Lady Antebellum (Capitol Nashville)
I love country music. Neko Case is my goddess. Gillian Welch is my savior. Ryan Adams is my lust-object for life, and Uncle Tupelo is second only to Wilco.
But Billboard Hot Country chart-toppers/crossover poppers Lady Antebellum? I dunno. It's possible they border a little too country even for me.
'Cause when I say I love country, I mean I love alt-country. The thing is, even though I adore alt-country, I recognize its hypocrisy. Most alt-country fans, if not artists, are all like, "I dig country, but not, y'know, country."
That statement's begging for a kick in the head. What we mean is we're down with banjos and fiddles and yearning hearts and vowels that twang, but not with Lady Antebellum's brand of CMT, all-American, Wal-Mart country, and all the Jesus-speak, Old South nostalgia and professed sincerity that accompany the genre. We're distancing ourselves from the folks who drive pickup trucks without irony. And on many levels, that's just elitist bullshit (though I certainly question Lady Antebellum's Civil War allusions and sentiment that "home is where the heart is, just south of the Mason-Dixon Line").
The trio (two coiffed dudes and one done-up blondie in heels), offers just what you'd expect from their self-titled, debut album--soaring, Nashville-style power ballads engineered with a cunning pop/rock patina, all the better for wooing markets of all geographies. And woo they do.
Lady Antebellum sold more than 40,000 albums their first week, became the first new group to debut at No. 1 in their first week of release on the Billboard Top Country Albums charts, and became the first country band to ever land in the iTunes Top 10 with a debut album. Them's a lot of firsts.
So even though country-country, as opposed to alt-country, is a genre that remains in the margins of our Northeastern, metropolitan bubble--peripheral to the hip-hop, punk and electroclash that occupy our radios and Saturday nights--it's clear that Lady Antebellum's urbane cowboy act is selling insanely well in the wake of Carrie Underwood and Sugarland, and not just below the Mason-Dixon Line.
PW's Music Issue 2014