Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ahem. The answer is NO, Sarah.

One Sarah Buxton had this to say, on genre inclusiveness:

"If you can put Colbie Caillat in the same genre as Fergie, then I can be in the same genre as George Strait," Buxton says. "What was James Taylor? Was he a rock singer? Was he a folk singer? I don't know - he was kind of both. I feel like I'm many things, and I'm not comfortable trying to change parts of myself to make it fit in a genre."

Ahem. No, James Taylor was NOT a rock singer in any shape, form or fashion, and this attempt to cast him as such is one of the most pathetic attempts at justifying the bastardization of country music that I've seen in quite a while. I know they play him on the "classic rock" stations here and there, and I'd guess that's where that came from, but if you're going to lump James Taylor in with, say, Queensryche or Pantera, then what's the point of having genres at all? And I'd guess this :
"With Lady Antebellum and the Zac Brown Band at the Grammys, I think we all saw that country music is doing some pretty cool stuff," she says. "I'd like to see it be open to old-school country, traditional country, folk country, country rock, Southern rock - all kinds of different stuff."

is as good of a jumping-off point to a rant I've had percolating in my head for a while.

There are those who say that country is a big tent with room for all kinds of influences. And I don't have so much a problem with that big-tent philosophy, really. What I have the problem with is that so many people seem to see very little if any room in that big tent for the more traditional country singers -- whom I and many others see as the very essence of country music. I remember that's exactly how it came off to me right about 1999-2000, right after George Strait and Alan Jackson raised the controversy with their recording of "Murder On Music Row." I remember Tim McGraw particularly saying that some of those singers, and more generally that style of music, had had their time and it was time for them to move on. And that really pissed me off. More so when he recorded that "Things Change" song. "It's just good music if you can feel it in your soul," indeed, but I think there's a valid reason people divide music into genres and radio formats -- they want to hear a certain sound. I love Metallica and Merle Haggard too, but if I tuned into a radio station wanting to hear one and got the other I'd be a little nonplussed to say the least. The categorization of music is going to happen no matter what anyone says. It's just what humans do with things, whether it be music, food, or what-have-you. And I think there are perfectly valid reasons for that. Certain artists and bands are going to have similar sounds and those artists and bands are going to be grouped together despite protests about pigeonholing certain music into certain categories. And it works, because when you want to find more of that certain sound you have some idea of where to look for it -- whereas, if it was "just good music," that's just way too general to be of any use at all. That's just the way it is and it's one of the things about music as a concept that I see as very helpful, as it enables me to direct my finite funds toward sounds that I like. Taking the "it's just music" contention to its logical conclusion here, there are 67 Sirius channels focusing on various genres and subgenres. Should they get rid of 66 of them? Or have differently shuffled playlists on the channels still from all genres, where you have, say, Metallica followed by Rascal Flatts followed by Kelly Clarkson followed by Van Morrison and so on? I shudder to think how it'd be if that were the case. I'd probably still be waiting to hear the songs from the artists the parts of whose catalog I had yet to discover that I now may proudly count as part of my collection. So call me narrow-minded if you like, but my perspective on the concept of genres has served me quite well.

Back to Sarah Buxton -- as Sabra said, "This must be why she is finding it impossible to differentiate herself from all the other blonde starlets in Nashville." She puts forth what I guess would be a mishmash of utterly forgettable country-pop that is just like everything else out there, thereby causing yet more folks like me to seek their musical fulfillment elsewhere. I suppose if they discover all the great music I did that won't be so bad, but it's still not good for country.