It should come as no surprise that a blog entitled “a necessary reBrand” is going to have to talk a little bit about branding. So, here’s the first dose – a thoughtful rant, if you will.
I’ve been a fan of country music for about 12 years now (gawsh I feel so old). And in that time, I’ve gone through many personal phases, likes and dislikes, sounds that appeal and repel, favorite artists and those I could do without. The genre itself has gone through many a change, as well – from pop to bro country to TomatoGate girl power and old school rusty nails in a bucket style Sturgill and Stapleton. Some days I love what I hear on the radio, other days I can’t seem to get far enough away from it. But that’s a story for another day…
I think what bothers me the most is artists who can’t stay true to themselves – those who drift aimlessly towards whatever will get them that (let’s be honest here) rather forgettable #1 song. And there are so many performers who I started out loving for just being who they were….who then had to go off and change it all so they could be more like somebody else.
The Band Perry
Look, I don’t want to offend anyone, because I love(d) this group. And I still want to. But fools be cray!! These guys were the first ones who came to mind because 1. the news of their latest single is pretty current and 2. I ashamedly realize that a lot of what I’m about to critique I am guilty of doing in my own blogging history.
It all started over a year ago when all of the band’s social feeds went yellow. That’s not code for anything – I’m talking about the color yellow. All over Instagram, all over their tweets, all over their branded merchandise. And they released ‘Live Forever’ (which I honestly didn’t hate as much as most people), which subsequently tanked. Then they left their label, Big Machine, and there was talk of them signing a new pop deal. Months later, they resurfaced, wiping all their social media and replacing it with a nudeish/peach color (similar to what you see here). They claimed they never went pop, how could they ever leave Nashville and look! here’s a whole new side of TBP with dark hair and neutral clothing and familial sybiosis. They were a unit, they were sticking through the confusion, and now they were a ‘Comeback Kid’. Again, I didn’t mind the song. But folks didn’t get it, the song disappeared off the radio and the band kept posting artsy personal photos to their social accounts with no mention of their previous endeavor.
So a couple weeks ago, the social feeds were wiped clean yet AGAIN. And everything went black (still not a metaphor). They reemerged, fully embracing the impending release of an officially pop album, with a new pop single: ‘Stay in the Dark’. And finally, for once, I can honestly say that I am not a fan. I have nothing against pop music, rebranding, or varying forms of artistry. But if someone is going to attempt at erasing their past for a ‘new you’ kind of thing….then it better be quality. Because if the song was good, if I understood why they were doing this, and if they hadn’t changed so many different times over the past year – I would be 100% on board with this. And it saddens me that I can’t be…I hope this works for them, but it will be interesting to see where it all leads.
Who knows? Maybe the Perry siblings aren’t straying from their true selves, but actually becoming who they always wanted to be. I don’t know them personally, I can’t tell you fact from fiction. But to me, they just seem to be grabbing at straws, unable to settle down and keep doing what made them great in the first place. I’m not saying artists shouldn’t grow and change, but a 180 degree turn is hardly necessary or effective, especially after it’s happened a couple times at an indiscernible pace. Madonna, Prince, Bowie, The Beatles – they all went through changes, and it made sense. They stuck with it for a while before switching things up all over again. But this….this I just can’t trust, as a fan or a professional in the business.
Seeing as I spent so much time on the last bit, I’m gonna keep my opinions on Dustin relatively short and sweet. But, you see, I have to talk about him because 1. This guy was literally my #1 for a few years and 2. I hope his outcome will paint a different picture than my last example.
What first drew me to Dustin and his music was the oddity of it. Here was a genre being overridden by baseball caps and beer, and some guy entered in with an old-school love ballad and a cowboy hat?? Sign. Me. Up. I latched onto Dustin and his career because I was lucky enough to meet him several times and felt like I was on the front end of something that was about to make it BIG. As someone who aspired to work in the industry, I’ll shamefully admit that I hoped this could be my “in”. Dustin was the kind of performer who talked between his songs, even when no one was listening. But eventually he caught on to that fact. He went on some massive tours and realized he just had to play and party to keep the crowd’s attention. And so he did. Who can blame him?
Still, he seemed to hold onto some of those old school country traditions when it came to his music. And those were the songs I loved, the ones I hoped would become the hits he was known for. Unfortunately, he and his label had to do what they had to do…the singles he released took on a definite tone, and he began to build his brand – in the exact opposite direction of what I’d hoped for in those early days. I was genuinely scared to see where his next album would go until he released his second single from the project today: ‘Small Town Boy’. And don’t get me wrong – I won’t tell you this is the most ground-breaking production I’ve ever heard. It’s a simple song. But it’s a country song. And it just feels like classic Dustin. So now, hopefully, with four #1 “party” songs under his belt, he can take this one to the top, too. And hopefully he won’t lose sight of who he was in the beginning just to keep his career rolling on upward. Hopefully he won’t have to.
So what do y’all think? Am I the only one? Am I jaded? Am I right? I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on all this. So please comment and discuss! Let’s do this!
~~ h ~~