AP confused as to what Bluegrass is

Following up John’s earlier post, concerning the Associated Press story, claiming that:

Beyonce went bluegrass in a surprise performance with country band Sugarland at the American Music Awards on Sunday night.

As John pointed out, they also quote Beyonce as saying the bluegrass version of her song Irreplaceable “ain’t bad.”

Curiosity grabbed me and I had to see exactly what the AP, and Beyonce, thought bluegrass sounded like, so I went to YouTube looking for it. YouTube is amazing btw. Anyway, here’s a link to the clip. I won’t embed it here because it is most definitely NOT bluegrass.

Apparently if it has acoustic guitar and mandolin in it, it must be bluegrass. Hardly. The instrumentation is two acoustic guitars, a mandolin, electric upright bass, drums, and accordion. The performance and vocals are in no way bluegrass.

It seems the Associated Press has no idea what bluegrass is about. And stories like this one, trying to pass this kind of stuff off as bluegrass, sure don’t help the public figure it out either.

  • Is there any more confusion as to what the AP thinks Bluegrass music is than there is about why Bluegrass Today would post such articles as Krauss & Plant on PBS today and Raising Sand rocks the charts?

    And don’t get me wrong, I love Alison Krauss’ work, but certainly not on this project. I just don’t see how these stories are related to news at the speed of, well, Bluegrass.

  • I think the connection there would be Alison. Even if that particular work is not bluegrass, and it’s not, Alison is. Many of her fans who read this site, might be interested in news of that recording, some won’t. That’s fine.

    Besides, that recording is not being spoken of, here or anywhere else, as bluegrass.

    There is nothing bluegrass about Sugerland and Beyonce, yet the AP was calling that a “bluegrass version” of Beyonce’s song.

    That’s the difference, as I see it.

  • Not Bluegrass at all…… but can you blame them.. everyone wants to be associated with down home goodness.. right?

    Gotta keep it real.

  • slowpockets

    I’d like to here what Andy has to say about this being BG or not. I’m likely to agree with him this time.

  • ryanfbaker

    The clip was removed from youtube 🙁

  • Slowpockets, That’s funny! Good sense of humor!

    Ryan, I’m not surprised. The copyright watchdogs are keeping vigil it seems.

  • summerva

    I saw the Beyonce/Sugarland duet and it looked and sounded like something from a Saturday Night Live skit. NOT bluegrass AT ALL.

  • Well, you’ve sorta confused me as to exactly what the issue is. First, you note that it’s Beyonce who says she likes the “bluegrass” version of her song. And the AP reports that she says it that way. Are you suggesting that the AP ought to correct her? Or not report what she said? She might be unaware of the full set of Bluegrass Rules but what is it, exactly, that the AP has confused?

    Rightly or wrong, a lot of people consider country music on acoustic instruments to be bluegrass. Beyonce appears to be one of them. I’m not offended or surprised by it – particularly when it comes from a pop singer who has absolutely no reason to know differently.

    So, what’s the point of the post? Care to guess what fraction of Bluegrass Blog readers don’t know who Beyonce is (or Sugarland)? Want to make fun of them next?

  • Archie, I said in the post that the AP and Beyonce both thought that it was bluegrass.

    I am suggesting that a reporter covering the music scene ought to have some understanding of a genre before he writes that something belongs to that genre.

    The point is exactly what I said in the post:

    It seems the Associated Press has no idea what bluegrass is about. And stories like this one, trying to pass this kind of stuff off as bluegrass, sure don’t help the public figure it out either.

    It seems we need to hire a publicist to represent the genre to the public, and the press.

    Hey, I knew who Beyonce is. I had never heard of Sugarland before reading the AP story. That doesn’t make it impossible for me to discern what kind of music they play. A few minutes spent on their website and YouTube and I knew.

    I wasn’t making fun of anyone. I was just pointing out the continuing misconceptions about bluegrass music in the minds of the public.

  • Hey Brance,

    You wrote:

    I am suggesting that a reporter covering the music scene ought to have some understanding of a genre before he writes that something belongs to that genre.

    I’m not so sure there’s any reason to expect a reporter covering a particular genre of music to know about every other genre, nor that it’s their responsibility to correct every misconception in a short wire piece. We know there’s confusion in the general population about What Is Bluegrass Anyways. Heck, there’s confusion among the most devoted fans of the music. I don’t even think it’s necessarily a misconception because I have no reason to believe that either Beyonce or the reporter ever cared to think about it. I’m still not sure why that’s newsworthy.

    Maybe someday we’ll have an absolute test filter for what is and what isn’t bluegrass and we’ll be able to pop in an arbitrary song and get back an unambiguous ruling that everyone can agree on. Until then, I think pointing out that this person or that person doesn’t know what bluegrass, even when they have no reason to know or care, is just unnecessarily snarky.

    You go on to say:

    It seems we need to hire a publicist to represent the genre to the public, and the press.

    Ummm… just who exactly would this we be that’s doing the hiring? 😉

    All the best,
    Archie

  • They cared to think about it enough to call it a “bluegrass version” of the song.

    Why are you so agitated about this post? Have you still missed the point? Or are you happy with the general public’s conception of bluegrass? Or is it that you just want to argue?

  • nashphil

    I agree with Archie here…….and Brance shouldn’t get so agitated when someone shares a differing opinion than his own. I like the word snarky……Word for the day.

    I like the blog, but both Brance, John, and mnay of it’s readers are WAY too caught up in that tired old argument of what is and what isn’t “real” bluegrass. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, most people cannot define bluegrass. Even people who know exactly what it should sound like will disagree.

    There are millions of variations and why are people so caught up in defining genres. If it sounds good and you enjoy it, then just listen to it and who cares what you call it. If it sucks, call it country….kidding.

    Beyonce, Sugarland, Travis Tritt, Dixie Chicks, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, none of them play bluegrass the way Bill Monroe did, but who cares….that was 60 years ago when Bill brought his band to the Opry and redefined a genre. People have been complaining that everything that has come since isn’t bluegrass. We should save bluegrass, from itself.

  • Brance wrote:

    Why are you so agitated about this post? Have you still missed the point?

    Sorry if I sound agitated about it. I’m not, really. But I guess I do confess to missing the point about why it’s newsworthy. It doesn’t tell us anything we haven’t already come to know or expect – major artists, media and fans from outside of the genre don’t know what bluegrass is. Here’s the Big Story for you – major artists, media and fans from inside of bluegrass can’t define it either.

    Anyway, happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into the blog!