Thursday, August 13, 2009

AP: "Brooks & Dunn: Out of new ideas after 20 years"


AP Universe--Who said Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn ever had any ideas musically? Them. "You know what, I think we've just exhausted it," said the duo to a CMT audience member during a taping for the unwatchable "Invitation Only" show. Get the fuck outta here. There haven't been any new ideas in country music since the early 1970s, and I love old school country, but let's be honest. Country music is dead and the corpse has been walking around for over a generation unaware of its own cultural demise, the death of its actual relevance.

There is no country music, just listen to it. Does it sound like country music? No, it does not. What it sounds like is country-rock or pop-country, but it's not country music. Brooks & Dunn were quaint-at-best. What they remind me of is that music arising organically from people--real "folk" music, meaning "music by folks"--is more alive in underground genres like hip-hop, garage rock, and yes, even techno. Just "little people" making music to express themselves and their take on life; their joys; their longings; the despair; the anger, and so on.

There was a time when these kinds of music makers could percolate up into the mainstream, getting radio play locally, regionally (how do you think Hank Williams Sr. became well known?), but decades of unregulated music industry greed and criminality have snuffed-out those routes to distribution. Word-of-mouth was crucial. Perhaps the wheel has turned a full-revolution again with the Internet and we'll see something old become new again. But people want more from their culture and they've been tired of having it sold back to them along with everything else for some time. We got an interesting example of this just nine years ago.

Around 2000, the music-buying public had had enough and wanted to hear something with soul, something that actually said something they could related to, and they unexpectedly made the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers' "O Brother Where Art Thou?" a multi-platinum hit. The dog began to wag the tail again, if only for a time. Nobody in the music industry could get it at the time--that people want sincerity in their music--because as top-down corporations, they can't and won't. Corporations aren't about serving people, and they're not about innovation, honesty, or sincerity. What they are is dumber than a box of rocks. People want to feel something when they listen to music, something that touches their hearts and their souls. After that, people began downloading the pop garbage that they were previously paying $16.99 for in-droves, and I can hardly blame them for it.

Frankly, good riddance to this recent model of cultural transmission, it sucked, like just about every business model ever devised by our moronic managerial class. Good riddance indeed, but at least Brooks & Dunn had the honesty to finally admit they had no ideas. More people need to take this responsibility upon themselves, they'll feel liberated. But enough about Washington D.C. and the corporate board rooms...