I'm Man Enough to Admit It: I Like Chris Gaines

Maybe "New Coke" wasn't that bad either.

By , Contributor

Yesterday I wrote about the Osmonds' “Crazy Horses,” a song I felt deserving of ridicule and hilarity. Since most readers were appalled at my cruelty toward Utah’s favorite sons, I figured I’d write today about a song that was greeted with ridicule and hilarity that I actually really find quite brilliant.

There is a history of rock stars creating alter ego characters that allow them the freedom to move into different genres. David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust is perhaps the most successful example. David Bowie’s audience was one that could deal with the fluid and the outrageous. Garth Brooks’ audience... er, not so much.

Now I know next to nothing about Garth Brooks, but I think I’m pretty aware of the importance of authenticity in country music. My guess is that they know what they like and they don’t cater too kindly to anyone who wants to f**k with it.

And then in 1999 Garth Brooks had his “New Coke” moment - In the Life of Chris Gaines. Bowie’s audience, Madonna’s audience, Lady Gaga’s audience could have probably handled the seismic shift that Brooks was attempting, but most people in America were left shaking their heads in utter confusion at the cowboy star’s decision to become a fictional goth/emo hybrid from Australia.

I can’t really argue with anyone who laughs at the video featuring a barefoot Garth in makeup, wig, and whatever that facial hair was, but my thought at the time—and it’s been reinforced with a couple of recent listens—is that the single from the album, “Lost in You,” is actually a fantastically written and sung song. It reached number 5 on the US charts and probably deserved better than to have its creator widely mocked and thinking of retirement.

Is the fact that Chris Gaines was supposedly born five years later than Garth Brooks one of any number of hilarious instances of one of the greatest mismanaged releases of all time? Sure, but frankly, who knows exactly what Garth should have done with this music (maybe it would have been better to pass the songs off to another artist or perhaps just gone all Miles Davis and owned the idea of a Garth pop album)?

Either way, despite the wimpy, new age video that accompanied it, “Lost in You” is, in my book, a killer love song. Garth’s get-up was laughable, but his pop skills were impeccable. Too bad no one was able to look past the incredibly inane facial hair.

Here's to artists who have the guts to try something new and wind up not sucking at it. Confounding your audience is always heroic as long as your heart is truly behind the work, and "Lost in You" is too good to have been made by someone who wasn't truly feeling it.

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Brad Laidman has been a freelance writer since 2000. His work has appeared in Film Threat, Perfect Sound Forever, and Rock and Rap Confidential. His defense of The Kinks' Dave Davies so moved the legendary guitarist that Davies labeled Brad his hero and he has the email to prove it.

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