In his 1990s heyday, Garth Brooks refused to release even his biggest songs, from “Friends in Low Places” to “Shameless,” as singles. Sure, it pumped up his album sales. And mostly, he was following the Nashville convention at the time, wherein country hits were generally released only as noncommercial 45’s for jukeboxes.
But Brooks was no ordinary country act; he was the bestselling ’90s act of any genre, period. If anyone could have sold truckloads of singles like a pop act, it would have been him. No, Brooks eschewed them, in part, to prove a point: in interviews, he acknowledged that singles would have made him eligible for Billboard‘s Hot 100, and Brooks was proud that the bulk of his blockbuster sales came from the country radio audience alone.
Brooks’s chip-on-shoulder attitude was emblematic of most ’90s Nashville stars, who nursed still-fresh memories of the Urban Cowboy fad of the late ’70s and early ’80s. That’s when Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Eddie Rabbitt and Juice Newton scored huge crossover Top 40 hits — before the pop audience abruptly fled in droves (blame MTV and Michael Jackson). For the rest of the ’80s, country stars like Alabama and the Judds sold albums on the strength of county radio alone.
A proud country star, Brooks danced with the audience that brung him. (Well, except for that Chris Gaines thing, but that’s a topic for another day.) But as the ’90s veered toward the ’00s, bit by bit, country acts were seduced to the pop side of the dial again.
So think of this week’s charts as the culmination of a two-decade pendulum swing. For the first time since probably “Islands in the Stream,” the most-played song on American radio is a country tune — sung by America’s new sweetheart, who, usurping rappers aside, just put her first MTV Video Music Award on the mantle. More »
Any day that I’m on blogging duty, I wake up with the hope that the internet will have something magical for me that day. Most days, my level of satisfaction with what’s out there is around a five or six on a scale of one to ten. But a day when I happen to stumble upon an entire episode of Solid Gold from Jan. 11, 1986—complete with commercials? That’s a solid ten. Take in the other five segments below the cut, complete with performances by the Judds, Whitney Houston (including Whitney and Dionne Warwick covering the Jackson Browne/Clarence Clemons song “You’re A Friend Of Mine”), John Waite, and Robin Gibb.
While lying on the couch in a Nyquil-induced haze waiting for The Office to come on last night, I happened to catch the last five minutes or so of Kath & Kim. Despite my deep appreciation of the work of John Michael Higgins, I gave up on the Molly Shannon/Selma Blair vehicle early in its run and, frankly, was a little surprised to see that it was still on. But soldier on it does, and this week’s special guest was Wynonna Judd. Thanks to last night’s depiction of Wynonna as a star someone would enter a contest to meet and her recent series of ads for some weight-loss pill, I realized I had thought more about her in the last week than I had in the last decade or so. What happened to the younger half of The Judds, anyhow?
Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Prince, The Rolling Stones, Sir Paul McCartney: After this Sunday, this list will be the answer to the question “Who were the last five Super Bowlhalftime show performers?” Boomer-friendly and safe-for-TV in the wake of Nipplegate, these big five have conspired to make the Super Bowl Halftime Show a Big Deal, water cooler fodder, something you might actually watch on TV. Some might point to 1993’s Super Bowl XXVII Michael Jackson show as a turning point, but the year after that brought America Rockin’ Country Sunday with Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, and The Judds—certainly big stars, but not exactly a glitzy, over-the-top spectacle. I’ve been a lifetime Super Bowl watcher, and I can’t remember most of the halftime shows I’ve seen. In fact, despite its billing as an annual entertainment extravaganza, most Super Bowl Shows have been forgettable, banal, or just plain awful. Seven examples, after the jump.