By Kurt Wolff
Country music often gets a bad rap in the ears of nonbelievers—by which I mean, people who are not already fans of country. Complaints run from the lyrics (dogs, trucks, mamas) to the instrumentation (especially banjo and pedal steel), vocal style (nasal twang) and even the tempo (sad and mopey on one hand, unnaturally upbeat and always-party-ready on the other).
To be clear, this goes for the old stuff like Hank, Lefty and Kitty Wells as well as the current crop.
But are such complaints fair? Is country music formulaic? Does many of today’s hit songs not only share similar sonic characteristics, but actually seem like they are little more than variations of the same song?
To prove his point, Todd created a mashup out of six currently popular country songs: “Sure Be Cool If You Did” by Blake Shelton, “Drunk On You” by Luke Bryan, “Chillin’ It” by Cole Swindell, “Close Your Eyes” by Parmalee, “This Is How We Roll” by Florida Georgia Line and “Ready, Set, Roll” by Chase Rice.
And surprise surprise, when edited together and played-side-by-side in a single mix, they blend together amazingly well. Hear for yourself above.
There’s no question that the mashup is a fun listen. Mashalot’s edits are clean, and his choice of clips do indeed run together almost seamlessly (make sure you stay to the end, when all six songs are brought together). However, is it a fair assessment of the country music landscape? Not entirely.
For starters, there is some manipulation involved. The songs were obviously hand-picked based on their chord progressions, instrumentation and lyrical content. The latter of which involves such standard subject matter as tailgates, tight jeans and summertime good times.
When this selective group of songs is brought together, then, it seems to be as critical of mainstream country’s formulaic nature as was a video compiled last year that highlighted the genre’s overabundant “bro country” cliches.
OK, point taken. But is it a surprise? Not really. After all, the music we’re talking about here is Top 40, and many chart-topping songs in any given era—or genre—will frequently share characteristics, whether lyrical or instrumental.
And remember again that Sir Mashalot’s mix was built around a selective list of songs. Other current or recent country hits, for instance, wouldn’t have fit his agenda, like Eric Church‘s “Talladega,” Kacey Musgraves‘ “Follow Your Arrow” or Dierks Bentley‘s “I Hold On.” Never mind independent country artists like Sturgill Simpson, Justin Townes Earle or Nikki Lane.
True, country is a music industry like no other, with songwriters, labels, producers, promoters and artists all humming around the central hub of Nashville. No other music genre is set up like this, with its artist, industry and support communities situated in one place.
But keep in mind whatever formulaic nature is built into many of today’s hits isn’t new. We bet it wouldn’t be terribly hard to create a similar mix of classic country songs—the midtempo, twang and pedal steel-heavy songs of the early 1950s, for instance; or the crooning, quasi-pop hits of Eddy Arnold, Ray Price and Jim Reeves. Did those artists have loads of unique personality? Absolutely. Were some of their songs, too, churned out by an industry newly infatuated with streamlined song production? Undoubtedly.
And, of course, this also goes for songs from other genres, be it pop, hip-hop or classic rock.
As for his intentions, Mashalot does make it clear that his mix was not meant as a direct offensive against Nashville song standards but was instead “all in good fun.”
“I am not bashing these songs,” he writes in a note on the video’s YouTube page. “I understand and even appreciate why the “formula” continues to dominate the airwaves—not only in country music, but in pop and other genres as well.”
And, of course, for Gregory Todd—a self-proclaimed “aspiring songwriter/producer living in Nashville who, like so many, has had a hard time getting a bite from the ‘gate keepers'”—the mashup served as a way to get his name out in the world.
“My current experiment is working on a song specifically designed to become the 7th entry to this mashup formula,” he writes, (hence the “To Be Continued” at the end of the video). “I figure hey, at the very least, they won’t be able to say it doesn’t sound like a hit!”
And in the meantime, listen to Mashalot’s mashup again, and see if you don’t think it’s one of the catchiest country songs out there right now. Guaranteed, in fact, to “make [your] speakers go boom boom.”
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