Friday, October 28, 2005

Bad ride cowboys

I like music. It’s not as important to me as it once was, were most of my free time was spent listening music, either on the radio or some other recorded format. I used to make party tapes, or tapes to fit some other mood, spending hours getting the song mix and the recording just right.

Nowadays, it much easier to record music. You can burn a CD in a matter of minutes, rather than spending hours setting sound levels and recording each song track by track.

It’s easier to take music with you too. With portable CD players, MP3 players, iPods, even cell phones allowing you to take your tunes with you wherever you go.

But somewhere along the line music became something of a periodic soundtrack rather than constant accompaniment.

Back in the day, I was a rocker. A head banger. I liked my music loud and proud and with screaming guitar licks and a pounding beat. But somewhere along the way my taste in music changed as well. Country music is more a part of my soundtrack than rock, or pop music, today, although I still listen to them. And I've added blues and a smattering of jazz, maybe even some classical from time to time.

I’ve never turned my back on music, just put a little more distance between us. But I’m beginning to think that the music makers and sellers have turned their back on me -- on us.

I was in Target the other day, looking through the music aisles because I wanted to pick up a CD while I was there getting a few other household items, but I found steam coming out of my ears in the New Release section.

Several of the CDs on the shelves boasted that they had “Target Exclusive” bonus tracks. I don’t want artists or record labels putting tracks on some CDs and not on others that I may or may not get based on whether I bought my music at Best Buy or Target or Tower Records or Fred Meyer. In the long run, fans aren’t getting something more, they are getting less. Less choice on where they want to shop – or in cases of people living in small towns, where they can shop – and missing some songs they may like by some artists because they bought their CD at the “wrong” store.

One of my all-time favorite artists and another mega-retailer have taken this insane trend to a ludicrous extreme. This summer Garth Brooks announced that from here on out new music would be sold exclusively at
Wal-Mart stores.

This shouldn’t be a major issue for me because Brooks is “retired” and is supposedly not going to be “un-retiring” until his youngest daughter is out of high school, which would apparently be sometime in 2015, according to one published report I read. Well, 10 years from now Brooks will be all but irrelevant as a “contemporary” recording artist and probably have at least some trouble getting anyone willing to sell his music, because the only people who may then give a shit about his music will be people 50 and older. Yea, baby boomers are swelling the ranks of senior citizens, and I am not a music industry expert but I know enough to realize the gray-haired set is not an important demographic to the music industry. Music is a young man’s and woman’s game, for the artists and the buyers/listeners.

When I first heard about the Brooks deal, I didn’t give it much thought. Brooks is retired and not putting out new music. I have all of his old stuff already. So the fact that I don’t shop at Wal-Mart won’t matter. I have only been in a Wal-Mart once or twice in the last 5 years. With Target and Best Buy and malls, and now Fred Meyer, in the towns I’ve lived in, there is no need for me to go to Wal-Mart anymore. I like other store’s quality of merchandise and selection better than Wal-Mart, so I don’t think I’m missing much. And I don’t shop much anyway. So, Brooks’ deal was no big deal to me.

But regardless of what Brooks is saying publicly, he appears to be coming out of retirement. In fact he has a new box set of previously unreleased material coming out sometime this fall. And he’s been making special appearances performing here and there, like a recent Grand Old Opry anniversary appearance, which was a bit odd given he rarely showed up there after he became a big star and was actively touring and recording. Then there was his public engagement to long-time girlfriend and singer Trisha Yearwood. He also performed with Yearwood on a Hurricane Katrina benefit show.

Now, Brooks has a single out, which was released earlier this month. The song "Good Ride Cowboy," is a tribute to the late Chris LeDoux who died earlier this year. The song is all over the Portland radio station I listen to, KWJJ, The Wolf 99.5 FM.

That’s a lot of activity in the last few months for a guy who is retired. The song sucks, in spite of the fact that it debuted at No. 18 on the Billboard chart, the highest ever debut for Brooks who at one time owned the music charts.

I wanted to like this song. I am a Garth Brooks fan. I admired LeDoux’s music and career. I wanted to love this song.

I don’t.

The more I hear it, the more irritated I get.

According to what little I could find about the song, it was written by
Richie Brown, Jerrod Niemann, Bryan Kennedy and Bob Doyle, and it definitely sounds like a song written by committee. And Brooks certainly did not tap into his powerhouse stable of songwriters who have written some of Brooks’ more powerful songs. Doyle is a music publisher and Brooks’ co-manager. Brown and Niemann appear to be relative newcomers on the scene. Kennedy is the only one of the bunch with any writing chops, as he wrote or cowrote six song on some of Brooks’ more recent albums including No. 1 radio hits "Beaches of Cheyenne" (which is a powerful song) and "American Honky Tonk Bar Association" (which is upbeat is catchy, but features silly plays on words, not unlike “Good Ride Cowboy”). Kennedy also wrote or cowrote the lesser-known Brooks’ songs "Cowboy Cadillac" "The Old Stuff", "Rodeo or Mexico", and "The Fever".

Frankly, I would have expected more than a silly song with a catch beat. And LeDoux certainly deserved a better tribute. The fact that "Good Ride Cowboy" is a successfully marketed radio hit from a popular artist listeners have been dying to hear something new from is not enough to make this a good song.

Frankly, the song "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," which mentions LeDoux in the lyrics and was Brooks’ first single and co-written by Brooks, was a much more fitting tribute to the former professional cowboy turned country crooner.

The song definitely doesn’t leave me wanting more of Garth and certainly not wanting enough to venture to Wal-Mart to get it once his box set comes out.

If Brooks or any other musician wants at chance at my entertainment dollar they need to be where I do, and quick fucking around with those "exclusive" deals. Decide what to put on a record, put it out where I can find it easily and maybe, just maybe, I'll buy it.

Garth Brooks


Brat said...

I for one will stand up against Wal-Mart, but for a differnt reason. They are the main reason for the destruction of small town America.

Ari said...

I don't buy my music at Wal-Mart because they sell censored stuff. If I'm paying for cussing, I want to get every word.

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