Review Summary: THE THUNDER ROLLLLLLLLLLLLLLS, AND THE LIGHTNING STRIKESSSSSSSSSSSSSS-AH
It’s ok if you want to lambaste Garth Brooks for essentially launching what is the often insipid, rarely stellar genre of pop country. You really won’t have much of an argument either, because since Cash died it’s been the cool thing to say you like REAL country (Cash, Jones, Strait, Haggard), but that pop country is for sh*tkickers and non-heterosexuals. Never mind the fact that 75% of current Johnny Cash fans never paid a bit of attention to him before he took the last train, or the stylings of the suddenly cool Willie Nelson for that matter, but go ahead and rake Garth over the coals. Go ahead and label him the personification of a corporate musician, an overrated hack that took advantage of a massive trend and rode that horse hard and put it away wet. You can scream to the skies until the cows come home, but here’s a breaking news flash: Garth doesn’t give a sh*t.
There are reasons why Garth could probably care less about the inevitable backlash to his unmatched success. First and foremost, dude has sold 130 million albums. Read that again. Garth has sold more albums than the Beatles since 1991. Garth is also one of the greatest stage entertainers in the history of music. I’m pretty sure that underground hardcore band you’re repping couldn’t sell out a 20,000 seat arena in the same city for three consecutive days. Third, and most important and relevant to what we are talking about here, is he released the greatest album in the history of the pop country genre, even though it really isn’t pop country.
Without 1990’s “No Fences,” we probably wouldn’t be enduring the assembly line of faux goat-ropers and wannabe female pop stars with a SOUTHERN accent routinely falling off the pop-mart Nashville feces machine. Despite this unfortunate truth, it cannot be denied that “No Fences” is a phenomenal album by any genre standard. Usually, when one pens the greatest song in the history of the genre (The Thunder Rollssssssssssssss), and it’s most popular and recognizable anthem (Friends in Low Places), they’re entering rarified air. Come to think of it, this hasn’t really been done before. Garth’s genius lies in more than his ability to manufacture hooks like a fishing tackle company, it’s his ability to relate to the common man, Joe six pack-50 hour-a-week guy who does backbreaking labor and comes home to his nagging wife. Or the guy who shows up at his ex-girlfriend’s engagement party and acts like a total a$shole. Or the scorned wife who decides she is going to shoot that bastard she calls a husband. This is hardly a new concept to Country n Western music, but Garth is one of the few artists not named Johnny Cash or Hank Jr. that can pull it off with legitimacy.
By the time “Unanswered Prayers” comes around, you’ll be extremely fearful of losing your Man Card, because it’s almost impossible to not be devastated or at the very least become extremely sentimental at the hands of this watershed power ballad. Although “Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House” is massively cheesy and comes packed complete with an exceptionally loud WOW-OW yodel that would make Dwight Yokam break out into spontaneous, unadulterated laughter, it also happens to be one of the defining country songs of the 90’s. When Garth puts on his haunting spurs on “Wolves,” you might think that it’s one of the most underrated songs in the history of the genre, because it is. If you think “Wild Horses” is a cheesy paint by numbers radio song, Garth really won’t care because it launched Trisha Yearwood into the stratosphere, which of course later led to Garth getting to explore her most intimate of places.
Yes, the moral here is that Garth always wins. Like how it would be impossible to win more than "The Thunder Rolls" if you're a country singer. Like how "Friends in Low Places" is the personification of a drunken singalong. Armed with these resources, Garth’s most obvious example of completely ruling the genre he resides in occurred on “No Fences.” Go ahead and throw a disparaging shout Garth’s way. He'll show up in boots, to the bank.