Nashville Bash: 8 Celebrities Who’ve Openly Criticized Country Music – Rolling Stone
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Nashville Bash: 8 Celebrities Who’ve Openly Criticized Country Music

The biggest disses of the genre, from Tom Petty’s disappointment to Howard Stern’s F-bomb fest

Tom Petty

Tom Petty caught heat for his strong words against country music.

Daniel Knighton/WireImage

When it comes to music, the popular kids are picked on most. According to research by the Country Music Association, 42 percent of American adults (more than 98 million people) are country music fans. And country is the Number One radio format among adults ages 18 to 54 — statistics that might make a lot of jaded rock stars jealous.

When My Morning Jacket's Jim James told Rolling Stone this week that he finds modern country music to be, in short, stupid and racist, he was joining the likes of Tom Petty, Ryan Adams and Natalie Maines in publicly expressing distaste for the genre. We count down (and shake off) the harshest words ever barked at contemporary country music.

Ryan Adams

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Singer Ryan Adams visits the SiriusXM Studios on August 12, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Astrid Stawiarz/Getty

Ryan Adams

As the leader of Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams was one of alt-country's most celebrated (and controversial) frontmen of the Nineties. The songwriter truly cranked up the twang during the first half of his solo career, though, duetting with icons like Emmylou Harris on his debut record, Heartbreaker, and diving into classic country with 2005's honky-tonkin' Jacksonville City Nights. One year later, he produced an entire album for Willie Nelson, proof that even the architects of the genre trusted their music in his hands. These days, however, Adams has changed his tune. "I hate HATE country music," he insisted in a 2008 blog entry, claiming he only listens to it when "the Grateful Dead are messin round with it." A half-decade later, his stance hasn't softened. "There's this wrong idea about me being identified with things that are Southern or country," he told Buzzfeed last fall. "I do not fucking like country music and I don't own any of it."

Shooter Jennings

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 01: Musician Shooter Jennings attends the Ovation Presentation at The Television Critics Association Summer Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 1, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage)

Jesse Grant/WireImage

Shooter Jennings

When Shooter Jennings released the scathing "Outlaw You" in 2011, he fired a direct shot at what he perceived to be country's poseurs: "Hey pretty boy in the baseball hat/Couldn't hit country with a baseball bat," he sang. While never shy with his feelings about populist country music, Jennings said in a 2013 interview with the Charleston City Paper that the homogenized modern sound made him come around on someone he previously disliked: Garth Brooks. "I would listen to only Garth Brooks all day if that's what I could get," he said. "Back then it was like, what the fuck is going on? This guy is terrible. This isn't country music. . . That means the bar has been lowered so far that we're like, please." As Jennings summed up: "All the music sounds like Nickelback."

Zac Brown

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 18: Tom Morello (L) and Zac Brown speak during the 30th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Hall on April 18, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Scott Legato/FilmMagic)

Scott Legato/FilmMagic

Zac Brown

Zac Brown's comment on Luke Bryan's "That's My Kind of Night" in 2013 — "the worst song I've ever heard" — all but set off a country music civil war, as it was the first time in recent memory that a modern-day country star so publicly criticized a peer's music. While the two were never personally at odds, they hammed it up and hugged it out during a CMA Awards skit. Still, Brown stood by his comments. In that same interview with Vancouver country station JRFM, the leader of the Zac Brown Band maligned the genre's tropes: "If I hear one more tailgate in the moonlight, Daisy Duke song, I want to throw up. . . There's songs out there on the radio right now that make me be ashamed to be even in the same format as some other artists." But Brown added that country wasn't doomed: "There are still great artists in the country format. There are still artists that do a great job with a song and they care about the lyrics, and it's not just mindless drivel."

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