BONUS TRACKS: Grammys’ Genre Problem, Paddy Moloney, and How to Be a Responsible Music Fan
Kacey Musgraves (photo by Sophia Matinazad)
The Grammys have a lot of problems, and genre is at the heart of most of them. This year’s first nominee for Top Controversy is the decision (from an anonymous committee) to keep Kacey Musgraves’ new album, star-crossed, out of consideration in the awards’ country categories, deeming it pop instead. Does it sound country? No. No one’s really arguing that it does. But does it have a similar vibe, and exactly the same production team, as Golden Hour, which won three country Grammys in 2019? Ummmm, well, yeah. For that matter, does anything in the country categories lately sound like country? Where does country end and pop begin, and who gets to decide, and are they doing so under any kind of fair system? Read Variety’s analysis of what’s going on here, and why it matters. And if you’re wondering how Musgraves feels about the whole thing, here’s what she had to say:
You can take the girl out of the country (genre) but you can’t take the country out of the girl. pic.twitter.com/dZaqoFsI7I
— K A C E Y (@KaceyMusgraves) October 13, 2021
But wait, there’s already another contender for Top Controversy! News also emerged this week that Bo Burnham’s Inside (The Songs) will not be eligible in the Comedy Album category. The album, made up of the music from his Netflix special Inside, will be considered for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media instead. The album has been No. 1 on the, uh, comedy chart for 18 weeks, Variety reports. And given that previous soundtracks to Netflix specials have been considered in the Comedy category, it seems “Problematic” indeed.
In another nonstop source for controversy, mainstream country music has been falling all over itself lately, with some artists going loud and proud about their misinformed and dangerous anti-vaccine opinions and other artists being, well, Morgan Wallen. Some fans who like the message of the music but not as much the messages of its performers lately are starting to feel alienated, as explored in this piece from The Washington Post. (For folks who want twang with a little more heart and a lot less hate to it, may we suggest … roots music?)
If you’ve listened to Irish music in the last half century, you’ve likely heard the work, or at least the influence, of Paddy Moloney, who died this week at the age of 83. Leader of the Chieftains, Moloney was steeped in the traditions of his homeland’s music but devoted to driving it forward, delighting fans with collaborations across genres, including with Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Nanci Griffith, and Luciano Pavarotti. Read more about Moloney and his life and music in this obituary from The New York Times.
The bluegrass world is also mourning the loss of one of its beloved figures, Phil Leadbetter, known to many as “Uncle Phil.” Leadbetter played dobro with J.D. Crowe, Dale Ann Bradley, Grasstowne, and more. He had survived five bouts with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and recent kidney failure but died of COVID-19 at the age of 59. Read more in an obituary from Bluegrass Today.
We all know that streaming, at least by itself, isn’t the best way to support the artists we love. But what is? Galaxie 500 alum Damon Krukowski wrote an essay for Pitchfork titled “How to Be a Responsible Music Fan in the Age of Streaming” that points out some problems you might not have thought of before as well as some possible solutions by which individual music fans can start to make a difference.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Here’s a sampling of the songs, albums, bands, and sounds No Depression staffers have been into this week:
Adele – “Easy On Me”
Buffalo Nichols – Buffalo Nichols
Erin Rae – “Modern Woman”
Shane Nicholson – Living in Colour
Holly Humberstone – Falling Asleep at the Wheel [EP]
Dave Hause – Kick
Hayes Carll – “Help Me Remember,” from his new album, You Get It All, coming Oct. 29 (Warning: Watch in a place where you’re OK to cry, and don’t miss Carll’s message at the end.)