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Is Country Going Pop or Is Pop Going Country?

May 6, 2008

Country music has undergone some extreme transformations over the past few years. It has branched into several different sub-genres and even crossed boundaries into other musical backgrounds, specifically rock and pop. However, it is unclear just what is happening here. Is country going too pop, or is pop becoming more country? Many artists in both genres today have helped to thin the line between them. This situation is very controversial on both sides, but who has the right to fear more? Pop artists have been shifting more to a country sound and trying their luck on the country charts. However, country artists have been intentionally and unintentionally stirring up hits on the pop charts as well. So while country seems to stray more from tradition, pop and rock seem to stray more towards their roots, thus we have an interesting turn of events that may be history in the making or it might also be a huge dilemma in the fate of any of these genres.

Rock and pop have lent many great artists to the country music genre. These artists are often considered to be crossover artists or “on the edge of country”, but they still leave a lasting imprint on it. Sheryl Crow is a huge example. She has been a welcome voice to country music for the better part of her career and has added a new sense of beauty, grace and art to the genre. However she is unquestionably a pop/rock artist. Among her biggest hits on country radio are “Picture”, with fellow country crossover artist Kid Rock, and “The First Cut In The Deepest”. She also worked with Willie Nelson on several occasions. However, her work never shifted from its sound on either country or pop radio. Thus Sheryl has become the primary example that country and pop have become accepting of similar sounds. Kid Rock has also attempted to intertwine rock/pop with country. His work on “Picture” became a massive and memorable hit, but he has also used recent works like “Amen” and a duet with Jerry Lee Lewis to mix country and pop. Even legendary bands like Bon Jovi have become acquainted with the country music world. None of these artists shifted their sounds for the sake of success in country music, they just shared their work for the sake of respect to the genre and making themselves heard. However their works have been openly accepted with little to no change at all. Does this reality show that pop music is becoming more of a country oriented sound?

On the flip side, it is quite possible that country may be becoming a little to pop. There are many more sub-genres than there used to be, but country has been incorporated with pop and rock music sense its early days with the likes of Hank Sr., Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash earning huge pop hits without changing their sound. Modern artists prove to be a better example that country could potentially be conforming to the sound of its partner genres. The primary examples are the Muzic Mafia. The likes of Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy are making huge steps in country music. They are great entertainers, great song writers, and are bring country music to a whole new level. However they do raise a question as to whether pop is becoming more country or if popular country is incorporating a pop and rock sound more these days. Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney have also incorporated rock and pop sounds to their music respectively along with other popular artists like Keith Urban. These cases can be seen as decent evidence of the case at hand, however they are not definite. Due to country music’s sub-genres these artists are not necessarily shifting the sound of country music, but modifying it. What poses as unquestionable evidence of country music’s possible shift in sound are artists like Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift who have been required to alter their sound to fit pop radio. While these artists are amazingly talented, it is a questionable move to change the sound of their songs for the purpose of fitting in with the young crowd of the pop/rock genre. In fact Taylor Swift was named one of the most successful rock artists in Rolling Stone, a unique title for a country music artist. So is it possible that the pop sound is becoming the new basis for what could be the future of country music?

While I personally am neutral on the matter, it is a little nerve racking. If pop music is becoming more country, more competition could limit the space for new artists even more and if country music is becoming more pop in 20-30 more years the genre could almost disappear completely. There are advantages to the matter, such as a rising popularity in both the music genres and the artists, but one wrong move by either parties could leave the other or even themselves in an uncomfortable and dangerous position. I don’t believe country will ever fade away or fuse with pop and rock music, but it is something to think about for the future. I love all the artists mentioned above, but it is interesting to wonder who is adapting more to who?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Leeann permalink
    May 6, 2008 3:43 am

    An interesting question you pose! I don’t quite know what to think in this matter yet.

    As for Sheryl Crow, I do notice that she has two versions of “The First Cut Is the Deepest” on her Greatest Hits album, a country version and a ‘rock’ version. The country version just has some more twang in it.

  2. bobby permalink
    May 6, 2008 6:30 pm

    That’s a good topic. i was thinking just a few days ago about what the genre will be like in 20 years. I like Taylor Swift and everything, but is she really good for the genre, or will she bring fans who have no appreciation for actual country music? And the fact that Jessica Simpson is making a country album defenitely scares me.

  3. Jake permalink
    May 10, 2008 4:16 pm

    ^Jessica Simpson is making a country album?! No, no, no, somebody stop that nightmare. Anyway I think country becoming more pop has been happening for years now, starting in the 90’s more. I actually classify artists now different from the country/pop ones in the 90’s and early 2000’s. That’s when the whole country/pop debate really began, and now like in the article it’s really hard to clasify what some of these new singers should be in. One things for sure though IMMO I think country since 2006 has been going sour, it’s either bad lyrics in the songs, or the tunes just aren’t as catchy as they used to be, for some of these artists in the industry.

    One thing that scared me was when I was listening to CMT radio and all of a sudden Christina Aguilare’s song comes on with “I’m A Genie In A Bottle”. That really confused me.

  4. Stranger permalink
    May 13, 2008 8:53 am

    Today´s “country” music is a bussiness trying to get bigger audiences so this crossing pop & “country” has been “cooked” in the big medias and the major companies.

    They have killed country music long ago… remember murder on the music row?. What you call country is already another style called nashpop or southern pop. If you want to talk about country talk about Texas musicians and artists.

    Neutral? What a funny guy.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    January 31, 2010 6:15 pm

    I know Im a couple of years late but it is pretty bad now. Taylor Swift is like Miley Cyrus, Sarah Buxton, Jake Owen, Justin moore, Jimmy Wayne. HEre me out, just because you put a twang behind your voice but the song is awfull and rediculous doesnt make it country.
    I have been asking that question for awhile now. Rascal Flats? Really they are more like Christian soft pop rock if you ask me. So I think Pop is going Country because pop and soft rock is dead so they are crossing over cause Country music will never die! Country music is the heart and soul and the roots of music. I dont think anyone can answer this question I just hope the country music in its classic form doesnt die and go to Jessica Simpson or Britney singing country…….

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