Popular country music has drastically changed since the days of Cash and Williams Sr. Today’s hits feature rappers, pop-music grooves, and sounds that toe the line between country and EDM. Today, you see duets from Taylor Swift and T-Pain, Brad Paisley and LL Cool J, Kenny Chesney and Gwen Stefani.
This shift has caused quite a rift between two types of country musicians: the “old farts” against those who appeal to “the kids,” according to Blake Shelton.
“Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music,” Shelton said at a GAC special in 2013. “And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville [are] going, ‘My God, that ain’t country!’ Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.”
This comment didn’t go over well. Grammy-winning legend Ray Price responded to Shelton by posting on Facebook.
“It’s a shame that I have [spent] 63 years in this business trying to introduce music to a larger audience and to make it easier for the younger artists who are coming behind me,” Price writes. “Every now and then, some young artist will record a rock and roll type song, have a hit first time out with kids only.
“This is why you see stars come with a few hits only and then just fade away believing they are God’s answer to the world…Check back in 63 years…and let us know how your name and your music will be remembered.”
In addition, Willie Nelson renamed his 2013 tour “Old Farts and Jackasses Tour.”
But it’s not just the older country artists that are standing up for “grandpa’s music.” When Luke Bryan released his No. 1 single “That’s My Kind of Night,” Zac Brown called him out, saying it was the “worst song ever.” Then, to make matters messier, Jason Aldean got on Instagram to respond to Brown: “Trust me when I tell u that nobody gives a shit what u think.”
Aldean went into more detail about Brown speaking out.
“There’s certain artists I really like what they do and certain artists I’m not that big of a fan,” Aldean told The Province. “But I’m not publicly going to go out and trash ‘em. I know Zac, I don’t have anything against the guy, he’s always been cool to me, but I didn’t like that. And of course Luke’s one of my best friends and it rubbed me wrong. You don’t have to go out and say those things. I don’t agree with any artist bashing another artist.”
Brown is not alone in his sentiment, though. Alan Jackson, Kacey Musgraves, and Gary Allan are just a few artists who are not happy with the current state of country music.
Even bloggers are getting into the melee. Trigger, one of the top bloggers for Saving Country Music, ranted about Shelton’s “Boys ‘Round Here.”
“Blake Shelton’s ‘Boys ‘Round Here’ is songwriting by algorithm and analytics, fashioning together words and sounds known to have the widest impact on mainstream radio’s weak-of-mind demo,” Trigger writes. “The ‘boys’ in the title…is fitting, because this song is rank immaturity. It’s the audio equivalent of sneaking out of your mom’s house to smoke pot behind a Pizza Hut.”
We could go on and on. The examples of this back-and-forth are superfluous. It’s a raging war between the old and the new, nostalgia and evolution; a battle between the foundational classic country sound and the excited, young country sound.
It’s a feud between the old-fart jackasses and those who are “God’s answer to the world.”