Stars who can’t stand Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks’ achievements speak for themselves. He has no fewer than nine diamond-selling LPs in the States — that’s three more than The Beatles. 1991’s Ropin’ the Wind saw him become the first country music artist ever to enter the Billboard 200 at pole position. If that’s not all, his all-time US album sales tally of 135 million is the highest ever for a solo artist. Yes, he’s officially bigger than Elvis.
Even with all his accolades, the cowboy-hatted singer-songwriter has never really earned the total respect of his Nashville peers. Perhaps it’s the fact that his blend of honky-tonk, stadium rock, and new traditionalist country is unashamedly aimed squarely at the mainstream. Perhaps it’s for introducing cordless mic headsets, flying harnesses, and dazzling light shows into a genre that once prided itself on the no-frills live experience. Or perhaps it’s that bizarre moment in time when the world’s biggest country artist briefly reinvented himself as a leather-clad, soul-patched, emo rocker named Chris Gaines.
Whatever the reasons, Brooks has accrued many celebrity detractors over the years, ranging from fellow CMA staples to those who shouldn’t have anything to do with him. Here’s a look at ten famous faces the hugely successful but equally unfashionable country music icon has rubbed the wrong way.
Eric Church doesn't like Garth Brooks' way
In 2019, Eric Church treated fans at a Washington, D.C. show to a unique rendition of Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” For his cover of the country classic, Church featured the line, “I know Garth didn’t do it this way,” and judging by the smirk on his face and the on-stage banter with his backing band, The Chief wasn’t exactly complimentary.
Church is no stranger to a bit of Garth Brooks-bashing, of course. He’d previously blasted the multiple chart-topper for lip-syncing at the 2017 Country Music Association Awards, where he was crowned entertainer of the year. Brooks had freely admitted to reporters that he’d mimed along to the track “Ask Me How I Know” at the ceremony due to sickness. But Church was having none of it.
In an interview with Rolling Stone a year later, Church went on a verbal tirade. “To me, lip-syncing is and always will be a red line. It’s fabricated. I don’t want young artists thinking it’s OK, because it’s not.” He then went on, “I felt like he was speaking for the other nominees. I can speak for myself — I’m not lip-syncing. If I can’t sing, I won’t sing, or I’ll sing badly.” As for Brooks? He seemed nonchalant about the beef, telling Broadway’s Electric Barnyard (via The Boot) in 2019, “You know what, for one, you just don’t see it, you kinda don’t look at it.”
His CMA performance truly offended Anderson East
Garth Brooks’ mimed performance of “Ask Me How I Know” at the 2017 Country Music Association Awards certainly appeared to put the cat among the pigeons. You would probably have expected a man as outspoken as Eric Church to put his two cents in. But even the normally mild-mannered Anderson East couldn’t resist taking a jab shortly after Brooks lip-synced for his life.
Yes, the Alabama-born singer-songwriter took to Twitter 24 hours after Brooks’ controversial rendition of the second single from his 13th studio effort, Gunslinger. And he made it clear in no uncertain terms that he didn’t believe sickness and the issue of playing 12 dates in 10 days was a valid enough reason for turning the mic off.
“I keep a lot of my opinions to myself and respect anyone making music but as a person who tries to put on the best and most honest show I can night after night … this truly offends me.” Anderson then concluded his diatribe in dramatic style, adding, “I was told country music is three chords and the truth.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, East had another high profile country star in his corner, his then-girlfriend of two years, Miranda Lambert.
Miranda Lambert declared, 'If you can't sing then don't'
Miranda Lambert had been expected to pick up a nomination in the entertainer of the year category at the 2017 Country Music Association Awards. However, she ended up missing out on a nod, with voters choosing to ignore Nashville’s finest female talents altogether (via Forbes). Perhaps you then can’t blame Lambert for siding with her then-boyfriend over Garth Brooks, who was crowned the winner following his whole lip-syncing debacle.
Indeed, after Anderson East’s takedown of the country icon’s performance of “Ask Me How I Know” on Twitter, Lambert also made her feelings crystal clear in the comments section of the screengrabbed message on Instagram (via E!). She responded, “If you can’t sing then don’t. It’s better to be honest than to pretend. I think it’s bulls**t. My favorite performances in the show were live live. The truth.”
However, some Brooks fans noted that Lambert’s remarks were in stark contrast to those she made about Beyoncé’s miming of the “Star-Spangled Banner” at Barack Obama’s 2013 presidential inauguration. The Pistol Annies member told Yahoo! Entertainment that same year, “I don’t think it matters. It’s Beyoncé. She can do whatever the hell she wants!” It seems like that when it comes to performing, Lambert has one rule for Queen Bey and another for Brooks.
Bristol Palin called Garth Brooks a sissy
As the artists formerly known as the Dixie Chicks learned the hard way, country music artists dismiss a Republican president at their peril. Thankfully for Garth Brooks, his refusal to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony in 2017 didn’t completely derail his career. However, he still faced a backlash from some of his more conservative fans.
Bristol Palin was one of the more high profile names to speak out about the snubbing. The eldest daughter of John McCain’s 2008 running mate, Sarah Palin, described a whole bunch of celebrities as “sissies” on her blog for turning down the honor to welcome President Trump into the White House. As well as taking potshots against Sir Elton John and The Chainsmokers, Palin also questioned Brooks’ stance, considering he’d had little problem performing at President Obama’s Christmas tree lighting celebrations.
However, Brooks later revealed on his Inside Studio G web show that politics didn’t come into the equation. The star claimed that the popularity of his national tour meant that he physically wasn’t able to make the ceremony, anyway. According to Billboard, he then offered some words of encouragement for both the incoming and outgoing POTUS: “We can’t thank the Obamas enough for serving this country. And may God hold Trump’s hand in the decisions that he makes in this country’s name as well.”
Waylon Jennings questioned Garth Brooks' sincerity
Apparently, one of Garth Brooks’ fiercest enemies is a fellow country legend who he’s never even met. According to country music writer Bruce Feiler, Waylon Jennings once described the superstar as “the most insincere person I’ve ever seen … He thinks it’s going to last forever. He’s wrong.” Yet Brooks seems entirely baffled about this remark which — as reported by Taste of Country — appeared in the book, Dreaming Out Loud: Garth Brooks, Wynonna Judd, Wade Hayes and the Changing Face of Nashville.
In fact, Brooks told Broadway’s Electric Barnyard (via SavingCountryMusic.com) in 2014 that he’d never even crossed paths with the man nicknamed Hoss: “For some reason man, I guess I was the guy that he targeted. You know, it’s kind of weird because all the people why I’m in the business, those people say the reason they were in the business was Waylon. So everyone loves him, and he’s a legend, and I just kind of let it go. I never knew what to say.”
So why does Brooks think that Jennings, who passed away in 2002, took such a dislike to him? “I just think he was addressing the different sound in country music and the changing of the guard,” Brooks claimed. “That’s tough for anybody to handle.” Although the chart-topper admitted that he found Jennings’ disdain difficult to deal with, he still has “nothing but respect” for the man.
Shooter Jennings gave Garth Brooks a backhanded compliment
Shooter Jennings appears to have inherited his legendary father, Waylon Jennings’, no-nonsense approach, as well as his musical talents. And the dominance of the bro-country scene seems to be a particular bugbear for the outlaw hero.
“Hey pretty boy in the baseball hat / You couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat,” Shooter sings on his 2011 single, “Outlaw You.” Two years later, the bearded singer-songwriter once again took aim at the more populist end of the country music spectrum in a chat with the Charleston City Paper. But this time around, he brought one of the genre’s most commercially successful acts into his argument.
In a slightly backhanded compliment, Shooter revealed that he disliked Garth Brooks’ music while growing up. However, he was so offended by the new wave of country-pop acts that suddenly the all-conquering star didn’t seem so bad. “Garth Brooks is as country as s**t,” Shooter explained. “Back then it was like, what the f**k is going on? This guy is terrible. This isn’t country music. I would take that any day now. That means the bar has been lowered so far that we’re like, please.” Noting that he “would listen to only Garth Brooks all day if that’s what [he] could get,” the outspoken star went on to compare all of Brooks’ successors to the much-derided Nickelback. Ouch.
Austin Lucas found Garth Brooks guilty by association
Sometimes an artist’s fan base can be responsible for instilling hatred against the object of their adoration. Austin Lucas, a prolific singer-songwriter whose sound encompasses everything from crust-punk and folk to bluegrass and country, certainly didn’t appreciate a certain section of Garth Brooks’ audience while growing up.
In a 2009 interview with PunkNews.org to promote his fifth studio effort, Somebody Loves You, the son of musician Bob Lucas, who wrote Grammy Award-winning songs for Alison Krauss, revealed that Brooks’ music used to always have negative connotations. While discussing how he developed a love of harder-edged music, Austin said, “Throughout the entire time, I would always listen to country. Before that, I didn’t really like it because I hated Garth Brooks. Every redneck that wanted to beat me up for listening to punk loved Garth Brooks.”
However, in an unlikely U-turn, Lucas went on to admit that he eventually felt very different toward the man in the hat. “Now, I appreciate his songwriting and I think he’s an amazing singer.” The Bloomington, Ind. native even admitted that he’s regularly mentioned in the same breath as the country artist he once despised. But thankfully, it appears as though he has little problem with such comparisons: “I don’t hear it but I know what an amazing songwriter he is and a beautiful singer.”
Colter Wall didn't appreciate Garth Brooks' touring schedule
The Regina Folk Festival is one of the highlights of the Saskatchewan music calendar. However, Garth Brooks appeared to throw a spanner in the works for its 50th anniversary celebrations in 2019, when he announced two shows in the area that clashed with the annual event. Brooks-loving locals, therefore, had to decide whether to head for the Mosaic Stadium for the country star’s only Canadian dates or visit Victoria Park to support their town’s biggest festival.
One of the acts due to take to the Regina Folk Festival stage wasn’t exactly happy with this Sophie’s Choice situation. In a Twitter post, singer-songwriter Colter Wall wrote, “The City of Regina is blatantly f**king over Folk Fest this year by having [Brooks] play during the same weekend.” Although he claimed that he wanted to avoid getting “too heated about” the chart-topper, Wall did call the scheduling conflict “pretty damn disrespectful.”
Wall didn’t end his rant there, either. A day later, he reiterated his displeasure about the avoidable booking debacle in a slightly less expletive-filled post on the same social media platform: “Twitter feather ruffling and hilarious Garth videos aside, I hope everyone has a good time regardless of what show they attend. I also hope to see a little more foresight with regards to double booking events in the future.”
Warren G tried to regulate Garth Brooks' logo
Here’s a beef that you probably never would have seen coming. In 1997, Garth Brooks and Warren G — the G-funk star best known for his No. 2 hit collaboration with Nate Dogg, “Regulate” — almost ended up facing each other in court over the tiniest of trademark disputes. According to MTV News, both performers had initially sued each other over the right to call the alphabet’s seventh letter in lowercase their own, with the rapper using it accompanied by the term “funk music,” and Brooks choosing to circle it. But by the following year, the unlikely rivals decided that they could share the “g.”
A spokesperson representing Brooks’ GB management firm, Karen Byrd, revealed in a statement how both parties came to a truce. “The symbol is a positive symbol to Warren’s community,” she stated. “It stands for youth who have risen above drugs and violence to go on and contribute something positive to society. They didn’t see the point over arguing over a positive symbol.”
Brooks then chimed in to state that he would try his best to live by Mr. G’s code: “Knowing how much the symbol ‘g’ means to Warren, I will strive to reach the standard that the ‘g’ represents to him and to his community.”
Eminem wanted to slap Garth Brooks 'out of his rhinestone shirt'
It’s probably quicker to reel off the celebrities that Eminem hasn’t insulted over the years than to list the names he’s disrespectfully immortalized in song. The motor-mouthed rapper has taken aim at everyone from Dick Cheney and Gianni Versace to Lorena Bobbitt and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog ever since bursting onto the hip-hop scene in the late 1990s.
Garth Brooks could therefore, perhaps, take the Slim Shady shade he received on Eminem’s turn-of-the-century sophomore album as a badge of pride. On the track, “Role Model,” the artist also known as Marshall Mathers spits, “My mind won’t work if my spine don’t jerk / I slapped Garth Brooks out of his rhinestone shirt.”
It’s not exactly clear what Eminem’s beef with Brooks is (or, at least, was) — although it doesn’t appear as though the superstar needs much of a reason, anyway. However, the country icon has undoubtedly had the last laugh. In 2014, Billboard reported that Eminem had shifted nearly 45 million albums in the US alone, making him the second biggest-selling solo male artist since the SoundScan era began in 1991. But who was the man who denied him pole position with an astonishing 69.52 million? Of course, none other than the rhinestone shirt-wearing Mr. Brooks.
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