Authentic: of undisputed origin; genuine

Authenticity in music. Let’s talk about it. There’s always a lot of prattle about “selling out”, “going pop”, “crossing over”. Let’s not forget that every worn out premise and hackneyed sound was once the hot new thing.

Fans can tell when an artist or band believes in their product or when they are following suit with what is selling records in any given musical epoch. It’s not a new style or deviation that grates the listener but what follows. Remora. Suckerfish that leech of an original concept till nothing remains but empty withered husks of what was once cutting edge. When fish smell blood in the water, and by blood I of course mean dolla dolla bills ya’ll, it’s over.

I’m going to date myself but indulge me in metaphor. Remember when your buddy’s buddy got that new band’s cassette tape? He would let his friend dub it, and that guy would lend you the taped tape to record. With each recording the quality deteriorates just a little more.

As much as I love to bag on Florida Georgia Line, when Cruise was released it changed country music. Like it or not. On that album they wrote about life as they saw it and put it to music that they wanted to listen to. It was honest. It was authentic. Every artist, newcomer and superstar alike, began emulating that formula that ostensibly worked. Carbon copies. It wasn’t till the release of a second album, when they became a knock-off of themselves, that FGL began warranting ridicule. That revolutionary sound they found quickly became a stereotype. Not to mention the brunt of a genre wide mockery that is bro-country.

The more you saturate the market the more diluted it will become. Writers and performers have to try new things for a while, and fail a bunch, till something catches. There is indeed a sweet spot. If you don’t put enough water in your kool-aid it will taste bitter and strong, too much and it becomes pallid and tasteless.

Joe Nichols gave his sentiments on the subject in a recent interview with RollingStone Country. “The fans are smarter than we think they are, and they start yearning for some kind of organic feeling”. He went on to say, “‘What the hell are we doing?’ I’ve heard that from so many people that have had monstrous success over the last five years doing the stuff that’s more fluff than depth. I’ve heard a lot of those people say, ‘Man, what the hell are we doing? Let’s get back and make it about the song, make it about something deep, something more than just making money off somebody that’s wanting three minutes of a commercial jingle.’”   Here, Here! Or rather… Yeah, Yeah!

It’s not about, “they sound too pop”, “that’s too rock”, or “rap doesn’t belong in country”. No, it’s about honesty. When a song is relatable, well written, with music that pierces your very soul, you can stop trying to be different and just be real. Just be authentic.

By: Tony Manfetano