Let me start out by saying I love Alan Jackson. He's penned some of the most important songs in the history of the genre, from "Don't Rock The Jukebox" and "Gone Country" to "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" and "Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning." That last song, in particular stopped us all in our tracks when he played it for the first time at the CMA Awards after 9/11.
All of that to say I'm certainly a fan of his music. But he's starting to sound like our genre's groundhog, coming out every few years to look for Hank's shadow and then getting upset it's all but disappeared. Remember when he teamed up with George Strait to declare "Murder on Music Row" nearly 20 years ago?
Yes, even 20 years ago Alan was pissed that country music wasn't the same as his grand pappy preferred. While that song didn't get much radio airplay, it did go on to win a couple of CMA awards.
Alan's new album is undoubtedly country, but it's time he faces the music...the only constant in life is change.
Every style of music evolves. Jazz bands added electric instruments, Rock bands added keyboards, Pop artists added auto tune. Things change.
If you ask ten people what defines country music, you'll likely get ten different answers. I boil it down to this: real life stories in song or three chords and the truth. Not every country song needs a banjo, fiddle, steel guitar...heck, even real drums. What matters most in country music is the relatable lyric that makes you feel, the rest is subjective.
In the 70's, it was Glen Campbell, in the 80's John Denver, the 90's brought us Garth and in the 2000s, Taylor Swift. Country music always seems to get caught up in this ongoing debate about what is, and isn't, country. I for one and tired of hearing about it from the "get off my lawn-ers."
Put out your music and stop trying to make headlines by rehashing this debate. Sure, Niko Moon has a trap beat on his #1 country hit "Good Time," but I assure you this is still a country song at heart. Jason Aldean raps his verses in "Dirt Road Anthem" but it is still a country song that tells a story and paints a picture that relates to a country fan.
And country music has always embraced collaborations with outside-the-genre artists, like Kenny Rogers with Lionel Richie, Garth and Billy Joel, so why should we be bothered by Keith Urban working with Pink, Kane Brown singing on a Marshmello beat or Miranda Lambert singing on Elle King's song.
Enough with the labels and stigma. Music is music. And quite frankly, it's harder and harder to put a clear label on what type of music certain songs are defined as. Why do we need definition?
There are plenty of traditional-leaning country stars to keep the twang to pop ration in check, like Jon Pardi, Luke Combs and Thomas Rhett.
Alan Jackson is a national treasure and his new album is certainly worth a listen. Heck, he'll probably get nominated for CMA awards for this body of work. I just wish he would do so without tearing down others for expanding the boundaries of our genre. There's plenty of room for all styles of country.