I’m going to divide this post into two parts: the first one will go over new changes and features being implemented to The Musical Divide in 2021, and the second one will act as somewhat of a personal reflection on blogging in 2020. I’m excited to get rolling with these changes.
On that topic, then, I will be implementing the following changes to the blog this year:
- The Sunday Morning Paper – a weekly news roundup feature that, as you might guess, will run every Sunday morning – if there’s a week I can’t make it work, you’ll find an update on my About page. This will have several components to it: a blueprint of my posting plans for the week and what music I’m interested in covering/have in my backlog to check out/review, where you’re more than free to have a say in what gets covered; a section devoted simply to listing any pertinent news that happened within the country music industry over the course of the week, in which I will mainly be linking back to sources and not sharing my opinion, if the situation even calls for it anyway; a “Recommended Reading” section, which will be a bit more opinionated as I gather, share quotes from, and link back to any pieces that interest me; and finally, a list of upcoming releases for the following Friday.
- Which is to say that, yes, I am in the process of tooling with the Album Release Schedule page. It’s not the greatest to begin with, and to be honest, I’ve always lacked a solid structure with it. I do my best to keep up with new releases, but some often fall through the cracks or get pushed up or back. And that’s before mentioning the numerous reissues, deluxe editions, and other oddities I don’t usually include. I’m hoping that shifting toward a weekly update rather than an “I’ll do it when I get to it” one will help me update it a bit better this year. I’ve typically been against weekly features, but with the general stillness of events happening within the country music industry right now (everywhere, really), I figured it would be a good time to launch it – if only to test it out and see. I’m really hoping it works out.
- But wait, that’s not all! Along with a Sunday feature, I will also be tooling with my song review process, moving away from the ‘Quick Draw’ moniker in favor of the Boom-or-Bust Jukebox, which will either post on Mondays or Tuesdays – I haven’t decided yet, though it will probably be the latter. This will also be divided into several categories, in order to keep things organized and help readers gravitate toward what catches their interest most. I’ll have a section dedicated to the following: the Radio Stars, in which I’ll discuss anything new that’s landed in the Billboard Country Airplay top 40 from the previous week; folks on The Other Side of Town, indicating non-mainstream country radio releases, other standalone oddities, and just other songs in general that catch my interest, for better or worse – and there will likely be some overlap with the Radio Stars from time to time; finally, a throwback review section, in which I’ll alternate between discussing any song within the top 5 from several years ago (5,10,15…etc.). I also will no longer be grading singles, as I’d like for this to be a lighthearted take on the feature, and found that several of my ratings for reviews in 2020 – from the Chicks’ “Gaslighter,” to John Anderson’s “Years” and the Panhandlers’ “No Handle,” among others – didn’t hold up over the course of the year, as I’m much less firm on my final thoughts with singles as I am with albums. Instead, then, I’ll have a separate category for a ‘Boom’ – my favorite song of the weekly bunch – and a ‘Bust’ – my least favorite song of the weekly bunch, if either of those qualifiers are needed. Reviews for Country Universe will still come with ratings and be included in each feature, just to provide a second link over to there.
- I won’t be tooling much with my album reviews, though I would like to get back to doing more full-length reviews again, as I had before. I reviewed more music than ever before last year, but it didn’t feel as rewarding, and trying to cluster four or more different reviews into one post in a timely manner wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be, even with the shorter discussion points (that, if I’m being honest, weren’t that short anyway). So when I say I’d like to get back to more full-length reviews, I mean I’d like to explore different discussion points within my reviews, either from a(n) (slightly more) objective standpoint – like my Cam and Chris Stapleton reviews last year – or from a personal standpoint of my general interests and listening quirks, or just other relevant discussion points. I’ve shied away from this in past years, mostly because I thought it bogged down my writing. I’ve learned, though, that the problem was always in the execution, and that with more years of growth as a writer and thinker, I’d like to get more creative with my style and try again – especially when I review music to inspire discussion points, not to offer recommendations. I think music criticism is better when it’s more personal. Now, like with those aforementioned Cam and Stapleton reviews, I will indicate where the preamble ends and the actual review begins, for readers who just want to hear about the music at hand (again, like I had done with my last few reviews for 2020). I’ll still often resort to the review roundup feature, but with three albums at the maximum, to keep a sense of consistency (and not make them too hectic to assemble).
- Finally, other features – like counting down the Best Hit Songs of a particular year, writing historical essays, or talking about a classic country song for either here or for Country Universe – will resume as normal, when the time allows. I’d also like to utilize my Melting Pot feature a bit more to inspire some fun discussions, like an upcoming collaboration post I have in the works, in which I and a friend will discuss our favorite debut albums. Other than that, it should be the same old blog you’ve come to either tolerate or hate.
Now, on to another topic, I do realize that this outlet went a bit off the rails in 2020. Between real life getting in the way of a fun hobby and just, you know, the general state of that year – plus me trying to find the right balance between my TMD content and my Country Universe content – it wasn’t a smooth ride to the finish line, I know. I’m really just hoping to find some consistency and structure with the blog and my writing in general this year, as it’s brought me more joy than I think I could have ever imagined – and I have you all to thank for that. I’m not sure what my place is within the country music media; truthfully, I’m just amused and flattered that anyone cares about my ramblings. But I pride TMD on being an outlet for the average music fan, and that any place I have as a “critic” is on an even-level playing field with you all. I’d like to keep it simple, fun and a bit insightful along the way … hopefully.
Anyway, thank you for reading TMD in 2020, and I hope that 2021 is a little better for all of us out there.