Browsing Tag

country music

Career Killers: “Do You Know” by Jessica Simpson

When MTV’s Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica went off the air in 2005, Jessica Simpson had the world in the palm of her hands.

The addictive show became a pop culture phenomenon, thanks in large part to Simpson’s ditzy but endearing persona. Whether it was not knowing that “Chicken of the Sea” was a metaphor, thinking Buffalo wings actually came from buffaloes or blaming her inability to hit a golf ball on her Mae West-like features, Simpson’s simple but good-natured demeanor – to say nothing of her covergirl looks – allowed her to become a bona fide superstar while launching legions of reality show wannabes and copycats. Her then-current album, In This Skin, sold 5 million copies worldwide making it her best-selling record of all time, and she landed plum acting roles like Daisy Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard (2005). After divorcing Nick Lachey less than a year after the end of their reality show, there was nothing holding Simpson back anymore. She seemed poised to become a true double-threat, joining the likes of J-Lo, Beyonce and Cher as an A-lister on both the silver screen and airwaves.

By 2008, however, she was hanging by a thread. Thanks to poor performances and modest box office returns, Simpson’s Hollywood career was deader than David Caruso’s. Her music career, meanwhile, was also on life support – threatening to go the way of her show, marriage and sister post-SNL. So she did what many artists have tried to do: reinvent herself in order to stay relevant.

With the release of her first (and to date, only) country album, 2008’s Do You Know, she was certainly able to reinvent herself. Unfortunately, it also killed off her music career, forcing her to reinvent herself yet again — this time as an ultimately successful fashion maven.

(more…)

Career Killers: “On Every Street” by Dire Straits

There are two types of “one man bands” in rock music. There are literal examples like Nine Inch Nails, World Party or Five For Fighting, which each consist of one permanent member and are, essentially, solo vehicles in all but name. Foo Fighters started out as a one man band before Dave Grohl decided to make it into an actual group.

Then there are the bands where one member does, virtually, all of the work. John Fogerty was the primary songwriter, lead singer and lead guitarist for Creedence Clearwater Revival. Same with Kurt Cobain for Nirvana, Billy Corgan for Smashing Pumpkins and Syd Barrett for Pink Floyd. Meanwhile, The Cure’s Robert Smith sings, writes, plays guitar, bass, keyboards and other instruments, produces the albums, and decides who will stand with him on stage. Usually what happens is either the other members of the band get fed up and quit or the person in charge realizes he or she doesn’t need the others and goes solo.

For Dire Straits, both of those things happened.

(more…)

Career Killers: “The Long Run” by The Eagles

Plenty of bands fail to follow up a career-defining album. Fleetwood Mac decided to experiment on Tusk and ended up selling only a fraction of what Rumours did. Hootie and the Blowfish rushed out their second album, Fairweather Johnson, and cemented their legacy as a “one album wonder.” Smile, the Beach Boys’ attempt to follow up Pet Sounds, broke Brian Wilson and sent the band into a long decline.

But none of those records caused the band, itself, to break up. None of those records saw a band crack so completely and thoroughly from the pressure of following up one of the most popular and critically acclaimed albums of all time. None of those records caused a rift so wide and so seemingly irreparable that, when it came time to release the contractually obligated post-breakup greatest hits compilations or live albums, band members wouldn’t even be able to be in the same state as one another, let alone communicate without going through lawyers. None of those records poisoned the well so thoroughly that band members said they’d reunite when hell froze over.

None of those records were The Long Run.

(more…)

Album Review: “Now” by Shania Twain.

At first glance, Shania Twain seemed to have a perfect life. The gorgeous country-pop superstar and her musical partner, Robert “Mutt” Lange, seemed happily married, raising a family in Switzerland while churning out one perfect, best-selling album after another. Twain became the first (and given how much the industry has changed – probably last) woman to ever have three consecutive diamond-selling albums, and her 1997 blockbuster, Come on Over, is the best-selling album by a female solo singer.

And if wealth, success, marital bliss and physical beauty weren’t enough, her perfection was even confirmed by science. That’s right. Shania Twain was able to take the ultimate (and seemingly unattainable) subjective quality and quantify it.

Turns out, her life was pretty far from perfect. And we all found out about it in the most public way possible.

(more…)

The Cool Eagle Flies Away.

He was the laid-back cool guy who drove his band hard to the point where one guy poured a beer over his head when he quit the band and another nearly fought him on stage. He was the soulful country-folk singer who longed to be a rock star. He was the front-man for the most transparently commercial band of its era who desperately wanted to be seen as an outlaw or rebel.

Despite all of the contradictions, one thing remained constant: Glenn Frey was the calm, reassuring singer whose sweet voice provided listeners with an escape from all of the turmoil in their lives.

(more…)

Here Comes the Boss! Quick, Hit the Button!

Originally published at: Columbia News Service. (Archived here)

Also published in the Berkshire Eagle – April 29, 2010.

Country music has taught us how to deal with heartbreak, that it’s OK to be on a first-name basis with Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, and that bosses are mean. Johnny Paycheck hated his boss so much that he told him to “Take this job and shove it.” Dolly Parton railed against the drudgery of working “9 to 5” for a boss who was out to get her.

Maybe they would have been happier if they had had the “boss button.”

(more…)