PW: Garth Brooks: was he and is he still the king of country music?
DM: I’m not sure I think of Brooks as a country artist, at least not in the traditional sense. He was always much more at home within pop and rock and roll traditions—from the heavy use of electric guitars, to the melodramatic vocal delivery, to the stage shows that bordered on Spinal Tap-esque parody. That’s all commonplace now in country music, but when he appeared on the scene, it was pretty novel.
Put another way, the guy has always carried himself like he wanted to front a hair band, but since pudgy, balding guys have a tough time making it as rock gods, he had to hedge his bets and do his best with what he had. Granted, it resulted in one hell of a career in music, but I imagine it also burned him up inside on some level. Whenever he sings about things like aching backs, gun racks, and drinking beer, there’s always a hint of irony or even contempt in his voice. Even when he’s singing about himself, he sounds like he’s singing about someone else. It’s a performance slathered on top of a performance, like an inverted Ziggy Stardust. In his heart, Brooks is the space alien, but he’s stuck in the cowboy hat.
I have to think this had something to do with his ill-conceived Chris Gaines phase, but that’s another rabbit hole entirely.