Unless you’ve spent the last month or so on the moon you have no doubt see Mason Ramsey, the little boy in the viral video singing and yodeling a Hank Williams tune at the end of an aisle in a Walmart store.
The video became an instant internet sensation, scoring millions of views across and leading young Mason on a whirlwind publicity tour that saw him make an appearance on the Ellen show, and a performance to a huge crowd at Coachella, among other things. His rise to prominence even helped boost the sales, and interest in Hank Williams.
Now, there are conflicting views on why Mason was able to become the sensation he has. Some believe that his wholesome, down home aura helped demonstrate the power and allure of country music to audiences that had never really been exposed to it. To them it was something new, different and fascinating. Others feel that it is more a caricature of country music, and it became an internet sensation not because people actually enjoyed it, and it made them interested in country music, but because it’s just another weird internet video.
But we’re not here to debate that either way, because the end result is the same:
Mason Ramsey has signed with Atlantic Records and just last week released his first single.
And it is… Well, it’s bad. It’s really bad. And while that is also not the point of why we’re gathered here today, it does need mention. The single, titled “Famous” isn’t what you would expect from 11 year old Mason for a couple of reasons.
First of all, the song isn’t really something you would expect to hear from an 11 year old boy. Take a look at the lyrics and be your own judge:
Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty cool to be on T.V
So all the folks back home can see me
And that I’m livin’ it out
All the things I used to dream about
Yeah, it’s pretty great, the playin’ on a stage
Proud ’cause there ain’t an empty seat in the place
But, girl, ever since I met you
I got a whole new perspective
If I’m gonna be famous for somethin’
I wanna be famous for lovin’ you
If I’m gonna be known around the world
I wanna because of you, girl
Nothin’ wrong with the center of attention
Long as I’m with you, I don’t mind the pictures
If I’m gonna be famous for somethin’
Girl, I wanna be famous for lovin’ you
Famous for lovin’ you
I hate to be “that guy” (although you should know by now that I’m not afraid to) but that’s pretty heavy for an 11 year old. Those are pretty much all concepts that go well beyond his 11 year old grasp. In fact, show me any 11 year old capable of being able to truly sing those kinds of things and I’ll show you someone pretending to be 11.
Now I know somewhere someone is saying that I’m just being a grumpy “get off my lawn” curmudgeon here, but one of the biggest issues in country music today is artists singing songs they know nothing about. Artists singing songs that are fabricated simply to sell, and lack any kind of substance or soul. Backroads they’ve never been down, a lifestyle that couldn’t be father from the truth, pain they’ve never actually experienced.
Have we not established that part of what makes country music so great is how real it is? How genuine it is? How it’s a music that comes from experience, and reality?
That is clearly not on display here. And I’m not even saying I blame Mason for that. I’m just saying it’s a song way above his head, because it is.
More importantly than that, however, (and leading us to our overall point) this song has absolutely 0 resemblance to what we came to know Mason Ramsey for. There’s no Hank Williams, there’s no yodeling, there’s not even really any country music. It’s clearly a pop song targeted at a pop audience.
And to me, and many others, that says something.
It says something about the subjugation of country music in connection with this single, and apparent new direction Mason Ramsey is going. (Or being taken)
There’s always an endgame beyond putting out a record to make money when it comes to Nashville. They want to control the music. They want to control everything about it. Not just the sound, but the public perception. The culture of the music. They don’t want people to want anything other than what they want to give them. That’s why they don’t give honest country music a fighting chance. They want what they think will best sell to the passive suburban listener, and anything that doesn’t fit that target market doesn’t exist.
So this kid shows up singing real country music, makes a ton of noise, and instead of letting him record what actually brought him to the table and made him famous they saddle him with what they see as marketable pop.
It sends a message: we can get people to give up that kind of music in favor of what we want to put out. It creates an impression that artists don’t want to be true to the music, they’ll do whatever Nashville says.
And this isn’t anything new. This has been the Nashville game since the town became the crown jewel of country music.
Anyone remember the actual story of Waylon Jennings career?
Don’t think for one second that the executives down there don’t know about the independent, outside movement in country music that has been growing for some years now. Don’t think for a second they don’t see guys like Tyler Childers and Cody Jinks and what they are accomplishing and the support they are receiving and just blow that off.
I bet those guys both get multiple calls a week to come to Nashville so Nashville can exert the same kind of control over them. So they can show that they and they alone decide what country music actually is.
This is a nice quick buck with a buffet of PR that Nashville can belly up to and eat freely as long as it lasts.
But that’s not all it is. The game is always being played behind the curtain. And the game is being played strong here.
But what if this is worse than just that? What if this goes deeper than the corporate profiteering off of an 11 year old boy that went viral for whatever reason he did?
What if this whole thing from start to finish was orchestrated by Atlantic? What if Atlantic Records decided they wanted to have a child star, went out and picked an “aw shucks” down home country boy to go in on, and pulled this off from start to now?
A dedicated team of marketing experts (like Atlantic has) could no doubt manufacture a viral sensation. We’ve long been in the age where viral sensations can be manufactured.
Obviously the flaw with that concept is if they wanted to make him a pop star, why would that have him sing and yodel Hank Williams?
But if you stop to think about it, that is what made it unique. That is what helped captivate the attention surrounding the phenomenon. If Mason had been standing there crooning “Body Like A Backroad” (which, for those keeping score at home is also a song that is a little too mature for an 11 year old) who would have paid it any mind? But a song that is over 50 years old? That’s attention grabbing from an 11 year old. And grab the attention it has, and now the money is rolling in.
And again, just for the record I’d like to say I am not here to blame, or hold this against this young man. He’s obviously being used as a pawn for profit by executives who see dollar signs and couldn’t care less about the actual human being at stake here.
I’d also like to make clear that I am not accusing Atlantic of creating this whole thing in a marketing meeting. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. We’ll never know. But if they did conjure this whole thing up from the start it was a stroke of marketing genius, and it’s paying off nicely for them.
But above all else, the most import thing to take away from this whole thing is this:
It’s all just another clear demonstration that Nashville and the mainstream country music industry wants very little to do with actual country music.