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Posted these on Rolling Country:

POST ONE:
Jiyoon and Gayoon of the great K-pop girl group 4minute are billing themselves as 2YOON and have just released a country-dance-pop (or something) EP called Harvest Moon [EDIT: But see below]. I'll report back when I hear it. In the meantime, there's the single, "24/7," which subdee calls a mess — certainly has more of a mashup sensibility than a country sensibility. The first vocals you hear are a rap. My thumb is wavering but in the up direction. Jiyoon's climbing-and-falling wail in the prechorus is the best part (shows up first at 0:28 thru 0:33), though I'd more likely envision Robert Plant singing it than Miranda Lambert. There's a teaser with a very problematic cultural stereotype that unfortunately I find funny (and sounds more like Steppenwolf than Hank Williams). I'm sure 2YOON dance better than any of their country or rock counterparts.



I would like the EP to be great, so that on next year's ballot I can list Shinsadong Tiger, Kim Da Hoon, and Lee Sang Ho as Country Music's Three Best Songwriters Of 2013 [EDIT: But once again, see below].

(xhuxk, you've got a Shinsadong Tiger song on your 2012 P&J ballot.)

Paucity of country, total absence of Tiger )
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Just posted this on Rolling Country:

I don't think we've talked much about Korean country music - there not being much Korean country music to talk about. Han Myeong Suk's "The Boy In The Yellow Shirt" (1961) uses a self-consciously old-timey string band arrangement, though with a more aggressive '60s rhythm. Melody and singing are - I don't know - old bluesy country mixed with (I really don't know) trad Korean? pop Hawaiian? G'Old Korea Vinyl, the site that streams it, tells us that the lyrics "were pretty badass at that time" - doesn't quote them, unfortunately. Site says that the song was a hit in Japan too and other parts of Asia, and according to Wikip there was a French cover version by Yvette Giraud, YouTube being no aid to further research. Is terrific enough in the original.

Searching "country music in korea" on Google nets me Bobbyville, a side project of Seoul indie performer Bobby Chung, who says he models it on the Bakersfield sound; and Kim Tae-hun and his band Sunday Losers, who veer towards rockabilly and blues and are from the Busan indie scene. There's also a trot song by Moon Hee Ok that's labeled by the uploader as Korean country music, but isn't unless you consider trot the Korean equivalent to American country, which it's not.



There's perhaps a Korean yodeling scene that by the evidence on YouTube goes for yodel per se rather than the country variety, but it includes someone identified by the uploader as "Korea Young&Beautiful Yodelgirl" who wants to learn to rope and ride, someone doing "La Desperadado," and a fellow billing himself as Peter The Korean Yodeler who made his way to the Le Mars Country Festival in Iowa a few years ago.

Yodel Per Se
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Billboard has a squib today, describing its new way of computing the Country Songs chart. The chart used to be airplay alone, as compiled by Nielson; now it includes streams and downloads (though I presume there's no way to tell where and whom the downloads are coming from — that is, whether they're coming from the country audience or not). Also: "With digital download sales and streaming data measuring popularity on the most inclusive scale possible, it makes perfectly logical sense that the radio portion of the new chart calculations include airplay from the entire spectrum of monitored formats." Don't know if I'm interpreting that sentence correctly. Does it mean Billboard is now counting the airplay a country song receives on noncountry stations as well as on country stations? (In this case, is it always clear what a country song is? What about an alt-country track that gets a lot of play on Triple A but almost no play on mainstream country?*)

Guess who has a song that's number 42 on Mediabase's current country airplay chart, that was number 21 on last week's Billboard Country Songs chart, and that has just jumped to number 1 on the new Country Songs chart as a result of the change in methodology!

Unavailable data )

Gratuitous embed )

For instance )
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1. Britney Spears "Hold It Against Me"
2. 2NE1 "I Am The Best"
3. Fat Cat "My Love Bad Boy"
4. GD&TOP "High High"
5. Jeremih "Down On Me"
6. IU "The Story Only I Didn't Know"
7. Bobby Brackins ft. Dev "A1"
8. Galaxy Dream ft. Turbotronic "Ready 4 Romance"
9. Big Bang "Tonight"
10. Dia Frampton "Heartless" (live on The Voice) [webrip]
11. SNSD "Bad Girl"
12. Britney Spears "Criminal"
13. Rihanna "S&M"
14. 4minute "Mirror Mirror"
15. Far East Movement ft. Lil Jon & Colette Carr "Go Ape." Dance phenoms add caterwauling and hollabacking to the palette. Jon's had his entrepreneurial eye on Korea for a while; U.S. West Coast is the closest he's gotten so far.

[Error: unknown template video]

16. Nine Muses "Figaro"
17. GD&TOP "Knock Out"
18. MBLAQ "I Don’t Know"
19. New Boyz ft. Dev & The Cataracs "Backseat." Got a blank response on the Jukebox despite being to my ears far catchier and clearer than the mass of floundering fish that joined it in this year's dance-r&b-hip-hop-amalgam mess. Dev walks in and walks away with the song, of course, friendly, scrappy little clubrat casually exuding oceans of sexiness while just zipping through.

[Error: unknown template video]

20. Rihanna "Man Down"
Nicola Roberts through Miss A )
Florence + The Machine through Blady )
Orange Caramel through Nero )
Feist through Eric Church )

My rankings were by sound and feeling and how good I thought something was, so proximity and juxtapositions are accidental, e.g. 50 and 51, and 89 and 90. But I like Rittz rubbing up against Eric Church at the end. Rittz is from the outer suburbs of Atlanta, but it's fun to think of him as the kid brother Church is singing to, the wigga who left the farm for hip-hop's dirty streets. The whomp of pain and incomprehension in "Homeboy" is Church's as much as the narrator's, Eric and cowriter Casey Beathard never giving voice to why a little brother might feel no home for himself in the place he grew up. The words are mostly about what the little brother supposedly lost. But the loss in the song is much deeper, the last verse giving us a view that the writers don't necessarily have themselves, the sense of something vital having left when the kid brother did and the abandoned relatives wishing it back rather than developing it in themselves.
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Just posted this on Rolling Country about the Alaina-Scotty final on AI:



To my surprise, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina are the last two standing on American Idol. I was sure that James Durbin would win it, he being a mediocre rocker with enthusiastic performing, just what's won the last few years. Think Lauren sings with vastly more life, subtlety, and passion than Scotty; but I also think I mischaracterized her a little upthread when I said she had a big blustery voice. I think she has a big blustery talent, but the voice isn't big enough yet for all the bluster, and she often goes for wallop she can't reach. Scotty's got a strong love-man demeanor and wants richness that his tonsils lack, though he's nice to listen to on a talent show. The out-of-character "Candle In The Wind" is still the best thing Lauren did. A weak field, so the overreaching sexpot Hayley Reinhart reached third and to my surprise occasionally grabbed what she was grasping for, "House Of The Rising Sun" in particular being a song to reward all that stretching.

I also posted a country singles 2011 top 10, which unfortunately included Aaron Lewis.
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Here's my ballot for the Nashville Scene's Country Critics Poll.

TOP TEN COUNTRY SINGLES OF 2010:

1. Little Big Town "Little White Church"
2. Sunny Sweeney "From A Table Away"
3. Martina McBride "Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong"
4. Taylor Swift "Mean"
5. Laura Bell Bundy "Giddy On Up"
6. Kenny Chesney "Somewhere With You"
7. Trace Adkins "Ala-Freakin-Bama"
8. Sarah Darling "Whenever It Rains"
9. Stealing Angels "He Better Be Dead"
10. Sarah Darling "With Or Without You"

TOP TEN COUNTRY ALBUMS OF 2010:

1. Taylor Swift Speak Now
2. Jamey Johnson The Guitar Song
3. Kenny Chesney Hemingway's Whiskey
4. Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, Dharohar Project Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, Dharohar Project [EP]
5. Reba McEntire All The Women I Am
6. Chely Wright Lifted Off The Ground
7. Jerrod Niemann Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury
8. Flynnville Train Redemption
9. Laura Marling I Speak Because I Can
10. Laura Bell Bundy Achin' And Shakin'

A bunch of other categories )

Some wonky shit )

My comments )

Sloshbucket )

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In regard to Wednesday's post about Dottie West: I should point out that pre-makeover Dottie is already going pop (the country-pop of Patsy Cline and Skeeter Davis, etc.), and whatever the lyrics and dress and placid instrumentation tell us about her in "Country Girl," there is a pop-jazz sense of rhythmic (dis)location in her singing, and at the end the melody becomes a potential rock 'n' roll wailer that's ready to let loose.

But still, prior to the late '70s she's at least giving lip service, if not throat service, to the idea of accepting limits and being snug in your place.* Country may be the only genre in American music that consistently does this (by "consistently" I don't mean "always does it throughout its length and breadth" but rather "does it a lot" or "at least allows performers to do it, to openly accept constraint and defeat"). Of course country has other impulses - the seeking of wide open spaces, the drive to invent and reinvent oneself (according to Wikip, Dottie's makeover includes plastic surgery), and so on - which intermix with or butt against the sense of limits, of place, of defeat, etc. So we can look, in particular instances, to see whether the reinvention and wanderlust clothe themselves in limits and roles (and defeat), say in cowboy garb, which is a role of adventure but in a traditional robe and a dying occupation. Or do they throw off the garb? Or engage in some combination of robing, disrobing, and counter-robing?

*Unless sometimes she isn't: my knowledge of country doesn't go deep or stretch long, and I don't think I'd thought ten seconds about Dottie West until two days ago; nonetheless... well, nonetheless, why isn't anybody not on Rolling Country talking about cultural stuff like this, limitlessness versus defeat etc.? Or are there lots of people doing so? I can't say I know the discourse.
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Why country singers want to go pop.

Dottie West 1968:



Dottie West 1979:



But I don't claim to know anything about Dottie West or about fashion, and anyway, few stories are ever simple or simply linear; e.g., here's Dottie in 1967:

Dottie West: Here Comes My Baby )

And in 1965, with her sound bleeding into old-style r&b:

Dottie West and Boots Randolph: There's Someone Who's Missing )

(I'm looking at all these while exploring the idea that periodically country moves into pop in order to shake its sense of stodginess and squareness, but that also there are countermoves to try to find a specifically country form of hipness. In the late '90s you get Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain pushing their style into glamour, while maybe you get... I don't know, would Toby Keith and Brooks & Dunn qualify as a countermove into country hipness? Big & Rich, in the '00s? Meanwhile, Taylor Swift is taking the Faith 'n' Dixie Chick glamour rebellion in her own idiosyncratic direction. Are there any country guys who might be said to be currently doing this?)
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Sunny Sweeney had an album out several years ago that I've yet to hear but that Don and Xhuxk praise, and has a single now that reminds me in sound and melody (though not at all in lyrics or arrangement) of Vanessa Carlton's excellent "Spring Street."



What I wrote on Rolling Country: "Woman in the shadows realizes she's stuck being the other woman. Good workaday sorrow, a rich voice that doesn't force things."

Also, Xhuxk and I think there's something Ashleeish about Lee Brice's "Picture Of Me," even if Lee's a drooling-at-the-mouth southern rocker. I haven't heard the album version, so I'm going on a live clip:



Chuck Eddy: "'Picture Of Me' seems like a pretty good here's-how-I-am-and-here's-why-I'm that-way statement, the kind of song Eric Church might've sang on his first album (and maybe Ashlee Simpson on her first two), though I haven't decided yet if Brice is saying anything new in it."

Me: "Not taking in the lyrics yet, but Lee Brice's wail on this reminds me of Ashlee, his voice scooping down and yarling up. Kicking band, too."
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Want to report that while I was gone Rolling Country picked up considerably, with Edd Hurt and Jonathan Keefe suddenly posting a lot, and Chuck and George et al. responding in turn. Only spot in the universe where Dierks Bentley and Laura Bell Bundy stoke the fires of controversy.
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More convo with Tom on his Tumblr, this time as to whether or not Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" is indiepop. I say not, though I can hear the potential indieness that he hears. (Also, more generally, I can hear parallels between country and indie in that country is up to its eyeballs in alienation and social resentment; one thing I find inspiring about Taylor, beyond the craftsmanship that insists you tell a story rather than simply allude to one while hoping that the listener will do your work for you, is that, though she's personally hurt - it's all over her lyrics - and she hangs on to her bitterness, she's not head deep in social resentment.*)

The reason You Belong With Me is not indie )

*Which isn't to say that one can't do great stuff with social resentment, mind you, as long as it doesn't devolve into an easy shtick.
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Here's the theme-song to a Japanese videogame* that's sung in English by a Chinese woman (Faye Wong) who was born in Beijing but originally rose to fame singing in Cantonese rather than Mandarin. But the reason I post it (Faye Wong sings it well, but she's done more interesting stuff) is that when I heard it I thought to myself, "I bet she's covering a song by a country diva" thinking that this was the sort of song a country diva aiming to hit the adult contemporary market might have sung about thirty years ago. So my question would be, who else who isn't country would be likely to sing something like this? (One answer: Faye Wong, though I gather that this sort of thing was less and less a part of her repertoire as she went on. She's still a subject for further research, my having seen her name for the first time four days ago.)



*Final Fantasy VIII, which I gather isn't just a game, but a whole franchise, a combination videogame and Taco Bell.
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Last month I linked the "radio edit" of my decade's end piece, the version that was printed in the Las Vegas Weekly. Here under the cut is the "extended freestyle mix" (a.k.a. director's cut), a full one thousand words longer – that's 60 percent more, for the same price! To put it in brief, I'm suggesting that the musical story of the Web is words, but that this Web word story can be one of distance and isolation.

Microwaving A Tragedy: The marriage of romance and romanticism in '00s pop )
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In "Ala-Freakin-Bama," Trace Adkins says he grew up listening to Skynyrd, but it sounds like someone's been listening to the Standells and Joan Jett, too.

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My decade's end piece in the Las Vegas Weekly, though after I'd pitched it I rebelled against the idea of trying to fairly sum up, hence no mention of Timbaland or Max Martin, whom I'd peg as the two most important figures in '00s music. (The Club Mix has brief mentions of "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and "Since U Been Gone," though not in regard to Max's input.) In about a month I'll post an Extended Freestyle Mix, and I'd welcome any suggestions as to what you think it should contain.

Microwaving A Tragedy: The marriage of romance and romanticism in '00s pop

(Links to my old Las Vegas Weekly columns are here, if you're interested.)
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Facing the worst slump since the Great Depression, country responded with hard-eyed realism, producing great track after great track about booty, transvestites, and Saturday night blowouts. This is my best country list since I started doing them in '03. Lotsa dance beats.

Top 35 Country Singles, 2009

1. Love And Theft "Runaway"
2. Jamey Johnson "High Cost Of Living"
3. Taylor Swift "You Belong With Me"
4. Sarah Buxton "Space"
5. Lady Antebellum "Need You Now"
6. Taylor Swift "White Horse"
7. Sarah Borges And The Broken Singles "Do It For Free"
8. Caitlin & Will "Even Now"
9. Miranda Lambert "White Liar"
10. Brad Paisley "Welcome To The Future"
11. Taylor Swift "Fifteen"
12. Jack Ingram "Barefoot And Crazy (Double Dog Dare Ya Mix)"
13. Brooks & Dunn ft. Reba McEntire "Cowgirls Don't Cry"
14. Rascal Flatts "Summer Nights"
15. Kenny Chesney ft. Dave Matthews "I'm Alive"
16. Randy Houser "Boots On"
17. John Rich "Shuttin' Detroit Down"
18. Jamie O'Neal "Like A Woman"
19. Kenny Chesney "Out Last Night"
20. Billy Currington "People Are Crazy"
21 through 35 )
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Jace Everett's "Bad Things," which was first released in the U.S. in 2005 and which last year became the theme to the HBO series True Blood (and which was number 20 on my top country singles list for 2006, four spots below Everett's "That's The Kind Of Love I'm In"), rose this week to #49 on the UK pop singles chart. Any idea why? Did someone sing it on X Factor? (If so, this isn't readily apparent from a quick Google search.) Or is True Blood getting sudden TV attention in Britain?

The basic feeling back in 2006 on Rolling Country was that Everett was getting over more on songs than on his singing. That's what Xhuxk said, anyway, and I agree. ILX was down in late 2006, so when I got around to discussing Everett with Edd Hurt, we were on email. Iirc, I praised Everett's songwriting but said he had a mannequin voice (though he was good enough for me to list then and to embed now).



On Rolling Country 2007 I kept asserting that the way Miley Cyrus sings "I just can't wait to see you again" is fairly similar to how Jace sings "I wanna do bad things with you": not that Cyrus and Armato & James copied it but that they and Everett were pulling from the same rockabilly model, using reverb and a similar twist in the tune. But Miley doesn't sound like a mannequin (someone on Rolling Country said that she's got the raw voice of a 40-year-old Nashville barmaid; this was meant as a compliment).
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While barely paying attention I'm hearing one country single after another that's Top Ten worthy. What really floors me is that a piece of Lady Antebellum mush that's just as mushy as any of their previous mush, and nothing special in style or message, is so warm, lopes right into a Little Big Town place in my heart. Good hook helps. Other tracks that I've not said much about previously: Sarah Borges "Do It For Free": a respectable alt-country band does my neo-new-wave tuff girl track of the year. Jack Ingram "Barefoot And Crazy": southern dance is further defined as Mellencamp. Holly Williams "Keep The Change": with Borges being Chrissie Hynde, Girl Hank III gets to be a rocking Borges singer-songwriter type. Phil Vassar "Bobbi With An I": country transvestite novelty is a pretext to sing "Barbara Ann."

Top Country Singles 2009, Three Quarters Through )
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Haven't posted here about Taylor Swift yet this week, so I'll just set down these notes towards a future Taylor Swift post, though you don't have to wait for the future to comment.

Geoffrey Himes thinks Taylor is too suburban to be country; Martin Kavka thinks Taylor is a small-town girl running a critique of small towns (hence definitely country but an interesting twist on it). I don't think either comment is particularly relevant since her songs could be set anywhere there's a high school English class.

Question would probe her concerns with family and community and cross-generational commonality and intergenerational continuity. Also what other people's country songs are doing these days. Also, how much is her fifteen country's fifteen, and what's the genre's relation to people whose fifteen doesn't match Taylor's?
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Jon Pareles says in today's NY Times ("She's a Little Bit Country, a Little Bit Angry") that Taylor Swift "has tapped the million-selling pop market for nice girls' suppressed anger." But one of the reasons Taylor's first single is still my favorite is that the anger is suggested without being explicit, so it's not the main emotion or the main story but it's there to bite you, should you notice it. She gets to have multiple emotions in a single glance.


Taylor Swift "Tim McGraw"

Archaeological dig reveals early attempts to construct song review )

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