As a result, many artists have been ignored. Great Texas Country artists are barely known at all by those who listen only to radio. And the trend has pushed aside legacy acts like Alan Jackson, who, despite still making high quality music that remains rooted in traditional country, hasn't had a true "hit" in several years now. Other artists who four or five years ago had bright futures, like Josh Turner and Easton Corbin, are also ignored, in favor of more and more songs about trucks, Friday night tailgates and girls with painted on blue jeans.
And with George Strait retiring from touring, it almost seems like all hope in mainstream country music is lost.
Then the official announcement of Garth Brooks' comeback came, and suddenly a beacon of hope is on the horizon.
See, it was one thing when Garth's comeback was an idea--a perception, a possibility. "Bro-country" artists could do whatever they wanted, their labels would support them, their managers would support them, and fans would support them. Hell, many young people probably didn't know much about who Garth Brooks is, aside from hearing "Friends in Low Places" at a wedding reception.
But now Garth's comeback is a reality. A tour is set with a definite start date. An album release date is planned. And as that date gets closer, marketers of some of today's biggest acts are going to be scrambling to figure out what to do.
It's been 13 years since Garth retired, and while he's done some Vegas shows and released a few songs since then, by-in-the-large, he hasn't been the mainstream force he once was. Solely by his own choice. Now, all of that is going away. It's going to be forgotten, and Garth is going to be back.
Garth is in a prime-position to provide some much needed hope for country music. He's got the advantage of being a newcomer without actually being a newcomer. He's returning to an industry he once dominated, primed to dominate it again after a 13 year break. To many young fans unfamiliar with his music, he'll be new and refreshing. To the young-but-not-as-young fans, it's a return of one of the best performers and country singers ever (or at the very least, one of the best the 80s and 90s had to offer). And to those of us in our early late 20s and 30s who can't stand the direction country music has taken, he represents a potential return to the last time mainstream country was almost completely country with as little pop influence as possible.
And he's flat-out said that he's not going to be making "bro-country" music.
And taking all of that together, these "bro-country" acts are going to have to find a way to compete against a veteran who is going to be bring on, what to many will be, a "new" trend. Many might fade into the recesses of our memory (Florida Georgia Line, I'm looking at you and hoping this is you). Others might return to a time when they actually made good country music (come on, Luke Bryan, you had such potential before you sold-out). Still others might have their labels realize they have to make better choices as far as their singles go (say what you will about some of Jason Aldean's singles, he has some damn good album cuts...if he focuses more on those, he might gain some of my respect back). And most of all, hopefully, hopefully, HOPEFULLY, we won't have truly good artists like Tim McGraw feeling they have to keep with current trends and record, much less release crap, like "Looking For That Girl."
Garth's return provides the hope we need. Hope is a good thing, especially in the current state of mainstream country music. And maybe I'm getting my hopes up. But unless he really screws it up (and that would take a lot), there is no way Garth's return can be a bad thing.