By Geoffrey Rowlands
Country music tends to be a pretty parochial genre. There are few American artistes who emerge from anywhere but the southern states and it would be very difficult to find anything but white faces in a group photo of country’s major stars.
Kane Brown is the exception. He might have been born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and raised in both Tennessee and Georgia but Kane is anything but your typical country star. He is biracial, the child of a black father and white mother. He is also covered in tattoos, just as many as the average hardcore rapper.
“Don’t forget I wear baseball caps rather than cowboy hats,” laughed 25-year-old Kane. “At least I had a poor family background. I have that in common with many country artistes.”
A major difference is that other country stars did not grow up facing racial abuse.
“My father wasn’t around so I thought I was white until I was about seven or eight. I didn’t think anything of it when I discovered I was biracial. But I started getting called the N-word. At first, I didn’t even know what it meant. It started affecting me after I learned the meaning. I got into some fights over it.”
It was his mother’s musical taste which influenced a love of country songs in young Kane.
“She would listen to a lot of Shania Twain and Tim McGraw. My grandaddy listened to Randy Travis, Keith Whitley and many more great artistes so it was definitely my family who got me into country music.
“Things changed when I grew up a bit and started to discover my own music. I was really into R&B and hip-hop in middle school but I got back heavily into country when I was in high school. The R&B and hip-hop influences then were in the way I looked and dressed but I know some of those different musical influences are still with me now in my songwriting.”
It was the reaction to his performance at a school talent show which convinced Kane his future lay in country music.
“I was told to sing a Chris Young song. I did his track, Gettin You Home. The audience went crazy and I won the contest. That was when I realised I should be a country artiste but one with a difference. I wanted my music to be like a combination of Chris Young and the R&B and hip-hop star Chris Brown.”
Kane initially tried to follow in the footsteps of his former school friend, Lauren Alaina.
“I knew her as Lauren Suddeth when we were in school together. It was Lauren who made me sing. We were in a choir in seventh grade. It was just a class so you didn’t actually have to sing. I just hummed or sung very low.
“Lauren heard me and persuaded me to sing properly. She wouldn’t let me leave the class until I sang and the teacher heard my voice. I don’t think I could ever have done it without Lauren’s encouragement. They ended up making us do a duet together.
“Lauren started her career on American Idol when she finished runner-up in 2011. I tried to go down the same route but they rejected me. They said they didn’t need another Scotty McCreery. I then tried The X Factor. Things began okay but they tried to put me in a boy band. I wanted to be a solo artiste or nothing so I quit the show.”
The Internet proved to be his saviour. Kane posted his country music covers online. The response was so positive that he became confident enough to post his own original songs.
“I was able to build a solid fan following through social media. I actually funded my first EP, Closer, through a Kickstarter campaign. All the videos were filmed on my phone. I’d got over seven million views for my cover of George Strait’s Check Yes or No so I posted my own song, Used To Love You Sober, and got one million views in less than three hours.
Kane’s track hit number two on Billboard’s Country Digital Songs chart. It fuelled interest in his EP which reached number 22 on the Top Country Albums Sales chart. Closer would eventually peak at number seven on the Top Country Albums chart and number 40 on the Billboard 200.
Two more of his singles also became big hits on the Country Digital Songs chart. By now, major labels were battling to secure Kane’s signature on a recording contract.
After signing to RCA Nashville, Kane’s first major label EP, Chapter 1, confirmed his popularity by reaching number three on the Top Country Albums chart and number nine on the Billboard 200.
This was just a prelude to the enormous success Kane would enjoy. His self-titled debut album took pole position on the Top Country Albums chart and peaked at number five on the Billboard 200. After the first two singles from the album achieved solid if unspectacular chart placings, Kane struck gold with the third single, What Ifs.
The song was not originally intended to be a duet. But when the decision was made to feature a female singer, Kane insisted it had to be his old school friend, Lauren Alaina.
“She was the obvious choice. We got Lauren into the studio and she absolutely killed it as I knew she would. Performing the song together was like a throwback to our time at school.”
What Ifs combined with Kane’s album to make him the first artiste to simultaneously hold top spot on all five of Billboard’s main country charts, Top Country Albums, Hot Country Songs, Country Digital Songs, Country Airplay and Country Streaming Songs.
The follow-up, Heaven, was another massive hit. It gave Kane his highest Hot 100 placing at number 15 but was kept from top spot on the Hot Country Songs chart by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s Meant To Be. This track held pole position for a record breaking 50 weeks.
Ironically, Kane eventually knocked Bebe and Florida Georgia Line off their perch with his latest single, Lose It. What Ifs had supplanted the previous record holder, Sam Hunt, who had spent 34 weeks at number one with Body Like a Back Road.
Lose It is the lead single from Kane’s recently released sophomore album, Experiment. Another Top Country Albums chart number one, it also shot straight to pole position on the Billboard 200.
“This year has been truly unbelievable,” Kane reflected. “I’ve had so many wonderful things happen to me. As well as all the chart success, I was thrilled to win Favourite Country Male Artist, Favourite Country Album and Favourite Country Song at the American Music Awards.
“But the best thing of all happened a few days after the AMAs. I married Katelyn Jae, the love of my life. It was a beautiful ceremony in front of family and friends at the Mint Springs Farm in Franklin, Tennessee. I’ve had a year to remember but that was a day I’ll never forget.”
Her fans were obviously ready and waiting to see the video for Ariana Grande’s chart-topping single, Thank U, Next.
The promo smashed the record for most watched video on YouTube in the first 24 hours after release. The previous record was held by Korean boy band BTS with their track, Idol. But their total of 45.9 million views pales in comparison with Ariana’s new mark of 55.4 million views.
Thank U, Next also became the fastest video to register 100 million views on YouTube. Ariana reached the milestone in just three days and ten hours, a full two hours less than previous record holder Taylor Swift with her video for Look What You Made Me Do.
With four smash hit singles, a chart-topping album and now these YouTube records, it is hardly surprising that Ariana was named Billboard’s Woman of the Year. She received her accolade last Thursday during Billboard’s 13th annual Women in Music dinner and awards gala in New York.
Cardi B / Offset
Cardi B seldom seems to be out of the news. But she and her husband, Migos rapper Offset, are now making headlines for the wrong reason. The couple have split up after just 15 months of marriage.
Cardi’s initial statement gave no specific reason for the break-up.
“Things haven’t been working out between us for a long time,” she said. “It’s nobody’s fault. I guess we just grew out of love. We’re not together any more but I’m always going to have a lot of love for him because he is my daughter’s father.”
It has since emerged that there was another factor in their split. While Cardi was pregnant, Offset was having an affair with a woman named Summer Bunni.
For her part, Summer is contrite about the relationship with Offset.
“I didn’t know how serious their marriage was. I haven’t messed around with Offset since the birth of his child. I feel ashamed. I never wanted to break up a happy home. I hope Cardi can overcome what happened and focus on her love for Offset.”
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