HOT DISH: Grades Vary on Mainstream Media’s Coverage of Country Music

Pondering the Attention Given to Brooks & Dunn, George Strait, American Idol

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also hosts CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

Nothing gets under my fingernails (and toenails) faster and deeper than somebody who doesn’t know country music and doesn’t care about the stars but still goes headstrong into flapping computer keys while finding new and different ways to take cheap shots at our music and artists.

For instance, news of Brooks & Dunn‘s “hanging up of the spurs” broke via Entertainment Tonight even before the duo said a word — much less made an official announcement. This caused hurt, but ET did not give a flip. Fans and friends of country music have feelings.

And Scott Brown, who writes the “Hit List” column for Entertainment Weekly thought he was being funny, cute and smart when he wrote, “Brooks & Dunn are done. Well, there goes my weekend. I’ve got about 50 posters to cut in two.” That’s just a smart aleck putdown. (Yuk, yuk.) Brown knows how to spell Dunn two ways — as in “done.” Big deal.

I sure don’t think I’m smart, not even clever. Lord knows, I make mistakes. But I want to make a point here. If somebody needs to say something funny or to simply poke fun over the Brooks & Dunn split, it ought to be someone who has some long-term understanding of country music.

Also in Entertainment Weekly, Whitney Pastorek wrote a review of George Strait‘s new album, Twang. I have to give her credit because she correctly called the Strait man’s voice “hallowed” in her first sentence and even calls him “King George” in the first paragraph. Pastorek is somewhat of a fan or at least did her homework in mentioning some of Strait’s career achievements. She did not criticize the album or the contents, although I felt she should have mentioned Dean Dillon’s contribution since he’s made a real fine living penning hits for George Strait through the years. Other than that, I have no complaints about her review.

However, I do have a question for Pastorek: Why the hell did you give him a “B” grade? “B” is average — and Twang isn’t an average record. He earned an “A.” And with 155,000 copies sold the first week, the Strait-man’s brand new album zoomed to No. 1 on Billboard‘s country chart and knocked Michael Jackson’s Number Ones from the top of the Billboard 200. That’s an “A-plus” achievement for sure. Yeah, big George!

Shania Twain, Paula Abdul and American Idol
Yes, there were times during almost every American Idol show when Paula Abdul seemed loopy. She came to Nashville and appeared on the CMT Music Awards , where she slurred words and seemed to be … well … not so quick on her feet and not so quick with her words. But if Ryan Seacrest is worth $10 million annually to host AI, I’d say Paula is well worth more than the $5 million she was reportedly offered to judge the next season.

If Paula was a Hollywood male who had an accomplished career equal to hers, there would be no question about it. The powers that be would have offered her a lot more money. (Of course, if somebody wanted to give me the $2 million she was reportedly making already, I’d gladly accept the offer on hands and knees in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre wearing my birthday suit.) Simon’s salary is obscene — around $30 million a year, according to The New York Times — but he’s worth it. People watch that show to recall his antics the next day around the office coffee urn or water cooler.

It is peculiar, though, that Randy Jackson’s salary has not been mentioned anywhere I’ve seen. It makes me wonder if it’s a “pay the female less” issue.

Now, I read where they’ve approached Shania Twain about filling Paula’s seat. If nothing else, Shania is scheduled to be a guest judge during the preliminary auditions in Chicago. Shania would definitely work for the show. She’s a beauty. And she won’t take any crap from Simon because she’s smarter than he is.

Underage Drinking Can Ruin Concerts for the Rest of Us
In country music, we are so fortunate to have fans of all ages. Since the genre took root in the 1920s through the 1950s with radio shows, young fans would follow those axle-deep mud holes in rural areas to where the highway began just to see their favorites perform live. These days, we see stars on TV, computer, DVD and in concert. And we hear them on the radio, CDs, MP3 players and Lord knows what all.

Country music fans are the greatest people on this earth. Just come to Music City during the second week of June and look at the fans of all ages enjoying the CMA Music Festival . I love the fans, but I’m a little out of sorts because of the Boston Globe newspaper headline reporting more than 100 people being arrested at Kenny Chesney‘s recent concert at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Most of the offenses involved underage drinking, which saddens me. Kenny is crazy over his fans and knows a lot of them by name. I’m sure it hurt Kenny’s heart when he read about these underage kids arrested at his concert. What if the city of Foxborough decided to blame Kenny for the incident? What if those teenagers’ night of boozing prevented Kenny from returning to Gillette Stadium. And, more important than that, what if one of those drunks got behind the wheel of their car or truck and killed themselves or somebody else. (That’s what happened last year.) How would you feel? Well, Kenny would feel a lot worse.

More than 56,000 fans turned out to see Kenny and his opening acts, Sugarland, Montgomery Gentry and Miranda Lambert. It’s a shame that a relatively small group of fans could cause such a ruckus. And it’s so sad that a handful of young people could not enjoy music on a Saturday night without drinking and puking and going to jail.

Mad About Brad … and Charlie
Have you seen Brad Paisley‘s new video for “Welcome to the Future” ? What a great piece of work. I love that it includes Charlie Nagatani, a Japanese country artist who founded the Country Gold Festival in Kumamoto, Japan. I’ve seen Charlie perform on the Opry, and I’ve seen photos of some of my favorite singers performing on Charlie’s Country Gold stage in Kumamato, Japan, with thousands screaming.

Billy Currington Praised by David Letterman
“God is great. Beer is good. And people are crazy,” Billy Currington sings every day and night these days, especially after it hit No. 1. But when he sang it on The Late Show With David Letterman, the show’s host allowed, “This song will be played on jukeboxes for the next thousand years.” He called Billy “my hero” as he slid his arm around his back. “I dearly, dearly love this song,” Letterman added. “It’s absolutely perfect. … If I was the people running country music, I’d shut it down now!” Bobby Braddock wrote the song with Troy Jones. I’m proud to say that Bobby Braddock is the best country songwriter alive today. He’s been writing hits — such as “He Stopped Loving Her Today” — for more than 30 years.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Boiled Shrimp.