The River's Badge

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bad Years In Country Music ~ Let's Not Forget The Nineties


I've been feeling a bit guilty about honing in on the decades of the seventies and eighties, when, in actuality, all decades have their allotment of bad music.  No doubt the sixties did, too, but that time frame would be more of a history lesson for me, as opposed to a clear remembrance.  (Don't worry; I'm sure I'll get to that decade as well).

Why pick on 1994?

Well, a quick scan of the charts points to the sad fact that a lot of the big names of the late eighties/early nineties had sort of peaked by then.  And thus, they were recording substandard songs.  Vince Gill, Tracy Lawrence, Brooks & Dunn, Pam Tillis, Ricky Van Shelton, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt....their big hits had already happened.  That's not to say that some of these guys didn't go on to record better songs later; but 1994 was apparently a watershed year (I always wanted to use the phrase "watershed year") in their careers. 

Also, in 1994, we saw the first appearances of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, et al, and we all know what that led to.  I don't think I have to paint a picture.

And remember John Michael Montgomery?  He'd had a big hit with "Life's A Dance", and everybody liked it, even though we had that lingering quibble that he didn't actually sing the song on key.  But we chose to overlook it.  By 1994, he, too, was on the downslide, and now he's known as the brother of that guy who sings in a duo about what his hometown looks like.

I'm not saying there weren't good, or even great songs, released in 1994.  Because there were.  But there was a lot of impossible-to-scrub-from-your-mind drivel, as well.  As evidenced by this (which appears to have been the top hit of the year):

TIM MCGRAW:



There are so many things wrong with this song, it's a chore to even begin.  First of all, that thin, reedy voice.  But really, the voice is the least of this recording's issues.  It's the whole smarmy, "am I supposed to cry now?" vibe that it gives off.  One knows where the song is heading, after the middle of the first verse.  I don't know who wrote it (and I could look it up, but I'm not really that interested), and these guys (I'm just guessing it's "guys", plural, because, you know, that's the big fad ~ co-writing ~ as if it is impossible for one to actually write a whole song by oneself) don't really care that I hate this song, nor that anyone with any modicum of taste hates this song, because they made huge dollars from it, and he who laughs last....has the last laugh....or something.

And then there was Garth Brooks with "The Red Strokes".  I barely remember this song, and don't bother looking, because you will never find a Garth Brooks video online (except for a couple of grainy live performance videos), so I'm choosing to just ignore Garth Brooks for the rest of this post.  If and when he decides to stop hording his videos, maybe I'll give him his due.

But, of course, not everyone had horrible taste in 1994.  Just most people.  However, this song was a big, big hit, and it actually deserved it.

I've written about this song before, and you can call it "kitschy"; or call it whatever you want.  I love this song.  And it's a true original.

DAVID BALL



And then we had LITTLE TEXAS.

Little Texas had a couple of really good songs, and this one was the best.  Unfortunately (of course), apparently Little Texas, or what is left of them without Brady Seals, chooses not to share its videos online (they attended the Garth Brooks school of artist promotion).  So, in order to include this song, I had to go with this video, which was created, I'm sure, out of love.  But I'd rather have an actual video of the guys performing the song.



I don't know if VINCE GILL ever recorded a bad song.  This is a song he wrote about Amy Grant, when he really wasn't supposed to, but he did anyway.



Remember MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER?  I always liked her.  I guess she aged too much, and they didn't want her anymore.  Isn't that the way it goes?



You're probably asking yourself at this point, well, where are the actual BAD songs?  I mean, aside from Tim McGraw?  Well, you know me.  I prefer positive energy to negative, so I'm skipping a bunch of bad ones, and featuring the ones I like.

I know that tends to not prove my theory, but would I rather be right, or rather have fun?  I'll take fun.

So, here's one, by ALAN JACKSON:



We also had TRISHA YEARWOOD in 1994.  Trisha, unsurprisingly, adheres to her husband's (Garth's) theory regarding NOT sharing videos online, so, alas, we're stuck with this pale green (and who thinks that's an attractive color?) video of  "Xxx's and Ooo's" (and doesn't that actually read, "X's and ooohs"?  I think the spelling is off here.)



And then there was FAITH HILL.  I've got nothing against Faith.  Okay, I do.  But it's not necessarily because of this song.  Although I read that she'd never in her life heard the Janis Joplin version.  I'm thinking little Faith led a very sheltered life.  No, what I really have against Faith Hill is that she alone caused me to finally give up on country music.  But it was a later song that did it.  Something about breathing.  And one wouldn't think that breathing would be bad.  But it was.

EDIT:  Sorry, I removed this video.  It was kind enough to auto-play, and I like to make up my own mind whether to listen to/watch a video or not.  But you can find it online, if you search really hard (it's not on YouTube).

I don't think I remember where I was the first time I heard any song, except for this one.  I distinctly remember sitting in my parked car, waiting to pick up my kids from school, when this song came on the radio.  Why do I remember it?  I'll guess it was (a) because it was my very favorite singer, GEORGE STRAIT; and (b) because it was so good.  I almost swooned over this song.  Especially when he hit the high notes. 



Speaking of good, what about DWIGHT YOAKAM?



Let's not forget PATTY LOVELESS (she ranks right up there with Patsy and Tammy, really):



I didn't realize this next song was from 1994.  I have a quibble with a popular radio/TV host using this as his theme song, because I wonder if he ever actually listened to the whole song, aside from the tag line.  Because this song is pretty stark and dramatic, and it's not actually a patriotic song (duh).

Here is MARTINA MCBRIDE:



I truly hate songs about tractors.  Because everyone who sings them has no clue about tractors.  They could just as well be singing about jumbo paper clips.  This one, however, seems more authentic; a slice of small-town life.  My dad would like this song, even though he hated John Deere tractors.

Here is JOE DIFFIE:



To help prove my point about bad music in 1994, Tim McGraw makes yet another appearance.  This video is striking, if for no other reason than for the odd way Tim wears his hat.   But I guess that's his "signature", isn't it?  Wearing one's hat like a dork ~ must be Tim McGraw!

And let's not even get into the offensiveness of this song.  Because, where does one start?



I remember getting up early in the morning, shuffling to the bathroom to get ready for work; flipping on the FM radio, and hearing this song, and just thinking about it.  Every morning.

I am an unabashed COLLIN RAYE fan.  I don't know Tom Douglas's work, but I know this song.  And Tom must have had a special, personal insight, in order to write this.  This proves that the best songs aren't necessarily written by the people whose names you know.  The song stands on its own.



Most people (I'm guessing) don't remember LARI WHITE.  I do.  I bought two of her CD's.  I think she was just great.  And here is one that proves it:



Like Lari White, you may not remember THE MAVERICKS  I always found the name, The Mavericks, ironic, because my best friend, Alice, was in a band called The Mavericks, until somebody raised a fuss, and said, hey, we've got that name!  Pick something different!  

But that's neither here nor there.  This Mavericks was headed by Raul Malo.  And here is a 1994 song, and a good one:



Speaking of tractors (you have to keep up ~ that was a few paragraphs back), what about THE TRACTORS?

Never had another hit song; but that's how the old train rolls,doesn't it?

I leave you with Baby Likes To Rock It:



So, my theory is essentially moot.  I thought 1994 was bad, but it really was sort of good.

Okay, I skipped a bunch.  I just couldn't bring myself to relive the bad parts of 1994.  But you can look it up, if you are a masochist.  Trust me, though, there was some bad stuff in 1994.

The thing was, though, the good outweighed the bad.  That's the thing about radio.

One can remember a year as being bad, but if they take a closer look, it's really that the bad stuff was so omnipresent, it obscured the good things.

Maybe it's just that 1994 was a harbinger of the bad times to come.  And believe me, there were bad times to come.

But I must say, I've enjoyed this look back (most of it).  So, it's a win-win.  I'd forgotten most of it, but that's what comes with old age.  One tends to forget things, or bundle them into one big thing; one that has no identifiable parameters, but rather, tends to be something we like to call the "good old days".

Lord, I guess I've finally crossed that threshold, haven't I?

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