dip. Constantly brags about her Peloton.
9. Billy Currington
Once fought with an old guy about a boat wake or something. [edit: being told this actually happened]
Considers his duet with Shania Twain the highpoint of her career.
8. Sara Evans
At concerts, will only perform her biggest hits as spoken word. Made Trick Pony use a utility closet as a dressing room when they opened for her.
7. Brad Paisley
Working with legal team to get “dad jokes” copyrighted so he can sue everybody who uses the term. When people join his group text promotion, he sells their numbers to escort services.
6. Dierks Bentley
Publicly and profanely humiliates anyone who misspells his name. Eats Taco Bell on his bus. Uses the bathroom on his band’s bus.
5. Phil Vassar
Plays “Bobbi with an I” as his encore at concerts. Avoids eye contact with anyone shorter than him. Has an album of Drake covers coming out soon.
4. Cyndi Thomson
Bogarts the joint. “I Crossfit” is her entire Facebook bio. Won’t use the zipper merge in traffic.
3. Steve Holy
Cheats at foosball. Won’t flush a floater. Performs Tekashi 6ix9ine songs on Tik Tok.
2. Mark Wills
Covers a Wheeler Walker Jr. song when he sees there are lots of kids at his concert. Still does the “flaming bag of shit” prank on neighbors despite being in his 40s. Has long conversations in front of what you need at Walmart.
1. John Rich
Wait, who authorized putting an actual jerk on here?
May 8, 2020
by Trailer - Originally posted on Country California, October 20, 2009
Spurred on by Gone Country rock-star pal Sebastian Bach, rock icon and lead singer of Guns n' Roses, Axl Rose, has begun work on an epic country album. In a nearly-coherent blog diatribe directed at some unnamed assailant in the Nashville press, Rose announced his plans in maniacally honest detail.
Here is an excerpt from that post:
"Despite this uneducated m*****-f*****'s baseless claims and slander against me, I will persevere and this album will see the light of the day in a few short months or possibly 17 years. I have already hired some of Nashville's finest musicians and plan to alienate and fire them one by one until I end up with a band that in no way resembles the one that is intact at this moment. However, I will keep each person's contribution and use them in multi-multi-tracked songs that are rich with sound the way a pizza burger stir-fry with chocolate ranch taco sauce is rich with taste."
He continued: "I expect to go through somewhere between $2 and 25 million dollars of Curb Records' money and have several label heads fired during the laborious recording process. I will spend my downtime: 1) hanging with Baz (Bach) and John Rich, 2) punching Nashville celebrities at charity events and 3) suing people. After finishing this record, I will resume recording of Chinese Democracy 2 which will come out posthumously. And hey, you scum-sucking, onerous piece of crap, you'll never say that s*** about me again!"
The already mythical Arkansas Literacy album is expected to be an exclusive one-album deal with Target. Industry insiders predict it will sell around 150,000 the first week before tanking, after which Axl will make another rambling, curse-filled blog post blaming Target, Slash and the Jehovah's Witnesses for weak sales.
Feb 18, 2020
A lot of people ask me about maintaining integrity in songwriting. They say, “John, how do you stay relevant in the country songwriting field without compromising your beliefs in the sacredness of the genre, or your love of the craft?”
I get it. Despite the popularity of a few somewhat traditional sounding artists like Jon Pardi and Luke Combs, it seems that country music is drifting toward the pop landscape more and more. The lyrics are becoming more repetitive, the stories are becoming non-existent, and there are less “real” instruments in the music. I understand your concerns and have some advice for you.
Get over it, boomer. Can’t compromise your integrity if you never had any! This is a business, not an art gallery. I can sell more Bocephus on velvet paintings down by the interstate than I can Monet prints, and I’m all about that almighty dolla dolla bill y’all, so shove your authenticity and get busy hanging up the Hank Jrs.
I went through a few years of thinking I could still get songwriting cuts and hits with the old tried-and-true formula, but it wasn’t because of some virtuous bullshit - I was just lazy. But nowadays I’m getting back on the horse, punching them buttons and dropping them beats. Just got through kissing Kane Brown’s ass on Twitter, too, so hopefully that’ll get me in good graces with the execs and the producers with stupid one-word names. It’s time for the pimp daddy with the bull-horn Caddy to ride again. And if snap beats are cranking out the speakers and you don’t like it, just shut yo washed ass up.
Country music is like Silly Putty. Bend it and twist it however you want. Stick it down on a picture of Drake and Voila! You’ve made a weak, distorted version of Drake appear on the ‘country music.’ Who cares about tradition? Get that green son.
*not actually written by John Rich
Jan 24, 2020
The Worst Country Songs of 2000-2009
By Bobby Peacock a.k.a. TenPoundHammer
"Bob That Head" by Rascal Flatts
If Gary LeVox screeching "BOB THAT HEAD!" at full blast doesn't scare you away immediately, then you must be the most stoic person alive. Not that the rest of the song is any better. Even after the label wisely sent out an edited version, it still didn't change the dopey, meatheaded proto-bro-country lyrics about riding around town with a hot girl in your car -- a theme that fits Gary LeVox about as comfortably as a pair of size 36 slacks from Ross Dress for Less.
"Bonfire" by Craig Morgan
Like I pointed out in the 2010s list, this is the point where Craig decided that screaming everything in an over-exaggerated drawl was the same thing as singing. To be fair, "party in the woods" songs weren't nearly as omnipresent as they would be in later years, but the harsh sonic surroundings do nobody any favors. Can you believe Kevin "That's Just Jessie" Denney wrote this?
"The Bumper of My SUV" by Chely Wright
As the AV Club once pointed out... how does Chely in the song know that she's being flipped off because of her bumper sticker? Why does she act so bluntly defensive over something she's only assuming? Why does she turn around and make such broad assumptions about that person? Maybe that person doesn't go to a private school. Maybe they don't give two shits about your bumper sticker. Or your stance on war. Or that fact that this song just drones on and on without any melodic changes.
"The Christmas Shoes" by NewSong
Most CCM is just too slickly produced and stridently sung for my tastes. But rarely can I hate it on message alone -- if you find something like "I Can Only Imagine" (which I took off this list at the last minute) uplifting, then I won't fault you for it. But what exactly is uplifting here? We've all heard the Patton Oswalt routine so we all know what's wrong with its message. But the sterile production, the pompous lead vocals, and the zombie children singing on the last chorus just really send it over the top, don't they?
"The Climb" by Miley Cyrus
I hate motivational songs. I hate pop songs being sent to country radio for no reason. I... actually don't hate Miley at all. But this is just a mountain of motivational clichés with no real narrative thought or emotion, and it certainly feels like a climb to listen to.
"Concrete Angel" by Martina McBride
I would never make light of child abuse. But like so many of Martina's songs, it feels like it was inserted into the song just to manipulate a bleeding-heart fanbase instead of tell an actual story. Every second of this song is bombastic and overwrought and, as I've said before, it's like watching a Lifetime movie where everyone is screaming their dialogue.
"Country Boy" by Alan Jackson
When the first thing a 50-year-old man says is "I'm not a stalker", and then he follows it up with a blatant innuendo like "climb in my bed, I'll take you for a ride", all I can ask is why Herbert the Pervert got to record a country song. Not that the clunky melody, God-awful slant rhymes (asphalt/red dirt, help you/take you), and overlong verses (why does the song have two bridges?) do it any favors.
"Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)" by Toby Keith
Spoiler alert: this list will have a lot of 9/11 and Iraq War songs on it. I have no problem with love of country. I have no problem with anyone who is pro-war or anti-war. What I have a problem with is over-the-top jingoism. (You do know that the Statue of Liberty would have to set down either the torch or the tablets to shake her fist, right?) But what really sent this song over the top for me was the "boot in your ass" line. It just promotes an aggressive, violent, xenophobic mindset and to me, reinforces all the negative stereotypes of the "MURICA" crowd.
"Girls Lie Too" by Terri Clark
I ultimately took the cringeworthy Gretchen Wilson knockoff "Dirty Girl" off this list (come to think of it, "Gypsy Boots" was pretty dreadful too). I decided that two factors make this song even worse: 1.) uninspired attempts at battle-of-the-sexes humor that are either trite or misandristic, and 2.) the blatant chart manipulation that got this song to #1 in the first place.
"God Bless the Children" by Wayne Warner and the Nashville All Star Choir
This guy's slick, strident, overly touchy-feely delivery makes the lead singer of NewSong sound like Leonard Cohen. He both looks and sounds like that child counselor that ends up flashing you. The song was done for an adoption charity, and as my sister is an adoptee I have no issue with his support. But as a musical product, this is cringeworthy in how unlistenable it is.
"God Only Cries" by Diamond Rio
"God only cries for the living 'cause it's the living that are so far from home." So He doesn't cry for the dead because they're no longer with their loved ones? He doesn't cry for the living because He wants them to be comforted in their loss? Does He want everyone to die so the angels can all be happy and no one has to cry anymore? The more I look at that one line alone, the more problematic it comes off.
"The Good Lord and the Man" by John Rich
I was way too soft on this song when I reviewed it for Roughstock in 2009. Where do I even begin? Describing Pearl Harbor as a "sucker punch"? Or how about saying that we'd "all be speaking German / livin' under the flag of Japan" if not for our soldiers? Maybe it wouldn't be too bad from another singer, but from someone who released a song called "Shut Up About Politics" and never managed to follow his own advice, this seems like a fine line between pandering and trolling.
"Have You Forgotten?" by Darryl Worley
Tired of hearing me rant about political songs yet? Just about everyone's picked this one apart for how much of a wrongheaded straw-man argument it is. And I agree -- regardless of the intentions, the song just adds up to a confused mess of patriotic rah-rah lines. And WHY IN GOD'S NAME am I still hearing "You say we shouldn't worry 'bout Bin Laden" on the radio in 2020?!?
"Here for the Party" by Gretchen Wilson
I actually kind of liked Gretchen Wilson. Her grit was refreshing even if a bit calculated at times. But this song was easily the weak link in her debut. It was one of the only times that she sounded forced and over-the-top, instead of letting the fun come naturally, and the whole song just fell flat. And it's probably also her shrillest vocal performance.
"I Ain't No Quitter" by Shania Twain
"My man does literally everything wrong, including excessive womanizing and infidelity. But I'm not getting rid of him because... uh, I'm stubborn?" What a wonderful positive message to send out. Especially when Shania gives one of the most deadpan, lifeless deliveries of her entire career.
"I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack featuring Sons of the Desert
I hate songs that consist entirely of motivational platitudes with no narrative or through line of any kind. This is one of the biggest, and one of the most infuriating simply for how antipodal it is to the rest of her discography. Even if I weren't as vehemently opposed to this kind of song, I would still find it as out-of-character as I would if George Strait suddenly started recording gangsta rap.
"I'm a Survivor" by Reba McEntire
Starting off the song by declaring yourself to be a premature baby when you clearly weren't absolutely smacks of manipulation. It's the only thing that even gives this song any semblance of flavor, as the rest is sub-Jo Dee Messina level "you go girl" empowerment the likes of which does not fit Reba at all.
"I'm Already There" by Lonestar
Usually in the "when you coming home, Dad?" kind of songs, the father actually does come home at the end. But instead, this one just has the father coldly dismissing the family's valid pleas to come home. (At least I can see how "My Front Porch Looking In" could be uplifting...) Add some of Dann Huff's most bombastic, string-drenched power ballad production and Richie's overwrought singing, and you're just left wondering how this is the same band that did "No News".
"In My Daughter's Eyes" by Martina McBride
In my daughter's eyes, everyone lives in peace and harmony with puppies and sunshine and rainbows. My daughter is going to be so sheltered and doe-eyed when she becomes an adult, because she thinks such syrupy drivel is the truth. Maybe her daughter in this song is actually RaeLynn? This explains so much. At least this one wasn't an ear-splitting belt-fest.
"Iraq and Roll" by Clint Black
Yeah, you probably don't remember this song. It was only on his website for a short time. But lucky for you, the Wayback Machine saved it: Link... if you dare
The song actually starts off inoffensively enough, but then launches headlong into some absolutely laughable lyrics ("If they won't show us their weapons, we might have to show them ours / It might be a smart bomb, they find stupid people too") that seem like the insane ramblings of someone who's been locked in a pod watching nothing but Fox News since 2002.
"Jeep Jeep" by Krista Marie
What would happen if you made a bro-country song before bro-country was even a thing, but flipped the sexes? And gave it a really dumb dumb hook hook that repeats repeats words words for no reason reason? You'd get "Jeep Jeep", of course course. At least she ended up making far better music in The Farm.
"Kiss My Country Ass" by Rhett Akins
Country pride songs are a dime a zillion. Most of them are inoffensive enough, or sometimes even guilty pleasures. Some are even quite well-written. But this is infuriatingly dismissive from its title alone, and it only gets worse with the overly MURICA second verse. It's okay to be country; just don't be a dick about it.
"The Little Girl" by John Michael Montgomery
Nothing good can come from a song based on one of those sickeningly manipulative e-mail stories that got circulated in the early 2000s (nowadays it'd be on Facebook). Even at the time, I read Snopes enough to know how manipulative (both parents get murdered!) and unrealistic (how does he know that's Jesus?) the story is. In the words of Weird Al, "Stop forwarding that crap to me."
"Love Is" by Katrina Elam
Getting back to the subject of ear-splitting belt fests... how about an oversung, over-the-top power of love anthem that brings literally nothing new to the subject other than awkwardly shoehorning in the word "bling"? This sounds like the kind of Celine Dion/Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey knockoffs my mom used to listen to back in the late 90s, only at least 10-15 years too late.
"Loud" by Big & Rich
Horse of a Different Color is one of my all-time favorite albums for how balls-to-the-wall madly creative it was. But as early as the second album, I could tell that Big & Rich were starting to run out of ideas. And by "Loud", they were reduced to a bunch of party-hearty clichés without any semblance of creativity other than a couple of interesting guitar textures. Even their voices sound strained and off on this.
"Mr. Right Now" by Povertyneck Hillbillies
Hey, remember that time you heard what sounded like a local bar band that somehow got on your radio? No, not "I Loved Her First". That one's actually okay. This one, however, just sounds like an utterly uncreative bunch of guys who somehow snuck onto a few playlists. From the unoriginal title to the groan-worthy dance/chance/romance rhyme to the name-drop of Popeye the Sailor Man, this song just screams "not ready for prime time".
"One Voice" by Billy Gilman
Yet another entry in the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" country song movement sparked by "Holes in the Floor of Heaven". Lyrics about as subtle as a ten-pound hammer to the face (mom won't watch the news, meaning she's sheltered and oblivious), all sung by a kid too young to even know what's going on in the world as it is. Maybe an adult singer could have made this at least palatable, but Gilman just wasn't ready for prime time yet.
"Sideways" by Dierks Bentley
One of the most atonal guitar/banjo intros I've ever heard, a chunky melody that flows like a year-old container of cottage cheese, a weaksauce hook, and one of Dierks' dullest deliveries. Maybe on the surface it just sounds mediocre, especially considering how phoned-in the entire Feel That Fire album was, but this song just has that extra degree of not caring that sends it over the top for me.
"Streets of Heaven" by Sherrié Austin
Another song with a perfectly valid topic: a mother's grief about possibly losing a child. But where it fails is in its attempts to browbeat God ("Don't you know one day that she'll be your little girl forever / but right now I need her so much more"). I'm an atheist and I still know that's not how you talk to God. Also, I thought Heaven's streets were made of gold. Not exactly the kind of thing that has a lot of traffic.
"Then" by Brad Paisley
This is actually one of Brad's better vocals and it has a good arrangement. Shame that the lyrics are absolutely unimaginative pap. (No lie, I correctly predicted nearly half the chorus, down to the insipid whole life/whole world/without you, girl rhyme on the first listen.) Even "When I Get Where I'm Going" had some flavor to it, but this is just beyond bland. What makes it worse is that overplay of this one kept the massively superior "Welcome to the Future" from going to #1.
"This Ain't Mexico" by Buddy Jewell
"You can call me a closed-minded, old-fashioned, flag-waving gringo". Yes, because that's what you are. By stapling on stereotypical mariachi sounds to your xenophobic rant against immigrants, along with head-scratching namedrops like Johnny Rodriguez (who was born in Texas, by the way). Oh yeah, and your desire to have that wall built... how's that working out for you 12 years later? I'm surprised you didn't work the word "wetback" in there somewhere.
"This One's for the Girls" by Martina McBride
Can I nominate "living on dreams and Spaghetti-Os" for one of the worst lyrics of all time? If not, then that still doesn't help this song's case. Messina had already beaten girl-power anthems into the ground by this point, and Martina makes it worse with some of the cheesiest lyrics I've ever heard, combined with a gaggle of girls on the obnoxious chorus.
"Troubadour" by George Strait
No, that's not a typo. Everyone hypes this up as one of his best, but I really, really don't get it. This song just feels like it barely exists. Like they just came up with 10% of an idea and left it at that. So you're a troubadour -- what does that mean in this context? Why doesn't the mirror tell the whole truth about you? Why did you rhyme "mirror" with "mirror"? What's your backstory? Why are you telling us so very little?
"The Way You Love Me" by Faith Hill
"If I could grant you one wish / I wish you could see the way you kiss." Um, that's not how wishes work. How did nobody involved in the creation process catch this? While there is an admittedly very clever use of key change on the chorus, that is instantly snuffed out by the bubblegum-pop lyrics (baby/crazy, never seen that one before) and the incessant "ooh"ing to stretch out the meter.
"What I'm For" by Pat Green
Yay, a list song of stock country-boy tropes. Never heard that one before. Let's see: technophobia? Check. Jingoism? Check. Random regional food and drink name-drops? Check, twice actually. Respecting your elders? Check. God? Check. And this is the song you pulled "Country Star" for?
"What If She's an Angel" by Tommy Shane Steiner
One of the last waves of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" movement and one of its worst. Ripping off "Don't Laugh at Me", a song I already dislike, in its first verse, and then somehow also forcing in abuse and cancer. It's like a genderflipped Martina McBride.
"When It All Goes South" by Alabama
Hey, who wants to hear a band of middle-aged men strain for cred by doing a G-rated ripoff of Kid Rock's "Cowboy"? Nobody, that's who. Not even their collab with 'N Sync was this embarrassingly bad.
"Who I Am" by Jessica Andrews
I tore this one when I wrote about Jessica Andrew forRoughstock back in 2013. It's always felt like two men writing what they think teenage girls think about because they haven't seen any teenage girls in 20 years. No teenager is going to be upset about not seeing the Seven Wonders or not winning a Grammy. Jessica did have good songs in her, but she just sounded dull and lifeless on these facepalm-worthy lyrics.
"You Are" by Jimmy Wayne
When it comes to cliché storms, this is Hurricane Katrina. (Too soon?) "It breaks my heart in two". "You are my love, you are my life." "Heart and soul." "My fantasy, my reality." It's like if you tried to write a country wedding song with a random number generator.
Nov 8, 2019
by Trailer - Originally posted on Country California, December 02, 2010
John Rich, of Big & Rich and songwriting and solo fame, is slated to perform at and do the flip-switching honors for the Mt. Richmore Christmas Tree Lighting. The December 5th ceremony will commence with a mini-concert from Cowboy Troy, Gretchen Wilson and Kid Rock w/ Sebastian Bach.
After igniting the resplendent purple and white LED beacons on the 20-foot Vermont balsam fir in the Mt. Richmore courtyard, superstar country singer John Rich will take the stage for a one-hour set of classic and contemporary country hits.
Food will be available for purchase in the right atrium of the courtyard, with special guest cook Cowboy Troy grilling steaks and lobsters for guests' enjoyment. And, of course, there will be several outlets for attendees to "get their drank on." In addition to a main bar in the left atrium of the courtyard, there will also be a mini bar at the food concession and three rolling liquor carts to serve guests as they enjoy the holiday festivities. For VIP guests, there will also be drinks available in the elevator and bathrooms.
"It's a huge honor to be at the head of the table, so to speak, for this great Christmas celebration!" beamed Rich at the press conference announcing the lighting. "Hopefully this will be an annual event... and I'd be happy to help out when I can, since it's for such a good cause."
All profits from the concert will go to the Middle Tennessee RJRB (Replenish John Rich's Bar) Foundation and guests will receive an autographed 8x10 glossy of the country megastar wearing a Santa suit. Tickets will not be available for purchase, but Rich himself will visit local high school and community college campuses to hand out entry vouchers to "talented" students and co-eds.
Wrapping up the press conference with a sales pitch, Rich smiled: "Come on out and celebrate Christ's holy birth, girls… uh, folks. Johnny Cash would be there if he was still alive."
Jul 10, 2019
by Trailer - Originally posted on Country California, April 07, 2010
When it comes to country superstar John Rich, even the home he lives in is controversial. Called an eyesore and a blight by "jealous neighbors," Mt. Richmore is even cooler than you might have imagined, says an anonymous source who has visited the well-equipped abode several times.
This insider, who asked us to refer to him as Bart Mozart, says all the bright lights pointing away from Rich's home are for good reason. "It's so nosy-ass locals can't see all the cool sh** in there. Dude, they'd sh** a brick if they knew!" said Bart.
We've all heard about the fully-stocked bar in the elevator, but that's just the tip of the awesomeness iceberg, according to Mr. Mozart. There are also mini-bars in each of the five bathrooms, another fully-stocked bar in the master bedroom and a wine locker the size of a football field directly underneath the house. In addition to those liquid amenities, Mt. Richmore's main bar (staffed by two bartenders and six buxom waitresses) also has a bar in its bathroom, and the pool table opens to reveal a beer vault.
"John's even working on figuring out how to put a bar inside the bar; man, how f***ing cool is that? We figured out that you are never more 4 1/2 feet from a dose of refreshment," laughed Bart. "And we party like it's 1989... uh, I mean 1999, or whenever.."
Behind the family room on the second story, Rich has built a full recording studio with enough room for an entire band with backing horns to rehearse or record crappy music at the same time. There is also a bar both in this studio and in the control booth, with Rich's own "Richmore Ale" on draft directly from the soundboard.
One would think that so much potential drinking might lead to some accidents, but Bart says JR has planned for this. "Every room has a vacuum system built into the floor to suck up anything you spill, and the walls are made of a super strong polymer that's kinda soft to fall against but tough enough to withstand a brawl or a thrown vase, not that those things ever happen," informed Mozart.
"Bart" went on to describe the pad's home theater (w/ bar), garage (x2), kitchen (yep) and dining room (sure), all designed with the most forward-thinking style, technology and accommodations for drinkers available on the market today. He also said to catch him on the latest season of Celebrity Fit Camp on VH1 - then he tried to retract that statement.
In summary, Mt. Richmore is truly a marvel of western innovation.