by Julian Spivey
June is LGBTQ Pride Month. The month was chosen to commemorate the Stonewall riots in New York City at the end of June 1969 and the impact that event had on the LGBTQ community. The month has since become a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community and all its glories – including the fantastic artistic contribution to the world of music.
The world of music has been bettered by so many LGBTQ artists, 12 of which are celebrated here for their contributions – basically 12 of my favorites, if you will. Some of these artists have been around for many decades, some are newer. Some are household names and others should be. Many different genres are featured from rock to pop to country and I believe this proves just how important LGBTQ artists have been for music as a whole.
Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day)
Billie Joe Armstrong has been the leader of the most popular punk rock/pop punk band of the last 25 years in Green Day. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees have won numerous awards over their career, including five Grammys, and has played a major role in getting punk sounds into the mainstream. Armstrong is one of the more popular members of the LGBTQ community in the music community, but I’m not sure how many people realize he identifies as bisexual. Armstrong first identified himself as bisexual in 1995 in an interview with The Advocate saying, “I think I’ve always been bisexual. I mean, it’s something that I’ve always been interested in. I think people are born bisexual, and it’s just that our parents and society kind of veer us off into this feeling of, ‘Oh, I can’t.’ They say it’s taboo. It’s ingrained in our heads that it’s bad, when it’s not bad at all. It’s a very beautiful thing.” Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 2014 that Green Day’s album Dookie, released in 1994, touched on his bisexuality a lot.
It’s great to see that Brandi Carlile is becoming more and more of a household name after the acclaim of her most recent album By the Way, I Forgive You, released last year. The album was nominated for six Grammy Awards, including the biggest of the year – Album of the Year – and won three trophies. Carlile identified herself as a lesbian in a 2002 interview with the Los Angeles Times saying, “I don’t have to have a lot of formality around it … there were people before me who paved the way.” She’s married her wife Catherine Shepherd in 2012 and they have two daughters together. Her recently Grammy-nominated song “The Joke” is about people feeling misrepresented she told NPR, “So many people feeling unloved. Boys feeling marginalized and forced into these kind of awkward shapes of masculinity that they do or don’t belong in … so many men and boys are trans or disabled or shy … the song is just for people that feel under-represented, unloved or illegal.”
Tracy Chapman burst upon the popular music scene in 1988 with her self-titled debut album that featured the top-10 hit “Fast Car,” that would be nominated for Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards. Chapman has won four Grammys in her career, including Best New Artist when she broke out. Chapman has never publicly disclosed her sexual orientation but was in relationship in the ‘90s with The Color Purple author Alice Walker. She often helps out the LGBTQ community by performing at charity events for AIDS awareness.
Brandy Clark has been one of Nashville’s best songwriters for years penning tracks for big time artists like Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire and Kenny Rogers, but she’s also one of country music’s most underrated singer-songwriters, in general. Clark should be a huge star, but the type of country music she writes and records (*read real country music*) isn’t what hits the radio airwaves these days. She is critically loved having been nominated in 2015 for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards despite no radio airplay. Her two albums 12 Stories and Big Day in a Small Town are among the best country has to offer of the past decade and fans are eagerly awaited a third release. Clark is openly gay, but says her sexuality has no bearing on her work. She told The Washington Post in 2014, “I don’t write songs for straight people or gay people or black people or white people. I write songs for people. I want them to put themselves in these songs. I would feel that way if I was straight.”
Like Tracy Chapman, roots rocker Melissa Etheridge broke out big time in 1988 with her self-titled debut album that earned her a Grammy Award nomination for her track “Bring Me Some Water.” Her 1993 album Yes I Am, which has generally been assumed to be confirmation of coming out, was a huge success featuring the jams “Come to My Window” and “I’m the Only One,” both of which were nominated for Best Rock Song at the Grammys. Among the most important lyrics of “Come to My Window” are: “I don’t care what they think/I don’t care what they say/What do they know about this love, anyway?”
Mary Gauthier has been one of folk music’s most acclaimed singer-songwriters for many years and has even had some songs cut by famous country music stars like Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton. Gauthier is a multiple time Grammy Award nominee, including a nomination this year in the Best Folk Album category for her latest release Rifles and Rosary Beads, which she co-wrote with actual military members to tell their stories. Gauthier is a multiple time Gay and Lesbian American Music Award nominee.
Alynda Segarra (Hurray for the Riff Raff)
Hurray for the Riff Raff has been one of the most acclaimed groups in the Americana genre over the last decade and are led by Bronx-bred, of Puerto Rican descent frontwoman Alynda Segarra, who identifies as queer. Her group’s most recent album The Navigator, from 2017, was Segarra harkening back to her roots as a Puerto Rican growing up in the Bronx and saw both her and the group bring activism more into their music. In an interview earlier this year with DNO when asked about her activism she said: “I enjoy bringing people together. I have organized two events called Nosotros. A gathering of latinx artists, musicians and poets, an event where we can embrace who we are as latinx queers, activists and weirdos. In a country that has become more violent towards latinx people and culture, I believe celebrating together is a radical act of joy.”
There is perhaps no bigger and more acclaimed LGBTQ musician than Elton John, who has been recording fantastic music for half a century now and over the last 25-plus years has done a lot to help fight AIDS with his Elton John AIDS Foundation, which has raised over $200 million for prevention, education and direct care to people living with HIV. Elton John first addressed his sexuality in 1976 when he came out as bisexual in a Rolling Stone interview. In 1992 he would tell the same magazine “I’m quite comfortable being gay.” He married his husband David Furnish in 2014 after being together for more than 20 years. The couple have two sons together.
Freddie Mercury (Queen)
Freddie Mercury is regularly regarded as one of the greatest vocalists in the history of rock music as the frontman of the hugely popular British band Queen and has been heralded as one of the most important LGBTQ performers of all-time. Mercury’s flamboyant performance style would have some journalists alluding to his sexuality and even asking him about it, but it wasn’t something Mercury ever put forth verbally in public, though many believed him to be out when in public life. Mercury was the first big music star to die as a result of AIDS in 1991 at the age of 45. In 1993 after Mercury’s death Gay Times writer John Marshall wrote: “Mercury was a “scene-queen,” not afraid to analyse or justify his ‘lifestyle.’ It was as if Freddie Mercury was saying to the world, ‘I am what I am. So what?’”
George Michael was one of pop music’s biggest representatives of the LGBTQ community. He rose to fame in the early ‘80s as a member of the pop duo Wham! before embarking later in the decade as a very successful solo artists that would see him sell over 115 million records worldwide, chart eight Billboard No. 1 hits and win two Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year for Faith in 1989. Michael came out as gay in 1998 and was an active LGBTQ rights activist and AIDS charity fundraiser. One of his career highlights was a duet with fellow LGBTQ star Elton John in 1991 on Elton’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” Michael died at age 53 in 2016.
Sarah Shook with her backing band the Disarmers has been one of the best up-and-coming groups in the Americana and alt-country genres over the last few years with a couple of stellar releases in Sidelong (2015) and Years (2018) to begin her career. She is a complete badass who’s taken a punk attitude and combined it with honky-tonk music to form a special kind of sound. Shook identifies as bisexual and received the 2016 Indy Arts Award with collaborator Erika Libero for their work in promoting inclusion for women and LBGTQ in her hometown of Chapel Hill, N.C. with a Safe Space initiative, according to She Shreds Magazine. In a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone Shook said: “This genre of music attracts a certain kind of person sometimes who is very close-minded, and I want to tell those people, ‘Look, you’re welcome to be a fan. But full disclosure, I’m a fucking civil rights activist, and I’m a bisexual, and I’m an atheist, and I’m a vegan,’ you know what I mean? That’s a whole lot of non-redneck shit right there.”
Michael Stipe (R.E.M.)
R.E.M. was one of the most important rock groups in the ‘80s because they took an alternative rock sound that was popular across colleges campuses in the country and exploded it into the mainstream. The group has had numerous Billboard Top 40 hits like “The One I Love,” “Stand,” “Losing My Religion” and “Everybody Hurts.” The Rock Hall inductees are led by frontman Michael Stipe, who has described himself as a queer artist in a TIME magazine article in 2001. When Stipe has been asked if he ever declares himself as gay he has said, “I don’t. I think there’s a line drawn between gay and queer, and for me, queer describes something that’s more inclusive in grey areas.”
by Preston Tolliver
Metallica’s eponymous 1991 release commonly known as “The Black Album” has become arguably its most popular because it simultaneously marked the end of the band’s old sound and the beginning of a new one.
“The Black Album” was a transitory album that bridged the decade of the band’s early raw and brutal albums and the more mainstream metal albums of the ‘90s. The album itself was the last agreed-upon great Metallica album, even, before a forgettable decade in the ‘90s and a straight disappointing one in the 2000s.
No song was more recognizable off “The Black Album” than “Enter Sandman,” the opening anthem that taught metalheads the world over that eerie bedtime prayer. The song has become, by many, what the band is known for. However, through over-saturation on radio stations and in sports arenas, the song has overshadowed Metallica’s better works – works that cover, essentially, most every other song in their library to that point. It’s catchy, sure, but it shouldn’t define the band more than the preceding bangers it put out on the albums before: songs like “Master of Puppets,” “…And Justice for All” and their all-time best, “Fade to Black.”
“Enter Sandman” is certainly Metallica’s most overrated song, and I dare say the worst song overall of the band’s first era (1983-1991).
by Aprille Hanson
“The Bird Hunters” is my favorite Turnpike Troubadours song and on the surface it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for me. It’s something that’s always puzzled my husband because obviously there are other songs in their repertoire like “Good Lord Lorrie” or his favorite, “7&7,” that could be considered pretty iconic hits of theirs. There are so many favorites to choose from in their discography, but there’s something about that song off their self-titled 2015 album that speaks to me. It’s funny because I have never hunted in my entire life, nor do I have any plans to try it. The only type of shooting I’ll be doing toward an animal is with a camera.
But in reality the song has nothing to do about hunting, though that’s the setting. We see one friend trying to cheer the other friend up after a break-up. Even that is hardly relatable as I’ve been with my husband since high school.
But that’s the masterfulness of songwriter/Troubadours’ front-man Evan Felker — he can tap into human nature using the simplest scenarios. Because while the song follows two friends duck hunting in the place the pair grew up, the lyrics point to how the main character is going through the motions while focused solely on his heart break and the ending of something he thought would last forever.
In life I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve gone through the motions of whatever task is ahead while letting my mind drift to something that is greatly impacting me. It’s something I assume most people do. From the loss of my mother to a recent scary but turned out to be false diagnosis for our beloved dog to randomly second guessing decisions seemingly mundane to the average person but to an over-thinker like me, filling my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song touch on the simplicities of living inside your head more than “The Bird Hunters.” I’m sure there are songs out there that fit the bill, but combined with Felker’s drawl and those easily overlooked observations that just come out so naturally in his writing, makes him one of the best.
“The country was cold
With the sun westward sinking
It's good to be back in this place
With my hands around
A Belgian made Browning
My mind on the lines of her face.”
It’s clear that the character isn’t just thinking about the breakup, but her very being, every detail of her and reliving their breakup in the chorus:
“She said go on back to Cherokee County
Won't you crawl back with nothing but a razor and a comb
Babe, if you need me, I'll be where you found me
Go on to hell, honey, I'm headed home”
I can vividly see the character half smiling to his friend, trying to cheer him up by explaining how he “dodged a bullet” by not winding up with her. It’s the universal need to try and make things right for people you care about, even if it’s offering up platitudes or clichés.
It’s ironic because when the Turnpike Troubadours announced on May 31 that they were cancelling all their upcoming shows for an “indefinite hiatus,” explaining that they needed to take a break until “everyone is of strong mind, body and spirit and can deliver what our fans deserve” – essentially Felker for what we all presume is alcoholism — the first thing that popped in my head were his lyrics:
“I was beginning
To deal with it ending
The old dog had pointed while part of me died
And a flutter of feathers
Then a shotgun to shoulder
I thought of the Fourth of July
She'll be home on the Fourth of July
I bet we'll dance on the Fourth of July”
That’s my favorite moment in “The Bird Hunters” because his crescendo and almost desperation on the lines “I thought of the Fourth of July. She’ll be home on the Fourth of July. Bet wed dance on the Fourth of July” was such a hopeful moment in such a sad scenario. The entire song we’ve watched this man distracted by his thoughts, fumbling through the task at hand, despite his friend’s best efforts, but the most focused he gets was when there’s a glimmer of hope that he can be reunited with this woman. The prospect of getting back what he desires most rejuvenates him.
Following those lyrics, his friend points out:
“Dan says, "Hell of a shot
Looks like you've still got it
That's what we came here to do”
It immediately floods back into the chorus, recalling the couple’s fight.
And I guess those “I was beginning” lyrics swirled in my brain because in reading the band’s statement and knowing for a while that this was probably coming, I just had this moment of thinking this may be the end to my favorite band, a band with song lyrics that deeply touched my soul. No matter the emotion, I can find a Turnpike Troubadours song to correlate with it. When people talk about soundtracks for their life, there are a handful of artists I can say would fit for me and this band is certainly at the top of the list.
Not to mention the countless times my husband and I have stood on the front row in small venues like The Rev Room in downtown Little Rock, rocking out with a packed crowd behind us, singing along and dancing to every song they threw out at us. And when I say threw out, I mean “threw out” because they left it all on the stage every single time they performed. It was like they were setting their souls of fire and the crowd was ready and willing to catch the sparks.
There are some people that are just meant to pour their heart out in music and watching Felker and the whole band perform live, I just can’t imagine that ending. It hurts to even consider it.
And I do not want to pretend I understand at all the struggle that Felker or anyone else in the band is going through, because while I may know their music, as a fan, I just do not know their hearts.
But whether I am as naïve or as hopeful as the character in “The Bird Hunters,” I’m continuing to think about the “Fourth of July” for the Turnpike Troubadours, whenever that may come, so we can all dance once again.
by Julian Spivey
Despite the dreary, wet weather and nearby record flooding the mood inside Verizon Arena on Thursday night, June 6 was all sunshine, ocean waves and the fun of Margaritaville as Jimmy Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band bought the Son of a Son of a Sailor – High Tide tour to North Little Rock, Ark. for a night of his biggest hits.
The performance was Buffett’s first in Arkansas since 2012, though he had another scheduled show since then canceled due to wintry weather.
Parrotheads were ready to party and some had been doing so since 11 a.m. that morning tailgating near the venue despite the less than stellar weather.
When Buffett began his show a few minutes after 8 p.m. he kicked things off with “License to Chill,” the title track off his 2004 collaborative album with a who’s who of country music superstars of that era. That album came hot off the trail of his 2003 collaboration with Alan Jackson, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” which was a no. 1 country hit (the first no. 1 song of Buffett’s career – his only other would also be a country collaboration of “Knee Deep” with Zac Brown Band in 2011). Buffett routinely performs “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” in concert with his right-hand man Mac McAnally, a terrific songwriter in his own right.
Parrotheads everywhere likely know that Buffett has what’s know as “The Big 8” – eight songs that he performs at every show – and those were, of course, many of the highlights of his show at Verizon as the so-called “Songs You Know By Heart” of his discography. Seven of these songs have pretty much gone unchanged over the years and are: “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Come Monday,” “Fins,” “Margaritaville” and “Volcano.”
For many years “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” was a part of the standard ‘Big 8,’ but is only played occasionally by Buffett these days, he did grace the Little Rock crowd with this song’s appearance Thursday night to great applause. The song that often replaces it in the set is “One Particular Harbour,” also performed on Thursday.
“The Big 8” truly has everything for the Parrotheads from what’s essentially Buffett’s theme song “Margaritaville,” which he performed as the final song in his regular set before his encore, to party novelty hits like “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and fantastically written ballads like “Come Monday,” my personal favorite of his work,” and “A Pirate Looks at Forty.” Personally, I’ve always been a bigger fan of Buffett’s ballads than his party songs, that sometimes are overdone in concert. Also, how is “Son of a Son of a Sailor” not considered one of his “Big” songs?
Something Buffett has been doing on tour lately, that I don’t believe he was doing the last time I saw him live seven years ago, is stripping things down just a bit in a midsection part of his show where he gets back to his New Orleans roots a bit with a more jazzy feel where he regaled the audience with some stuff you might not often hear at a Buffett show like “Dreamsicle,” “Pencil Thin Mustache,” “Frenchman for the Night” and a newer Will Kimbrough penned song “Half Drunk,” which Buffett described as a “Why Don’t We Get Drunk Lite.”
This is the type of thing I’d love to see Buffett do more in concert – in fact I’d like to see him do an entire tour of it. I think he could play his “Big 8” – party songs and all – and still do a show mostly of introspective ballads and rarities that he rarely, if ever, does live. I think true Parrotheads would not only be OK with this type of tour from Buffett but might actually love hearing some of those great songs from nearly perfect albums like A-1-A, Living and Dying in ¾ Time, Havana Daydreamin’ and Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes that aren’t often seen.
A few performances I really enjoyed hearing on Thursday night that I wasn’t necessarily expecting were Buffett’s take on Rodney Crowell’s “Stars on the Water,” which he cut on his 1983 album One Particular Harbour, “Grapefruit – Juicy Fruit,” off 1973’s A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean (one of the all-time great album titles) and “Last Mango in Paris,” off his 1985 album of the same name. Buffett also played his usual great cover of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s 1982 top-20 hit “Southern Cross.”
After his uproarious performance of “Margaritaville,” and a lot of the audience dumbfoundedly filed out like it was the only song they came to see, Buffett returned to the stage with the supremely talented Coral Reefer Band, that includes longtime keyboardist and Blytheville, Ark. born and University of Arkansas graduate Michael Utley, for a great encore that included “We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About,” “Love and Luck” and a cover of Bob Marley’s “One Love.”
“One Love” has been the finisher at almost all of Buffett’s recent shows so I was incredibly surprised and completely appreciative when he stayed on stage after the rest of his band left and performed “Tin Cup Chalice,” off A-1-A (my favorite Buffett album), just him and his acoustic guitar. That’s my favorite Jimmy Buffett and it was a beautiful way to end a great night of music.
by Julian Spivey
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers are one of the shining artists of modern alt-country and showed as much in their performance at The White Water Tavern in Little Rock, Ark. on Saturday, June 1.
The group from Chapel Hill, N.C. has released two albums thus far – Sidelong, which was self-released in 2015 and re-released on Bloodshot Records in 2017, and last year’s Years. The group’s music is honky tonk meets punk, a terrific mixture for a small venue Saturday night show. No Depression put it accurately: “This ain’t no country for hipsters or posers. It’s real, raw, mean-and-evil-bad-and-nasty bidness that makes an ass-kickin’ sound mighty fine.”
“Badass” is a word I’d use to describe Shook and her band and they were mighty badass on Saturday night at the Tavern.
The band probably performed for about an hour-and-a-half on Saturday night, but it flew by quickly with them launching into song after song of raucous jams. The show was pretty evenly split between the group’s two albums with great selections off of Sidelong including the title track (which really shows off Shook’s unique voice), “Keep the Home Fires Burnin’,” “Heal Me” and “Nothin’ Feels Right But Doin’ Wrong.”
Her performance of “Fuck Up,” from Sidelong, early on in her show pretty much served as a theme song for many of those in attendance at her show with its line: “God never mistakes he just makes fuck ups.”
It’s pretty impressive how Shook has been able to overcome her sheltered upbringing in a fundamentalist Christian upbringing where secular music was not allowed to being such a free-spirited, badass performer who obviously gives zero fucks.
Her critically-acclaimed album Years was one of the best albums in all of music last year and her show on Saturday night featured many of the album’s highlights like “Good As Gold,” “Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don’t,” “Lesson,” and “New Ways to Fail,” which she ended her fantastic set with.
Earlier I mentioned that Shook has a unique voice, which is something hard to find in music these days, you can feel every bit of emotion in her quivering voice in these songs showing she’s truly felt these feelings and moments she sings about. This quivering is particularly effective in her track “Dwight Yoakam” off Sidelong, my personal favorite song of hers. “Dwight Yoakam” is such a terrifically written and performed break-up song – the kind that would likely make the song’s title inspiration proud.
The Disarmers are an incredibly tight band playing along perfectly to these fast-paced honky tonk romps. The group consists of guitarist Eric Peterson, upright bassist Aaron Oliva, pedal steel player Phil Sullivan and drummer Kevin McClain.
If you’re looking for an uproarious raucous night of terrifically crafted songs, I suggest looking up the nearest Sarah Shook & the Disarmers show.
Saturday night’s show was opened up by Dylan Earl and his band The Reasons Why and the band didn’t fail to entertain with terrific original numbers and great covers like that of Little Feat’s “Willin’.” Earl is originally from Lake Charles, La., but has made his home in the Ozarks of Arkansas since 2005. Earl and The Reasons Why play the kind of country music you probably haven’t heard on the radio in nearly 20 years or more – meaning the good stuff – and have a terrific stage presence with humorous anecdotes. I also appreciated Earl’s “just say no to fascism” statement before heading off stage.
by Julian Spivey
“And if I shiver please give me a blanket/Keep me warm let me wear your coat"
Of all the excellent lyrics and terrific guitar licks in The Who’s set list at their Hollywood Casino Amphitheater performance in Tinley Park, Ill. in the Chicago area on Tuesday, May 21 it was this line delivered by vocalist Roger Daltrey during the performance of “Behind Blue Eyes,” one of my favorite Who songs, that stuck out most vividly during the show. It was freakin’ cold! It may have been late May, but it sure as Hell didn’t feel like it with temperatures in the low 50s with a wind chill in the mid-to-high 40s that had people bundled up like it was wintertime all over again. But, despite the chilly weather the band was as good as I could’ve ever hoped for – which is saying a lot for a couple of guys in their mid-70s who’ve been rocking people’s ears off for 55 years.
The Who’s Moving On! tour is notable for the fact that the classic rock band from London, England is being joined on the road by a complete orchestra. I kind of expected the orchestra to play a bigger role than it turned out to play during the show, which isn’t a problem for me. Having never seen The Who and having always wanted to I had a small concern that the orchestra might change the way the music was heard, and it didn’t. This was still great rock music and the orchestra just added a nice touch to the music.
I knew from keeping up with tour setlists before attending Tuesday night’s show that a lot of the show would consist of the two critically-acclaimed rock operas written by Pete Townshend – 1969’s Tommy, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of its release two days after the concert, and 1973’s Quadrophenia. I’ve always been mostly a “greatest hits” fan of The Who, so the was also a slight concern I had going into the Tinley Park show … it turned out to be an unnecessary concern. Sure, it would’ve been great to have heard “Squeeze Box,” “I Can See For Miles” and especially “My Generation,” but it just worked hearing excerpts from Tommy and Quadrophenia played together as mini versions of rock operas with the orchestra.
Of course, it was “the hits” from these mini-rock operas that I loved the most from the performance on Tuesday night – “Pinball Wizard,” during the Tommy section that kicked off the show, and “Love, Reign O’er Me” during the Quadrophenia portion at the end of the concert. Hearing Daltrey perform “Love, Reign O’er Me” live was truly something. The 75-year old vocalist sounds incredible to this day, especially when shouting that final “love!!” during the performance.
After the Tommy section, Townshend took some time to thank the fans freezing their butts off for indulging the group in the performance and mentioned an upcoming release featuring Daltrey’s performance overseas of Tommy with an orchestra (sans Townshend and the rest of the group) before the band launched into the song that typically begins their shows “Who Are You,” their 1978 hit off the album of the same name. It was one of their best performances of the night and truly got the crowd completely into the show and moving around a bit.
Townshend and Daltrey are, of course, the only living members of the original lineup of The Who. Townshend’s younger brother, Simon, has toured with the band off and on over the last few years and is back with them proving rhythmic and acoustic guitar, as well as backing vocals. Zak Starkey, who is the son of the legendary Ringo Starr, has been The Who’s full-time drummer since 1996. The band is also joined on the tour by bassist Jon Button, the new guy among the group.
The mid-section of the show, as has been the case on the entire tour, sees the orchestra take a break and gives The Who the chance to show off some of their most memorable tracks of their legendary career. This is the portion of the show that sees the group alternate different songs depending on the night and on this night performed “The Kids Are Alright” and “The Seeker.”
My favorite Who song is 1971’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” which has been played solely and acoustically by Townshend and Daltrey on the tour, which gives the performance a nice intimate feel. The fact that it’s followed by my second all-time favorite Who song, “Behind Blue Eyes,” which sees the string section from the orchestra accompanying it, made this one-two punch of performances easily my favorite moments of the entire night.
The most recent song performed on the night was the intimate “Tea & Theatre” off the band’s most recent album 2006’s Endless Wire, the only album the band has released since the early ‘80s. It serves as a nice thank you to the group’s loyal fanbase before turning up the sound once again and being rejoined by the full orchestra for the Quadrophenia segment of the show that winds it down.
After the seven performances from Quadrophenia, wrapped up by the amazing aforementioned performance of “Love, Reign O’er Me,” came maybe the song the group is most associated with to wrap up the cold, but terrific night of music – “Baba O’Riley.” The song featured a fantastic violin solo by Katie Jacoby and served as a reminder that it might be the finest violin solo in the history of rock music.
It was truly an honor seeing The Who perform live, I just wish the weather conditions had been a bit more comfortable but hearing Daltrey’s still stellar pipes and getting to see Townshend’s trademark windmill guitar playing in person is something I’m never going to forget.
by Zackary Kephart, Grant Ludmer & Julian Spivey
There has been no shortage of horrible songs throughout the long history of country music. This isn’t because country music is prone to bad songs – although if you were to turn on a mainstream radio station today, you’d think that’s certainly the case and you couldn’t be blamed for it – it’s just that all genres of music have their duds. Despite this, every one of the songs that appears on this list have been released in the last 15 years. We didn’t mean for this to happen. We each compiled lists of the songs we consider to be the worst in the history of country music, combined all of the songs that appeared on our lists (we had more than the 40 you see here and some were older than 15 years ago) and then averaged the songs out from our rankings of that combined list. It just so happened that all of the songs prior to 2004 (and there was only a handful of them) fell off the list in the averaging. This is a sign of just how bad mainstream country music has been over the last decade-plus. It doesn’t even sound like the type of music many of us grew up loving and still love today when we get a chance to hear it.
NOTE: Usually on this website whenever we do a list, we provide the songs below our snippets about them so you can check them out – but we’re not going to do that for this list because doing so would make us akin to drug dealers.
1. Vacation by Thomas Rhett
In the history of music – both country and many other genres – the greatest songs of all-time have been written by one person. Sometimes it takes two. Thomas Rhett’s 2016 release “Vacation,” which charts-wise is his only real bomb, was written by 14 people. That’s almost one songwriter for every word in the damn song (all kidding aside some of the songwriters are from the ‘70s bad War because it samples 1975’s “Low Rider”). It’s got the snaps in it, which has become the latest annoying trend in mainstream country music. Rhett has made a living in the country music genre as a pop, R&B singer because he’s not good enough for those actual genres or he’s just riding on the coattails of his songwriter (and “That Ain’t My Truck” singer) father Rhett Akins getting his foot into the Nashville door. “Vacation” doesn’t even attempt to be a country song – there isn’t one snippet of it that sounds like what anybody who’s ever heard even one country song in their lifetime would consider “country music.” But the song was released to country radio, played on country radio and recorded by an artist who’s won country music awards. That’s enough for us to at least consider “Vacation” the worst country song of all-time. JS
2. Breakup in a Small Town by Sam Hunt
The last six years that Sam Hunt has failed to release a new album have been really nice. Unfortunately, the damage Hunt has reaped on country music can never be undone. This song and the accompanying music video are fucking insane and the talk singing/production just make it so much worse. GL
3. Body Like a Back Road by Sam Hunt
What is there to say that hasn't been said already about this song? This song makes your mouth drop each time you hear it, not because it’s breathtaking, but because it’s one of the biggest misogynistic songs you’ll ever hear in your life. The title really says it all, but even the comparisons he makes are downright creepy. Sam Hunt has no charisma, and thankfully this turd of a tune wasn’t enough to resurrect bro-country. ZK
4. ‘90s Country by Walker Hayes
You know what makes a song country? Listing names of songs of famous ‘90s country songs while a douchey, middle aged guy talk sings. What made ‘90s country and country music prior to the ‘90s great was the storytelling and country instrumentation, none of which is present on this mess. GL
5. You Broke Up with Me by Walker Hayes
Imagine being a worse version of Sam Hunt. Walker Hayes is the store brand version of Sam Hunt and “You Broke Up With Me” is perhaps the worst “country” song ever released. Hayes’ talk singing is so insufferable, and this song is pure douche. GL
6. Ridiculous by Haley Georgia
Sadly, if this song were to be released to country radio in 2019, it would likely become a huge hit … at least if Hayley Georgia was a dude. In 2015, though, country music (thankfully) wasn’t ready for its own version of Iggy Azalea. Aside from the annoying cadence of the hook trying to cram an awkward innuendo into the mix, Georgia is unlikable as a performer. We haven’t heard from her since this song, so at least someone is looking out for country music fans. ZK
7. Donkey by Jerrod Neimann
To be honest, I can look back at this song with a smile. I haven’t grown to like it, but with one bad single release, Jerrod Niemann effectively ended his short career resurgence. Perhaps more than most artists here, Niemann showcased a lot of potential with his debut album, but that was all lost by the time this song came around; a song where, since Jerrod Niemann put his car in the ditch and can't pay to fix it, he's going to ride into town on a donkey - you know, like he's Jesus riding into Jerusalem or something. As he says on another one of his songs, “I hope you get what you deserve.” ZK
8. Hotdamalama by Parmalee
I still don’t even know what the hell a Parmalee is – maybe an Italian dish? – but either way I’m glad it’s finally seemed to have passed. Their (hopefully) last effort at superstardom was 2018’s “Hotdamalama,” which is country grammar for “we’re a bunch of dumbasses.” The song includes the phrase “delta donk.” That’s about all you need to know. JS
9. 1994 by Jason Aldean
I’m a big fan of Joe Diffie. Maybe Jason Aldean is too? And, while name-dropping in modern country music is way out of control, I could’ve gotten behind an artist paying tribute to Diffie – if it actually made any goddamn since. Aldean’s ode to ‘90s country, before Walker Hayes was something anybody knew anything about, tried to turn Diffie’s surname into a verb or a dance or something. The song, which is essentially just Diffie song titles and lines placed back-to-back and “Hey Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie” as the chorus, was written by Thomas Rhett, Barry Dean and Luke Laird, but should’ve had Diffie listed as a songwriter and those clowns as “editor.” Aldean has done a lot of bad in his career, but this is arguably his worst. JS
10. B.Y.H.B. by Uncle Ray Ezra
Washed up, middle aged pop singers (Uncle Kracker, Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath and Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin) join together to create the most bro-country song of all time. Yeah, it’s really bad. GL
11. Friend Zone by Danielle Bradberry
Let me break it down to the facts – this song blows. After Danielle Bradbery’s first two solid singles failed to establish her as a legitimate pop-country artist, Bradbery took the unfortunate low road afterward. As the country music industry continuously fails its female artists, perhaps telling a man to “step up to the plate with a bat” in song *maybe* isn’t the best way to help this sordid picture. Bradbery has the talent, but she utterly failed everyone here, including herself. ZK
12. This Is How We Roll by Florida Georgia Line feat. Luke Bryan
Florida. Georgia. Line. Can’t. Rap. They’re certainly free to try, but they always end up sucking at it, and “This Is How We Roll” is no exception. Otherwise, this track combined every element indicative of why mainstream country music sucked in 2014 – a hard-on for hip-hop tropes wrapped in redneck stereotypes and featuring the intelligence of your average Brantley Gilbert song. ZK
13. Back Porch Bottle Service by AJ McLean
Raise your hand if you thought the Backstreet Boy that said he was going to disrupt country music would release a quality song. Thankfully this trash did nothing on the charts, but this song is an abomination. There is nothing “disruptive” or different about it. It’s as generic as any other stupid drinking song, just worse. GL
14. Sun Daze by Florida Georgia Line
“I sit you up on a kitchen sink/And stick the pink umbrella in your drink” is one of the most vomitous lyrics I’ve ever heard in my life and that’s coming from a band that writes and sings a lot of vomitous stuff. Referring to one’s member as a “pink umbrella” in one of the oddest sexual innuendos I’ve ever heard is par for the course for Florida Georgia Line. If you love STDs, this is the song for you. FGL is the worst act in the history of country music. JS
15. Lookin’ for a Girl by Tim McGraw
Surely even Tim McGraw would like to forget this song exists, right? The Big Machine Records era of McGraw’s career resulted in some fantastic songs, and by the end of his tenure, he completely returned to form, artistically. But along the way, we got songs like “Truck Yeah” and “Lookin’ For That Girl,” an auto tuned slathered, creepy song that even Country Weekly and RoughStock couldn’t give a positive review. Instead of discussing this song once again, let’s just put this conversation to bed and not inflict this on anyone else. ZK
16. Fix by Chris Lane
Chris Lane is part of the bro, pop-country overproduced trash that is right at home at Big Loud Records. “Fix” is the epitome of creepy pick-up songs with Lane comparing himself to the high one experiences on meth. Lane even makes references to the “Breaking Bad” television show. This isn’t just a bad pop song; this is pure filth. GL
17. Meant to Be by FGL & Bebe Rexha
As a pure pop song, “Meant To Be” is honestly a fairly mediocre track that doesn’t inspire passion either way. But in terms of pure historical impact, “Meant To Be” opened Pandora’s box, ushering in problems that we’re now dealing with in 2019. This isn’t a win for females in country music, and it isn’t a win for breaking down barriers elsewhere, either. Instead, this is just a pure celebration of the mono-genre, so hooray for mediocrity. ZK
18. That’s My Kind of Night by Luke Bryan
It’s a Luke Bryan song, so naturally it’s not going to inspire much wit. Still, there was something different about “That’s My Kind Of Night,” a track that tried to fuse hip-hop tropes with backward, redneck imagery and call it “evolution.” This was bro-country at about its absolute worst. ZK
19. Save a Horse (Ride A Cowboy) by Big & Rich
I know that others would likely disagree – maybe even Grant and Zack who are collaborating on this piece with me – but, Big & Rich’s 2004 smash “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” (which I’m surprised to learn wasn’t even a top 10 hit that year) was the beginning of it all and by “all” I mean the eventual downfall of mainstream country music. In 2004 this kind of hip-hop, “we’re all just here to party” bullshit was an outlier, but this seems to be a clear inspiration for all the douchebags that have come since. JS
20. Drink to That All Night by Jerrod Neimann
Jerrod Niemann is responsible for some of the worst songs ever to be played on country radio. “Drink to That All Night” is an awful EDM jam and was preceded by “Donkey” which may be even worse. This is the kind of song you would expect to hear in a nightclub in L.A. not on country radio. Thankfully Niemann basically faded into obscurity after this was a hit, not subjecting us to any more of his awful music again. GL
21. Singles You Up by Jordan Davis
This may actually be the douchiest song of all-time. Yes, it is also a pop song but let’s focus on the message of this song. A girl is in a relationship and this other guy is openly hitting on her telling her that it’s just a matter of time before she realizes that she should be with him and that if/when her current boyfriend and her break up, he will be dating her next. GL
22. Country Girl (Shake It for Me) by Luke Bryan
One of the worst tropes of modern country music has been the treatment of women in song (and just by the industry in general) and one of the biggest purveyors of this has been Luke Bryan. His 2011 hit “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” is one of the worst examples of how women in these bro-country songs are merely sexual fantasies. This song is nothing more than a man wanting a woman to shake her ass for him … and the crickets and the critters and the squirrels (aren’t squirrels also critters?) because we’re country by-God. This song is where my hatred for Luke Bryan shot through the roof. JS
23. Burnin’ It Down by Jason Aldean
How do you name drop Alabama during this dreadful sex song? This is without a doubt one of Jason Aldean’s worst songs of all-time, but unfortunately, he was rewarded with one of his biggest hits of all-time. When did this filth become acceptable on country radio? GL
24. Corn Star by Craig Morgan
“Corn Star” sounds like “Porn Star” hahaha! I can only imagine this is went through songwriter’s Jeffrey Steele (which even sounds like a porn star name) and Shane Minor when they came up with the idea for this song and thought they were being clever. I know that Craig Morgan’s career was basically over by the time this tripe was released in 2012, but it’s so painful to hear the guy who sang modern-day classics like “Almost Home” and “That’s What I Love About Sundays” stoop to this level of stupid. I think I’m often more offended when good performers choose to go this route than just shitty performers doing their thing. JS
25. Red Solo Cup by Toby Keith
I know “Red Solo Cup” by Toby Keith is meant to be a fun-loving, non-serious ode to partying, but that doesn’t help me like it any more. The fact that it became a big hit and was seemingly played everywhere in 2011 and, unfortunately, frequently to this day just made it more annoying than it would’ve been as just a passing release. I think the biggest issue I took with the song is that Keith used to be a good artist, and this was further proof after a string of bad releases that he just didn’t give a fuck anymore. JS
26. Said No One Ever by Jana Kramer
In 2015, Jana Kramer impressed everyone with “I Got The Boy,” a mature, excellent country song that went on to become her biggest hit to date. But the follow-up single, “Said No One Ever,” saw Kramer revert back to her worst tendencies – an overexaggerated drawl atop an utterly stupid, pointless song. It was an outdated joke by the time it was released, and if you want further proof of that, Old Dominion released a similar-sounding song around the same time. ZK
27. The Weekend by Brantley Gilbert
Brantley Gilbert’s tired brand of machismo has worn old as evidenced by his lacking radio success. “The Weekend” is another grasp at bro-country gone wrong. GL
28. Beautiful Drug by Zac Brown Band
Not to defend Luke Bryan, but at this point, he’s got more than enough ammunition to retaliate against Zac Brown claiming he has the worst country song in existence. For a band that wanted to branch out and craft a new, compelling artistic identity, they thought trading in a masterpiece like Uncaged was worth selling out for more success. Even the title of this song is stupid. ZK
29. Dirt Road Anthem by Jason Aldean
You ever heard your white boy cousin try to rap? That’s kind of what Jason Aldean sounds like on “Dirt Road Anthem.” I hated this song so damn much when it was a huge hit in 2011, felt it could only mean bad things for the future of the genre, and things haven’t gotten better since. Aldean, though, has released even worse songs since – which is hard to imagine. One of my biggest complaints at the time “Dirt Road Anthem” was released was its name-dropping of George Jones, but now all these “country” dumbasses are name-dropping country legends in songs so obviously not inspired by the legends. JS
30. I Play Chicken with the Train by Cowboy Troy feat. Big & Rich
There were a lot of bad things that came along when Big & Rich and their MuzikMafia, but one of the worst was Cowboy Troy and his hick-hop – which was one of the forerunners to one of the worst sounds country music has ever heard. When Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. combined rock and hip-hop in the ‘80s on “Walk This Way” it was cool, but I haven’t found a mixture of country and hip-hop yet that I’d consider “cool.” Like most of today’s failed pop stars getting into country I can’t help but think Cowboy Troy was a hip-hop laughingstock just trying to make a career somewhere else. He ends this song with the statement: “get you some of that,” but my best advice would be “don’t.” JS
31. Parking Lot Party by Lee Brice
Lee Brice has put out his share of bad songs over his career but “Parking Lot Party” without question is the worst. It is one of the dumbest, most upsetting songs that my ears have ever been exposed to. I am less intelligent for having heard this song. GL
32. Small Town Boy by Dustin Lynch
Dustin Lynch is one of the most disappointing artists to have come on the country music scene ever. He entered the genre with a solid traditional country debut single “Cowboys and Angels,” wearing the cowboy hat and looking the part. Sadly, it was completely downhill from there to the point that all he does is release generic, safe pop music. GL
33. Brown Chicken Brown Cow by Trace Adkins
Whatever hick figured out that the sexy porno sound “bow chicka bow wow” sounded like “brown chicken brown cow” should be shot. It was never funny, but inspired Trace Adkins to write the country music version of “Old McDonald’s Farm After Dark.” I’m sorry, but there’s nothing sexy about two rednecks getting it on while farm animals watch. Thankfully this bombed big time at country radio. JS
34. Honky Tonk Badonkadonk by Trace Adkins
Trace Adkins has enough great country songs to have a 20-track “Greatest Hits” compilation and actually leave some good stuff off. That’s the sign of a truly great career. He’s also recorded some of the worst crap we’ve seen on Music Row. When “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” came out in late 2005 I thought Adkins had lost his damn mind. After hearing stuff like “Swing” and the song that is coming directly after this one on this list it was confirmed. Luckily, it didn’t stay that way. This is one of those songs that was at the initial forefront of country music melding with hip-hop, except in some ways it was like a stereotypical parody of hip-hop, which kind of makes it even worse. JS
35. Bobbi with an I by Phil Vassar
Phil Vassar has always been overrated, but “Bobbi with an I” is pure atrocity. It’s also one of the most offensive – not just with its stupidity, but with its subject matter – songs the country genre has ever seen. The title character Bobbi was one of the boys in high school, but now he’s transitioning or just likes dressing up as a woman. Vassar, of course, plays it as a joke. In actuality the joke is Vassar’s song and career. JS
36. Tippin’ Point by Dallas Smith
Our friends up north of the border actually have some damn good country music themselves, and you need not look any further than Corb Lund, Lindi Ortega and Colter Wall for great examples. Even on the mainstream end, High Valley has been a wonderful addition to the mainstream country roster. But it’s also got its duds, and Dallas Smith is just about as bad as it gets. If you like auto tuned slathered, annoyingly repetitive bro-country songs, Smith has you covered. Otherwise, there’s little reason to care. ZK
37. My Girl by Dylan Scott
This is a rare case of a song being offensively mediocre. The instrumentation and production are the prime example of how gutless mainstream country can get at its worst, and Scott only stands out for a distinctive baritone wasted on a clichéd song. ZK
38. Drunk Me by Mitchell Tenpenny
Mitchell Tenpenny is awful. There are absolutely no redeeming qualities about him (his breakthrough song, after all, was titled “Bitches”) and he certainly has no place in country music. How many times must we be subjected to the trope comparing love to a drug addiction? At what point will that stop being cool or interesting? Asking for a friend. GL
39. Coming Home by Keith Urban
Most of the song’s elements truthfully fail to stick out much in any capacity. It’s the ripping off of the Merle Haggard “Mama Tried” riff that solidifies its placement here. Nothing about this song makes any sense otherwise. From the lyrics which are broadly written at best, Julia Michaels serving absolutely no purpose here, and the aforementioned “tribute” to Haggard, this should really just be swept under the rug and forgotten. ZK
40. Stuck Like Glue by Sugarland
I’m sure it’s an unpopular opinion, but I’ve always found Jennifer Nettles and her group/duo Sugarland to be annoying – mostly her voice that’s just nails on a chalkboard to my ears. But, “Stuck Like Glue” is world’s worse than anything else in their discography. The music intentionally made to sound like the worst person you’ve ever met loudly chewing and popping gum makes me want to put a fist through a wall. JS
You can read more from Zackary Kephart at The Musical Divide.
You can read more from Grant Ludmer at Critically Country.
Let us know what you think of our list, what song you think is the worst of all-time, what we missed or what songs we included that you don't think belong in the comments ...
by Julian Spivey
Steve Earle brought his terrific brand of outlaw country and rock music to Conway, Ark.’s annual Toad Suck Daze Festival on Saturday, May 4 for a fantastic night of rip-roaring tunes.
Earle is on tour promoting his latest release, Guy, a tribute album to his friend and mentor Guy Clark, who died in 2016. Earle performed six straight Clark songs to open his show at Toad Suck Daze on Saturday night and it proved to be a brilliant tribute to one of the all-time greatest (and most underrated) singer-songwriters. Earle would tell stories of his friendship with Clark throughout these performances, including the last time he ever saw him before his death.
If any other artist had chosen to open a show with six consecutive cover songs it might be a poor decision – it’s certainly a risky one either way – but the mix of Earle performing songs of his friend and mentor was terrific. Unfortunately, I never had the honor of seeing Clark perform in person, but this was the closest thing I’ll ever get, and it truly made my evening.
Earle began his Clark tribute with “Dublin Blues,” the most recent of Clark’s songs he would perform on the night, and one of his all-time greatest. He would follow with the classic train song “Texas 1947,” “Rita Ballou” and “Heartbroke,” which Clark wrote and recorded and was taken to No. 1 on the Billboard country music chart in 1982 by Ricky Skaggs.
My favorite Clark covers by Earle on Saturday night were his final two – my two favorite Guy Clark songs – “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train” and “L.A. Freeway,” which both appeared on Clark’s 1975 debut Old No. 1. “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train” is simply one of the greatest story songs ever written about an old man and his young friend (likely a grandson) and, in my opinion, easily one of the 100 greatest songs ever written.
After his wonderful tribute to his dear friend Earle begin his set of his own brilliantly written songs with “Tom Ames’ Prayer,” a song Clark would often ask him to perform. When he burst into “I Feel Alright,” the title track of his 1996 album, things really began to rock. The song might sound familiar to Miranda Lambert fans as it was so similar to her 2005 hit “Kerosene,” which she had to give Earle a co-write on after she “unconsciously copied it almost exactly.”
My favorite Earle song has always been “Guitar Town,” the title track to his amazing 1986 debut, which was one of my favorite performances from him both times I’ve seen him now. Him performing “Guitar Town” and the fan-favorite “Copperhead Road,” from 1988, back-to-back was definitely a highlight of his Toad Suck Daze performance. If the crowd hadn’t already been completely into the show, they certainly were when the iconic bagpipes of “Copperhead Road” (which are played from a previous recording in his live show) began.
Earle’s longtime backing band The Dukes are a mixture of incredibly talented musicians and one of the great showings of the night was Earle’s duet of “Baby’s Just as Mean as Me” with his fiddle player and background vocalist Eleanor Whitmore, which had appeared on his 2015 album Terraplane. It’s a great bluesy number that really shows off her fantastic vocals.
Whitmore’s fiddle playing was terrific the entire show, none more so than her performance on “The Galway Girl,” off Earle’s 2000 album Transcendental Blues. The Celtic folk tune has become one of Earle’s standards of his career and basically shows he can do any type of rootsy music he wants and make it sound as good as anybody who’s ever done it.
A couple of the highlights from Earle’s later performances in his set were from his most recent album of original songs, 2017’s So You Wanna Be An Outlaw, including the title track to that album, as well as the ode to fireman, specifically hot shot crews, “The Firebreak Line.” So You Wanna Be An Outlaw was Earle’s return to his outlaw country-rock roots and is among the finest releases of his career.
After receiving uproarious applause from the Toad Suck Daze crowd Earle returned to the main stage at downtown Conway’s Simon Park for a great two-song encore that was heavily influenced by the great Bruce Springsteen. Earle began the encore with the first verse of the Springsteen classic “Racing in the Streets” before segueing into his 1987 song “Sweet Little ’66.” The car themed encore would continue and end with a cover of Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac,” which was the B-side to his biggest career hit “Dancing in the Dark.”
Before Earle took the stage on Saturday night the Toad Suck Daze crowd was mesmerized by country music singer-songwriter Erin Enderlin, who hails from right here in Conway. Enderlin is a longstanding Nashville songwriter who has penned hits like Alan Jackson’s “Monday Morning Church” and Lee Ann Womack’s “Last Call.” Her music is traditional country to its core.
Among the many highlights from Enderlin’s set were “Caroline,” “Baby Sister” and “Jesse Joe’s Cigarette” from her critically-acclaimed 2017 release Whiskeytown Crier.
It was Enderlin’s slower tunes like “The Blues Are Alive & Well” and “Ain’t It Just Like a Cowboy,” from that album, that really stood out on Saturday night and sounded beautiful as the Conway sun was setting. She told that crowd that the legendary Merle Haggard told her he really liked “Ain’t It Just Like a Cowboy” and as a result it had become her favorite song of hers.
Enderlin has an EP, Chapter One: Tonight I Don’t Give a Damn, that just hit Spotify and other music streaming services the day before that includes the terrific title track of that EP. She also performed a newish song, released on streaming services last year, called “These Boots” that sounds like it should be a huge country hit if country music still played the kind of traditional sounding country music that Enderlin writes and sings. If you’ve never heard her stuff, I highly recommend checking her out.
by Tyler Glover
On April 13th, superstar Taylor Swift started a countdown clock across social media that ended on Friday, April 26th. Fans and media outlets everywhere immediately began speculating that new music from Swift was on its way. Swift posted multiple pictures to Instagram every day to build the excitement.
Then, on Friday, April 26th at midnight, the world got to see the release of Swift's new song, "ME!" featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco. From the very beginning of the music video, Taylor makes it clear this is the dawn of a new era by having the famous snake from her Reputation album explode into multiple butterflies. This really signals that the news of the old Taylor being dead was definitely premature. When Reputation came out in November 2017, critics and fans were shocked to see such a dark and grim Swift. With "Look What You Made Me Do," Swift seemed hellbent on revenge and getting back at those who wronged her. She even proclaimed the old Taylor dead.
This song was definitely the complete opposite from her previous lead single, "Shake It Off." However, it should not have shocked people that Swift would go down this road. This was the same singer who had built her career on sharing the narrative of her life with her fans and completely ignoring the biggest controversy of her career would not have felt like authentic.
It is very obvious from this single that things are sunnier in Swift's life. "ME!" is such a feel good song about embracing ourselves for the people we are even though we have flaws.
She begins by saying "I promise that you'll never find another like me." She sings about going "psycho on the phone" and never leaving "well enough alone." We all have our special someone who may drive us crazy at times, but we appreciate them for being who they are, and no one will ever be like them.
It is true that this is not the strongest Swift song lyrically. It is no "All Too Well" or "Blank Space." There is a line that multiple critics have shown dislike for when Swift sings that "spelling is fun!" And then proceeds to spell things with the word me in it like awesome. This is definitely not the strongest part of the song, but she is very smart and savvy. This helps the song cater to young ones. My two little ones ask me to repeat this song every time they hear it just once and this appears to be their favorite part. I don’t think this song is meant to be taken very seriously. It is meant to be a nice little song to help us feel better about ourselves and groove to while in the car this summer. Will it be one of the main songs Swift is remembered for? I am doubtful about that, but this song is sheer fun and joy. I have listened to it on repeat consistently since its release. While it may not be her strongest song, Swift knows what she is doing, and I believe it will be a hit. So, who loves this Taylor Swift song ... well ... ME!
by Julian Spivey
10."She's Crazy for Leaving" by Rodney Crowell
Rodney Crowell and his mentor Guy Clark wrote the fun break-up song “She’s Crazy for Leaving” in the early ‘80s and it first appeared on Clark’s 1981 album The South Coast of Texas. Nearly 10 years later in the early part of 1989 the song, off Crowell’s 1988 classic Diamonds & Dirt, would become Crowell’s third consecutive no. 1 (of what would wind up a record-setting five from one album). Crowell’s version of “She’s Crazy for Leaving” is truly one of the underrated country songs of all-time with its infectious fun in spite of lost love.
9. "I Sang Dixie" by Dwight Yoakam
It’s almost hard to believe, but Dwight Yoakam has only had two no. 1 singles in his career, and both were released in 1988: “Streets of Bakersfield” with Buck Owens and “I Sang Dixie.” “I Sang Dixie, released in late 1988, would top the country music chart in early 1989. The song describes its narrator meeting a dying old man on the busy Los Angeles streets and how the old man longs to be back home in Dixie. It’s a song any Southerner away from home can completely understand.
8. "The Road Goes on Forever" by Robert Earl Keen
Robert Earl Keen’s great outlaw story song “The Road Goes on Forever” debuted on his 1989 sophomore album West Textures and has gone on to become one of the many fan-favorites in his live concert set. The song never became a hit, none of Keen’s songs truly have as he’s remained someone of a cult favorite, despite being one of America’s greatest singer-songwriters of the last 30-plus years. The story of Sonny and Sherry gained a bit more fame in the mid-‘90s when recorded by the country supergroup The Highwaymen featuring Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
7. "Runnin' Down a Dream" by Tom Petty
Tom Petty took a bit of a minor risk in 1989 with his first solo album Full Moon Fever, though many members of his band the Heartbreakers did play on the album, but that risk turned into the biggest selling album of his career. “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” which has become of the great rock music driving songs, was the second single off the album in 1989 and would top the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, while also becoming a top 25 Billboard Hot 100 charter. The song would remain a staple in Petty’s live shows until his death in 2017.
6. "I'm No Stranger to the Rain" by Keith Whitley
“I’m No Stranger to the Rain” was Keith Whitley’s fifth and final single from his 1988 album Don’t Close Your Eyes. It would also be the final single released before his tragic and untimely death in May of 1989 at just 33 years old. “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” hit no. 1 on the country charts just a few weeks before Whitley’s death. The song is incredibly hopeful about being no stranger to the worst and life and coming out the other side. It’s a shame that’s not what would happen in real life for Whitley. This is one of the genre’s most underrated songs of all-time.
5. "The Dance" by Garth Brooks
1989 was the year we were first introduced to Garth Brooks, who would soon skyrocket to becoming one of the biggest smashes in the history of country music. His self-titled debut was released on April 12, 1989 and included three of the greatest songs he’s ever recorded: “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old), “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “The Dance.” “The Dance” wouldn’t be released as a single until 1990, but we’ll include it here as it was released on the album that year. The song about living life to the fullest because you never know when it’s going to end would become one of Brooks’ greatest hits and won Song of the Year at the 1990 Academy of Country Music Awards. In 2003, CMT named “The Dance” as the 14th greatest country song of all-time.
4. "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty
“I Won’t Back Down” was the very first single ever released by Tom Petty without his band The Heartbreakers and did very well on the Billboard charts hitting no. 12 on the Hot 100 and no. 1 on the Mainstream Rock chart. The song, which would sort of become Tom Petty’s theme song, is an unapologetic ode to never giving up. The song was co-written by Petty and Full Moon Fever producer, fellow Traveling Wilburys member and Electric Light Orchestra leader Jeff Lynne and would see a second life after the devastating terrorist attacks of 9/11 when it turned into a rallying cry four country, especially after Petty performed it on a televised telethon just 10 days after the attacks.
3. "Killin' Time" by Clint Black
Around the middle ‘80s there was a comeback of traditional country music sounds and values led by artists like Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam, but the second wave of this sound would show up in 1989 with artists like Garth Brooks, Clint Black and Travis Tritt all debuting that year. Brooks has gone on to become the greatest of them all, but nobody had a better 1989 in country music than Black. Black’s debut album Killin’ Time would see the two biggest hits in country music of the entire year with his debut single “A Better Man” being the no. 1 song of the year and his second single “Killin’ Time,” which I believe is the best release of his career, coming it at no. 2. Just that opening guitar lick of “Killin’ Time” is one of the greatest sounds in the history of country music. Black also released the single “Nobody’s Home” in 1989, which might give him the greatest first three singles to start a career of anybody in country music history.
2. "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old) by Garth Brooks
I know I’m in the minority, but I fully believe “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn),” the very first single of Garth Brooks career, is the greatest song he’s ever recorded. The song, which talks about how hard life can be for a rodeo man, topped off at no. 8 on the Billboard country chart in 1989. “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” is likely the second greatest rodeo song of all-time, just behind George Strait’s 1982 release “Amarillo by Morning.”
1. "Free Fallin'" by Tom Petty
Tom Petty absolutely owned the world of popular and rock music in 1989 with his first solo album Full Moon Fever. “Free Fallin’, co-written by Petty and Jeff Lynne, was the album’s third single and its best received topping out at no. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the highest charting single of Petty’s career. “Free Fallin’” also became the third straight no. 1 single off the album on the Mainstream Rock chart. Petty’s dominance of 1989 can’t be stressed enough considering this was a time when rock music just wasn’t crossing over to the pop charts as well as it had before. Petty’s three singles from 1989 would all remain staples of his career, so much that they were three of the four songs he and the Heartbreakers would perform during their Super Bowl halftime show in 2008.
Let us know what your favorite song from 1989 was ...