In country music today, a great deal of mediocrity has been allowed to slip into the genre – where at one time, only legends and great ones stood. Now that’s not to say that every new artist is recording interchangable and forgettable tunes. But it seems the ratio of disposable songs to standards has taken a drastic plunge in recent years. Where are the legends of today?
Artists like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain come to mind. If only for their record-breaking sales numbers, both will still be talked about for years to come. Besides their respective mega-hits – ‘Friends In Low Places’ and ‘You’re Still The One’, I don’t think many people will be able to name more than a couple songs from them. But, people will still know their name.
And then we have artists like George Strait and Reba McEntire who are still relevant into the third decade of their careers. Surely, people will still talk about the careers of King George and Reba long after they’re gone. For Strait, I’d say people will remember songs like ‘All My Ex’s Live In Texas’, ‘I Cross My Heart’, and ‘Carrying Your Love With Me’. Nobody is going to forget ‘Fancy’, ‘For My Broken Heart’, or ‘Does He Love You’ anytime soon either. But, both of them have been having hits longer than most artists even remain in the memory of the public at large.
Loretta Lynn was a trailblazer and truly an American poet. Dolly Parton built her persona into the kind of world-wide popularity rivaled only by the Beatles and Elvis. Merle Haggard, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash all had their own image. There was nobody else like them, and there never will be. Patsy Cline is still talked about today, some 46 years after her death. And it’s been 56 years since country music lost Hank Williams, but his name comes up as often as ever.
Who will still be talked about 40 years from now? I’m sure that as far back as the hey-day of Hank Williams, country music saw disposable artists come and go. It just seems there are so few original artists today, and the few that are walking their own path aren’t really paving the way because they just aren’t having much success. The top of the charts finds one cookie-cutter artist after another.
My guess is that the music of Sugarland is here to stay – or at least the vocals of Jennifer Nettles. I see ‘Stay’ as being remembered for decades. However, I don’t believe it’s the magnum opus of Sugarland’s career. It certainly is up to this point. Still, I see so many more defining moments ahead for them – and I predict several will be even more powerful than ‘Stay’. And I think we’ve only just begun to hear what Jennifer Nettles is capable of. But that’s just my opinion.
What artists of today do you think will still be talked about in 40, 50 years? Why?
Only the beginning …