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The Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines controversy

Country Standard Time Editorial, October 1999

Garth Brooks in the life of Chris Gaines...

Chris Gaines, aka Garth Brooks, releases "In the Life of Chris Gaines" Sept. 28. The album is probably the most anticipated debut ever from any artist.

Of course, this isn't any artist. Brooks has adopted the persona of Australian native Gaines, a pop singer who has endured much personal tragedy. But he also has done quite well thank you on the charts, selling tons of albums.

Now comes a greatest hits package, which is, in reality, the very first album ever released by Gaines. This is all part of a movie coming out next year starring Brooks.

Brooks made it clear that "In the Life..." is not a country album and in fact told Billboard to not list the disc on the country charts, saying in an Allstar interview "it's not fair to country music" if the Gaines disc knocked out another artist from the top spot.

Brooks is certainly correct about that. Maybe the country radio folks will even listen to him, but of course they already are playing "It Don't Matter to the Sun," a country-flavored acoustic ballad from the album.

There may be more to this though. Brooks no doubt has a grand marketing plan here. As usual. An album on the country charts would only hammer home the fact that he is a country musician when he is trying to expand his horizons. The anti-country folks would probably not want to touch the disc in that case.

Brooks certainly has his share of country detractors, especially given the fact that he put rock into country ("The Fever" among others).

But at least he is trying to outwardly distance himself from country through Gaines. He could easily have done the CD as Garth Brooks, but that would have muddied his country career.

While there may be controversy about the Brooks/Gaines idea, let Brooks go off and do his pop thing in peace. Leave him off the country charts like he wants. At least that will be one less non-country song being played on "country" radio.

Who knows? Maybe that somehow will leave room for a real country song.