Country music, a mix of twangy banjos, harmonicas, fiddles and the occasional heartbroken southern man singing about his tractor dates back to the early 1920s as a popular blend of folk and blues music. Stars like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Jimmie Rodgers dominated the scene back in the day with hits like “I Walk the Line,” “Hey Good Looking,” and “Blue Yodel.”
In recent years, country music has undergone a huge facelift as it infiltrates the music billboards of today and slowly but surely caters to the demands of the modern era. Through the introduction of rap-infused cadences, electric guitar sounds of rock radio and the casual autotune of hip hop kings, country has certainly found a funky new pair of boots. Country stars like Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan and Carrie Underwood have taken over the wheel of the tractor with their own renditions from Country Blues songs like Shelton’s “Came Here to Forget” to more grungy country songs like Bryan’s “Move.” Pop stars are
getting in on the country craze too with Beyonce’s breakout performance of “Daddy Lessons” with the Dixie Chicks at the 50th Country Music Association Awards.
Does this spell the sweet sangria smelling end to Country Music?
The real reason why raw country music has died down in recent years is due to the lack of demand for it from the younger generations. The sad truth is that country artists have to target a new and younger demographic in order to sell as many albums as possible and to carry on the melodious tunes of the 1920s.
These days, pop country music is more alive than ever but, also more hated than ever. Tensions between country and pop country artists have risen ever since country artist Zac Brown publicly stated over Twitter that Luke Bryan’s number one hit single “That’s My Kind of Night,” which released in April of 2013, was “the worst song I’ve ever heard.” Ever since, there has been a huge division between the die hard raw country fans and the electric autotune modern fans. Furthermore, the introduction of Beyonce in the Country Music Association Awards has sparked intense controversy in the community. While the main story in most country songs is about heartbreaks, trucks, tractors and beer, Beyonce’s take on country music has her personal spin by being more oriented towards independence and fighting.
The partition of country fans everywhere has plowed its tractor through the media and has infiltrated the hallways of Palo Alto High School as well.
“I’m not a huge fan of country becoming more pop,” said senior Ben Cleasby. ”A huge reason why I became so intrigued by country music was because it wasn’t the usual pop music I hear on the radio. But now with it becoming more pop, the kind of older more authentic rock country that got me to really to love country music has started to fade away.”
Senior Kira Enriquez believes that country pop is taking away the emotion. “I think that takes away from a lot of my favorite things about it as a genre. I personally love how honest [country music] can be and think that [pop style country] promotes less of it.” Although many students at Paly believe country pop is taking away from the emotion of classic country, Senior Serina Nguyen thinks otherwise.
“I think country pop really changed the world of country music and brought in a bigger and younger crowd,” Nguyen says. “Famous pop artists like Beyonce and Taylor Swift have introduced many young faces into the country scene.”
While the tragic divorce of country music is being resolved, the big question is, who wins in the settlement? Currently, the country scene is a joint custody situation with pop country stars like Florida Georgia Line and traditional country artists like Tim McGraw sharing the crowd of crazed country fans.
In preparation of the 2016 CMA awards, Shane McAnally has made a great leap to mend the gap between the two genres by creating a collaborative mashup song of over 30 different country music artists of all sub-categories. This alliance of country artists “Country Forever,” is a combination of the classic and iconic songs including John Denver’s “Take Me Home,” Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” This joint effort beautifully portrays the colorful array of country artists and their contributions, in order to unite the community of diverse diehard country fans. The efforts of Shane McAnally have forced country fans of all genres to take a step back and appreciate country as a whole.