When Nashville turned its back on country music in favor of the slick, over-produced, and video driven second rate Top Forty that now haunts country radio, I knew the end was near. Sometime in the last century the old guard of 16th Avenue was replaced with the robot-like parade of “New Country” acts, and I started making funeral arrangements for country music. Fresh faced overpaid corporate producers who never set foot in Tennessee had started churning out Top Ten hits with only one goal in mind: Chart position.
When Nashville took its cue from their target audience who has obviously been weaned on a steady diet of Madonna and Brittany Spears, they started dressing their new “stars” in all the expected Red Carpet attire: Designer gowns and expensive jewelry. Identical cowboy hats. Jeans that are torn not from hard work, but bought and paid for off some Beverly Hills rack now adorn celebrities whose only experience with a horse comes from watching re-runs of Bonanza.
Franchise driven corporate country radio stations stopped playing country music a long time ago because their only interest is a ledger written in black ink. I’ve been waiting patiently for a medical examiner to proclaim the final death blow to country music, but until I watched Sunday night’s Country Music Awards in Las Vegas I hadn’t actually heard the shot that killed country. The death of country music has a name, and that name is Miley Cirus.
Billy Ray Cirus is the great musical has-been of the 20th century. After the success of “Achy Breaky Heart,” his career crashed and burned. This self proclaimed “Hillbilly” and his mullet was nothing but a distant forgotten memory until his Disney franchise of a daughter resurrected him. Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes of the graveyard of Top Forty Past, Billy Ray was given a second chance. He couldn’t do it himself so he’s doing through his daughter and now they are joined at the hip. Actually, they’re joined at the lap considering those creepy pictures that ran in Vanity Fair last year.
Before he introduced his “tween” sensation offspring Sunday night, Billy Ray offered up one of the most shameless acts of self promotion I’ve ever seen. Before the crowd who was hungry for more corporate driven dribble, he proudly announced the release of his latest album. From their reaction, the audience didn’t give much of a rat’s ass as they breathlessly waited for Hannah Montana to woo them into buying tickets to her latest big screen adaptation of her Emmy-worthy television show. Sporting a new found “Southern” accent and a special effects ridden set, Ms. Montana certainly delivered the goods.
While Billy Ray waited anxiously backstage for the chance to put his hands on his daughter again, the Queen of Both Worlds dazzled the latest group of “country” superstars and their flock of Stepford Wife followers. She’s apparently decided that she’s a country singer much the same way that Michael Jordan decided he was a baseball player. She did this in much the same way George W. Bush decided he could be President. She did this in much the same way that Nashville finally sold out their integrity to a corporate ledger, and to a target audience that isn’t old enough to vote.
In a way I’m actually glad that country music is now officially dead. I’ve always been in favor of a quick and clean death, as opposed to allowing a comatose stroke victim to suffer the indignity of life support. Kudos to Miley Cirus for doing her part in killing an industry that used to recognize talent and good music. Many thanks to Hannah Montana for an awful, corporate driven performance complete with a fake accent and special effects that has buried country music under the rubble of my achy breaky heart. . My heartfelt appreciation goes out to the entire Cirus klan for allowing Billy Ray to live his second chance through the mindless franchise of his sixteen year old daughter. And a big thank you goes out to Hannah’s mommy for allowing her Disney product child to appear in the creepiest pictures of a father and daughter I’ve ever had the displeasure of seeing.