Garth Brooks is the best-selling country artist of all time. Garth Brooks has sold over 130 million albums in the U.S. Garth Brooks has 11 CMA Awards. Garth Brooks has 18 ACM Awards. Garth Brooks has two Grammy Awards. And now, Garth Brooks has the worst comeback approach of all time.

Back in July at a Nashville press conference, Brooks announced the end of his retirement, and since then, it’s been a step-by-step disaster on a multitude of levels — from marketing to music.

Let’s begin with the most obvious bit of nonsense in his strategy: refusing to utilize popular digital marketing. To recap, none of Brooks’s music is available on iTunes, Amazon or any other popular digital marketplace. Brooks felt so strongly about people purchasing full albums that he fought the digital (single-driven) system by entirely disassociating his work from it. Even Brooks’s own recently-established digital marketplace, “GhostTunes,” has an album-only sales policy. If you want the singer’s new, fresh-outta-retirement single “People Loving People,” you have to order the entire upcoming record.

And why won’t you do that? Because the single is dreadful. It’s as if Brooks didn’t once flip on the radio during his retirement to hear what contemporary country music sounds like. Breaking news: it doesn’t sound like hippie anthems. “People Loving People” doesn’t come off as refreshing for being worlds away from bro country themes — it comes off as oblivious. Brooks may be a bestseller, but he’s never been much of a trendsetter, hence the lackluster peak at No. 19 on airplay.

Frankly, this alleged “comeback” is insulting to those who have actually committed to staying in the game. Take Tim McGraw as an example. The “Something Like That” singer is a meager five years younger than Brooks and has barely skipped a beat in his career, even during record label transitions. McGraw put in every ounce of effort to upgrade his sound, maintain his image and sustain his stage presence. Meanwhile, we have Brooks waddling in with nothing but his prestige, blurting out “Hey guys, I’m back. What’d I miss?” Brooks may have run circles around McGraw back in the ’90s, but here in 2014, he’s become the poster-dad for The Wrong Way to Achieve Musical Longevity.

Start from the bottom, Garth. Make a Facebook page. Create a Twitter account. You don’t even have to manage it. Hire it out. Have an online presence bigger than sending typewriter font-narratives over an email listserv. (I’m not joking, this is an actual thing that happens.) Putting music on GhostTunes is a start, but don’t expect a pat on the back for achieving less than the bare minimum of what today’s music consumers expect. After all, if an album drops in an off-brand digital forest and nobody’s around to hear it, it probably doesn’t make much of a sound.

Maintaining principles is noble in theory, but everything Brooks stands for at the moment is a stand against leading a continually successful career. And while the stance is admirable, wasting people’s time and effort is not. Fans would rather see Brooks lighten up on a few self-proclaimed ethics than watch the superstar bludgeon the remains of his musical future.

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