Your Take: Sum It Up

Karlie Justus Marlowe | December 12th, 2009

As we teeter closer and closer to the end of another year and another decade, “Best Of” lists abound.

On Friday, Brody rounded up many of the countdowns, including Time Magazine’s Top 10 Everything of 2009, Billboard’s Best of the 2000’s and Best of 2009 compilations and My Kind of Country’s year-end list.

Additionally, Country Universe and The 9513 counted down the top 100 albums of the decade.

Jim opened up our series with a retrospective on country music over the past 10 years:

Whatever Taylor Swift becomes in the future, wherever her musical journey takes her, the books are closed on at least one thing: she began her career as a country artist. That’s how history will remember her, and that, too, is how history will remember the country music of the aughts. That’s a good thing, because it means that during this frenzied period, a span in which everything—even the term “country music” itself—was up for debate, the genre’s biggest star was built from the same material as the biggest stars before her. And it means that the power of great songs is still stronger than any other driving force.

How would you describe country music in the first 10 years of the new millennium? What news stories, artists, songs and albums will future generations of country music lovers look back on as standouts?

If you had to sum up the last decade of country music in just one sentence, what would you say?

  1. Paul W Dennis
    December 12, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Not dead and not dying but there’s considerable room for improvement

  2. Razor X
    December 12, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Mainstream country music over the past ten years has been absolutely pathetic. I can’t remember it being worse during my lifetime. In the past, when the music has become stagnant, things would always self-correct when somebody new and different had a big breakthrough. I think one of the things that’s preventing that from happening now is the Americana movement; anything that is too different, too quirky or even “too country” is banished to the Americana camp while the mainstream continues to stagnate.

  3. Sheep
    December 12, 2009 at 8:55 am

    It’s changed very much, but it’s not necissarily for the worse. There are still artists out there that are producing real, great country music (Miranda Lambert, Jamey Johnson), and others that are using more pop-centric material (Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift). I love listening to all of the artists I mentioned above, even though they’re all different.

  4. Sheep
    December 12, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Whoops, “necessarily.” I never can spell that right. Also, in addition to my comment, I think that there are some bad artists out there. That’s where country music needs to be fixed, but there’s still a lot of good ones, too.

  5. Dave D.
    December 12, 2009 at 9:24 am

    There is a lot of great country music being made which is more accessible than 10 years ago, but via sources other than commercial radio (internet, satellite).

  6. Stormy
    December 12, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Country music in the 2000’s has been representative of the same dichotomy as the rest of music, and of media in general, the rise of an alternative counterculture hidden behind a dense and tightly controlled, corporate owned mainstream.

  7. Thomas
    December 12, 2009 at 10:16 am

    …as in the decades before, there was more good music than i had money to spend on it.

  8. Steve M.
    December 12, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Its like the South-its beautiful, but there is a creeping, growing problem threatening to choke the land. But instead of Kudzu its pop music.

  9. Noeller
    December 12, 2009 at 11:48 am

    There is a lack of honesty permeating the music industry in the ’00s and that lack of honesty is at the heart of all that’s wrong with Country music.

    And that’s not to say that all IS wrong with Country music in the ’00s. The lack of honesty eating up the mainstream, created a movement of truth-tellers who wouldn’t be held back by the corporate, commercial machine. Guys like Jamey Johnson, Eric Church, Randy Houser and Zac Brown. Ladies like Lee Ann Womack and Miranda Lambert. There is a sometimes painful but honest truth to their words which seems sent here not just to save the Country music industry, but to save us all from ourselves, should the over-produced, overly-commercial manufactured pop cause us to lose our sense of hearing.

    So, as with any decade of music, in any genre, there is good and bad. We can choose to dwell on what we deem as “bad” because the most financially successful music of the ’00s wasn’t what we tend to term as “real” and “honest” or we can choose to look at the artists and music that gave us everything we wanted and be grateful for that.

    Music, as with life, is all in how you look at it.

  10. Jon
    December 12, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    If you had to sum up the last decade of country music in just one sentence, what would you say?

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. I mean with respect to the complaints ;-).

  11. Zayn Jones
    December 12, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    I’ll start with this.. I love country music with all of my heart & soul. It’s what I will do with my life…

    Having said that..

    I understand that music evolves. I do. I don’t really care for a lot of radio-country today, but that doesn’t mean it’s a completely bad change. The country music of today is making it’s way to a bigger audience. That’s a good thing. It opens the door for other country artists to be heard.

    What I don’t like is the fact that Nashville isn’t about good music anymore. It’s about money. That sucks. They would rather invest in one big hit than creating an artist that’s going to be around for twenty years. It doesn’t make sense to me. It shouldn’t be about youth & looks. It should be about talent! Nothing else. Looks & youth fade. Good music lives forever.

    The good artists in Nashville right now are as good as there have ever been.. Miranda Lambert, Julie Roberts, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, etc. There is more crap than there is good, though.

    We need a revolution (no pun intended)! Let’s take our music back. It can be so much better than what it is. I know it’s business, but you’ll make so much more off of a career-artist than a one-hit wonder. Quit being scared to take a damn chance!!!! Taking chances made country music amazing :)

  12. Sheep
    December 12, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    The good artists in Nashville right now are as good as there have ever been. Miranda Lambert, Julie Roberts, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, etc. There is more crap than there is good, though.

    Agreed. I think that the good artists are a mix of traditional country and the contemporary artists. Yet there are many from both that are making crap music.

  13. Dan E.
    December 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    This decade of country music has evolved from previous decades and therefore has turned out for the better!

  14. fluffy
    December 12, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    as ong as the record executives can make money they asr gonna continue to put out this so call country music , like some one said it should be about talent.then we know that would leave about 90%of those recording in the business now out ,lok /listen to artist like george jones , loretta lynn, gene watson , there music sounds as good as ever,

  15. Jon
    December 12, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    This decade of country music has evolved from previous decades and therefore has turned out for the better!

    “I like x better” is not the same as “x is better.”

  16. Rick
    December 12, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    I split “country music” these days into two broad categories:

    1.) The stuff from Nashville labels targeted specifically at Top 40 AirHead Mainstream Country Radio stations and the music video channels (i.e. Pop-Culture Country!) – The overall nature of this music continues to become more pop and rock oriented and the quality is descending deeper into mediocrity. The sound-alike, bombastic, glossy pop-rock production style of so much of this music made me turn off country radio entirely! Both Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift were two of the primary reasons I pulled the plug.

    2.) Everything Else country music related apart from the above! – There is still a lot of interesting, quality music being made by artists who will never hit big on Top 40 country radio or even try. Finding these artists is a lot more difficult and hit and miss, but they are out there and many of them surface on the Americana charts. If I had satellite radio I’d probably discover a whole lot more, but The 9513 and other blogs do a great job of introducing or featuring new or little known artists worthy of my attention.

    My only real gripe is that old school, traditional country music styles from the 40’s through the 60’s have been marginalized to the point they seem headed for extinction. They’ve been dumped into the Americana realm by default which is dominated by roots rock oriented artists, two styles that mix about as well as oil and water. I just wish fine tradition oriented artists like Amber Digby, Miss Leslie, Rodney Hayden, Kim Murray, Lane Turner, Sunny Sweeney, and Brennen Leigh could get broad radio airplay outside of Texas and “Willie’s Place” on XM/Sirius! (So they could tour to L.A. and draw a decent size crowd…)

  17. jeff Dykhuis
    December 12, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Plenty of people are very satisfied with the music coming out of Nashville and don’t really care whether it is labeled or if it qualifies as “Country” music. For those who are more into their music than the casual radio listener there is still plenty of great music out there, we just have to search it out and pay attention, find some good sources and some good friends with similar taste. Americana music is the real country music to me and i am a huge fan of the music coming from Texas and Oklahoma and besides a few Nashville artists like Miranda, Jamey, Gary and Dierks most of the music with substance and integrity is coming from just about anywhere but Nashville.

  18. Phil
    December 12, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I’ll just say I agree with Dan E., except that instead of for the “better” like he stated, it is for the “worse”. As it really isn’t even about the music defining our culture anymore, so much as it is about money and popularity and personality defining the music. Which is probably why the Industry as a whole (including Country Music) has lost all of those things in the process…

    It’s hard to take today’s music and artists seriously when the Industry is more interested in reaching its goals of making quarterly profits and appeasing its shareholders than appeasing the actual consumer who get stuck listening to that music and those artists as a result of it.

  19. Occasional Hope
    December 12, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    To be fair I think making money has always been important from the labels’ point of view.

  20. Evie
    December 12, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    There’s a lot of country artists I enjoy, but the one thing I don’t understand is the popularity of Taylor Swift. She seems like a sweet kid, and I think she has innovative song writing ability, but other than that, I think she is WAY over-rated. She always has a gimmick, like walking into a waterfall to sing, or wearing tear away outfits, or swinging her hair and falling to her knees. I even saw her take off her coat last New Year’s eve toward the end of her song, I guess to shock, because it was freezing outside. She is outgoing, I’ll give her that, and she has a lot of confidence in herself, but she has a very weak, weak voice. I know if you become a teenage sensation, you will get a lot of attention and I guess that’s what we’re witnessing. Frankly, I’ll be glad when the fad is over.

  21. Phil
    December 12, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Yes, OccasionalHope it has always been about money. But as I stated in a previous thread awhile back it used to be about money for the love of music, and today it is about music for the love of money. Two very different things. If the Industry would focus more on the music side of things and developing artists it would make a lot more money in the long run. Instead they seem more interested in creating the next superstar overnight (ala American Idol) and copycat artists because of the way their business model is structured on a quarterly profit goal. And in turn the music and the money has gone down. A $15 Billion industry to a $10 Billion Industry in 10 years. And the Industry sits there and blames piracy and file sharing for the problem. I would say they caused all the problems they face now and in the future themselves, and blaming external factors is just a copout.

  22. Dan E.
    December 12, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Phil: I’m sorry you feel this way, but if you’re expecting this to change anytime soon, I wouldn’t hold your breath. The new era has come and it won’t be going away without a fight. I just don’t believe the “Phil Fight” will be strong enough to even come close to making a dent. With Carrie Underwood, and countless of other contemporary country stars, the music itself comes first and that is why ‘actual consumers’ are listening and going out to buy their music. It’s that simple.

  23. Mayor JoBob
    December 12, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    It ain’t what it used to be but what is?

  24. Andrew
    December 12, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    I’d say there’s a heck of a lot of good music out there, but because of the direction radio has moved in you have to work harder to find it than in the past.

  25. Vicki
    December 12, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    What is the meaning of Country music “honesty”? I mean I hear Miranda and Jamey brought up in this (I have both their albums) but is it the magic of the words written or that you feel what they sing is honest from them personally? I mean Carrie has “cowboy Casanova” yeah I don’t think she had too much in this but you can easily see Tony Romo in this song no matter how much she denies. But when she sings “Mama’s Song”, “Temporary Home” and “Change”. I can definitely feel the honesty there. Carrie and her Mom have a very close connection. She is a staunch Christian and she believes strongly in giving (Change). So are you speaking more about the well written words as opposed to overused phrasing when you mean “honesty?”

  26. Vicki
    December 12, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    AS for the question posed: I was watching a Time-Life commercial for the best of Country music and the words, “You can’t hear these classics on radio today”. I listened to “Walkin’ AFter Midnight”, “Big John”, “Dang Me” and any Johnny Horton song. When I heard “North to Alaska”, “Johnny Reb” gosh that brought back memories of my uncle’s record collection. Yes these are good songs, songs that tell stories, write pictures that make you feel or just make you laugh. Is this the honesty you talk about? Anyway, Country music is revolving always changing like most music in any genre. But it depends on if the song speaks to you now…not so much twang.

  27. Rick
    December 12, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    Vicki, I highly recommend the current “Golden Age Of Country” box set being offered by the Time Life folks. They can be found from resellers on both eBay and Amazon and usually fetch about $ 80 for the set, and the music contained therein is well worth it!!! Any country fan that wants to delve into country music’s glorious past can not find a better way to do it. The folks at Time-Life pick great tracks and really know their stuff. Its like a crash course in traditional country music history!

    I’ve acquired most of the various Time-Life “Classic Country” discs covering the 1940’s through the 1960’s and love them all! After that time frame my interest drops off the cliff until the mid 1980’s. My interest in today’s mainstream country in comparison has fallen into a black hole…

  28. Phil
    December 12, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    That’s OK Dan E. I don’t have to fight something that is bound to self destruct eventually anyway. It’s only a matter of time. :)

  29. Stormy
    December 12, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Vicki: Johnny Cash once sang “I’m stuck in Folsom Prision.” Based, almost solely on that song, people who had done time in prision have actual stories about the time they did with Johnny Cash. Johnny Cash was never in prision.

    THAT’s what they mean by honesty–the kind of conviction behind what you are singing that makes people believe you, whether you actually did what you are singing about or not.

  30. Rick
    December 13, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Stormy said: “THAT’s what they mean by honesty–the kind of conviction behind what you are singing that makes people believe you, whether you actually did what you are singing about or not.”

    Wow, that kind of explains why Obamavoters fall for all that B.S. their Pied Piper of Deception in the White House pontificates to his faithful flock of unquestioning “useful idiots”….

    (OK, I promise to behave myself until, umm, Monday!)

  31. Thomas
    December 13, 2009 at 8:52 am

    @ rick

    …is it really any wonder that a nation bruised and battered by one of the worst democratically elected administrations in human history now finds some comfort in, so far, little more than soothing words while going on licking its wounds?

    looks like there’s tons of angles for some substantial country music in the coming decade.

  32. Jon
    December 13, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Based, almost solely on that song, people who had done time in prision have actual stories about the time they did with Johnny Cash.

    Really? Who? If their stories were based *almost* solely on that song, on what was the residue based?

    I do like the way you underline the notion that “honesty” in music is a product of the listener’s perception and beliefs, though, Stormy.

  33. Vicki
    December 13, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Rick: Everytime I see the commercial, I want to buy them. I love just watching the actual performances of those songs too and of the ones still living, how much they have changed over the years. I have to see how much Christmas hurts me this year when it’s all said and done and if there is enough left over to splurge just on me.

  34. Stormy
    December 13, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Rick: Do you have any concept of storytelling? Songs aren’t reality, they are stories.

  35. Stormy
    December 13, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Jon: The song rattled around in their minds until they “remembered” serving time with Johnny Cash.

  36. Stormy
    December 13, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Also, Rick, I didn’t vote for Obama because I did not believe his pre-election prattle. I voted for Cynthia McKinney.

  37. Jon
    December 13, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Jon: The song rattled around in their minds until they “remembered” serving time with Johnny Cash.

    That doesn’t answer a single one of the questions I asked, Stormy. But I do like the way you keep underlining the point that “honesty” in music is a product of the listener’s perceptions and beliefs, even if the listeners whose perceptions and beliefs you admire happen to be, by your description, seriously addlepated.

  38. Stormy
    December 13, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Jon: It does if you know how sense and memory work.

  39. Jon
    December 13, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Does it answer the question “really?” No, it merely generalizes. Does it answer the question “who?” Nope. Does it answer the question, “If their stories were based *almost* solely on that song, on what was the residue based?” Alas, no.

    But I do appreciate the way you keep underlining the point that “honesty” in music is a product of the listener’s perceptions and beliefs.

  40. Chris N.
    December 13, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Still don’t know why “Obamavoters” is supposed to be worse than “Obama voters.” All I ask for is clarity about just how I’m being insulted.

  41. stormy
    December 13, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Jon: The who is people who were in prision in the 1970’s and their brains confabulated the residue.

  42. nm
    December 13, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Chris, Rick is a fiscal conservative. By eliminating the space, he’s saving bandwidth.

  43. Natalie
    December 14, 2009 at 3:13 am

    Quality of the music has become very bland and uninspired. The key item, the thing that’s missing, write what you feel, from your heart and be damned if it’s radio ready. Sing what you feel and somebody will identify with it. Thru the evolution of country very few artists actually do write their own material. Didn’t mean it wasn’t believable. You didnt have to live it to feel it. You could feel George Strait’s heart breaking during “Today My World Slipped Away” and he’s happily married. You could feel Johnny Cash’s envy of the people moving on the train in “Folsom Prison Blues”, though he’s never been incarcerated. It still came thru if even they didn’t live it, it had substance and heart. Now we have been flooded by this influx of look alike, sound alike we’re all “happy-not partying too much-marry me for you are the air I breath” songs. Like a conveyor belt of fabricated, watered down music coming through the radio. Give it to me straight, make me laugh, make me dance, touch my heart or my mind. Get some emotion, or be over produced background noise. Understanding that music does tend to evolve and change over time, Im just hoping that this evolution isnt leading to a complete meld with pop music and homogenous radio.

    One sentence? “Put some drive in your country, keep country drivin on” – Travis Tritt

  44. t.scott
    December 14, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    I think most of the artists of the last ten years need to “eat them beans and wear them jeans” awhile.

    Of course I’m nearly 50, and though I never went hungry, I didn’t have many material things growing up.

    I’m probably jaded. The hooks aren’t as good. There are no Ray Price,Johnny Bush,Jack Greene voices out there.The emotional content doesn’t speak to me.I heard the Southern Rock masters when they came out,I don’t need pale imitations.

    Maybe we don’t need music for relief as much as we used to.

  45. Haley
    January 5, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Julie Roberts is amazing…BREAK DOWN HERE! Her first CD is the best of the decade.

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