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Why Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood Became Top Performers
And Continue to Win Awards & Sell Out Concerts
To understand why Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood continue to win awards, fans, and sell out concerts, take a look at the total package.
The members of the band, Rascal Flatts, although attractive, are not your typical heart throb teenage band. The band members, all attractive young men, do not possess the looks of male models in ads. They look like guys you might meet in everyday life—which is part of their appeal.
Rascal Flatts' performances engage their fans, with band members riding across the concert arenas in cable boxes, walking up and down the stage touching fans's hands lined up along their run-way like stage, and joking with them. Flashing colored lights and smoke add to the visual experience. Often, a little girl named Michele, who with her Mom has been a fan since she was six years old and goes to every concert she can, is brought on stage with them.
Their lyrics are not commercials about touristy vacation spots or fried chicken, but about life, difficult circumstances, and emotions. Examples include "My Wish" (wishes for the best in life for loved ones), "What Hurts the Most" (words not spoken to a lost love), and "Unstoppable" (love is unstoppable). Their vocals are pleasant to listen to, although critics often pan their production as melodramatic. Their fans could care less what the critics say. Rascal Flatts has touched their hearts and that is all they care about.
A disproportionate amount of women can be seen attending their concerts. Also, the group has an uncommon youth demographic (18-25) for country music (where the average listener is 44 years old. In September 2007, Weekly Reader Research (Weekly Reader being a children's general-interest magazine) conducted a poll of more than 2,000 children and Rascal Flatts ranked as the sixth-most-popular act among ages 10-12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rascal_Flatts
They keep their fans informed of what is going on in their lives via their website (rascalflatts.com), Facebook, and Twitter. (http://twitter.com/jaydemarcus), (http://www.myspace.com/rascalflatts), (http://www.facebook.com/rascalflatts)
She's young and attractive. Many find her ringlets of long cascading blonde curls, bright blue eyes, and slender frame ascetically pleasing. Is she classically beautiful? No. But, that is part of her appeal. Advertisers attempt to convince us that we must all strive to look the same. However, many find beauty in uniqueness and small imperfections, especially when accompanied by ethics, character, humbleness (her Facebook page states "I'm not a big deal. At all." and a great personality.
Taylor proved that she could draw audiences long before she ever became a mega star (read her background information below). Country music is a business. Therefore, promoting a beginner who already has connections makes good business sense, i.e., less of a financial risk. Taylor's parents, especially her stockbroker Dad, with business acumen, connections and wealth, no doubt helped in Taylor's success. Of course, even with connections, Taylor would not have succeeded without talent and hard work on her part.
Fans love Taylor because she takes the time to sign autographs, and connects with them through social networking sites like MySpace and Twitter. Fans relate to her songs of falling in love and committing to one another (Love Story), losing love and moving on stronger and more confident (White Knight), growing up (Fifteen), and playfulness (Our Song), etc.
Taylor's song lyrics focus on emotions—not a commercial jingle for beer, fried chicken, or resort attractions. Although some people may relate to advertisement-style of music, many do not want to listen to music that is nothing more than a commercial. Musicians may receive awards from advertisers for these type of songs, but it isn't the best way to gain fans. Everyone has to make a buck, but a balance of singing about true emotions and common everyday circumstances versus commercialism will win more fans. (I would guess that applies to writing also.)
Taylor's high energy performances with creative skits, guitar playing, singing, and running around on stage like a person who enjoys life make people feel happy. People relate to her exuberance and her young sounding, soft, sometimes breathy voice.
There is no crudeness or vulgarity in Taylor's song lyrics, nor in her performances--she maintains a wholesome image. Not just on stage, but also off state--you won't find any bikini shots or sex tapes of her floating around on the internet. Her life seems to be an open book.
Although young and very pretty, Carrie is not the most beautiful woman in the world. Many female models far surpass her in physical beauty. However, Carrie's fans find her combination of poise, talent, reserved demeanor, and small- town-girl good looks more appealing than perfect beauty.
Carrie, who comes from a middle class family, made connections in the political arena, having worked for a senator, long before she won American Idol. This position no doubt gave her experience in dealing with the public and maintaining proper decorum. Carrie's fans relate to her old fashioned wholesomeness and her somewhat shy/reserved image. She is seen as intelligent, college chic. Like Taylor Swift, you won't find sex tapes or revealing bikini shots of her floating around on the internet.
Fans love her strong powerful voice. But, most of all, fans relate to her songs about overcoming difficult circumstances and dealing with emotions. Songs such as "Jesus Take the Wheel," (a young Mom who realizes she is on the wrong path in life and asks for God's help) "Wasted" (about people realizing they need to change their circumstances in order not to waste their lives), and "Temporary Home,"(not giving up hope when faced with difficult circumstances) endear her to fans. She took a detour with Cowboy Casanova. Even then, loyal fans defended the video as a "fun video." (The video portrayed Carrie as what appeared to be a bordello Madam and her female consorts dressed in skimpy clothing dancing around her.) After watching the video, my consensus was that Carrie looked uncomfortable in the role as her dancing seemed stiff, rather than wild and loose.
Carrie maintains connections with her fans through http://www.carrieunderwoodofficial.com/, Face Book (http://www.facebook.com/carrieunderwood) and My Space. (Carrie does not currently use Twitter, so if you're following a user on there pretending to be Carrie, you should probably stop following them.). You can find Carrie's myspace link on Carrie's Carnival Ride album, at the back cover.
Reading this, one might notice commonalities in the success of these top acts. If not, let me spell it out for you--wholesomeness and their ability to relate to their fans through social networking sites and at live concerts. These performers don't sing about private parts in the sand or anything vulgar, crude, or oversexed. Their songs and their stage performances display an ability to relate to average people--who don't possess the money to fly to exotic resorts—but, who live day to day, sometimes dealing with difficult circumstances.
The majority who have the money to purchase CDs, buy concert tickets, and on-line music have made it clear that wholesomeness, attainable attractiveness, and accessibility are valued. These performers represent success that can be achieved by those willing to work hard in pursuing their dreams without compromising their values.
Rascal Flatts is an American country music band founded in Columbus, Ohio. Since its inception, Rascal Flatts has been composed of three members: Gary LeVox (lead vocals), Jay DeMarcus (bass guitar, keyboards, vocals), and Joe Don Rooney (lead guitar, vocals). DeMarcus and LeVox are also second cousins.
Rascal Flatts has released six studio albums and a greatest hits album, all on Lyric Street Records. Their first two albums, 2000's Rascal Flatts and 2002's Melt, have been certified 2× Multi-Platinum and 3× Multi-Platinum, respectively, in the United States, while 2004's Feels Like Today and 2006's Me and My Gang have received 5× Multi-Platinum and 5× Multi-Platinum certifications respectively. 2007's Still Feels Good is certified 2× Multi-Platinum. Their new album, Unstoppable, was released on April 7, 2009, and has been certified platinum.
They have also released twenty-four singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including ten Number Ones. A cover of Tom Cochrane's "Life Is a Highway", from the soundtrack to the 2006 film Cars, also entered the country music charts from unsolicited airplay. Their longest-lasting Number One is "Bless the Broken Road" (late 2004-early 2005) at five weeks, while their biggest crossover single is "What Hurts the Most", which topped both the country and Adult Contemporary charts in 2006, and was a Top Ten pop hit.
Rascal Flatts band was founded near Columbus, Ohio. Gary Levox and Jay DeMarcus are second cousins from a musical family. DeMarcus's brother-in-law, James Otto, is also a country music artist. DeMarcus moved to Nashville in 1992, earning his first record deal as part of a Christian group called East to West. In 1997, he finally convinced LeVox to leave behind his job and pursue a career in music.
DeMarcus soon joined Chely Wright's band, and there he met Joe Don Rooney. DeMarcus and LeVox were working in a Printer's Alley nightclub, and when their part-time guitarist could not make it one night, DeMarcus invited Rooney to sit in. Eventually, they took the name Rascal Flatts from a famous landmark in Oklahoma and began performing together, getting signed to Lyric Street Records in late 1999. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rascal_Flatts)
Commenting on the success of the band, Joe Don Rooney stated in People Magazine, 2006, "We're not just business partners, we are good friends. That's why we have had the longevity we have."
Taylor Swift, at 10 years old, began performing at every karaoke contest, festival, and county fair that passed through her hometown of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. At eleven years old, Taylor convinced her parents to take her to Music City. Once there she dropped off her homemade demo tape at every label in town. "It's safe to say Taylor Swift knows a thing or two about being FEARLESS." (http://taylorswift.com/bio)
Swift's lyrics are highly autobiographical; she has said that "If you listen to my albums, it's like reading my diary." For instance the song "Forever & Always" was inspired by her relationship with Joe Jonas, while the song "Hey Stephen" was written about a guy who opened some shows for her. "Fifteen" was written about her freshman year of high school. It has been said that her lyrics "can be tinged with acid: the quiet loner girl getting one over on the cheerleaders, or a caustic payback for the boy who dumped her." She's also indicated that she tries to write so her fans can relate to the lyrics, saying "My goal is to never write songs that my fans can't relate to." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylor_Swift)
Taylor Swift, like many young people, realized the potential of social networking to gain fans. She became a MySpace member in 2005—early in her career. Taylor became the No. 1 Country artist on Myspace, surpassing over 40 million streams. When awarded CMT's Breakthrough Video in 2007, she thanked her "Myspace fans." (http://www.myspace.com/taylorswift)
The intently personal nature of Taylor's songs has drawn the most attention. Swift once said, "I thought people might find them hard to relate to, but it turned out that the more personal my songs were, the more closely people could relate to them." ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylor_Swift)
The fact that her songs are so clearly autobiographical has led to her fans researching them. Swift once said, "Every single one of the guys that I've written songs about has been tracked down on MySpace by my fans." The New York Times described Swift as "one of pop's finest songwriters, country's foremost pragmatist and more in touch with her inner life than most adults." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylor_Swift)
Carrie Marie Underwood was born to Stephen and Carole Underwood on March 10, 1983 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. She was raised on her parents' farm in the rural town of Checotah, Oklahoma. She has two older sisters, Shanna Means and Stephanie Shelton. Her father worked in a sawmill, while her mother was an elementary school teacher. During her childhood, Underwood had performed at Robbins Memorial Talent Show while also singing at the Free Will Baptist Church and later on for local events in Checotah, including Old Settler's Day and the Lion's Club. In 1996, she was in the process of getting a contract with Capitol Records, but the deal was canceled when the recording company's management changed.
Underwood graduated from Checotah High School in 2001 as salutatorian. After high school, she attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, graduating magna cum laude in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and an emphasis in journalism. Underwood is a member of the Alpha Iota chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. For two years during the summer, she performed in Northeastern State University's Downtown Country show in Tahlequah. She also competed in numerous beauty pageants at the university and was selected as Miss NSU runner-up in 2004.
In the summer of 2004, Underwood auditioned for American Idol in St. Louis, Missouri. After Underwood sang "Could've Been" by Tiffany on the top 12 girls night, judge Simon Cowell commented that she would be one of the favorites to win the competition. During the top 11 finalists' performance on the March 22, 2005, Idol episode, Underwood sang a rendition of the number one 1980s rock hit "Alone" by Heart and Cowell predicted that Underwood would not only win the competition, but she would also outsell all previous Idol winners. Underwood is one of five winners never to have been voted in the bottom three (the others being Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, and David Cook); one of the show's producers later said that Underwood dominated the voting, winning each week handily. While on the show, Underwood gained a loyal fan base known as "Carrie's Care Bears." On May 25, 2005, Underwood was crowned the winner of the fourth season of American Idol.
Underwood came back the next season of American Idol to perform her single "Jesus Take the Wheel". She also appeared on the sixth season of American Idol. She sang her single "Wasted" on March 8, making this her fourth time performing on the show since winning the competition in 2005. Underwood also performed at the Idol Gives Back concert singing her new song, "I'll Stand By You", (a cover of the Pretenders hit) along with Kelly Clarkson, Rascal Flatts, and others. Underwood sang the same song at American Idol's season finale on May 23, 2007. Underwood sang "Praying for Time", a former number one for George Michael, during the seventh season American Idol Gives Back mini-marathon. She also came back to perform "Last Name" on May 21, 2008, for the finale of the seventh season of American Idol. She returned again for season 8 on Wednesday, March 18 to perform a duet with Randy Travis with her single "I Told You So", a song Randy Travis wrote for his 1987 album Always & Forever. Underwood was back again on Tuesday, May 19, 2009, to perform the farewell song of Season 8, "Home Sweet Home". ( (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrie_Underwood)