Country music, a style that has been around for some time, is slowly starting to disappear on our car radios. A whole culture is now starting to fall to new pop music, but where did it go?
Country music. Country music? I know what you are probably thinking right now, “How can you be saying that this music is lost? Some of the top songs on the billboard charts right now are country songs. How can you say it is disappearing?” While true that there is “country” music on the billboard 100 today, that music has lost its true culture over the years. I am talking about a different kind of music that comes from the ’60s. In modern times, country music has branched into two separate styles, pop and country-blues, and I believe that pop-country has lost its culture.
First of all, we must answer a few questions: What makes country music unique? Where does it come from? What makes it significant? Well, this type of music started around the ’50s and ’60s, but it evolved from folk music, which has been around for much longer. It began with the mix of rock and folk, which produced artists like Bob Dylan and began as a soft, reflective style. Artists like Johnny Cash and others created more upbeat and positive country jams which was a huge shift from the predominantly swing, funk, and soul era. This brought along a more down to earth and rough taste to music. Country music had a great impact and was alive for years. That is, until modern pop culture came into the picture.
Country music, known for its rustic and honest style of singing, was massively affected by the pop movement of the late ’80s and early ’90s. What happened to this music was a new era of artists. The greats had expended their careers and the genre almost was adopted into new interpretations. We can see a few sub-genre branches from after this time period. We can see the contemporary movement with artists like Paul Simon, who took the sound into a more lyrical, soulful style of music. We can also see artists like the Rascal Flatts who took the style into a whole new direction, emphasizing rock and pop in their music. However, there were still artists like the Dixie Chicks who attempted to extend the original Bob Dylan sound by finding country in its essence of reflective music. However, the genre still became split and extended its basics into a multitude of new genres.
As we move closer into the ’00s, the direction of country music gets really confusing. We see the development of Nashville, extending a new brand of music that falls in between the classic and the rock country music. Nashville developed and became its own culture with artists like Keith Urban emerging. Nashville rediscovered the music genre, finding it’s folk foundations, but still using rock and pop aspects in it’s music.
Ok, so now you are thinking, “Where does country music today sit upon this great evolution?” Well today, the style has lost its foundations. The folky basics of the genre have no relation to what we call country music today. Top Charts artists include Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, and Blake Shelton. The music on the top charts is not country. It is pop.
From folk, to Nashville, to country-rock, to coffeehouse, to contemporary, there are so many sub-genres of country that reflect its culture, yet the most listened to music in the genre lacks the foundations that built the genre in the first place. By no means am I saying that these artists are bad, or frauds, or anything of that sort, but I am claiming that this music is pop music. Sure most of those songs use an acoustic guitar as the baseline, but that does not make them country songs. Most of those songs on the top charts are pop songs, with an emphasized trap beat, synthesizers, and auto-tune.
The top song on the billboard 100 today, Old Town Road, is rap. Decades of incredibly talented artists put their ingenuity into the culture of this music. They brought a new taste to rock music and they redefined what music was with this movement, and now today we listen to generic rap music that pretends to be country. Genres that take up our popular charts are R&B, Rap, Pop, and Trap. True country ceases to present itself on our radios. It is becoming forgotten, its calmer than the music we listen to on the radio and consequently lacks representation on radio stations.
Ok, so now you are probably very confused, possibly thinking of a few questions, “So you’re telling me that all the country music I listen to on the radio is not real, and the genre is becoming forgotten?” Don’t worry, yes “country music” isn’t what it’s said to be, but there still is a huge scene of genuine country for listeners to hear. Music that accurately reflects the foundations of folk is coffeehouse, or country-blues. They bring back the essence of country with reflective lyrics and acoustic measures. This genre was pretty popular in the mid ’00s, but lacks new artists today. Great names like Amos Lee and James Taylor appear when looking back into the country-blues era, and new artists are still to come. With Nashville continuing to broaden its music and more new artists beginning to emerge, good ol’ country still has a chance to shine once again!