The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

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The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

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‘This ain’t Texas’ – but it is country

Pop, rap stars bring new listeners to the genre

With pop singers Beyonce and Lana Del Rey taking a shot at country music with their new and upcoming albums, and country artists such as Jelly Roll and Hardy incorporating rap and rock elements into their country songs, mixing genres has never been more popular with musicians.

Maria D’Antonio, host of the weekday midday show at country music radio station Y108, sees this as an expansion of a ’90s trend in country music.

“I think a lot of what’s happening now is similar to what happened in the ’90s with Faith Hill and Shania Twain,” D’Antonio said. “You had big-name country artists who were reaching fans in other genres with their country music. They were mass appeal, even though they were doing country music.”

This represented a big change, since in the 1960s and ’70s the borders between music genres were clearly defined: Rock was seen as rebellious, while country and pop music was seen as being safer and more mainstream.

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In addition to Hill and Twain, the ’90s also saw Garth Brooks draw interest from rock fans – Brooks even released a rock album under the name Chris Gaines in 1999. In the early 2000s, Big & Rich and Florida Georgia Line added elements of hip-hop into their music.

But back then, it was mostly country artists trying some pop, rock, and rap. Pop and rock artists generally only started making country music after they had started becoming less popular in their original genre, as shown by Darius Rucker of the rock band Hootie and the Blowfish going country.

It’s nice to welcome new people to the genre.

— Maria D’Antonio

That is no longer the case.

The lines between the rock, hip hop, and country genres have increasingly blurred, due in part to streaming apps like Spotify and Apple Music, which give fans access to endless varieties of music. And now, many of music’s biggest stars are mixing new sounds into their songs.

With her new album, Cowboy Carter, pop and R&B superstar Beyonce created a country album, likely introducing at least some of her fans to a new genre. But she is not alone.

Post Malone recently collaborated with Morgan Wallen on their song “I Had Some Help,” and he is said to have a country album on the way. Lana Del Rey, after doing a cover of the iconic country song “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” is coming out with her first country album, titled Lasso, in November.

Working for a radio station, D’Antonio has seen how interest in country music grows when pop, rock, and rap artists release with country music.

“When we give concert tickets away on the air, I get winners who say things like ‘This is my first country concert ever!’ or ‘I’m brand new to country music – I can’t wait to experience this!’ It’s nice to welcome new people to the genre,” D’Antonio said.

After the pandemic, a lot of people are liking more space and being further outside the city.

— Will Dzombak

But there have been some bumps in the road.

According to the New York Times, country radio station KYKC, located in Oklahoma, initially refused a fan’s request to play Beyonce’s song “Texas Hold ‘Em,” as station officials were unaware that it is in fact a country song.

They later apologized and now play her songs, but that shows how unexpected Beyonce’s dive into country music was.

While Beyonce’s new album may attract her own fans to the country genre, freshman Gianna Harkins, a fan of more traditional country music, doesn’t think Cowboy Carter album lives up to the standards of artists like Kenny Chesney and Zach Bryan.

“It’s just not country,” Harkins said. “There’s a difference between trying to be country and actual country.”

History teacher and longtime Beyonce fan Kathleen Deemer begs to differ, saying that the record does justice to the genre with its old-school vibes and classic Beyonce hip-hop elements.

“I think it’s innovative and fun,” Deemer said. “I love country music and I love Beyonce.”

Will Dzombak, the co-founder of Taylor Gang Entertainment and manager of rapper Wiz Khalifa, has seen the popularity of country artists through their collaborations with Khalifa.

“Wiz has worked with a handful of country artists, including Morgan Wallen, Jellyroll, Redferrin, and Florida Georgia Line,” Dzombak said.

Dzombak also manages rising country star Redferrin outside of Taylor Gang Entertainment, which again provides him an inside look at how country music came to such popularity.

“I think country music has a different sound, and after the pandemic, a lot of people are liking more space and being further outside the city. I think this has led to a lot of people adopting the country sound and starting to love it even more,” Dzombak said.

“Just seeing the increase in popularity and all the crossover that exists between country and hip hop is amazing. Seeing artists like Jellyroll and Redferrin, who started in hip hop and have crossed back over to country, is very telling of the times,” he said.

This story was originally published on Purbalite on May 22, 2024.