Country Music – Blonds Leading the Bland

The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica has a feature on the growing predominance of younger female artists in Music City (Country’s New Face: It’s Young and Blond)  in the wake of the success of Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler, and how spunky DIYers, like Peoria, Illinois’ Veronica Ballestrini, are busy using the web to build a fan base for their performances and raise their profile.

Though the piece is trying to make a big deal about these women making a dent on the male dominated Music City culture, the phenomenon is not at all surprising. Nashville’s big country labels are in the business of making money. Period. They are not in the business of  pushing a cultural bias outside of the aforementioned quest for profit. A large part of that goal is to develop product with a predictable success i.e. charting hits that move product and can be replicated ad nauseum. Right now that success means young blond women.

Underwood and Pickler are American Idol alum and Swift developed her skills by playing country songs with karaoke backing tracks at her local mall. These young women had visual evidence of their ability to perform on cue and be adaptable to an external idea of a star in order to be successful. And even though Swift showed an early streak of independence at 15 when she turned down a development deal with RCA Records when not allowed to write her own songs, the songs she did write and were featured in her best selling debut were distinct from most Music City product by having the emotional depth of school notebook scribbling and being in tone more Britney than Loretta.

So yeah, the upcoming crop of Music City groomed country music performers are going to be young, female and mostly blond and largely indistinguishable from many of the clones coming out of the Disney and other tween culture behemoths in which Hanna Montana‘s Miley Cyrus and Jennette McCurdy of Nickelodeon’s show iCarly are the most viable examples.

This is the current business model of success with current benchmarks for profit, and in the music business this is the closest thing you can get to a sure thing.

Unlike the major rock labels band-signing shotgun approach in the 90’s during the Seattle Grunge  mania you can be assured that the Nashville’s major labels will keep a tight rein on product, how it looks and how it sounds. The difference is that with Grunge, as well as the country music phenomenons of Outaw Country and the Bakerfield sound, the labels were then left to play catch up to culture and were trying to capitalize on something that occurred organically and crackled with intensity. Playing catch up is messy and costly, controlling production from the get go contains cost and better assures success.

Replicating the current stable of blond fembots may make business sense, but it’s  not likely to result in anything worth listening to.

8 thoughts on “Country Music – Blonds Leading the Bland

  1. August 2, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Mainstream “country” makes me want to wretch. It is so boring, and there is nothing (save for a phony accent) to distinguish it from whatever the hell you call the tripe Brittany and Miley put out. I don’t know if I can invest any more emotional energy into being upset about it any more.

  2. CountryGirl
    August 3, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Thank you so much for that second paragraph!! Right on! Carrie Underwood thinks she’s a pioneer for women in country music. When she said “I think I have to accept it (AMC entertainer of the year) on behalf of all the other women who came before that kicked butt, that never got the recognition they deserved” I could have slapped her back to Hollywood where she belongs. It was disgusting. She didn’t bother to name names either. I can’t wait for the day that one of those women whose names she probably doesn’t know tells her how it really is.

  3. Krista
    August 3, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    CountryGirl… Carrie grew up on the women she was speaking of and I don’t think the quote you wrote is exactly what she said. She knows their names. I can’t believe people like you who are trashing people like Carrie or even Taylor (though I don’t personally like Taylor’s music) just because they are “new” country. If you can’t respect people for who they are then you don’t deserve respect either. Carrie is a good person, period, no matter if you like her music are not. In God’s eye’s that’s all that matters. Read your post and see how hurtful and rude it is.

  4. CountryGirl
    August 3, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    That’s exactly what she said. I copy and pasted it from here:
    http://www.cmt.com/news/country-music/1608681/carrie-underwood-says-she-accepts-acm-award-on-behalf-of-countrys-women.jhtml
    (that quote is in her response to the first question)

    And the entire article is taking hits at this brand of country, not just me. The person posting before me doesn’t like it any better. Just because its “new country” doesn’t make it good.

    I never attacked Carrie’s morals. I’m sure she is a good person. I just have little respect for her as a country artist. I don’t like her brand of music and I don’t like the industry that worships it. It belongs in Hollywood. I don’t like her attitude in this situation. I freely admit that I dislike what she was saying in the statement I quoted, because it strikes me as incredibly presumptuous, and it makes me mad.

  5. Baron Lane
    August 3, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    @ energyturtle – I know I know, but sometimes I have to light a candle instead of cursing the dorks.

    @ CountryGirl – I remember reading a story (I think it was concerning one of the girls from SheDaisy but I’m not sure and can’t find it) being asked about Maybelle Carter and she responded with “Who’s Maybelle Carter?” Makes me laugh. Truth is, I could care less if one of the current herd of bots have heard of Maybelle, June, Loretta or Dolly. I’m just making the point that the music they are creating is cotton candy to Mother Maybelle’s Southern dinner.

    @Krista – Country Music seems to be one of the few genres that when you say someones music stinks fans rush to their aid on a moral level. CountryGirl is right, no one is saying these ladies are evil (unless you think crappy music is the devil’s work.) They’re just producing crap for people who really like crap. Like you.

  6. August 3, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    For a lady in country music to say “Who’s Maybelle Carter?” isn’t funny (well, maybe funny in an ironic way), it’s sad. It makes me sad when anyone doesn’t know who Mother Maybelle is, but someone who calls themselves “country” definitely should know who she is. I read a story about the folk revival that happened in the 70’s. Mother Maybelle was at one of the festivals and another performer saw her sitting in the sun. He marched up to someone and said, “Do you know who that is? She’s the reason we’re here! Do you think you could take better care of her?” In the next five minutes she was sipping iced tea under an umbrella. That’s the kind of respect she should get. Word.

  7. Amos
    August 4, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Popular music and movies these days have become commodities — just another form of pornography and junk food. Easy to consume but always leaves you empty & unfulfilled.

  8. August 4, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Hey, they’re signing blondes? Where’s my deal? 🙂

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