Release Date: September 27th / October 21st 2019
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
If you were to tell me a year ago that one of my frequented genres of music over the year would be country music, I’d tell you to rack off, laugh in your face, and say ‘you got the wrong guy’. No seriously, prior to this year, I was dead-set opposed to quite possibly a lot of things country- except for a few Carrie Underwood songs here and there. For me, I assumed what country music would be and what it would be like. I didn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole, and so when the time came for me to compile a 100 top influential artist’s list, it was always interesting and eye-opening to say the least, whenever a country artist came around. Now here I am in October, 30 blog entries into this year-long (and most certainly longer!) project, and I’ve listened to my fair share of country music in that time period- Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, The McClymonts, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, even some odd few Kelly Clarkson songs. And what is my assessment of country music as of right now? It’s not too bad. In fact, the country that is indeed influential today, the artists that have left a stamp on music history- their music’s not that bad. Now my opinion about country music from people who are up-and-coming today may be a different story, and maybe I won’t be a great judge of artists of the ‘new’ country music. Nevertheless, what I have observed about country music from the 1990s/2000s (much of the country artists I’ve heard are from that particular era!), is the authentic and emotive nature of the songs and melodies. And now here in my 31st entry, I’ve decided to unpack yet another country artist- this time, trio Rascal Flatts have been blasted through my ears through the last week or so. In this short, albeit quick time that I have been able to make an holistic judgement, I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate the band and their undertakings of songs that are fun, but also songs that mean something too. A group that is standing tall in country music today, I’ve been further reminded of how real, honest, and emotive such a genre as this can get, and that my assumptions about country were dead wrong. A reminder that all of us can be better people whenever we assume less; Rascal Flatts are indeed a band to check out if you enjoy more older-school country music, artists who would’ve started out in the early 2000s than the artists currently in the Billboard charts today!
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve gained a bit of insight over these last few months. And it is this- there is no pattern to how I listen to my music, or rather, what genre of music that I like. Even when I was enjoying a lot of CCM during my younger days, I’d listen to a wide variety of styles- rock, pop, worship, acoustic, folk, singer-songwriter…basically anything that wasn’t screamo. Now here as I branch out into different music styles and appreciate music in a general sense of the word, I see the exact same thing- virtually no pattern as to how I enjoy my music, or what I do listen to. Phil Collins, prominent in the 1980s, delivers to us an eclectic mix of pop-rock mixed with a high energy drum-beat undertone, while Kelly Clarkson is your traditional pop-rock with an inspirational edge in there. Owl City is close enough to EDM that I did embark upon, while Andrew Peterson utilised a lot of acoustics and focussed a lot on the lyrical side of things. Add to that the hard rockers of Skillet and DC Talk, and the ever poignant and motivational Tenth Avenue North; and you see that my musical tastes have broadened much over the weeks and months ahead. That is, until I’ve searched deeper into the patterns behind my very own choices for these blog posts thus far. There is indeed a pattern. Out of 26 artists I’ve decided to write about thus far, quite a fair number (5) are of the country variety. Yes, there, I’ve said it. Unknowingly, and maybe even unintentionally, I’ve favoured country music ahead of basically every other music genre thus far, inclusive of this artist I’m about to delve into today- Faith Hill. And there’s nothing wrong with country. Far from it. In fact, upon listening to music time and time again this year, I’ve noticed that country music in particular tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves a lot more, and that’s ok. Never have I initially thought that I would resonate a lot of country music, yet I have. Artists like Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, The McClymonts, Shania Twain, and now Faith Hill, have all influenced the genre of country over the years, and by and large, have shaped what music is currently today as well. Maybe not so much The McClymonts, but considering that they are indeed an Australian country trio, and they have been charting top honours for best country band every year since their release of their debut album 12 years ago, makes their inclusion very much more settled and certain. Nevertheless, here I am with another post discussing Faith Hill and her music- and to be honest, I don’t really know much about her life…and maybe that’s a good thing. All I know is that she’s married to country artist Tim McGraw, released 8 studio albums, and is now declared one of the best country artists at the moment.
Release Date: July 19th 2019
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
I don’t think that there’s ever been a time when I’ve questioned the type of music that I have enjoyed and loved, been encouraged by and even championed, up until now. Not that switching things up and enjoying new music and new artists is a bad thing, not at all. Nor is sticking to the same artist again and again- if you know they’re proven and you’re inspired for positive change through their music, then fair enough, I guess. But one thing that this year-long (at least) exercise is, is that we ought to expect the unexpected. And that’s what happened going into this. 18 weeks in, and never did I ever think that I would listen to (and enjoy!) artists like Phil Collins, Train, Sara Bareilles, Delta Goodrem, Owl City, Martina McBride, U2 and Avril Lavigne, to name a few. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that I would enjoy and get excited about music that isn’t necessarily Christian in nature. I guess it shows that my musical tastes are expanding, all the while knowing that the Lord God Himself can choose to speak through whatever music He wants, and if it is through mainstream music, then who am I to judge?
Influential is a funny word you see. Many people disguise it as popular, or they think that influential really means popular, when in fact the definition cannot be farther from what people perceive it is. For I’ve always been reminded that through this blog series, influential and popular aren’t always the same, in fact, most times, popular artists aren’t influential at all. They’re not influencing a generation to think about issues and topics that need to be discussed at length amongst friends and promote dialogue on real issues. Popular artists are indeed giving us popular songs that we can enjoy so that we can have a good time…but at the end of the day, much of the popular music of today can be a little vapid. Nevertheless, we tend to think that popular and influential are hand-in-hand, and thus, we attribute fame and fortune with someone impacting millions around the world. But herein lies the point- much of the people on my own influential top 100 list are relatively unknown. Sure they are known to their special field in which their genre of music is in, but outside of that specialised genre, not many people may have heard them…and that’s ok. I discussed one such artist before- Andrew Peterson, and how his knack for using his lyrical prowess to deliver poignant truths about God and mankind has led him to be placed upon my list, can seem all but absurd to the outside casual listener. But for me, Andrew himself has influenced my life a lot these last few years, as I’m sure many people who has heard his music and have testified to his life-changing lyrics that seep deep into the soul. Enter in another such artist, who I’m sure a lot of people know nothing about, myself included (until a week or so ago)- Australian country trio, The McClymonts.
Is there any criteria for what determines an influential artist? Influential albums- sure we can figure that one out. Just think about an album that has changed you from the inside out, or one that has sentimental value to you, or one that you’d just know has shaped you beyond the shadow of a doubt (you wouldn’t be the person you are today if that particular album wasn’t recorded and released!); and that’s it. Maybe there are around 20 or 30 albums that you hold dear, that you believe to be higher above all others. But as for the extent of influence an artist has over society as a whole or individuals, across time, all genres and transcending countries, religions, beliefs, value systems and creeds; that’s a big, big mouthful to fully grasp and a gigantic pool of artists to choose from. I guess you’d say that the criteria is different depending on what you value in an artist, whether it is lyrics or music or the artist’s private lives and if it matches up with what they’re singing about… and that’s probably the reason why Jon is in the midst of writing about 100 artists, and even then it’s not a perfect list. The other day though, I started to think about the artists that were not part of Jon’s list, whom were deemed to be seemingly not influential enough. There were obviously some older artists whom Jon found others to be more influential for one reason or another; however if we’re only thinking of influence in the regard that an artist has to be a veteran of x amount of years or x amount of albums, then I’m certain we’d miss out on exploring and listening to a number of up and coming artists whom in the future could be equally as influential or even more so than The Beatles, Queen, Abba, Elton John, Whitney Houston and others. So, I’ve started up a mini-list of 20 artists (note, as of November 2019, this list has expanded to 50 artists!). By no means is it perfect, but it’s a snapshot of artists whom I reckon will take the world by storm in the coming years. Artists whom I reckon may not necessarily be popular, but still impact in a society where listeners are bored with songs at the drop of a hat. Maren Morris is the first artist that I’ll be delving into and exploring, and boy does she have plenty of remarkable songs that are relevant to society that need to be shared with the whole world!
Just a couple of weeks ago, I delved into the realms and musical genres of country music, discussing about Carrie Underwood, and her relevance and influence in today’s society, the history of music as a whole, and just the overall arching umbrella of inspirational music that can encourage and impact. Here we are, just two weeks later, again delving into another country artist- Martina McBride. Never in my own wildest dreams did I ever think I would listen to country music. Sure, I heard a few songs from Carrie Underwood here and there, and I always knew that CCM rockers Third Day somehow skirted the fine line between southern Rock, CCM and country quite a bit. But if you were to let me know a year ago that in a year’s time, I’d be listening to artists like Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride, I’d be laughing, wondering what planet you’re from. Because for me, Martina’s music has only been thoroughly listened to on a regular basis this last week or so- her music, though so iconic and monumental over the years for so many listeners, has somehow been swept by the wayside unintentionally by myself… until now of course! Martina’s career is as long as it is respected and revered- a mainstay and icon in not just country music alone, but in music overall. An eye-opening occasion for myself (I didn’t know country- or even to a lesser extent country-inspired, can be such a positive experience for myself), Martina’s music is a generation behind Carrie Underwood, starting her career in the 1990s, and releasing albums at a steady pace from then till now…and that’s ok. In all serious, Martina’s style is very similar to that of CCM icons Natalie Grant and Amy Grant, and while Martina’s stint in the music industry has led to much success over the years, it has been her extra-album activities, like her love for cooking and the recent unveiling of her new cooking TV programme, that has solidified her standing as one of country music’s reigning singer-songwriters and performers, and all-round inspirational people, after all these years!
I don’t think I have ever been a great big avid fan of country music, if I’m completely honest. Sure I would hear a few songs from time to time, but for me, it wouldn’t be a genre of music that I’d actively seek out and listen to, throughout my years on this earth. If I am being completely honest, I much prefer the safe confines of CCM and pop, compared to the country music that has the great big southern drawl, and the songs full of…well, full of disappointment and heartache, I would surmise, right? Maybe it’s just me, but prior to this week, I had a conception on what country music would be like- songs about relationships, heartbreaks, mess-ups, songs about trucks, girls and guys, having a good time, songs about God and Jesus and faith, songs about…well, anything that would sell records, right?