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How country music went crazy: A comprehensive timeline of the genre's identity crisis

Are you aware that Nashville is currently embroiled in an outright civil war?

The country music genre has gone through quite a transformation in the past couple years, adopting the electric guitar sounds of nearly-defunct rock radio, the rap-infused cadences and AutoTune normally reserved for hip hop, and, most controversially, the pop elements left behind as that genre gravitated toward electronic dance music. And attitudes have become ever more contentious between traditional and modern-country fans in 2013. Lately, the frustrations have reached a boiling point.

The straw that broke the camel’s back arrived two weeks ago, when Zac Brown called Luke Bryan’s No. 1 single “That’s My Kind of Night” the “worst song I’ve ever heard.” That remark caused Jason Aldean to hop on Instagram and tell Brown, “trust me when I tell u that nobody gives a shit what u think.” The country community quickly took sides in the debate, and the resulting feud has catapulted country music’s identity crisis straight into the spotlight.

These days, pop-country is more popular than ever — but also more despised than ever. Stars like Brown, Alan Jackson, Kacey Musgraves, and Gary Allan have begun publicly expressing unhappiness with their format, which this year has become an increasingly homogenous platform for men (a few weeks ago, Carrie Underwood was the only solo female in the Top 20) singing about trucks and beers and girls and then more trucks.

Tensions have been brewing all year long (and really, much longer than that) — and there’s been no shortage of public feuding among the genre’s A-list. As country fights to figure out what it should look and sound like, its biggest stars are airing some very honest (and sometimes harsh) opinions. Here’s a timeline of country’s wild, crazy, and sometimes mud-slinging year:

January 23: Blake Shelton calls classic country fans “old farts” and “jackasses”
While speaking in a GAC special, The Voice coach angered thousands of elderly country fans when he remarked, “Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, ‘My God, that ain’t country!’ Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.” The comment caused a controversy that endured for weeks and helped spark this year’s debate about traditional-country vs. pop-country.
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Miranda Lambert's new video for 'Only Prettier' features some major country girl-power

Miranda-LambertNow that Miranda Lambert is finally getting some much-deserved commercial recognition, it looks like her label is a bit more willing to put some money into her music videos. She’s come a long way since “Me and Charlie Talking.” Yesterday, Lambert dropped a 1950s-inspired video for her latest single, “Only Prettier,” which features some of the sharp-mouthed singer’s best girl friends. In the clip are fellow country stars Kellie Pickler, Laura Bell Bundy, and Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, and the four gals cheekily portray two different cliques of friends at a school dance.

You’ve got the chain-smoking, gum-smacking bad girls, and the poodle-skirted, giggly squares. Though the groups shoot daggers across the dance floor all night, as the lyrics suggest, they actually “have got a lot a common.” They just need a little spiked punch to realize it. Watching the singers dress up and poke fun at themselves is pure fun (Kellie Pickler is especially funny), and I’m glad to see these women treat each other as comrades, rather than competition. Part of what makes country music is great is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this video is no exception. Watch it after the jump: READ FULL STORY

Thursday ACM Rehearsal Not-Quite-Live Blog: Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Jack Ingram, and Laura Bell Bundy

laura-bell-bundyImage Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesHi howdy, Mixers, and welcome back to the teal-green embrace of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada — try the veal! — for the 2010 Academy of Country Music Awards. As usual, EW is on the scene bringing you the rundown from rehearsals, which today featured a lot of men doing man things until the arrival of one very ambitious blonde and her tireless dance crew. Read on for more info on performances from Jason Aldean, Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, Jack Ingram, and please enjoy my bonus interviews with Blake Shelton and Laura Bell Bundy. Hint: One of those two artists has a man-crush on Trace. And I’d say, “It’s not the one you’d think,” but actually, it’s totally the one you’d think.

12:10 p.m. Trace Adkins is on stage drinking a bottle of water. He is wearing a crunched-up black cowboy hat, loose (for him) jeans, and an untucked black oxford shirt. His hair is down. Trace Adkins is an extremely imposing man.

12:14 p.m. Blake Shelton has joined Trace to rehearse their number, Blake’s recently-released “Hillbilly Bone.” I believe this song is a euphemism, though I do not know for what.

12:20 p.m. Above the stage, a diamond-shaped frame is hanging from the grid. In the center of the frame is a diamond-shaped video screen. Right now, as we wait for Trace and Blake to reset, the video screen is showing a sort of red pulsating lava pattern. I do not want to say it looks vaginal, because I am from Texas and we don’t say such things. But one might say that, if one were so inclined.

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Broadway star Laura Bell Bundy kicks off her 'crazy' country career: A Music Mix Q&A

Laura-Bell-BundyImage Credit: Michael ElinsLaura Bell Bundy made her name starring on Guiding Light and in Broadway musicals like Legally Blonde, Wicked, and Hairspray, but the 29 year old Kentucky-born songwriter always had her eye on a country music career. So let’s take a moment to congratulate this smart, no-nonsense chick on having it all: Her split-personality debut, Achin’ and Shakin’, drops tomorrow (it’s one-half achin’ songs, one-half shakin’ songs), and she’ll perform its campy, catchy first single “Giddy On Up” on this Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards telecast. There will unquestionably be quite the production number.

Ms. Bundy hit Los Angeles this month for a couple warm-up gigs at local gay clubs — gotta show the fanbase some love — and we sat down for a chat about her unconventional album concept, attraction to “dirty, unshaven” men, and something called “Cooter County.”

Entertainment Weekly: You flirted with a lot of labels before settling on Mercury Nashville.
Laura Bell Bundy: Yeah. It’s like dating. I didn’t put out until I hooked up with Mercury. I was a total c—tease for a while.

Were you shopping your self-released album, Longing for a Place Already Gone, as a demo?
I guess so. That was kind of the proof that I was a singer-songwriter. My showcase was Legally Blonde.

I don’t know how many legit musical theater people sound like they could have mainstream recording careers.
That’s what people were nervous about at first at the label. We had guys, like, “This is a Broadway singer! What makes you think she can do a record?” But I already put out a country record that they could listen to and go, “It sounds like a country record.”

Then why did you need the Broadway show as a showcase?
It’s different when you hear someone sing out of a CD player, and then you see what they’re capable of doing live. They go see a Broadway show, and they go, “Okay, actually, she can sing.” And Legally Blonde was not, like, Oklahoma. It was musical theater pop. READ FULL STORY

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