Bands trump singers and take over country music genre
When it comes to country music, icons such as Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood come to mind.
And those icons have always been the most recognized figures in the industry, signing endorsement deals â like Keith did with Ford Motor Company â and winning the majority of country music awards.
But something not-so-expected happened at the Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday: A band won the award for song of the year.
That band is the Eli Young Band, and the song is called âCrazy Girl.â Itâs certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and declared Billboardâs most popular country song of 2011.
Thatâs a pretty impressive feat for a country band considering that out of the top 20 songs on the same chart, 16 of them were from solo artists.
Up until now, country singers have dominated the genre, differing greatly from the perception of the rock genre in which people think about ârock bands.â
There is collectivism in rock music and a tendency toward singularity in country music. But now bands like Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, the Zac Brown Band and the Eli Young Band have burst onto the scene and changed the name of the game.
These groups have made quite a mark and indicated that perhaps the genre is not reserved only for superstar solo performers anymore.
But the Eli Young Band in particular provides an intriguing insight into the recent trend.
Formed in 2000, the band consists of Mike Eli (vocals/guitar), James Young (guitar), Jon Jones (bass) and Chris Thompson (drums). The band spent more than 10 years making music before it finally caught its big break with âCrazy Girl.â
Before that hit, Eli and Young were college roommates looking to turn a passion into a career. Their most recent release, Life at Best, which came out Aug. 16, 2011, is their fourth full-length album.
It took several years, however, for the band to start establishing a presence in the industry. After releasing their second studio album, Level, in 2005, the Eli Young Band got an opening slot on tour with Miranda Lambert.
At this point, the bandâs following was just starting to take hold, which meant that there was a fair amount of anticipation for its third studio release, Jet Black and Jealous in 2008.
This moderate success story led to its nomination for the ACM for Top New Vocal Group or Duo in 2010. They ended up losing to the Zac Brown Band, though, and then went on to experience perhaps their most embarrassing moment.
Granted the opportunity to perform the national anthem at a Kansas City Chiefsâ home football game in December of that year, Mike Eli flubbed the words to the song twice and was promptly booed by the crowd.
But the band would bounce back from that moment as they re-asserted their prominence with Life at Best.
The Eli Young Bandâs story shows that the members worked hard and together as one cohesive unit through the ups and downs of trying to break into the industry. Eli never abandoned his bandmates for the allure of becoming a solo artist and the band kept writing until they created their best material.
It is a very rockânâroll story â a band pays its dues and finally enjoys time in the limelight. And people are taking notice as more bands are starting to become just as beloved as the well-established icons.
Fans are noticing that there is an undeniable chemistry between these band members, and a palpable friendship that goes beyond the music. It is special to see them create and play music together, especially since each one plays an integral part in the writing process.
For solo artists, however, those elements are missing. There is no picking your favorite member or wondering who to watch onstage while the band performs. Sure, these solo artists have backup bands, but the focus is centered on the star.
In a band, everyone gets to be the star, and this trend is firmly taking hold in the country sphere. Newer acts like Tumbledown are starting to stampede onto the scene, and the longtime relevance of established bands such as Rascal Flatts and The Band Perry are proving that many of the future contenders for country music notoriety will be groups as opposed to solo artists.
Ever since the ACM for song of the year was first established in 1967, there have only been seven bands that have won the title. And four of those seven titles have been within the past six years.
The time for country bands to rise to superstar status is just beginning.
Nick Mindicino is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. His column âIndustry Balladsâ runs Fridays.