Why Sturgill Simpson Deserves The Grammy Love
Amongst social media reactions to this mornings Grammy nominations, there was almost a deafening calvalclade of "Who?" when Sturgill Simpson grabbed nominations for not only Best Country Album, but also Best Album of the Year - All Genre, putting him up against the likes of Adele, Drake, Justin Bieber and Beyoncé. Unless you binge on Spotify the way others binge on Netflix like I do, he may not have been on your radar. So how does this guy, with virtually no airplay, who is mostly unknown to mainstream audiences, let alone mainstream country audiences, get an invite to the party generally attended by the #1 singles and the massive airplay his fellow nominees generate?
By making what literally is the best album of the year. At least one of the best, anyway. 2016 has been a great year for country music, both commercial and non-commercial brands of country.
The problem with Simpson, and this isn't a problem exactly, is that he doesn't make music for radio play. While Keith Urban and Luke Bryan and Carrie Underwood are chasing single after single, resting on the laurels of an album for two years, the lead single off their still TBD next album dropping just after the final single off their previous album falls from the #1 spot, Simpson is hand crafting an audibly perfect album. It just sounds gorgeous to listen to, and then as you digest the lyrics he puts forth, you understand the pure beauty of what he's singing.
A friend of mine put him on my radar a few years back, after his second album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, dropped. I've been hooked on every word he sings ever since.
This isn't to knock the artists we do play. They just approach country differently than Sturgill does. His music is not meant to be consumed on the radio, a single on repeat for a few months before moving onto the next one. He doesn't do songs for the purpose of having a single. He does an entire album worth of great material. Expounding on that goes deep into the music industry rabbit hole and involves essays on the histories of both MTV and iTunes... that's a blog for another time. But suffice it to say, he's making albums. He's not making singles.
Give Simpson's A Sailor's Guide to Earth a listen if you haven't yet. And as much as I would love to play him on air... it would be a disservice to the artistry of his music to break it up into smaller chunks like that. What his nomination means for country music is also a blog for another time. But for now? Sturgill....