Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Kinda Lost The Plot

An Open Letter To Justin Moore

Who is this hipster? 

On behalf of all your die-hard fans, there’s something you need to know. Scott Borchetta is not your friend. I know it might seem like it; after all, he’s your label president and has your best interests at heart, right? Wrong. He’s beating you like a rented mule and though it may seem like you’re on the ride of your life, you’re not: you’re lugging barrels of cliché up a slippery slope lined with gold.

Success is a paradox: you want it but it comes with a steep price: you have to leave what made you successful in the first place behind.

To illustrate:

Your first album was all about you: named Justin Moore, it featured songs which were mostly written by you (90%) and a small team of like-minded writers. You wrote about topics you knew intimately: small town life in the rural South, and the folks who love it. Your sound was straightforward and simple; it didn’t hide your “twang” and you peppered that shit with plenty of “hep heps” and the lively riffs. It was sassy, kick-ass country music — and it won you a loyal following.

Your second album capitalized on the first and welcomed a fan base who were “outlaws” like you. You wrote 84% of the songs with eleven writers, mostly a familiar brotherhood of talented musicians. Sure, you moved into new territory with a softer side that explored the ups and downs of romance, but at the heart of the album was the message that rednecks are not to be messed with. You included the song “guns,” which, as you know, is a song that makes the crowd go nuts. You displayed your incredible vocal prowess on the title track, which was a heartfelt, yet timeless classic. You were becoming a family man and these were your values. All good.

Then you went Off  The Beaten Path, bro. Suddenly your music sounded way overproduced, like it was created in a studio rather than a back porch. You only wrote 45% of the songs on this record; 17 writers filled in the rest. The slick tracks featured pop-style beats that felt impersonal; as if each song filled a niche topic about what rednecks are supposed to care about. Which path were you off? It wasn’t a “Backwoods” one.

And now we can see where this is going. You (or your label boss Kinda Don’t Care about you losing touch with your roots and the songs and sound that you brought to the table four albums ago. This time, your input has been reduced to just 8% of your album — which is composed, literally, of songs from a potluck of publishing companies and features 36 different writers. This is an album made by committee, and it sounds like it. You say in your liner notes, almost apologetically, that this is “meant to be a fun record.” And yet it doesn’t feel or sound like much fun — for you or for us. Most of the songs are about relationships, rather than place: either seducing a girl at a bar with alcohol and a truck, or breaking up with her. Dude, you’re a married man — you’re singing someone else’s songs about someone else’s life, and it all feels like it could be put our by any other pop-oriented act. Seriously: these songs could be released by anyone; they sure don’t have any of your flair or attitude. Sarah Buxton is singing backup vocals on two of these tracks, and I had to read the liner notes to discover that. They are predictable cookie-cutter mid-tempo tunes that are not likely to whip a crowd into a sing-along frenzy, and you know it. As a country music fan. I am weary of songs about impressing a girl in a bar and doing her in the back of a truck out on some road in the middle of nowhere. The songs about liking your woman are sweet but bland as fuck. Look at your album cover: it looks cheap, because it is: a nondescript background upon which you’ve been Photoshopped, like a fish out of water. 

Less is Moore. 
Perhaps Scott Borchetta wants to iron out your country wrinkles to give you more commercial appeal to sell tickets on bigger bills, and you’re making bank for the growing family and it’s all cool. But take a long, hard look at the photo on your album. Who is this pale imitation of a man in black? You look like you come from New York, not Arkansas. The most telling think you’re wearing is your quizzical expression, not hidden by those expensive shades.

Please, for the love of God, get back to basics, and back up off that ledge before “success” pushes you off.


Your biggest fan.

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