Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Random Musings: Miranda Lambert, Killin' and Major-Market Texas Country Radio

Get a drink, folks, this one might be loooong...
Got this comment to this post earlier this week:

Miranda Lambert is quickly going down the path of "rock" country...smashing guitars and head banging licks...she certainly wants it both ways "look at me as a song writer of real country" and "we're going to show some skin and rock this place!".
I'll pass..
That could be. I haven't seen her live and I am not sure when I'll be doing that. And I certainly make no secret of my dislike for Garth Brooks-type theatrics, but so far her music seems to be speaking for itself. As for "rock" country, I really don't know exactly what to say to that. I also make no secret of my dislike of modern mainstream "country" precisely because of the distinct lack of a country sound in a lot of it. But at the same time I don't necessarily mind that rock influence here and there. I'd much rather be hearing someone like Cross Canadian Ragweed on my radio than someone like Kenny Chesney even if Chesney is perceived to have more of a "traditional" country sound than a band like Ragweed. I dunno, that might have something to do with the fact that Cody Canada and the boys don't make every other one of their songs about summertime, getting drunk on the beach or teenage love. Chesney's a one-trick pony if ever there was one.
Speaking of Ragweed, if you know their music well you know they've done some songs here and there about killing cheating lovers. Seems that Miranda Lambert's next single is gonna be "Gunpowder & Lead":
I'm goin' home, gonna load my shotgun
Wait by the door and light a cigarette
If he wants a fight well now he's got one
And he ain't seen me crazy yet
He slapped my face and he shook me like a rag doll
Don't that sound like a real man
I'm going to show him what a little girl's made of
Gunpowder and lead
Should be interesting to see what country radio does with that one, considering how they more or less treated the title track from "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" like it was radioactive. I hope it does well, but I am not necessarily holding my breath. I hate that, 'cause the story of the protagonist in "Gunpowder & Lead" is all too common (but for the fact that too many women take the abuse as opposed to taking that route to stop it), and the great thing about songs like that and country music as it should be is about life, the good things AND the bad. Why country radio seems to skip over most of the bad I'll never quite figure out. I can't speak so much for the state of Contemporary Hit Radio, as a lot of the cds from the artists who get played there I don't have -- but how about that new single from Maroon 5?!
Wake up call, caught you in the morning with another one in my bed
Don't you care about me anymore?
Don’t you care about me? I don't think so.
Six foot tall, came without a warning so I had to shoot him dead
He won't come around here anymore
I must say, I was more than a bit surprised. Never expected to hear THAT one on the local Top 40 station. Talk about a complete reversal of expectations for the formats. Who knows WHAT I'll hear next...

Speaking of country radio, specifically country radio in Texas, Leslie T. was talking about 99.5 The Wolf some time ago on her blog, quoting Texas Made Music:
"Everyone was wondering what John Sebastain would do when he took over as program director at 99.5 The Wolf in Dallas. Many of us have feared that he would go more mainstream Country and program less Texas Music. This week he discussed his plans to Country Aircheck on changes at the Wolf. His goal is to become a 35-44 demo vs the old 18-30 demo. He blames the ratings decline on too many promotions, not playing some national releases and too much talk with air personalities. He has changed the news time, put in more songs and less promotions. We are now hearing more Patsy Cline, Garth Brooks vs. Kevin Fowler, Deryl Dodd, Robert Earl Keen, etc. It's a sad day. Cody Allen resigned last week over the new direction."

And that's a damn shame, too. 99.5 the Wolf had a great thing going on in D-FW with that Texas-centric approach, even if their calling EVERYTHING they played "Texas country" was grating. The last time I listened to the Wolf was back in mid-June and even then I knew something was different -- as in less of the Texas music. I don't know how the ratings were doing before, but they'd been doing well for a long time from what I understand. So I just can't see the reasons for the ratings decline having as much to do with not playing some national releases -- you could probably reasonably translate that as playing too much Texas music -- as it being just one of those periodic downturns. I found this comment at interesting:
Personally, I think KPLX has run off listeners (me included). It started about 2 years ago (even before Cumulus took over and the DJs were all changed), when the music was changed. We live in Texas. People in Texas want a country music station that sounds like it is from Texas. For the last 2 years, the music has been changed to a generic country station playlist that is indistinguishable from a country music station in Miami, Portland, Boston, or Des Moines. If KPLX listeners wanted to hear a Yankee country music station, they could listen to KSCS. I don't think the a lot of Wolf listeners wanted a KSCS clone; if they liked KSCS, they would be listening to it already.
I wonder how many country music fans and radio listeners in Dallas-Ft. Worth feel the same way. Judging from the stagnant ratings for The Wolf it seems quite a few. I dunno, maybe it'll take a little longer to see how the aforementioned changes at The Wolf fully affect the ratings, but my wild-arsed guess is that if anything they'll be even worse -- if not in the short run, definitely in the long run. As I said at Leslie T's place, I used to think the Wolf was the best major-market country station in the country. I am sorry to say I don't think that anymore. From what I've heard, I'd have to say KILT beats them now. Even if they don't play as much Texas music as some of the smaller-market stations do, what Leslie T. does on Sunday nights is hard to beat. And judging from the feedback she gets, I don't know why KILT couldn't get away with putting more of the Texas stuff into regular rotation. I don't know if they ever will, but we'll see...