Saturday, October 17, 2009

Garth Brooks shows why you need more than marketing

Garth Brooks has re-emerged in the news over the last few days. The first word (at least that I saw) came on Thursday:

Garth Brooks has an interesting take on retirement. The country superstar, who hung up his ten-gallon in 2000, says he's back in the game ... but with no immediate plans. Brooks, 47, made his announcement Thursday during a press conference in Nashville. "We're going to take the retirement roof off over our head, and I already feel taller," he said.

PopEater, source of the above, also printed a rumor:

It has been rumored that he is preparing a sixteen-week run in Las Vegas.

So at that point, we knew that Brooks had called a press conference to announce that he had no immediate plans. Kinda reminds me about the time that our local news station had a reporter, live on the scene in Santa Barbara, to report - LIVE - that Linda McCartney did NOT die in Santa Barbara as was initially reported.

As far as I know, Garth isn't a vegetarian, but the idea of calling a press conference to announce that you have no plans seems a little odd.

The next bit of news came from the Inquisitr, which pretty much reported the same press conference, but with a little bit of editorial comment:

I for one welcome Mr. Brooks back into the fold, his hit song writing has been missed.

Thankfully Brooks didn’t announce any plans to un-retire his alter ego “rocker” Chris Gaines.

And remember that rumor that PopEater posted? Well, it seems that Brooks DID have some plans after all. From a later Inquisitr post:

After announcing that he would be coming out of retirement after a 9 year hiatus, Garth announced special shows starting on December 11th 2009.

Oh, and...

Tickets for the shows will be announced in quarterly lots, with performance times possibly changing over the 5 year period of the singers contract.

So Brooks went from having no immediate plans, to having a five-year commitment. Five years - kinda like if Kirk and Spock and McCoy were hanging out on the beach, and then decided a day later to explore the universe for a while. My brain hurts a lot.

One could condemn this as the manipulative marketing that has been associated with Garth Brooks in the past.

Only one thing, though - Brooks is good.

The Inquisitr's James Allen Johnson pegged it right. AllMusicGuide (via CMT) pegged Brooks' influence as follows:

Garth Brooks is a pivotal figure in the history of country music, no matter how much some country purists would like to deny it. With his commercially savvy fusion of post-Merle Haggard country, honky tonk, post-folk-rock sensitive singer/songwriter sensibilities, and '70s arena rock dramatics, Brooks brought country music to a new audience in the '90s -- namely, a mass audience. Before Brooks, it was inconceivable for a country artist to go multi-platinum. He shattered that barrier in 1991....

Now of course there is a school of thought that believes that if anything is that popular, it has to be bad. But Brooks is also known for pushing boundaries, both lyrically and musically. From AMG:

[A] backlash began to develop in the fall of 1992, beginning with the release of "We Shall Be Free," the first single from his fourth album. Featuring a strong gospel underpinning, the single stalled at number 12 and many radio stations refused to play it. It was indicative of the eclectic nature of his forthcoming album, The Chase, which pushed the boundaries of contemporary country. The Chase debuted at number one upon its October 1992 release and by the end of the year, it sold over five million copies. Nevertheless, that number was half the size of the figures for his two previous albums and there was speculation in the media that Brooks' career had already peaked.

But the real experimentation occurred a few years later, when Brooks recorded as the aforementioned Chris Gaines.

As the Chris Gaines album was about to hit stores, Brooks' new persona was revealed to the public. Since the machinations of [the movie] The Lamb were only known to music insiders and fans who religiously followed the trades, Brooks' sudden re-emergence as a slimmed-down, soul-patched, shaggy-haired soulful pop crooner was utterly bizarre to almost every observer. There was a massive PR campaign to shed light on Chris Gaines, complete with a TV special, but the details were so convoluted that it couldn't be explained easily. In the Life of Chris Gaines was released at the end of September 1999, and although it entered the charts at number two, it was a major commercial disappointment; by the time Christmas rolled around, some major stores were offering heavy discounts on the record in hopes of clearing out unsold stock.

But regarding the road that Brooks' career has taken - through Chris Gaines, through "We Shall Be Free," through record unavailability and re-releases that would make Disney proud - Brooks simply says that he's being honest. Here's what he said in 1994:

I get a lot of messages from people who think I do certain things for the shocks and as a marketing ploy. That's not the truth. Not at all. it's like when that line "When we're free to love anyone we choose" caused so much trouble, I looked at myself in the mirror and said: "Man, you are one controversial person. But you're a very plain guy, a meat-and-potatoes guy. How come everything that you do is so controversial?" It's funny how sometimes real life is the odd way to look at things.

But he'll presumably play this song in Vegas.

blog comments powered by Disqus