Your Take: Idol Hands

Karlie Justus Marlowe | March 5th, 2011

American Idol, Season Without Simon Cowell kicked off this week with the final 24 contestants hitting the stage in front of returning judge Randy Jackson and newcomers Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.

Country music and American Idol have an interesting history together, with high(ish) highs (Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler and the Randy Travis mentor session) and low lows ([insert name here]‘s last gasp play for country radio). In fact, just last week Brody included a link in the Feb. 24 News Roundup to an interview with former contestant and country music hopeful Crystal Bowersox.

Many contestants have come onto the show with country leanings, but rarely do full-on country contestants make the top finalists or progress far into the competition. This season, however, North Carolina native Scotty McCreery has used his Josh Turner sound-a-like pipes to woo the judges all the way to the big stage. A traditional country singer along the lines of current stars Chris Young and Easton Corbin, McCreery performed John Michael Montgomery’s “Letters From Home” on Wednesday’s show:

Note: Adjust the sound on the clip below with the volume controls in the lower right-hand corner.

Give us your take: Do you think McCreery’s traditional sound can carry him through American Idol? Do you think he has potential in the country music industry? From a broader perspective, what impact do you think reality singing competitions have had on country music and its artists?

  1. Mike Wimmer
    March 5, 2011 at 7:18 am

    I think the biggest impact Idol and shows in it’s like in regards to impacting Country Music has been really taking away from performers “working up the ranks” so to speak. I think it was Dierks Bentley a few years ago that mentioned that performers of his like, are becoming rarer in the sense he played bars on Broadway, made friends with other writers and players before getting a record deal. Maybe that gives these guys and girls a “fresh” perspective on Nashville, but I do think it can hurt them in terms of how strong of a live performer they are.

    I mean, Carrie Underwood has a great voice and has had tons of success, but by many accounts after winning idol she was a very raw live performer who was learning the art of a live show as she went, rather than maybe learning it by playing a year or two or more of shows in bars and clubs.

    As for this latest guy on Idol? Eh, we will see. He has a nice voice, but so do lots of male artists, all depends on how good of a performer he is, how good of a songwriter he is or how good he is at picking good songs and crafting good albums. Chris Young had a great voice and look, but those two things couldnt help his career until he started picking better material.

  2. Ben Foster
    March 5, 2011 at 7:37 am

    If Scotty doesn’t go far on Idol, I’d say it definitely won’t be for lack of a good singing voice. I would think the die-hard country fans would be quick to get behind him. His level of Idol success might depend on how many viewers are of the “I like all kinds of music… except country” crowd.

    And like Mike said, we’ll have to see if Scotty has the makings of a great artist in addition to having a good singing voice. But still, I do think it is nice to see such an overtly country-leaning contestant on Idol, and I would like to see him do well myself.

  3. Nicolas
    March 5, 2011 at 9:49 am

    I hope Scotty goes far. He’s my fave contestant this year. I love him! <3

  4. Thomas
    March 5, 2011 at 11:12 am

    …judging by the sound on this clip one might think nashville is not going to miss this. however, with josh turner, joe nicols and steve young there are already established voices of that type around – is there really a need and playlist-space for another one?

    as much as i like listening to their beautiful baritons, it seems to me that, currently, there’s not enough good material coming from the songwriters to bring out the best of these stars.

    josh turner, i’ve already largely written off. he’s a great guy, but he’s boring as hell or rather heaven for that matter. and for the other two, there ain’t that much space for neo-traditional songs on todays playlists either.

    in short, if scott mccreery hasn’t got any song-writing skills, he’ll probably have a bumpy career in country, which is a shame, given his vocal abilities. but it’s a djungle out there and another good voice can be found almost every other day.

  5. numberonecountryfan
    March 5, 2011 at 11:18 am

    For Thomas: Steve Young, the quarterback?

  6. Fizz
    March 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I’ve always hated Idol and everything it stands for. I mean, all the hype and hysteria over a bunch of karaoke clowns? Meanwhile, there are real artists out there slugging it out in clubs, writing their own material, booking their own shows, traveling to gigs in rattletrap vans, financing their own recordings, doing it all themselves, while these singing puppets get rewarded.

    So you say, yeah, it’s harmless, empty-headed fun, and maybe so, but it’s just not something that’s in my world at all. There are just a million other things I would rather watch, or listen to, or read, or do.

  7. joe
    March 5, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Sunny Sweeney may and I think should be our next Female Country Star. Did’nt she learn her craft from Texas Honky Tonks? She is doing real good with her media base charted song.Her song writing is good, Good looks and good on stage and hey, she says Merle and Loretta are her favorites. GAC should give her a break such as they did LBB recently at hosting! We would love to see her on tv, also.

  8. Dan E
    March 5, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    The competition in Idol is very strong this year. Amongst the guys, he’s near the top. But, as of now, I think many of the girls outshine him. His voice is fairly differnt for the Idol show and it could take him far if he chooses good songs for his voice. We’ll see how he does when they choose different genres. Carrie Underwood successfully managed through every genre on the show. I’m not sure if Scotty can do the same. Who knows? As of now, I can see him making the top 5, 6 or 7. No matter what place he gets, country music will probably still eat him up and give him some kind of record deal.

  9. Rita B
    March 5, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    This dork is why people think country music sucks. He sucks, he can only do Josh Turner impressions, and it looks like he did his hair with GLH spray.

  10. Stormy
    March 5, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I would suspect that TPTB are going to push Scotty as hard as they can because American Idol alums have been doing so much better on country than pop as of late.

    Honestly, American Idol should probably do away with the whole record contract side of things and just award a cash prize, because they seem to have a hard time promoting a sucessful winner.

  11. Jon
    March 5, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Talent contests have been one way for country artists to launch or build careers for a long time. Among the “singing puppets” (per @Fizz): Patsy Cline, Connie Smith, Rhonda Vincent. And in point of fact, ever since Nashville became the center of the industry – say, by the late 50s – a lot of country artists haven’t spent much time “working up the ranks.”

  12. Rick
    March 5, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    I don’t watch American Idol, so I can’t comment about the current season (or any season for that matter). Carrie Underwood brought a huge AI fan base with her when she became a country artist that has helped move the Top 40 country scene even further into the pop-rock realm. If Carrie hadn’t come along when she did, would Taylor Swift have ever achieved her current level of success? We shall never know…

    On the Friday Night Opry a week ago Vince Gill invited Crystal Bowersox out on stage to sing a solo acoustic song and she pretty much blew everybody away. That gal’s singing and songwriting talent are the real deal whether she is classified country or not.

    As for the effect of talent competitions on Top 40 country music, I think it falls into two categories: A.) American Idol, and B.) Everything Else. Lower profile talent quests like the “Colgate Country Showdown” have helped launch the careers of many of today’s top artists, and Nashville Star didn’t exactly hurt Miranda Lambert either. Its the mass pop-culture appeal of A.I. (and possibly Simon’s new X-Factor taalent show) that gives its winners potentially amazing levels of marketplace sway when they hit the country charts. I prefer when artists work their way up the ladder the old fashioned way, although it seems that ladder may be broken these days. Oh well…

    PS: Sunny Sweeney’s “From A Table Away” has just cracked the Top 10 for the first time on the Mediabase 24/7 Chart! WooHoo! Go Sunny!
    http://www.mediabase.com/mmrweb/insideradio/charts.asp?format=11&showtopn=1000&cutoff=1

  13. Rick
    March 5, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Just wanted to go off-topic for a second for a good spot of fun! Here is a new cover of “Need You Now” by an artificially created Irish Girl Group named “Wonderland”! (Hmm, who does that remind me of?) Who needs talent shows on the tele when the guys who created this group (one is Kian Egan of Westlife) made a TV series on the creation and first couple of years of existence of this band. Its reported that somewhere around 3,000 girls between 15 and 25 auditioned, so its kind of like a private, mini UK Idol! (lol) Wonderland’s first single hit the UK charts this week and its a song titled “Not A Love Song”, which also has a music video on YouTube. I think Nicholas would like this group! (lol)

    Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppNPS3QJS58&feature=related

  14. Thomas
    March 5, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    @ numberonecountryfan

    …lol, would steve young be a bariton too, by any chance?

  15. Kari
    March 5, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    I hope Scotty can step away from the comfort of sounding like Josh Turner. Once he can find his own style and be himself, then I might become interested.

  16. Waynoe
    March 5, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    I am proud to say that the only way I know anything about “Idol” is read it as I have never watched the show. Don’t intend to change that either. Do not doubt but what there are many talented performers. But it’s like finding a good apple in the trash can. It ain’t worth the trip.

  17. Matt B
    March 5, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    There’s a country girl too. Lauren Alaina. She has been compared to Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, with Clarkson throwing Pickler’s name in the mix too.

  18. Fizz
    March 6, 2011 at 1:44 am

    Is that your excuse for everything, Jon? “Well, such-and-such is how country music has worked for years?” Is that all you got?

  19. Fizz
    March 6, 2011 at 1:53 am

    Maybe that’s why American Idol seems to have been kinder to country-leaning puppets, as someone else noted. The audience sees through the more rock-oriented contestants, doesn’t view them as authentic, while the country audience doesn’t care, because “that’s how it’s worked for a long time?”

  20. SamB
    March 6, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Scotty’s problem is that so far he doesn’t really have his own performance, he just has this Josh Turner schtick. He’s barely stepped away from singing Turner, and has sung Your Man at least three times now. He sang John Michael Montgomery this week, which, while good, was hardly a vast departure.

    When he did have to step away from his comfort zone, he decided to pick the most country thing he could find in the list, which turned out to be I Hope You Dance – the result was pretty average.

  21. Jon
    March 6, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Is that your excuse for everything, Jon? “Well, such-and-such is how country music has worked for years?” Is that all you got?

    “Excuse?” I offered a plain historical fact about country music and talent shows. Why get riled up about it?

    As for whether American Idol seems, much less has actually been “kinder to country-leaning puppets,” don’t see where anyone other than you has noted that in this discussion, and I don’t see where it’s true – who else among the winners besides Underwood would you put in the country-leaning category?

    I think the argument being made here is that the country music industry and, to some extent, country audiences have been kinder to country-leaning Idol contestants who have gone on to pursue them, and while I don’t know whether that’s actually the case – do you? – it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true. Country music fans in general tend to have different ways of approaching authenticity than you do. For instance, whether an artist writes his or her own songs doesn’t make a lot of difference – among those whom you appear to relegate to the “puppet” category for writing little or none of their material are folks like George Strait, Reba McEntire, Alison Krauss, Charley Pride, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Connie Smith, Kitty Wells, Hank Snow, Mac Wiseman, Roy Acuff…

    Again: contests have historically been a route to success for some country artists – and not only for artists, but for musicians as well. In fact, there’s still a healthy contest circuit for fiddlers and other instrumentalists that has been around longer than country music has. Folks like Mark O’Connor, Andy Leftwich (Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder), Luke Bulla (Lyle Lovett Band), Megan Lynch (Pam Tillis), Jimmy Mattingly (Dolly Parton) and Tristan Clarridge (Crooked Still) all got their start in them – and playing tunes that weren’t written by them, to boot. Musical competitions have been a part of country music tradition from its earliest days.

    By the way, Fizz, as one of those folks who actually makes a living in music “doing it all themselves,” I have to say I’ve never felt even a fraction of the resentment that you seem to have with respect to these folks, and I can’t think of any colleagues, either, who feel as vehemently about it as you seem to. If you’re really concerned about our well-being, maybe you can think about some other ways of expressing your support, because this one doesn’t really do anything for us.

  22. Matt B
    March 6, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Sam,

    Idol’s producers had stated that there were not going to be ‘genre theme or artist theme’ weeks this year (outside of the Vegas Beatles thing during Hollywood week). They were going to pick decades or ‘billbord hits’ or stuff like that but if an artist was country or R&B or rock, they weren’t gonna be forced to sing a different genre, although I say that any song can be made into another genre as long as it doesn’t veer too far from the melody.

  23. Stormy
    March 6, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Didn’t they already have a Beatles week?

  24. Vicki
    March 6, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I say the majority of Idol voters are the Mom and Pops of Country/ or middle America with a few young ones voting. That’s why Kris Allen won over Adam Lambert, the best singer Idol has ever had. Adam was deemed too flamboyant for middle America. The same with Lee DeWyze, just your average joe working at the local paint store, won over the front runner all season, Crystal Bowersox, the cool, dreadlocked single mother with the raspy folk-rock voice. Perhaps she was just a little too out there? Too Hippie? Crystal though has pure talent and song writing abilities that will do well in Country. Where is Lee now? Where is Kris now? That’s the other side of fans. If a pop Idol wins..Idol fans don’t stay but if a country Idol wins, those fans are there for life (Carrie). So if Scotty wins, or the country girl wins, they are in good hands with Sony and country fans.

  25. Fizz
    March 6, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Kellie Pickler, Jordin Sparks, Bucky Covington, Buddy Jewell (although one or both of the last two may have been from another show)? Meanwhile, Kelly Clarkson (now flirting with country) and Daughtry are about the only rock-leaning Idols to have much an impact after the season was over. Adam Lambert? Debatable.

  26. Barry Mazor
    March 6, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Seems to me Vicki’s along the right track there–except that, to fill in a little more, the Idol audience also includes parts of young to middle age Middle America that (gasp) are not country fans at all–which doesn’t add to votes for country-orented acts on there either.

  27. Jon
    March 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    @Fizz Kellie Pickler, Jordin Sparks, Bucky Covington, Buddy Jewell (although one or both of the last two may have been from another show)

    Only one of those four won the American Idol competition – one wasn’t in it at all, and the other two topped out at #6 and #8. Furthermore, the one that did win doesn’t appear to be widely considered as a country artist; she’s been nominated for no country awards, not gotten enough country airplay to even dent the Top 40, etc. So I don’t see how any of these four names demonstrates American Idol being particularly kind to “country-leaning puppets. Perhaps you can explain why you do? Or are you serving up those names for some other reason?

  28. Stormy
    March 6, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Daughtrey’s talking country now days.

  29. Fizz
    March 7, 2011 at 8:05 am

    All right, fair enough, Jon, but Kellie Pickler didn’t win, and yet still hsa a career in country music, touring with Brad Paisley year in and year out practically? And Covington has had a hit or two, hasn’t he/ Despite not winning?

    Daughtry talking country now, too, huh? Must’ve wore out his welcome with the Nickelback ripoff stuff.

  30. Jon
    March 7, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Yes, Fizz, but that wasn’t your point. Your statement (theory? opinion? assertion?) was that “American Idol has been kinder to country-leaning puppets,” and as we both seem to agree now, that isn’t true. My point was that the country music industry and audiences have been somewhat receptive to American Idol contestants who have reached out to them, regardless of whether they were contest winners; I’m glad to see you’re on board with it now.

  31. Fizz
    March 7, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I never said anything about if they win or lose, now did I? And quit chewing that statement/theory/opinion bone, it’s just about worn out.

  32. Jon
    March 7, 2011 at 9:49 am

    No, you didn’t; you talked about them being treated more kindly. Am I to understand that you are now theorizing that being kicked off a weekly competition weeks before the final round constitutes especially kind treatment?

  33. Fizz
    March 7, 2011 at 10:44 am

    What you’re to understand is that i meant they tend to fare better fater their time on the show.

  34. Charles Murphy
    March 7, 2011 at 11:05 am

    American Idol is nothing more than a way for 19 Entertainment to make a quick cash grab and control everything under their umbrella. They then have no problem or dealings once they are done with whatever “artist” they sign off this show…besides the winner.

    American Idol…Along with ProTools and Antares tuning software…are just nails in the coffin of the music business. I am afraid there is no saving it at this point. As the posers become more plentiful and talent becomes the lesser concern.

  35. Fizz
    March 7, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Agreed, Mr. Murphy.

  36. Jon
    March 7, 2011 at 11:32 am

    What you’re to understand is that i meant they tend to fare better fater their time on the show.

    Why didn’t you just say what you meant the first time, instead of saying something else?

  37. Jordan Stacey
    March 7, 2011 at 11:33 am

    There are a lot of artists from idol that try going country but I still think that the pop music world is more open to them. The only two who’ve really made any kind of impact in country are Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler. There’s been some like Bucky Covington and Josh Gracin who had small success but nothing really noteworthy.

    Here’s a list of American Idol alums who’ve tried their hand at country.

    01. Josh Gracin
    02. Carmen Rasmusen
    03. Kimberly Caldwell
    04. Diana DeGarmo
    05. Baylie Brown
    06. Carrie Underwood
    07. Bo Bice
    08. Taylor Hicks
    09. Kellie Pickler
    10. Bucky Covington
    11. Ayla Brown
    12. Phil Stacey
    13. Haley Scarnato
    14. Kristy Lee Cook
    15. Kady Malloy
    16. Alania Whitaker
    17. Danny Gokey
    18. Michael Sarver
    19. Kendall Beard
    20. Mishavonna Henson
    21. Brent Keith
    22. Crystal Bowersox
    23. Casey James
    24. Aaron Kelly
    25. Lacey Brown
    26. Haeley Vaughn

    These two are probably going to try if they get the chance.
    27. Lauren Alaina
    28. Scotty McCreery

  38. Barry Mazor
    March 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    And of course, what those ‘tried to go country” attempts mainly show, in a lot of cases, is that this still strikes many in management–particularly if they’re not much in it–as a particularly or at least relatively open and healthy marketplace.

  39. Jon
    March 7, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Pro Tools is one of the biggest reasons that there’s a healthy indie recording scene.

  40. AtlantaFan
    March 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Thanks for the list Jordan. As an avid watcher of American Idol, I didn’t realize we had that many country-leaning Idol alums.

    I like Scotty McCreery, but I actually liked the John Wayne (forgot his last name) guy from Texas, since I felt he had more range. Scotty success will depend on his picking the right songs. His genuine and earnest approach has made him popular, but he just doesn’t have the vocals that some of the other guys or girls have.

    Scotty’s deliver of “Letters from Home” reminded me a little of Easton Corbin’s “A Little More Country than That”. Hopefully for future songs he’ll pick something more up-tempo, otherwise I am going to be BORED.

  41. Chris N.
    March 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Jon makes a good point. It’s never been easier or more affordable for an independent artist to make a record, and if the tradeoff is auto-tuning I’ll take it.

  42. Jon
    March 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    There are a lot of misconceptions about tuning and its uses, too. There are very few producers who have an ironclad rule against using it, and among those who don’t are folks like Buddy Miller, Pete Anderson and other, ah, rootsy types. It’s just too useful a tool for most to bypass.

  43. Steve
    March 7, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    It seems to me that most of the “country” acts on American Idol are simply pop performers who can’t find an audience in any other genre. Unfortunately, radio has been dumbing down country music to the point where it has been a catch-all for anyone who wants to call themselves country.

    In all honesty, I haven’t watched AI in the past few seasons. When I was watching it, however, I was more impressed with the honesty of Taylor Hicks and Bo Bice than I was with the “country” of Carrie Underwood. In fact, once Hicks and Bice got out from under the thumb of AI (making the album that AI wanted) and got into their own groove, I think you can make a pretty solid argument that both are more country (in the honest free-wheeling way of, say, Waylon Jennings) than Carrie.

  44. Matt B
    March 7, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Steve,

    With the voice Scotty has, he cannot possibly be anything but a country singer.

  45. luckyoldsun
    March 8, 2011 at 12:00 am

    I have no desire to listen to a record with artificially sounding vocals that has obviously been auto-tuned.

    I’d just as soon listen to a computerized voice saying “Press 1 for English” as I would to Kanye West “singing.”

  46. Kyle
    March 8, 2011 at 2:21 am

    Wow, that kid’s amazing for 16. Josh Turner-lite.

    I wouldn’t mind if he scaled back the theatrics a little bit going forward though. A traditional sound is great, but don’t go overboard with embellishing your twang and your Daryle Singletary dips. As he gets older and finds his own voice a little more, he could be one to watch.

  47. Occasional Hope
    March 8, 2011 at 5:47 am

    I think Scotty definitely has potential. And although I have some regrets about the impact Idol has had on country music, I would never criticise any young singer trying to break into the music industry for doing it via a talent show.

  48. Jon
    March 8, 2011 at 6:53 am

    I have no desire to listen to a record with artificially sounding vocals that has obviously been auto-tuned.

    OK. How about a record with natural sounding vocals? Because in the country world, at least, most of those have been tuned as well.

  49. luckyoldsun
    March 8, 2011 at 8:45 am

    I’m no expert on recording techniques and technology. If the engineering is subtle enough that I can’t detect it, then I’m not going to complain about it.

    But if a singer doesn’t write his own songs or play his own instruments and I know that he’s vocally “enhanced” (because I read about it), I would be less inclined to buy his CD. One can’t listen to everything.

  50. Jon
    March 8, 2011 at 8:55 am

    The sensible operating assumption is that tuning is used on every recording made today and for the past decade (at least); typically, folks who don’t use it like, for some reason, to brag about it, so if there’s no braggage, there’s most likely tuning.

    Now, I agree that one can’t listen to everything; so for me, I focus on finding and listening to music that I like, without worrying whether the artist jumped through a bunch of arbitrary and meaningless hoops that have nothing to do with whether the music pleases me.

  51. Chickette
    March 8, 2011 at 9:47 am

    “I focus on finding and listening to music that I like, without worrying whether the artist jumped through a bunch of arbitrary and meaningless hoops that have nothing to do with whether the music pleases me.”

    I’m always a little disappointed to discover that an artist I like can’t sing on pitch without some electronic help. It’s far from meaningless when a song can’t be performed live and sound like the recording because the “singer” needs to be auto-tuned.

  52. Jon
    March 8, 2011 at 10:31 am

    A singer is a singer whether he or she is singing on pitch or not; no need for quotes around the word.

    The fact is that live performance and recording are two different worlds in many, many ways. Every live performance is different, too, so the perfectly in-tune singer you hear one night may have a hard time the next. And I don’t see any reason at all, much less a good reason, why hearing a poor performance by an artist would make listening to that artist’s recording less enjoyable; it’s still the same recording – and unlike a live performance, it was designed to be listened to over and over.

    When I read phrases like “can’t sing on pitch without some electronic help,” or “needs to be autotuned,” I know that the people writing them are either unfamiliar with what musical performance and recording really entail, or haven’t though much about them, or both. For instance, a lot of times tuning is simply a time- and voice-saver; when a singer sings a song in a way that s/he and the producer like from an emotional point of view, but there’s a note or two out of tune, it’s often a good idea to simply tune those notes and move on, rather than punch them in, much less do another entire take (or 10), or have to choose between a take with out of tune notes or a take that’s all in tune but not reflective, to their ears, of the emotion they want conveyed. In such situations, nattering about whether the singer “can’t sing on pitch without some electronic help” just doesn’t connect with reality.

    Furthermore, the inability to sing in tune all the time doesn’t constitute a fatal flaw for many listeners in the first place – at least, not in country music; that’s why people like Ernest Tubb have enjoyed long and successful careers. You can go to the Country Music Hall of Fame rotunda where all the Hall’s members have their plaques and see plenty of others in his vicinity, too.

    And in case you hadn’t noticed, intonation was only one of the factors @luckyoldsun mentioned, and therefore not the only arbitrary and meaningless hoop I had in mind.

  53. Fizz
    March 8, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I’m with Chickette: why is it so hard to sing in key all of a sudden? Particuarly since, compared with other genres, country music usually isn’t that difficult to sing. Do the artists need to devote that extra time to writing songs? Never mind!

  54. Fizz
    March 8, 2011 at 10:43 am

    So what if Ernest Tubb was making music today? Would they auto-tune him, too?

  55. Jon
    March 8, 2011 at 10:43 am

    why is it so hard to sing in key all of a sudden?

    What do you mean, all of a sudden?

    Particuarly since, compared with other genres, country music usually isn’t that difficult to sing.

    Says who?

  56. Jon
    March 8, 2011 at 10:44 am

    So what if Ernest Tubb was making music today? Would they auto-tune him, too?

    Who’s “they?”

  57. Barry Mazor
    March 8, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Who said it was ever easy to sing on key?

  58. Fizz
    March 8, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Well, now that we have wonderful auto-tune, you don’t have to? And for all your talk of time-saving, it’s interesting to note that in days of yore, records were still made in less time than they are today, with all our gadgetry.

    Just the other day on here, someone was marveling how a certain male performer had ‘nearly two whole octaves, nearly twice as much as the norm in country music.”

    As for Tubb, I’ll rephease it if it makes you happy: if he were recording today, would he be auto-tuned?

  59. Jon
    March 8, 2011 at 11:33 am

    And for all your talk of time-saving, it’s interesting to note that in days of yore, records were still made in less time than they are today, with all our gadgetry.

    Let’s see, would that be an assertion or an opinion? If the former, it’s a pretty dubious one; how long it takes to make a record depends on a lot of things, including how you’re measuring; I don’t know that there’s a clear difference overall between now and 30 or 40 years ago – and if I don’t know, the odds are overwhelming that you don’t. And in days of yore, you had a lot more mistakes of one sort or another on records, too – which, again, gets to the actual point. Tuning is only one of many ways in which the recording process has changed, and far from the most significant; for that, you’d have to look back a half-century or so to the advent of serious multi-tracking with overdubs and punches. Like I said, recording and liver performance differ in many, many ways.

    Just the other day on here, someone was marveling how a certain male performer had ‘nearly two whole octaves, nearly twice as much as the norm in country music.”

    So? Who was that someone? Was that an assertion or an opinion? This is really your idea of evidence to support a claim – or is it a theory? – that “country music usually isn’t that difficult to sing?”

    As for Tubb, I’ll rephease it if it makes you happy: if he were recording today, would he be auto-tuned?

    I dunno, that would be up to him and his producer, wouldn’t it? Do you theorize that there’s some point to such hypothetical questions?

  60. Fizz
    March 8, 2011 at 11:51 am

    First off, we’re not talking about multi-tracking or digital vs. analog or any of the other advances in recording technology. We’re just talking about auto-tune.

    Trying not to show bias on the singing-difficulty issue, but does the , shall we say, “conversational” style of many country singers (i.e., they sing pretty much in their speaking voices?) not demand less range and power than, say, an opera singer, a soul crooner, a blues belter, or even a metal screamer? Differen styles, all, I realize that. Not saying any is “better” than any other.

    I just find it interesting, in a discussion in which you point out how useful and ubiquitous auto-tuning is, you bring up a guy like Ernest Tubb, who was known for wandering off-key at times? (“Well if that’s how ya feel , then honey, thanks a lah-ah-ah-ah-ot …”)

  61. Jon
    March 8, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    the , shall we say, “conversational” style of many country singers (i.e., they sing pretty much in their speaking voices?)

    “Many?” Well, then, you ought to be able to name 10 or so right off the top of your head. Have at it!

    Differen styles, all, I realize that. Not saying any is “better” than any other.

    Good; now just add that you’re not saying any is “easier” than any other and you’ll be all set!

    I just find it interesting, in a discussion in which you point out how useful and ubiquitous auto-tuning is, you bring up a guy like Ernest Tubb, who was known for wandering off-key at times?

    Well, d’oh. I bring him up because he underlines that wandering off-key at times doesn’t have much to do with being an immensely successful country artist whose singing is beloved by millions. Being able to sing on pitch all the time just isn’t an especially valuable skill in that regard.

    First off, we’re not talking about multi-tracking or digital vs. analog or any of the other advances in recording technology. We’re just talking about auto-tune.

    I moved this to last because it deserves the longest answer. Forget about digital vs. analog and “any of the other advances in recording technology,” which are irrelevant.

    You’re talking about tuning as an artificial technical enhancement that allegedly makes purported natural ability less important or outright unnecessary. And multi-tracking is exactly the same thing; once it came along, musicians no longer “had to” play through a song or even a single passage from start to finish without fault, either individually or collectively; in fact, they didn’t have to play with each other at all; they could come in hours or days or weeks or months apart. Singers no longer had to sing in real time with a band, or sing in tune from start to finish. Mistakes could be corrected outside of real time. And so on. The point of view from which tuning is being criticized here yields exactly the same result – only on a much wider scale – when it’s used to approach multi-tracking.

  62. Fizz
    March 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Well, I guess for starters, none other than Johnny Cash would be the epitome of conversational. But it might be easier to ask whose singing range ISN’T just about the same as their speaking range. Yodelers don’t count.

    I remain unconvinced that singing country music isn’t easier than the other styles I named.

    So if singing on pitch is such a small thing, why bother to auto-tune at all?

    And while your argument is essentially true, tThe difference between multi-tracking and auto-tune is that multi-tracking has many different applications. Auto-tune is meant for one thing: correcting pitch.

  63. Matt B
    March 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    The problem is people assume that “autotuning” like what is heard on pop/rap albums and some country recordings of late (Strait’s “Stars on the Water” or JaneDear girl’s “Merry Go Round”) is something that is used to make singers sound better when it’s not. “Pitch correction” software is used to fix pitch issues in both vocal and musical ‘errors.’ And while I personally don’t mind the human element being left in a song, some others prefer to be ‘perfection’ on recordings, even if that’ll never happen live.

  64. Jon
    March 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    But it might be easier to ask whose singing range ISN’T just about the same as their speaking range. Yodelers don’t count.

    This makes me theorize that you just plain don’t know what you’re talking about. I asked you about your comment concerning country singers’ STYLE – “they sing pretty much in their speaking voices” – and you come back with a statement about range. These are two different things, and that’s not a theory, it’s a fact. It’s also a fact that range is pretty much a simple physical attribute essentially unrelated to difficulty. And it’s also a fact that I asked you to name a few of what you said were many singers who sing pretty much in their speaking voices, and you’ve coughed up exactly one name.

    And while your argument is essentially true, tThe difference between multi-tracking and auto-tune is that multi-tracking has many different applications. Auto-tune is meant for one thing: correcting pitch.

    So what? To what point made in any of your previous comments, or Chickette’s, or anywhere else in this discussion or any other discussion of tuning on this blog is that claim, regardless of whether it’s true, salient? Furthermore, with respect to the principle (if we can call it that) underlying your complaint – namely, that tuning allows singers to be represented as singing in tune when they might not actually have been doing so – the multiple applications for multi-tracking are simply multiple ways of perpetrating the same kind of “misrepresentation.” There is no complaint that can be laid against the use of tuning that does not ultimately apply to the use of multi-tracking. And that’s not an opinion, that’s a fact. They’re all fundamentally the same things: techniques that give greater flexibility in the studio. It’s about time people get over it – or, if they can’t, at least shed the heavy load of ignorance and/or hypocrisy that come along with the complaints and dismiss pretty much every recording made in the last half-century.

    I remain unconvinced that singing country music isn’t easier than the other styles I named.

    Well, that’s fine, but there are people who remain unconvinced that Elvis is dead, too. And as near as I can tell, you have about as much insight into this subject as they do to that one.

  65. Jon
    March 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    @MattB It’s the same software and process, just applied differently.

  66. Kyle
    March 8, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    “Just the other day on here, someone was marveling how a certain male performer had ‘nearly two whole octaves, nearly twice as much as the norm in country music.”

    “So? Who was that someone? Was that an assertion or an opinion? This is really your idea of evidence to support a claim – or is it a theory? – that “country music usually isn’t that difficult to sing?””

    FWIW, that was me, and that wasn’t what I said. I was impressed that the SONG covered just under two octaves melodically, which is a big range for a country song. The general rule you’ll hear is if you want to write a song with maximum cuttability, keep it to 10-12 semitones.

    That said, it’s probably the same with pop, and I wouldn’t confuse a conversational tone with limited range. They are by no means one and the same. Country music, done well, requires a lot of subtlety and refinement, and isn’t that easy to sing. Keeping that natural, conversational tone is a skill. That yodel-head-voice break takes a ton of practice to do in a controlled way. Also, listen to someone like Chris Young or Mark Chesnutt – it’s amazing how many little notes they hit with each syllable.

  67. Fizz
    March 8, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Oh, I see … Jon speaks only in facts. All others in theories. Just remember that and I’ll be fine. As long as Jon says so, at least, since he alone decides what’s fine and what’s not.

  68. Matt B
    March 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    @Jon

    I know. I was just saying that people think of Autotune itself because of the gratituous use of it, not the use it was made for originally.

    Shoot, the vocoder and ‘talkbox’ were around before ‘protools’ and there were artists bending their notes with them. It’s just that people like to see stuff that isn’t there sometimes, or create drama for the sake of drama.

    As for conversational vocalists like Chris Young, he comes from one of those ‘contests’ and people seem to like him fine. We’ll see how Scotty M. does over time, now won’t we? So what was Fizz point about this exactly?

  69. Jon
    March 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    @Fizz Oh, I see … Jon speaks only in facts.

    Not hardly, but I don’t think it’s bad writing to indicate when I’m offering an opinion on the one hand or making an assertion on the other – it’s you and Stormy who insist that readers have to go through some kind of idiotic guessing game about what you mean when you make statements that have the form of a factual claim.

    So now that that’s out of the way, how about a little substance?

    @Kyle Thanks for the clarification. FWIW, I agree.

    @Matt B Same.

  70. Trish
    March 14, 2011 at 8:34 am

    He does sound exactly like Josh Turner.

    There has only been one country superstar that has come out of American Idol and that is Carrie Underwood.

    There have been decent performers such as Bucky Covington and Kellie Pickler but those two are a dime a dozen.

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