“Country Music’s Biggest Night” is working with mainstream pop this year. On November 5th, Ariana Grande will perform a duet with Little Big Town during the CMA Awards. I consider myself “in the know” when it comes to the music industry, but it doesn’t take a forensics team to conclude that Grande doesn’t really fit in with the country music crowd. Her Wikipedia page considers her a representative of EDM and electropop, and her selection as a performer for the CMA Awards confuses me.
Don’t get me wrong; I love all kinds of music. My Itunes library consists of anything from N.W.A to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana to Eric Church, Ziggy Marley to…you get the idea. I am all for musicians on opposite ends of the spectrum collaborating together to make a song or maybe even an album, but to have this performance on this night seems weird. The CMA Awards is considered “Country Music’s Biggest Night.” Why are you having someone who hasn’t earned their place in the country music industry performing on its “biggest night?”
If I was a country artist that wanted to perform at the CMA Awards, and an artist who is in a completely different category ousted me I would be pissed! I am trying to picture George Strait and Willie Nelson looking perplexed as this performance would unfold and I cant help but laugh. This situation is almost similar to Taylor Swift coming out as a “pop artist” after her start as a self identified “country artist.” Now I am struggling to figure out what is and isn’t country.
We all know that rock, bluegrass, and jazz have an influence in country. Pop has had an influence as well, but it has always been one of those genres that never made sense to me. Country was around for a long time before people started making techno sounds on a computer, and to have Grande waltz right in and perform seems like an odd mix. My only explanation: TV ratings and money.
If an Ariana Grande fan hears about her performing at the CMA Awards, he or she might watch an awards show that they previously wouldn’t have. Multiply that by the millions of people who have bought her records and it could make a big difference in the ratings. After the announcement of this surprising performance, TV Networks might get in a more intense bidding war for the rights to cover the future CMA Awards. In the end, CMA wins.
I am not trying to slam Grande’s music in any way, I mean, her record sales speak for themselves. I don’t think it makes a ton of sense to have the most important night in country music be shared with an artist that represents a completely different genre. In my opinion, they might as well get Waka Flocka in the mix.
WE Fest aka “The Biggest Event of the summer in Minnesota” has been the statewide country music gathering for years. WE Fest has been a yearly event since 1983. It is hosted in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and can be a week long vacation depending on your love for country music and alcohol. More than 50,000 people go through the campground gates with RVs, pickup trucks, and makeshift tents to listen to some of the biggest names in country music. The 2014 lineup had Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Brad Paisley, The Band Perry, Zach Brown Band, and Brantley Gilbert as the headliners. The lineups for WE Fest are usually stocked with the biggest names in country.
What makes it so fun? Why do so many people go? It’s easy to explain. First, everyone has to figure out his or her sleeping arrangements. Usually, it’s like the Wild West when it comes to picking a camping spot closest to the concert standing area. There is a mixed crowd. Some WE Festers are barely into high school, and others have been going to the festival for over 25 years. There is a lake that the majority of people bathe in during their stay, and almost everyone has a drink in their hand. The A-list lineup causes country fans from different backgrounds to buy their tickets almost 9 months in advance.
The country artists in the lineup interact with the fans on a whole new level. There is a good chance that one of the performers will walk by your campsite and play beer pong with you and your friends. A few years ago, Darius Rucker stopped by my friend’s campsite and played a round of beer darts with them! During his previous appearances, Luke Bryan would try to disguise himself and blend in with fans only to remove it and get a great reaction. The rowdy atmosphere of WE Fest is half the experience because you have all these people that are in one location for the sole purpose of listening to country music.
WE Fest 2015 already has power couple Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert locked into the lineup and it is safe to assume that more stars will follow. Tickets are already on sale, and my guess is that the festival will be the biggest it’s ever been. In the past, WE Fest has been nominated for the CMA’s Best Special Event award, and I can’t wait to be a part of the festival when it finally wins it.
Lights flashing, fans screaming, and music blaring; the iHeartRadio Country Festival 2014 was in full swing. It was held at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. Obviously, Austin was a perfect place to have one of the best country lineups to date. Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, Hunter Hayes, Carrie Underwood, Jake Owen, and Dan + Shay all blew the roof off. My favorite performance was Eric Church. He played a lot of the songs on his newest album, but didn’t forget to play “Springsteen” and “Drink in My Hand.” Without a doubt, the artist that had the biggest reaction from the audience was Luke Bryan. Maybe it was because he performed last, or maybe it was because all the ladies go crazy for him.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was the official charity partner of the event, and this altered my impression of country music. We all know the stereotypes: beer chugging, short shorts, and cut off t-shirts. This concert was different. It shifted the spotlight to an important cause, and the crowd loved it. I have never heard of a rap or hip-hop concert that had a charity sponsorship.
The iHeartRadio Country Festival was the second country festival that I’ve been exposed to. Back home in Minnesota, WE Fest is the festival of choice for country fans. The alcohol-induced crowd camps out for three nights and every day seems mashed together. It holds a similar big name lineup, but also has some small label bands perform as well. In comparison to concerts that differ in genre, country music concerts have always been the most fun! Everyone sings every song. People dance, make friends with strangers, and are all there to support the country music industry.
Looking back, the iHeartRadio Country Festival was the best concert I’ve ever been to. The fact that it was in what we most call “The Live Music Capital of the World” made the concert seem that much more relevant in country music terms. After learning about Austin’s role in Willie Nelson’s career, I now realize how important Austin was to the progression of country music. Now all I can think about is getting tickets for the next festival. Who is going to be in the lineup? Who do you want to see the most? Have you been to a big country music Festival? I’m just hoping that Eric Church comes back for another time around.