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Oh Luke. Why.
If this is the first criticism of Luke’s new musical direction you’ve heard, then you haven’t been particularly observant. Plenty of those on social media are up in arms about ‘That’s My Kind of Night’, and with good reason; Luke’s gradual selling out to the height of the mainstream and every trend that passes through it is something that has troubled many a Luke fan, including myself. Not that I’d really count myself as much of a fan these days.
The most common criticism has been of the music’s lack of substance. ‘That’s My Kind of Night’ is certainly not where Luke’s musical substance demise began, but it’s definitely where it came to a head. For the country fans who lap up every tailgate, cut-off jeans, tanned legs, ice cold beer, pick-up truck, moonshine and random car sex (like is present in this song), well you probably love this stuff and can’t understand the fuss. “So what?” You say. “This is what country music is”.
Ahem. No, I have a problem with that statement. Perhaps you love your bubblegum country because it’s mindless and you can throw it on while you’re so busy getting drunk out of your mind that you can’t hear it; perhaps you’re just one of those people (and I know many), who don’t care about music. It doesn’t mean anything to them, it doesn’t move them. It’s for fun, for dancing, for social purposes. It’s just there. Like this song.
Country music is not trucks and beer. They might play a part in there somewhere. But country music is about heartbreak and struggle, people and their relationships. Country music is about life and it always means something. If you want music to party to, go to pop music, they’ll take you in. I can always go out and find the country music I love being created every day but it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for those artists to make that music and be supported by the industry. Instead, that industry champions its pop and rap hitmakers and turns artists like Luke (who was positively leaking potential when he first came on the scene) into clones full of clichés and formula, music that is for drinking and partying and sex. Maybe that’s a part of life, but there’s more than enough of this stuff in other genres. Does country have to join them?
Speaking of sex, do we have to have it in every song? I know teenagers are obsessed with sex and with Luke being eye candy for frisky young girls it seems a natural fit, but the rest of us are definitely over it. ‘Crash My Party’ may have been a little bland in places but at least it wasn’t as laden and as dripping with innuendos (so blatant they’re hardly innuendos) as ‘That’s My Kind of Night’. And that’s not to mention the music . Luke has probably been a perpetrator of music that sounds more like alternative longer than he has been of country, but I’m struggling to find the ‘country’ in this song apart from my FAVORITE token banjo. Lord, don’t these people have any original ideas?
Having said this, the music could have been saved had it not been for lyrics like “a little Conway, a little T-Pain” that have stuck a dagger through the heart of every true country fan. I believe the main reason why this is hard for many to accept is the fact that Luke is clearly more talented than this. He may have made it to the top by creating formulaic crap but he still would have made it pretty big making the music he started off with, and he would have earned a whole lot more respect. Unfortunately, his appearance has a part to play in this. In a country music industry that has spent its entire existence lusting over the pop industry, image becomes more and more important with every passing year and Luke has become the posterchild for the frat boy with a perfect face and Elvis hips. While I as a woman admit finding him attractive and happily crushing on him, I feel ripped off and betrayed that he has helped the industry use his appearance to take advantage. In other words, they think we’ll buy any old crap, and we will.
In fact, just this morning I had someone defend him to me by saying he’s beautiful. My case in point.
I don’t know about you, but just because I can go to my music collection and find the music I like and play that all day, I love country music enough to be passionate about whether the artists that deserve it make it and for the state of the mainstream and the industry to be extremely important to me. I refuse to accept that country music should just become meaningless because it has never been meaningless to me. And for all of you who don’t understand my point, well maybe you’re just one of those people who doesn’t care about music.
The rest of us will still be here when you’ve left, like the loyal (but betrayed) fans that we are.