George Strait: A Wild And Crazy Bore
George Strait has had a phenomenal career, comparable to the most successful of any artist in any genre of music. He has sold over 100 million albums. He has had 44 (yes, FOURTY FOUR) #1 singles on the country charts, the most of any country artist (Conway Twitty is in the #2 slot with 40 #1’s). The consistent commercial success that he has had for over four decades is almost unfathomable in any form of music. His final concert, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, broke the North American attendance record, with over 104,000 fans in the audience. His career has been viewed as a steadfast triumph of traditionalism. However, for the most part, I find his music synonymous with the word “bland.”
First, let’s start with the voice. Strait has a perfectly serviceable baritone, but he’s not going to wow anyone with it. He’s not even in the same league as Randy Travis. John Anderson put much more muscle and emotion into his music. While he probably didn’t come up with the “King George” marketing phrase, it’s still obnoxious. On his best day, he couldn’t carry George Jones’s whiskey soaked jockstrap. Musically, Strait didn’t push the bounds of country music like Dwight Yoakam did. He was a formalist in approach, as predictable as the Ramones with much greater financial rewards.
While Strait never strayed from a soft traditional honky tonk approach to country music, he also never embarrassed himself – a remarkable feat over a four decade plus career. He could be catchy and clever at times, but his calling card was restraint, not emotion. He didn’t make me laugh or cry or belt out a chorus – at best, he just didn’t make me lunge to change the station when his latest hit was played. For his large audience, Strait was comfort music. He didn’t challenge the audience in any way, he wasn’t political, he didn’t have any hidden agendas. He believed in the style of music he performed and he enjoyed translating that belief to an audience that preferred contentment over greatness.
As with any form of music, image and marketing is as important as the actual product. There was never any sense that Strait was calculated or insincere. He came across as a low key, soft spoken Texas cowboy – the kind of star that could win the heart of any woman in the audience, but was too much of a gentleman to chase skirts. In the current era of bro country, party anthems, his brand of traditionalism may be more attractive as he recedes from the spotlight. For his millions of fans, Strait has represented a genuine link to their conservative values and lifestyles. Unfortunately, for me, he’s been a genuine bore.