Rascal Flatts is never even nominated for the award anymore. It's been six years since they've won any major awards. Not only that, they're finding it harder and harder for singles to reach significant chart positions. Of their last five singles, one cracked top ten, one top five, and three have failed to even make top twenty, with one of those failing to chart entirely.
Give it six years or so from now, and the band will likely be largely forgotten, if not for the fact that the Grand Ole Opry saw fit to invite them to be members.
Yes, I realize they still have a core fan base and they still sell out concert venues, but their days in the spotlight are largely over. They no longer monopolize country radio. In fact, they've been replaced by something that's a lot worse.
A lot of this is related to more and more fickle fans, always anxious for the next big thing. When I mentioned that Shakespeare quote at the beginning of this post, I was referring to that very thing. I'm sure Rascal Flatts will always be happy for the success they once had and the money they made from it, but who do you think will be more satisfied in the long run: a group that saw its star fade or an artist who's always walked a more independent route, developed a core fan base, and continues to enjoy smaller-scale success with a group of fans who will likely never turn away?
My bet would be on the latter. Wade Bowen seems very happy with where he's at, for example.
Looking back, it might be easy to criticize Rascal Flatts as a boy band, to look at their music as much more pop than country, but their was a time when they put out decent country-pop music. It was never traditional, but it was listenable, it was enjoyable. And yes, Gary LeVox's voice may be a bit high-pitched, but when they found the right song, they had some talent. Songs like "These Days" and "Mayberry," and "What Hurts the Most," were good songs, especially looking back now when it's Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line dominating the airwaves.
The point is, you knew what to expect with Rascal Flatts. It wouldn't be traditional country, but it wouldn't be pure rock (even though they did delve into rap with songs like "Me & My Gang" and "Bob That Head"), but overall, in hindsight, they were better than the current mainstream offerings.
Keep in mind, that's comparatively speaking.
As much as I hate Florida Georgia Line, I have little doubt that their lifespan will be short. The trends are changing too quickly. Even Florida Georgia Line, with all their pretentiousness, all their vile juvenile lyrics, all their bro-country crap, won't be able to evolve forever; the tide will turn and their star will burn out, too.
I suppose the question is then, what will replace it? Will what replaces them be even worse? It's hard to imagine something worse than Florida Georgia Line, but let's be honest: it was hard to imagine something as bad as them in the first place.
Or will small movements grow larger and will their be a hunger for music with more substance again? Will Garth's return have an impact and spark better music? A lot of that might depend on how good Garth's album ends up being.
The hope is that the trend will swing back towards music that is in fact more country. The hope is that that artists will have to work for a career again instead of having a label hand it to them on a silver platter. The hope is that artists will have to put effort into their music to gain fans instead of just having their label promote their song through outlets like Clear Channel so much that a bunch of gullible idiots like the song by default because it's the only thing they're hearing.
That's the hope, anyway.