In 2010, the Band Perry, a country trio made up of three siblings from Alabama, released “If I Die Young,” a haunting ballad that catapulted them to stardom. The song, the fourth-best selling country digital single of all time, went six times platinum and kickstarted a very successful music career. Primed for fame, the band racked up a solid list of follow-up hits, from “You Lie” to “Done.”
So to casual observers, it’s rather shocking to see that after six and a half years, the Band Perry has parted ways with Republic Nashville, run by Big Machine Label Group. It’s a startling turn of events: Just a year ago, the band won a Grammy award for covering Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind.” Yet the powerful record label run by Scott Borchetta (known for discovering Taylor Swift) has confirmed the news.
“The Big Machine Label Group and The Band Perry have amicably parted ways,” a rep said in a statement.
— Scott Borchetta (@scottborchetta) March 1, 2016
The band followed up with a statement on their Facebook account: “We and Big Machine Label Group have made a mutual decision to bring our working relationship to a close. We are grateful for 6 years of the big moments and great strides we made with our BMLG family and will carry that foundation forward with us as we begin the next leg of our journey.”
To those who follow the country industry, however, this is more sad and strange than surprising. After years of acclaimed songs, a platinum debut record and a gold-certified sophomore album, the Band Perry stumbled last summer when they released a much-panned pop single “Live Forever,” debuting choreographed dance moves and a colorful new look. While the trio has leaned on a pop/rock sound in the past, “Live Forever” – produced and co-written by RedOne, known for his work with Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj – was a bombastic anthem that abandoned the band’s signature country harmonies and instrumentation.
The song stalled on the radio charts and plans for their third album, “Heart + Beat,” were postponed. In January, video of the band singing a bouncy tune called “Put Me in the Game, Coach” was widely mocked on social media. And earlier this month, “Live Forever” disappeared from iTunes and YouTube, though it was later reinstated with the Band Perry’s copyright instead of Big Machine, a clue that something was wrong.
The most curious aspect of the Band Perry’s rough patch is that it seems self-inflicted, as the band has expressed much excitement about its new direction. Music writers such as Saving Country Music’s Kyle Coroneos have closely covered the band’s apparent determination to cross over to pop.
“Wide, sweeping, and anthemic, ‘Live Forever’ appears to be about nothing and everything all at the same time,” Coroneos wrote when the song dropped off the charts. “The point was to cast as wide a net as possible and reel in millions of listeners who would then constitute a new era for the Band Perry as a pop country act.”
Coroneos pointed to the fact that Borchetta, their label president, encourages pop collaboration with his country acts: Swift partnered with Max Martin and Shellback for her massive “Red” and “1989” albums; Florida Georgia Line took “Cruise” to the next level with a Nelly remix; and Borchetta signed a deal with hitmaker Dr. Luke to write with Big Machine artists.
Still, it’s unclear who is behind the motivation for the Band Perry’s charge into the pop space. Borchetta admitted last year that the trio was in a transitional period and “redefining their sound” to focus on their live show in a quest to become big-selling headliners. Lead singer Kimberly Perry and her brothers, Neil and Reid, have owned the decision in interviews, calling themselves “pop tarts at heart.”
“Everything we did for this album was about chasing authenticity and for what we know our fans have grown to love in our music and what we bring to them,” Kimberly told Country Weekly, adding, “But this time we were really also compelled to embrace some modern sounds that we love and, quite frankly, are hearing all over country radio anyway.”
It’s true, modern country-pop sells big, but it seems quite a few Band Perry fans aren’t sold on their updated sound. The Guardian’s country music columnist Grady Smith speculated that the group was tired of being known for “If I Die Young” and wanted to move as far away as possible from the moody hit that made them famous – thus, the almost too appropriately titled “Live Forever.”
“The music video’s strobing lights, gyrating mosh pit, and neon color palette hammer home the point that the Band Perry want to carve out a niche for themselves within pop music,” Smith wrote, noting the song’s disappointing sales despite a highly hyped national debut on “Good Morning America” and weeks of promotion. “But so far customers aren’t buying it.”
In mid-February, the Perry siblings posted a Facebook video to clarify why “Live Forever” was briefly pulled offline and quash rumors that the band was breaking up. Kimberly explained the band’s team “was doing a little bit of housekeeping and reorganization” and hinted fans would hear big news soon. She emphasized that the news was “very positive” and the group was excited about what was coming next.
“Since ‘Live Forever’ was missing from the Internet, we saw some crazy questions about, like, ‘Are you guys breaking up? Is the family busting up? Will the Band Perry die young or will they live forever?’ Y’all know we freaking gonna live forever!” Kimberly said. “Thank you for your questions. Thank you for your concern. We love you dearly. All is good, and all is moving forward.”