My favorite part of the end of the year is getting to tell all of you about the best music of the year. My least favorite part is having to point out the worst. Alas, it is my duty as a self-appointed gatekeeper of country music to formally call out the biggest transgressions to our beloved genre. This year saw the rise of the "metro-bro", Bruno Mars wannabe music. At this point, pop-country radio will accept anything but authentic country music. While there were plenty of turds to pick from, these five floated to the top of this miserable list.
First, lets give some well-earned boos to the dishonorable mention list.
"Break Up With Him"- Old Dominion (expect more crap from these bros next year)
"Dibs"- Kelsea Ballerini (we already had a Taylor Swift, we don't need another pop star using country to launch her career)
"Home Alone Tonight"- Luke Bryan & Karen Fairchild (You two are adults. Stop taking selfies and acting like children and handle a breakup with some maturity)
"Strip It Down"- Luke Bryan (Luke Bryan, Candle Salesmen of the Year) (Full album review here)
"Strip It Down"- Luke Bryan (Luke Bryan, Candle Salesmen of the Year) (Full album review here)
"John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16"- Keith Urban (He is capable of so much more than a dumb pop song with a drum machine, nonsensical lyrics, and a blatant pitch for attention using nostalgia) (Full single review here)
"Smokin' & Drinkin'"- Miranda Lambert with Little Big Town (Why does Miranda insist on the weakest few songs from her fantastic album as singles?)
"Gonna Know We Were Here"- Jason Aldean (I put more thought into this blurb than he does to his career. He is just cashing checks at this point)
"Let Me See Ya Girl'- Cole Swindell (Why is this guy still here?)
"Anything Goes"- Florida-Georgia Line (I think the ship is starting to sail for the clown princes of bro-country. Finally)
"Lose My Mind"- Brett Elderidge (Remember that awesome song, "Raymond"? This is what he has stooped to for a buck)
"God Made Girls"- Raelyn (Quite possible the most annoying song on this list. And to think, she came from a show called The Voice. Yikes)
I'm Comin' Over (album)- Chris Young (The blandest, most pointless album of the year. Chris Young is wasting his potential) (Full album review here)
5. Crash & Burn- Thomas Rhett
Every single year, someone shows up on both the worst and the best list. This year, that honor belongs to the winner of the Keep It Country, Kids 2015 Album Of The Year Award, Chris Stapleton. Chris earned his living writing songs for other artists, and not all of them are pretty. This is why many fans are a little wary of Chris and his rise to fame. This little ditty is relatively harmless, it just isn't the slightest bit country. It is a Bruno Mars-esque pop song sung by Bruno's biggest fanboy, Thomas Rhett. This spoiled little punk wants no part of being a country artist, so he tries to use his connections to be the soul singer he sees in his dreams. There is nobody on earth that should be more thankful for their parents than this guy. He looks like a drowned rat and has one of the most bland, indistinguishable voices this side of Cole Swindell and Brett Elderidge. Seriously, why do all three of these guys need to exist? I promise to never knock on them again if we can just combine the three of them into one bland white pop singer who can't dance. (Full single review here)
Alternative Song: If you want to hear a song Chris Stapleton wrote being performed by a pop singer, check out Adele singing "If It Hadn't Been For Love"
4. Kick The Dust Up- Luke Bryan
Bro-country finally began its slow and painful death in 2015. Sure, it has been replaced by guys in skinny jeans rapping and dudes in suits trying to be R&B crooners, but hey, little victories, right? Well, Lukey Luke never got the memo. He released the brosiest of bro songs, "Kick The Dust Up" as the lead single to his Kill The Lights album. Of course, the song was a huge hit. I'm not sure how many times this man-child can scramble the same 10 words up in a song and still make it a hit because of his pelvic thrusts. There isn't much to be said about Luke singing about a party in a cornfield that hasn't been said. It sucks, just like the 5,000,000 songs exactly like it that came before, but posers from the suburbs who have never seen a tractor and bored soccer moms who want to have an affair with him will continue to buy this crap. (Full single review here)
Alternative Song: Farm life isn't easy. My dad and grandparents have all worked on farms in their lifetimes. It is not the endless party that Luke would like to to believe. Chris Knight is about as honest and plainspoken as you can get in country music. His song "House And 90 Acres" shares some of the pain that comes from living off the land. This is real life folks, not the glossy picture you hear on the radio.
3. Beautiful Drug- Zac Brown Band
Rather than spend my time working on a rant for this song, I could just copy and paste some dollar signs and call it a day. That's what The Zac Brown Band did when they recorded their latest album, Jekyll & Hyde. There is a little bit of every musical genre on the album, as Zac looks to build himself up as a musical mongol with his finger in everything. That's all fine and dandy, you can have other projects. But don't release an EDM pop song to country radio and think you can get away with it. "Beautiful Drug" belongs on country radio like a Kardashian belongs at a science fair. It's always the hardest when your favorites make these bad decisions. I can live with Luke and Florida-Georgia Line sucking; that's their job... But Zac was better than this. Of course, the chubby dude in the Carhart coat and beanie is long gone. Now we have this skinny guy who dresses like Jack Sparrow joined a band of gypsies. It's a damn shame. (Full single review here)
Alternative song: If you want to hear an actual country song about a man being addicted to his woman's love, listen to Geroge Jones sing "Tennessee Whiskey". Yes, that's the song that Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake sang at the CMA Awards. They did a stellar job, but the ol' Possum still does my favorite take on the classic song.
2. Live Forever- The Band Perry
Joining The Zac Brown Band on the sellout train in 2015 was The Band Perry. These three siblings have always teetered on the edge of being big stars. They always have their hits and get award show time, but they never seem to take that jump to the next level. With Little Big Town becoming everybody's new favorite, they decided to pull out all the stops and get the full pop treatment. They traded their old sets in for a bright hue of yellow and cranked up the old synthesizer to make some pop magic. And then... nothing. "Live Forever" was a colossal flop, proving that even mainstream country can do something right sometimes. They pushed the release of their album back to next March to regroup, as "Live Forever" has actually died very quickly on the charts. The song itself is a picture of the self-obsessed, do-whatever-I-want-and-damn-the-consequences youth in 2015, which is a stark difference from the "If I Die Young" message that The Band Perry hit it big with. That was the problem. Their fans see them as youth that actually have something to say and are capable of being very mature. When they release immature crap, their fans know it is fake and ignore it. You might be able to be fake and fool people into liking you sometimes, but in the end, being yourself wins out every time. (Full single review here)
Alternate song: "Live Forever" by Billy Joe Shaver. This song is about a songwriter contemplating his eventual death, not stupid teenagers doing molly at a rave.
1. Sam Hunt
You'll notice that there is no song listed. I couldn't pick just one. "Take your Time", "House Party", and "Breakup In A Small Town" are quite possibly the worst trio of country singles by one artist of all time. Look, Luke Bryan had some decent country stuff at the beginning of his career. So did Jason Aldean. Even Florida Georgia-Line, in all their suckitude, put out "Dirt". Sam Hunt has not put out one meager morsel of anything that proves he belongs in country music. None. Nothing. He is a pop singer through and through. He is the culmination of marketing majors trying to find a place for their pretty-faced new male artist. They looked at each other and knew he was too bland for pop radio, didn't have the vocal chops for R&B, and certainly too lame for rock & roll. So, as always, country became the default place for their little project. Unlike others, who at least pretend to kinda be sorta country for an album or two, this guy has been showing us his true colors from day one. So what, you might ask? At least he is being honest. No, he isn't. He continues to say he is a country singer and releases his dreck to country radio. He is a carpetbagger. He came to country music to steal your money because he and all the marketers behind him think you are too stupid to notice that he doesn't belong here, or you lack the fortitude to give a crap and tell him to leave. And they were right. I hear people left and right tell me that this is "evolution" of country music, and "things change, man". For all the good things that have happened in country music in 2015, the success of Sam Hunt proves that we still have a long way to go if we are going to right the ship. Of course, the CMA Awards were a great sign, as Sam was shut out of every award by a real artist, Chris Stapleton. I'm anxiously waiting for the Grammy's in 2016 to see if Chris can do it again. I will probably be watching and rooting for a Stapleton victory more than I will be paying attention to the Super Bowl at this point. 2015 was a great year for country, but Sam Hunt was a terrible stain that hopefully can be removed in 2016. ("Take your Time" Single Review here)
Alternate song: "Move On" by Chris Knight. I like to imagine the girl in this song as country music, and Sam Hunt as the city guy tying to steal her. It makes an already very enjoyable song even better!