The most specific cheers at Brooke Hogan’s performance Friday afternoon at the Hard Rock Cafe stage at CMA Fest in Nashville, it must be said, were for Josh, her guitarist, who had several fans (family members) in the crowd waving signs for him.
“Wait, who is this again?” a dude behind me asked his girlfriend. “Brooke Hogan?” she replied, her hesitation clear: Hogan’s fame is not entirely her own, but originated with the fame of her family, a family that has a currently fraught entanglement with Gawker Media.
In order to launch her music career the first time, Brooke did a reality television show with her father, Hulk Hogan, Hogan Knows Best, as he explained to Larry King in 2005.
Well, Larry, it actually came about four, five years ago, when “The Osbournes” got real hot. They wanted to do a thing with Hulk Hogan and Hulk Hogan making his comeback to wrestling. And we weren’t up for that at the time, losing our privacy and having the whole crew in the house 14 or 15 hours a day. And then when we started with Brooke’s career, you know, shortly after that, which has been going on for four, five years, beating the music business up, we were trying to find an even playing ground with Lindsay Lohan, Hillary Duff and the Jessica Simpson and Ashlee Simpson girls. They all had to have a vehicle to get a jump-start...
KING: So this is for her?
Well, that’s the way it started. You know, we thought, this would be a great way to give Brooke an awareness, to make people know who she was. It started as that, and it’s shoe- stringed through the whole episodes, her music career, but it’s basically about the whole family now.
(Though both Jessica and Ashlee had reality television shows of their own, Ashlee’s was the one that was actually created with the intent of getting her own music career off the ground.)
For her part, in that interview, Brooke told King that the show “really opened a lot of doors for me.” It was such a success that it got Brooke her fame, and a new show: Brooke Knows Best in 2008. By that point, Brooke had put out a couple songs, but the one you’re most likely to have heard was called “About Us,” featuring Paul Wall, a poppy, hip-hop influenced number with zero substance but a whole lot of mid-oughts sound going for it; think Willa Ford but slightly developed.
Besides the muscle she made when singing a lyric about her father, Brooke’s moved on from her family, and musically, she’s moved on as well, after her first attempt at music via the pop channels didn’t quite pan out. “This young lady has worked extremely hard to launch what we know is going to be a promising career,” was her somewhat depressing introduction at CMA Fest—if only hard work was all it took.
“I’ve been living in Nashville for four years... nobody knows that,” Brooke said at the top of her set about the time she’s spent honing her new sound in this city. She loves it here: “This town taught me to be a strong woman and ask for what I want,” she said before launching into another new track about a girl who tells a guy she wants to be his girlfriend.
Brooke has described her new sound as “beachy-country-rock. I’m from the beach and I love country so it’s a mix of both.” In that same interview, she said she always wanted to do country but listened to her record label instead, a common musical plight for impressionable young women:
I did country way back when I was like 13-14 years old and then I kind of fell into the pop genre. You know, when you’re 17 and a record label says, ‘Hey do pop,’ you listen. And then I just was kind of sick of the songwriting falling away and that world wasn’t registering my heart right so I said I’m going to try my hand in Nashville and I have fallen in love with this place.
This differs (unsurprisingly) from what she told King ten years ago, when she was still a teen:
Well, my music is very different from what you’ve been hearing. It’s a mix between pop and rock and soul. Because I have a very low voice, and it’s very soulful. But I love pop, and I love to dance, and the rock edge is just totally what’s in right now.
“I need you guys to get your rock hands out,” Brooke yelled effusively, before playing new tracks, setting up a linedance break with her dancers, and performing a cover of “Ready To Run” by the Dixie Chicks. It was an odd mix, but given her varied output over the course of her career, it seemed fitting. Though from her recent social media presence Brooke seemed intent on making her CMA Fest performance the real launch of her music career (she also attended the CMT Awards this week), and though she’s working with some legit producers and songwriters, it was not a show that demonstrated any increased musical focus, nor a particularly upward career trajectory. “Fly Away” (her first single off her new album) she may very well not.
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Image via Megan Everett/CMA