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Is Blake Shelton really ‘the Lance Armstrong of country music’?

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Talk about being in the hot seat! Blake Shelton has always seemed to me to be the Bill Clinton of country music; he never seems to know when to be quiet, poor guy. He did it again when he upset fans of traditional country music with a comment he made in GAC’s Backstory special on his career (so much so that Dale Watson called Shelton “the Lance Armstrong of country music!”, which I’d say is a bit overboard.) I’ve never really been a big fan of Shelton’s music (or tiresome wiseguy attitude), but that’s OK because there are plenty of other country artists I love that I can spend my time listening to… and spend my money buying (hint, hint, traditional country music fans!)

The star of TV’s The Voice spoke out, saying that you can’t avoid the changes in country music. True. But then he just got in trouble explaining the obvious, saying, “Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, ‘My God, that ain’t country!’ Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.”

So preferring traditional country music makes someone a “jackass”? That got country music fans plastering internet message boards with negative comments about Shelton. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was making plans to watch the upcoming Super Bowl with the Dixie Chicks.

As soon as Shelton made those injudicious comments, he heard from country legend Ray Price (via the story on the website SavingCountryMusic:

“It’s a shame that I have spend 63 years in this business trying to introduce music to a larger audience and to make it easier for the younger artists who are coming behind me. Every now and then some young artist will record a rock and roll type song , have a hit first time out with kids only. This is why you see stars come with a few hits only and then just fade away believing they are God’s answer to the world. This guy sounds like in his own mind that his head is so large no hat ever made will fit him. Stupidity Reigns Supreme!!!!!!! Ray Price (CHIEF “OLD FART” & JACKA–”) P.S. YOU SHOULD BE SO LUCKY AS US OLD-TIMERS. CHECK BACK IN 63 YEARS (THE YEAR 2075) AND LET US KNOW HOW YOUR NAME AND YOUR MUSIC WILL BE REMEMBERED.”

But we can’t really blame the messenger. It’s not Shelton’s fault that he has developed a fan base that might not know the difference between Patsy Cline and Calvin Klein. After all, he does what he does rather well… And it has been Nashville that’s been slowly killing country music all along. One Shania-Sugarland-Swift gazillion-selling-hit at a time. Their very clever plan to grow country music into rock and pop has been an unstoppable success that has not only made millions of fans think they like country music (which, they do, since now it’s no different than the pop music they used to like), but it has also created an all-encompassing form of music for people in search of a culturally necessary reaction to the assault of rap and hip hop. Much like the mainstream media, what Nashville has done is to limit the public’s choices and divide and conquer by convincing the masses that they are either country fans (or hip hop fans)… that they are red states or blue states… that the only power we have as consumers is the constant binary opposition we face in our society.

What a shame. The enfolding of pop music into country music has been so overwhelming that we no longer honor traditional country music, and one of today’s biggest spokesmen for country music (and a Grand Ole Opry member no less, and CMA’s reigning Entertainer of the Year) is but a mere pawn in a game that he didn’t design, and that has no winner. Let’s just wish Blake Shelton well… and let’s keep it country (whatever that means to each of us)… and let’s always, always thank Ray Price “for the good times.”

As for me, I’m looking forward to the next Easton Corbin album… and the next Randy Rogers Band album… and the next Kellie Pickler album… and the next Scotty McCreery album… and the next… well, you get the idea. I just like country music. And it’s a pretty darn big country after all, isn’t it?

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the world for Parcbench... from the Biennale in Venice, to Centre Court in Wimbledon, to Rhythm & Roots Reunion in Bristol, Tennessee. He is based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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About Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the world for Parcbench... from the Biennale in Venice, to Centre Court in Wimbledon, to Rhythm & Roots Reunion in Bristol, Tennessee. He is based in New York City and frequently on the road.
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