Hey, all y'all formulaic gangsta rappers, this is your future: You might be Alan Jackson one day. And then Kelefa Sanneh will justify your existence thusly:
There’s no question that Mr. Jackson is a country kingpin, respected even by the impatient young singers who complain that the country industry relies too heavily on proven hit makers like him. But outside the world of country music, Mr. Jackson is often viewed less respectfully, not as an American original but as a Nashville clone.
Mainstream country singers like him are routinely written off or ignored by listeners and critics who claim to champion the real thing. No profile of a quirky singer-songwriter or an aging pioneer is complete without a lazy swipe at the supposed intolerance of the Nashville plutocracy or the cravenness of country-radio programmers.
The truth is that country remains one of America’s most vital commercial radio formats, driven by a singularly weird mix of teenagers and parents of teenagers, pop melodrama and old-school stoicism. (The loyalty of older, nondownloading listeners may help explain country’s relatively healthy sales figures.) And the genre’s obsession with tradition clashes in unexpected and interesting ways with its need for glamour and novelty.
For the record, I have no problem with Kelefa Sanneh.