EDM Replacing Rap As The Scourge of Country Radio
In 2011, when Jason Aldean’s country rap song “Dirt Road Anthem” became the best selling song in all of country music, the genre’s impending dalliance with rap was ordained. Though the sub genre had been brewing under the surface for many years, and quite successfully for some acts, it had now hit it big, and it was only a matter of time before you would see country music’s top performers experiment with the genre bending style.
When “Dirt Road Anthem” hit, artists like Cowboy Troy and “Dirt Road Anthem” co-writer Colt Ford had already made successful careers out of country rap for years, despite not being able to rise to the level of mainstream radio acceptance. There were many other acts doing very well at the club level with country rap, like The Moonshine Bandits, Bubba Sparxxx, and The Lacs. Country rap even had much of its own infrastructure, and despite the suspicion it was eyed with from the mainstream, most country rap acts were able to post videos and get views in the millions, Wal-Mart was stocking hick hop on their shelves, while labels like Average Joes, started by Colt Ford, offered material support to some of the bigger country rap acts.
When Music Row decided rap was its future and a potential vehicle to drive the genre out of the malaise it suffered with the rest of music in the decade of the oughts, there were a number of ways the influence could be integrated into the genre. Major labels could sign or otherwise champion already-established country rap acts like Colt Ford and The Moonshine Bandits. Or they could try to impose the new style with already-established mainstream stars who had proven they were palatable with the American public. The latter is the path country rap eventually took. Despite the success of “Dirt Road Anthem,” the song had fought an uphill battle on radio itself. Programmers were suspicious of country rap, and artists like Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton who would later release their own country rap songs, were a known quantity and already under contract compared to unproven talent like Bubba Sparxxx or The Lacs.
But 2012 came, and it was mostly quiet on the country rap front from a mainstream standpoint. As Saving Country Music pointed out in the story Mono-Genre Watch: 2012 End-Of-Year Sales,
2012 did not see either a dominant country-rap single, album, or artist. Rap is still asserting itself as an influence in country, but may not be finding the commercial strength it needs to stick. 2012 mono-genre songs like Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah” underperformed to expectations, never cracking Billboard’s Top 10 on the country chart.
But Music Row is notoriously 18 months behind the relevancy cycle. “Dirt Road Anthem” had taken the industry by surprise, and it took over a year for country’s major labels to retool to the new country rap reality. Then by 2013, country rap came out in full force, with virtually all of mainstream country’s big male stars releasing rap/country songs. Reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year Blake Shelton released “Boys ‘Round Here” to a #2 chart showing and double platinum sales. ACM Entertainer of the Year Luke Bryan released country rap “That’s My Kind of Night” that spent a whopping twelve weeks at #1, and was the song to finally depose another country rap-inspired single “Cruise” by upstart Florida Georgia Line that became the longest-running #1 song in the history of country music.
But 2014 has been a different story already. Whereas 2013 seemed to be dominated by country rap singles, 2014 has so far been the story of EDM, or Electronic Dance Music. Though EDM and hip hop can sometimes be mistaken for each other, especially to the country consumer’s ear and because the two disciplines have numerous similarities (use of electronic beats, sampling, and rapping instead of singing in some instances), there are also many clear differences between the two disciplines.
When Jerrod Niemann released his single “Drink To That All Night” in the second half of 2013, country music’s EDM cherry had been popped, and it seemed to be a harbinger for things to come in the country format. Interestingly the single underperformed in most of 2013, but has been creeping up the charts in early 2014, reaching its highest chart ranking in the last week of February. Though the argument can be made that Jerrod Niemann is still rapping instead of singing, “Drink To That All Night” is full of EDM earmarks: the heavily Auto-tuned electronic-sounding vocals, the digitized beats, and most-importantly the emphasis on perfectitude in the music as opposed to the fallibility of a live, traditional band lineup playing real instruments, reinforced in the video of the song that heavily refers to the EDM/dance club culture instead of the country honky tonk.
Many of the lead singles from country music’s big 2014 album releases from male artists lean heavily towards EDM influences, most notably Tim McGraw’s “Lookin’ For That Girl” with it’s heavily-digitized vocal track and electronic beat bed. Rascal Flatt’s “Rewind” incorporates many EDM elements. And Brantley Gilbert, one of the other co-writers of “Dirt Road Anthem,” his latest single “Bottoms Up” sounds much less like a country rap, and more like a country/EDM effort with more melody to the vocals, and the signature electronic drum bed and digitization of instrumentation.
So the next question is, why is country music now de-emphasizing country rap, and going the EDM route instead?
First, don’t count country rap out. There are certainly more country rap singles from big, mainstream country artists in the pipeline that we’re likely to hear in 2014, if they ever go away completely in the more global trend of the formation of a mono-genre. And in the independent realm, acts like The Lacs and Moonshine Bandits are likely to remain sustainable commodities.
But despite a few lucrative singles, country rap was very hit and miss in the mainstream. The aforementioned “Truck Yeah” by Tim McGraw seemed like an unfortunate career move. Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” followup called “1994” was a general flop in comparison, stalling in the charts despite a heavy push behind the song. Brad Paisley’s much-ridiculed “Accidental Racist” with LL Cool J wasn’t even released as a single. In the end, mainstream country stars just didn’t make good rappers. Country music is for crooners and twang, and even though these elements are generally lacking in present-day country music anyway, this was the foundation of these singer’s discipline, and rapping never stopped feeling foreign to them, their audience, and most importantly, radio programmers.
EDM on the other hand is a “no experience required” format when it comes to singing. The purposefully heavy Auto-tuned environment allows the performer to simply hit close approximations of the melody the song is built around, and then the studio hands take over from there.
However just like with rap, country music is horrifically late when it comes to the EDM game. The argument that was made during the integration of rap into country is that country music had to evolve. What the people making that argument failed to realize is that rap was already a 30-year-old art form when it made its appearance in country’s mainstream. Similarly, many of the EDM elements we’re seeing in country—especially Auto-tuned lyrics—are already considered outmoded in most other mainstream music.
Auto-Tune In Country Isn’t Evolution, It’s Falling Behind
Similarly, the relevancy arch has moved on in many ways from the heavy electronic sound. An EDM act in Daft Punk dominated the Grammy Awards held in January, and they did so with a live sound. Instead of starting with electronic beats and synthesized hooks, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories featured live, human instrumentation and vocals with minimal electronic treatment. This was the formula that won them 5 Grammy Awards, including Best Album and Best Record. In the end it is not the EDM elements in country music that make it bad, just like rapping in a country song isn’t something that can be completely ruled out as a valid form of expression if it is done in a fresh, artistic way. It is the poor implementation—the awkwardness of the integration of the two influences, and the submissive pose country takes towards EDM and rap—that makes it so polarizing.
Whether it was country rap in 2013, or EDM influences in 2014, it speaks to a systemic problem with country music that the format deems itself inadequate and feels the need integrate influences from other genres to stay relevant, following instead of leading, and making excuses of why it can still be cool instead of educating the public on country music’s inherent virtues.
February 25, 2014 @ 9:30 am
I always thought that EDM is pretty much Molly Music.
Tell me we don’t have to expect a tv show on country raves anytime soon.
February 25, 2014 @ 9:32 am
Reminds me of ‘texting’. Why bother talking and why bother singing…..just phone it in.
Faker than a psychic with a caller ID.
February 25, 2014 @ 9:46 am
Hearing bubba sparxxx name makes me go back a few years. I liked him as a rapper. He has had a couple of pretty big hits. Glad he hasnt came into country but as a rapper the man has more skills than the current “country artist” trying to rap.
February 25, 2014 @ 12:18 pm
Bubba Sparxxx sounds like some sort of weird porno name.
February 25, 2014 @ 9:48 am
A little off topic but it’d be cool to get a review of dierks bentley a new album. I haven’t listened to the whole thing but what I’ve heard isn’t to bad.
February 25, 2014 @ 9:53 am
I’m actually more afraid of EDM than I am of rap’s influence on Country Music. Country music has traditionally been associated with dance. Remember the line dance craze of the 90’s? It’s hard to do a line dance to country rap,
EDM on the other hand is a custom made fit for all the dance halls across the country.
February 25, 2014 @ 10:06 am
This is absolutley horrifying!, I continue to be amazed at the lengths these fucking douche bags will go to to be “popular” with the 13-16 year old audiences. If you don’t wish to be a Country artist why not try pull a switcheroo over to the rap, rock, pop world and keep your fucking dribble as far away from traditional country fans ears as possible. It is a morbid thing to have all these little pukes being the representatives for a genre they have absolutley to do with. And to all that think this shit is actually music GO FUCK YOURSELF!
February 25, 2014 @ 10:07 am
The combination of country and rap still strikes me as either too awkward or too much of a novelty. Incorporating EDM seems like a better bet for the mono-genre to *really* happen — all of modern popular music as one big bland, generic bowl of dance-pop pudding.
February 25, 2014 @ 10:10 am
As mentioned I think one of the really big points in this is how the country music industry jumps on these musical trends years after they have proliferated the mainstream pop music landscape. It goes to show how truly desperate and out of touch many people are in country music.
Like another commenter I think this trend will have a much larger impact on country music than rap because of the dance aspect and also because it really demands little of the performer, it’s a total producer driven thing.
Bad things to come I fear.
February 25, 2014 @ 10:19 am
Those two videos are about the worst thing I’ve heard in months. I’d rather listen to “Boys Round Here” on a 24 hour tape loop then either of those.
February 25, 2014 @ 10:31 am
Wow, a big thank you to Big Machine Records for releasing this highly inspirational “Official Lyric Video” for Tim McGraw’s newest single. Now we draw more attention to such elegant passages of verse as the following:
“That girl, she’s a party all nighter, little funky cold medina, little strawberry winer.”
* I am pretty certain that “winer” is not an actual word.
Now that I think about it, the horribly fragmented word-vomit lyrics in that song might point to a potential problem with EDM-country. Classic country specializes in telling stories, and the format of EDM-style dance music dosen’t seem very well suited to doing that.
February 25, 2014 @ 12:49 pm
Exactly. At least rap requires verbal dexterity and flow, and it tends to be more word-heavy — whether telling stories, boasting, or simply engaging in wordplay for its own sake. With dance music, it’s pretty much just something to dance to, so lyrics don’t really matter.
February 25, 2014 @ 10:48 am
Wasn’t Big Kenny, from Big and Rich the first guy behind this movement? Seems like I remember reading about him doing this about a year or so ago.
February 25, 2014 @ 11:02 am
It can also be argued Big & Rich were at the forefront of country rap, but they were still chasing trends instead of setting them. Everyone is trying to do something that they think is innovative and are missing sight of what music is all about.
February 25, 2014 @ 11:10 am
Oh, agreed, make no mistake, I sure don’t care who gets credit for producing those turds, I just remember him making a big deal about it.
February 25, 2014 @ 10:53 am
February 25, 2014 @ 10:59 am
Okay, I just watched that video. Are those furry boot covers still a thing? ‘Cause my daughter was wearing those like 5 yrs ago.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:15 pm
They’re most commonly called “Yeti Boots”.
They are especially common at Burning Man and related events. Unfortunately, many in the hip-hop and EDM communities have pounced on them! -__-
February 25, 2014 @ 11:59 am
This makes me so sad. Country music has become a commodity just like a roll of toilet paper. It looks just like the last one you bought and it lasts about as long. If I hear another six pack with a hot girl in the moonlight in my old truck drivin down a dirt road song I’m going to puke my everloving guts out.
February 25, 2014 @ 12:31 pm
I was kind of expecting this story to show up here sooner or later. As much as linking “genres” to “country” music, I look at it as what production trends are selling. I’m no youngster and I’m a huge (not pop) country fan, but I was into electronic music for some time years ago. I’m talking Detroit Techno made by the originators. And it’s fun playing with sounds in a little home studio. But my point is how you hear the same lame ass production techniques in all of pop music…Auto tune/vocoders. And those anthemic WoooOhhhhOhhhs. Come to think of it there have always been a few beat overdubbed country songs made for dance floors….or I think there have been.
Hank 3 using cattle auction samples behind speed metal is pretty bad ass.
I hear the beats a coming, and they sound awful.
February 25, 2014 @ 12:38 pm
Any exploding meth trailers south of Dunbar?
February 25, 2014 @ 12:41 pm
You didn’t mention Timber, which you’ve covered before. Gotta admit, it’s one of my guilty pleasure songs.
February 25, 2014 @ 2:15 pm
But that’s more of the pop world referring back to country, not really a country phenomenon from country artists.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:05 pm
No one in main stream country can sing worth a crap anymore. They might as well get rid of the real instruments too.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:14 pm
In some respects, they already have.
Pro-Tools, anyone? -__-
February 25, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
Again, it is crucially important not to understate Avicii’s role in all of this.
The Swedish DJ (real name Tim Bergling) initially emerged on the scene at the turn of the decade with decidedly more familiar sounds in the vein of the “EDM” big tent: the most popular one being “Levels” (which sampled “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” by Etta James, and whose recording was later sampled again by Flo Rida in “Good Feeling”).
However, prior to the release of his full-length debut album “True” last year, Avicii polarized EDM fans at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami last March with the debut of “folktronica” songs that even elicited condemning remarks from purists of the genre. Avicii didn’t surrender to criticism and, that June, released “Wake Me Up!”: a “folktronica” single which became a worldwide #1 hit (and peaked at #4 in the United States) that featured Rhythmic/soul vocalist Aloe Blacc. The release was buoyed by widespread hype from many publications including the famed Pete Tong of BBC Radio 1, who declared “Nashville Goes EDM!” and “I can imagine there being line dancing in the video now!” Many indeed echoed Tong’s remarks, and despite Avicii insisting “Wake Me Up!” had much more to owe to folk than country music, many minted “Wake Me Up!” a definitive example of mixing country with EDM.
Now, the release of “Hey Brother” has sinewed perceptions of Avicii bringing country to EDM, and EDM into country. It features Alison Krauss & Union Station member Dan Tyminski, and it has topped the charts in many countries worldwide (it is presently at #27 in the United States). Again, the critics have likened it as groundbreaking in bringing line dancing to EDM and so forth.
It is no accident that, as you have hinted before, other artists including Pitbull have co-opted the formula into their own hits and have made killings off of it: most notably “Timber” (Pitbull again selectively borrows some of those elements, though not as obviously, on his newly released single “Wild Wild Love”).
Why is Avicii significant to this discussion if he hasn’t, as of yet, penetrated country airwaves?
Because you can bet your bottom dollar Big Machine, Republic Nashville and other major labels are going to milk this trend for all its worth, and do the converse of what Avicii has done in incorporating generic EDM beats into countless “country” hits to market to as broad a youthful demographic as possible. We’re already seeing this with “Drink To That All Night”. But, in my opinion, EDM influences also vaguely rear their head in songs including “Sunny And 75” by Joe Nichols (listen to that again and tell me you CAN’T see that easily be remixed for a club), “Compass” by Lady Antebellum and “Get Me Some Of That” by Thomas Rhett to name a few.
Some will be quick to blame Avicii for all of this, and I don’t consider that fair, in all honesty. Avicii has had the integrity to, at least thus far, eschew allowing his music to be marketed as “country” and insist it remains marketed to his target audience: mainstream “EDM” and pop listeners. But you can bet countless “country” executives are going to exploit his blueprint for success and abuse it to appeal to “country” radio’s sheepish listening demographic.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:31 pm
That’s the thing (if I understand part of your point correctly)-let them do what they want musically, more power to them. But it’s so utterly disrespectful of them to try to pawn it off on lovers of country music, as country music. For country music, more than just about any other genre, the human element-the stories, the evocations, whether sad, hopeful, or humorous-are indispensable, the very heart of the music, and they’re killing it, just murdering it.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:40 pm
And see, that’s the thing.
Avicii, to his credit, has consistently insisted in interviews that he does NOT “Wake Me Up!” influenced by country music, but rather influenced by folk. He HAS acknowledged that country music in part inspired “Hey Brother”, but he also restrains himself from calling it an “EDM country song” or anything of that sort.
Avicii’s not at fault in my view because he desires to keep the lines drawn. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped an irresponsible traditional press from categorizing his releases as something Avicii insists they aren’t, and that recalcitrance is what will only encourage numerous Music Row labels to exploit this trend to the detriment of the quality of their own format.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:44 pm
Well bless him for that integrity. Really, I’m going to get paranoid and start wondering if there’s a plot to destroy country music, because of its traditional associations.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:37 pm
During my Army days going to clubs in Germany I heard so many songs remixed I couldn’t believe it. Stairway to Heaven to a house beat took the prize. That was in the early 90’s and I used to be annoyed that house/techno producers were taking some classic pop/rock songs and remixing them. Now it looks like it has kind of flipped, the pop world wants the best remix and they pay big bucks for them. People can have Avicii, I’ll stick to Jeff Mills……or Jamey Johnson, ha ha!
February 25, 2014 @ 1:44 pm
Well, brace yourself for a chronic depression, because the likes of Dee Jay Silver and DJ Sinister are fighting hard to come to a syndicated radio program near you on your FM dial! -__-
February 25, 2014 @ 1:51 pm
“Image” DJs…….just as dorky as pop country purty boys, haha!
February 25, 2014 @ 2:25 pm
I appreciate all of the info and knowledge on Avicii, but I tend to think that’s its own case study, similar to Gangstagrass being an autonomous case study from country rap. You can tie a direct line from Colt Ford, to the success of “Dirt Road Anthem,” to Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton cutting country rap songs. I don’t know if you can do that with Avicii and Jerrod Niemann. As you say yourself, he looks at it more as folk than country.
I agree the Avicii influence could have a bigger influence in the future, but I think country is very much on the outside looking in of that world, while incorporating generic EDM elements is something studios on Music Row are very capable of doing with the switch of a button.
On a similar note, let’s not forget the project by Struggle that took Waylon songs and remade them into rap. I predicted at that time we’d see many, if not all of country music’s legacy recordings made into hip hop songs. Once again, EDM may be the more accessible way to do that compared to rap. I can already hear people telling me now, “It will introduce a new generation to this music!”
February 25, 2014 @ 1:22 pm
Trigger, I’m trying to figure out why these songs can be called country. Even looking at them as songs from an other genre, I can’t even find any country elements in the music. I don’t know too much about modes or what kind of modes they are using in these songs (could that be it? I’d think I could hear that). I guess if a singer has any kind of southern draw at all in there song it is country now.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:34 pm
The way I see it, having “country” credentials these days has nothing to do with the actual music tradition, but how well one identifies with particular descriptors, ideologies and political beliefs that are traditionally likened to the “country lifestyle”.
In other words, it doesn’t matter none if your music has a fiddle or banjo or not. That’s irrelevant. What matters is, among other things:
1) Do you like working hard and playing harder?
2) Do you prefer remoteness over urban confides?
3) Do you prefer a tried-and-true truck over a new automobile?
4) Do you prefer downhome good cookin’ at home over dining out at fancy restaurants?
5) YOU LOVE FREEEEEEDOMMMMM, RRRRRIGGHHHTTTTTTTTT? 😉
Obviously, we can already see how shallow these tropes are, and how reality is much more grayscale than that (countless country stars are known to enjoy sushi at Gold and Platinum-certification parties, for instance).
February 25, 2014 @ 1:41 pm
Hey, that could describe nesting yuppies from the 90s, with the “comfort food” trend and all. And any cultural comservatism that attached to country music has also been kicked into the dog house these days-hmmm, makes me wonder if there’s any method to this madness?
February 25, 2014 @ 2:25 pm
I think the point is that mainstream definition of country music has little to do with musical traditions at this point, and more to do which music is representative of a particular lifestyle or mindset. (The “country” lifestyle.) In the current mainstream sense, the word “country” almost dosen’t even refer to a concrete style of music, but simply to a demographic.
I don’t believe there is a concerted effort to destroy country music because of its association with tradional values, but I do think there is an effort on the part of Music Row to make as much money as humanly possible, however possible. Apparently the bigwigs think there’s money in distributing and promoting music that chases pop and rap trends, so that’s the music that will continue to be marketed as “country.” If Scott Borchetta and/or Clear Channel thought they could maximize their proffits by playing music that sounds like The Bloody Jug Band, then they would do that.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:42 pm
Or have you been a special guest on Hannity?
February 25, 2014 @ 1:48 pm
1) No, I’m lazy but I respect hard work and I’ve done my fair share. Now I sit in a cubical all day and write code. It’s a far cry from my grandfather growing up on a farm in the depression where 3/4 of the kids at his school didn’t even have shoes.
2) Hell Yes!
3) My 2006 Ford Truck is too big in the city (parking is annoying), looking forward to a car or crossover in the next year (although damn, my truck is still is perfect shape). Besides, Ford switched to aluminum in the 2014 Truck line and I’m not sure how I feel about that yet (?). One thing is for sure, I’ll never own a Government Motors vehicle again for the rest of my life.
4) Hell Yes! Except I haven’t run across a seriously good cook since my grandmother passed. There’s was something about the cooking of real country women that grew up during the depression that was just magical.
5) Amen Brother
February 25, 2014 @ 1:52 pm
Re the cooking-could it be because people don’t use things such as saltmeat, fatback, etc, for flavoring and texture anymore? And we boiled the crud out of vegetables, at least the ones like collards, mustard and turnip greens, etc.
Making a pot of lima beans today, wish I could ship you some, cornbread on the side.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:50 pm
Yeah I think you’re right the musical element of country music is almost totally been discarded (I suppose some things MIGHT be too far afield, MAYBE) so that as long as you stay in the lane lyrically then almost anything else goes at this point. And even the lyrical limits have been tightened to only include parties and how country are ya type stuff with a little of the love the military stuff thrown in.
I can’t remember the last time I was moved by a mainstream country song like ‘How Can I Help You Say Goodbye’ by Patty Loveless or ‘All These Years’ by Sawyer Brown. These are deep songs by adults about adult issues and you just don’t see that anymore in mainstream country music. This is extremely troubling for country music going forward. Life isn’t all parties and mainstream country music used to know that.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:59 pm
Can you even imagine a song like this on the country charts now? This was a top five hit for Sawyer Brown in 1992 and written by Mac MacAnally.
‘All These Years’
February 26, 2014 @ 1:29 am
I know “All These Years” because it was covered by Jason Isbell on NPR when he was promoting “Southeastern.”
I remember him saying he thought it was as good a cheating song as anything by Merle Haggard or George Jones, but that it gets ignored because it was top ten country hit in the “cheesy” 80’s.
Wait, here’s a version from Youtube:
February 26, 2014 @ 10:00 am
I’ve never heard the Isbell version before but I’ve got to say that I think Mark Miller’s version with Sawyer Brown is better. He infuses the song with more emotion and world weariness. I guess it’s a cheatin’ song but I’ve never really thought of it as like that as much as just a marriage disintegration song.
Mac McAnally is a great songwriter too.
February 25, 2014 @ 2:03 pm
How can we forget “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye”? It’s definitely a classic country song. It’s also one of the saddest mainstream songs along with “Whiskey Lullabye” and Reba’s “What Do You Say”. I think it is hard for many of today’s young mainstream fans to listen to this stuff, but it’s part of the essence of the country genre that there are some songs where the emotion is 100 proof. Country music ain’t country without it.
February 25, 2014 @ 2:18 pm
Might want to throw in something about loving to get drunk, loving to get in fights and something about loving Jesus too. All of those things should preferably be included in the same song.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:37 pm
Even the accents are so obviously, so lamely fake. They are so broad and just wrong. Anyway, the most representative accents in most country were Texan/Oklahoman, and Appalachian, and I’ve never heard anyone who didn’t grow up with those accents, successfully fake them. The all-purpose generic “Gone With The Wind” accent isn’t quite so representative, and they don’t even do that one right. Too nasal, not far enough back in the throat, and other give-aways.
February 25, 2014 @ 2:21 pm
Ugh, yeah. You listen to something like the Carter Family and compare that to just about anyone currently out there today ”¦ no one sounds like that anymore.
February 25, 2014 @ 2:36 pm
You are right about the historical accents. The original bases of country music were Appalachia and the Western South (Texas and Oklahoma), with Appalachia favoring the nasal twang and the Western South favoring smooth crooning.
The Deep South (the belt from Louisiana to South Carolina) was largely peripheral to the development of country music, with the major exception of two of the most important artists in country history, Jimmie Rodgers and of course Hank Williams. Given the region where they came from, it is no accident that both of them had a strong affinity to the blues.
February 25, 2014 @ 3:02 pm
When you make these broad, sweeping statements, I think a lot of people just accept them as fact. Ernest Ashworth, Tammy Wynette, The Louvin Brothers, all of the “Swampers” musicians, Sam Philips, Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Mickey Gilley, Hank Cochran, The Cook Family Singers, Maddox Brothers and Rose, Merle Kilgore, Claude King, and dozens, if not hundreds of other huge and influential country acts are from the geographic area that you ascribe no value.
February 25, 2014 @ 4:09 pm
Maybe calling the Deep South “largely peripheral” was putting it too strongly. I was just saying that it was less influential than the Upland South or the Western South.
The Maddox Brothers and Rose were from North Alabama near the Tennessee border, which is probably more Upland Southern than Deep Southern. Also, I wonder how much of the influence behind their music came from Alabama and how much came from Oklahoma via California (since that’s where their career really started).
February 25, 2014 @ 4:28 pm
I don’t, at all, agree with you. But, if you would be so kind to enlighten me, why do you think this was so? Also, I forgot to mention previously, The Louisiana Hayride, filmed and broadcast from the pejorative “Deep South,” which was essential in the formation of country music.
February 25, 2014 @ 5:08 pm
Regarding the cultural reasons? The following is purely theoretical and speculative, but it seems plausible to me:
I think that the areas of origin of country music are connected to the level of Scots-Irish vs. English influence, as well as the relative importance of the social classes in the formation of the musical cultures. The basic structure of bluegrass and country, especially the fiddling and the ballad storytelling style, originated disproportionately from Northern Ireland (the Donegal fiddling tradition, for example) and Scotland. In Appalachia, settled to a significant extent by the Scots-Irish, this musical style attained dominance.
The white settlers in the Deep South disproportionately consisted of English gentry and English indentured servants. Due to elite dominance, the culture there developed significantly based on that of the English gentry. The highly class-stratified nature of British musical taste resulted in folk music being popular among the peasantry and the periphery, but not among the gentry. Therefore, the Deep South did not develop a strong white folk music tradition early on, and it was left to the blacks to create the blues style that we associate with the region today.
Texas was a relatively even mix of Deep Southern and Upland Southern settlers, with a significant number of Mexican holdovers and German immigrants. The high level of Upland Southern influence ensured that white folk music (the precursor to country) would take root there. The Mexican and German influences made the music much smoother, bringing it more in line with the German classical and Mexican Mediterranean-based sonic style, and also resulted in the incorporation of new instruments such as organs and harmonica.
February 25, 2014 @ 5:36 pm
Eric, you must read a lot of Daniel Elazar.
February 25, 2014 @ 2:51 pm
Yeah, Justin Moore’s accent is so fake. The younger generation in the South really don’t have much of an accent anymore. The old timers still have the distinct accent with how they pronounce vowels and such. The interesting thing is the rural areas now in the upper Mid-West have real twang in their accents?! Maybe because of the great migration who knows.
February 25, 2014 @ 3:01 pm
The Upper Midwest has always had a nasal twang, but their pronunciation is very different from the South. Their accent resembles the old rural New England accent.
February 26, 2014 @ 2:13 am
Are regional accents dissapearing?
The world is quickly getting smaller, so it seems as though they should be, but every couple years a new study comes out claiming accents are actually getting stronger.
I’m not sure what to make of these stories, though.
Personally, I’ve noticed that people in the larger southern cities tend to have either mild southern accents or just generic American accents, possibly with very subtle twang. But if you drive just a few miles outside the city limits the accents immediatey get stronger. I guess that’s pretty obvious though.
February 26, 2014 @ 11:38 am
I wrote an article about this a while back.
March 2, 2014 @ 5:21 pm
The book “Albion’s Seed” by David Hackett Fischer gives a good hypothesis for this.
February 25, 2014 @ 2:29 pm
The reason these songs and artists are being considered country is because they are emanating from country infrastructure. And that’s it. Sonically, of course they’re not country. It’s simply marketing. Country, pop, and hip hop sell essentially the same songs to every commercially viable demographic rendering genres nothing more marketing avenues in the ushering in of the mono-genre.
February 25, 2014 @ 1:58 pm
I’m admittedly not very familiar with the electronic dance music scene. But hasn’t Nashville dabbled in it before? Wouldn’t Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” and Shania’s pop remix of “That Don’t Impress Me Much” fall into the EDM category?
February 25, 2014 @ 2:31 pm
Dubstep is certainly an animal from the EDM world, and yes, this has been done before. But we’ve never seen this sort of broad spectrum and proliferation of the influence. Virtually any country radio song now starts with an electronic drum beat instead of a live sound.
February 25, 2014 @ 2:37 pm
Taylor Swift at least never released “I Knew You Were Trouble” to country radio.
February 25, 2014 @ 2:58 pm
But the spins on pop stations caused it to go to #1 on the Billboard Country Song chart, thanks to the new Billboard methodology.
February 25, 2014 @ 3:03 pm
Considering any song that comes from a country-labeled singer as “country”, even if it bears no resemblance to country music and was not even released to country radio, is the height of idiocy.
This type of ranking truly discredits the Billboard hot country chart.
February 25, 2014 @ 3:09 pm
Nope, not that one. Billboard deemed it a non country song so it never qualified for the country chart. The other one ‘we are whatever blah blah blah’ did count to the country chart though.
February 25, 2014 @ 4:11 pm
Good, that’s a relief.
February 25, 2014 @ 4:13 pm
The irony is that in today’s country radio, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” may have made it all the way to the top of the airplay.
This shows how much country radio has declined in just 1.5 years.
February 25, 2014 @ 2:03 pm
There’s Tim pretending to play the guitar again.
February 25, 2014 @ 2:11 pm
I hope this doesn’t take off. EDM is one thing, but it should never be mixed with Country. Drink to that all night is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard…
Also, as I saw someone posted earlier, I’d like to hear your review of Dierks Bentley’s new album Riser, Trigger.
February 25, 2014 @ 2:40 pm
Goodness, when will this phase in country music end???
I came to country radio 4 years ago as a refugee from this type of modern pop non-music. Now it seems that mainstream country music is sinking even below pop when it comes to song quality.
It feels suffocating to have no good modern songs to listen to on the radio. The only stations I listen to regularly now are adult contemporary stations that play 80s and 90s soft rock.
February 26, 2014 @ 3:40 pm
The issue as I see it is quite simple. Popular music is a hit driven business.
Country music’s natural constituency would be more introverted listeners. But they don’t all like the same songs, and they don’t tend to follow the herd, so it’s hard to get big hits by producing songs for introverts.
It is much easier to have a big hit when a song is produced for extroverts, because those listeners follow the crowd and are heavily influenced by their peers. That would explain the party songs, the rap, and the dance music that has been getting airplay on country radio.
I do not agree with your earlier comment that Taylor Swift appealed mainly to introverts. I think the majority of Taylor fans are extroverted girls who are not as popular as they would like to be. They care a lot about what other people think of them, even if they have not been able to join the social elite.
February 27, 2014 @ 1:04 am
I agree that “shy” and “socially anxious” would serve as better terms to describe Taylor Swift fans.
February 27, 2014 @ 6:43 am
I don’t know, she’s got a very young fan base and a “mother” fan base. Then there’s her creepy 39 year old man fan base.
I think for anyone at a high school or college aged level she might have reached the “uncool” level though.
I remember when my little cousins were very young they were all into Barney (The giant creepy purple dinosaur). Then a year later if you told them you heard they were big Barney fans they got extremely upset and offended (because in just one year they reached an age group that made fun of people that liked Barney).
Yesterday, I saw pictures of her and Lorde holding hands walking on the beach (her new BFF). Taylor Swift is 24 and Lorde is 17 so there’s almost a creepy factor there. It’s interesting that with anyone new or big that’s younger than her, she grabs on and clings to them and proclaims them her new BFF. It wasn’t that long ago when Selena Gomez’s singles were being released that the same thing was happening (or Miley Cyrus with her previous album before that). With men and girlfriends, she has some serious issues. There’s just something really wrong with Taylor Swift (I mean something besides her crappy pop music with the country music sticker stuck on top).
February 27, 2014 @ 8:04 am
Huh. It’s creepy for Taylor Swift to be friends with someone six years younger? I don’t know. I know that the farther along you get into maturity or adulthood, the less age differences matter. I suppose for someone who is high school age like this Lorde person, it is expected that their best friend will be a fellow teenager?
It seems like people really like to comment on Taylor Swift’s decisions and social activities. I’m pretty oblivious to such things, but from the outside looking in, it seems like as long she is functioning healthfully and giving money to good causes rather than shooting drugs and getting DUIs, she is doing ok. That’s a pretty low bar, but given the current arch of celebrity culture, I expect that she will eventually go insane, experiement with PCP, and make news by drunkenly driving a backhoe into the side of a Walgreens.
February 27, 2014 @ 8:52 am
What I’m saying is she has long history of leaching on to other ‘new’ stars and proclaiming herself as best friends with that person.
BTW, when I was 24 years old I was not hanging out with 17 year old people. That’s a difference of being done with college and being in the adult works as opposed to still being in high school and living with your parents. Yeah sure, later in line 5 years difference is nothing. But at 17, it’s a very big difference.
February 27, 2014 @ 9:24 am
Also, regarding my comment about people remarking on Taylor Swift’s social life. I guess she’s not really hiding from the spotlight if she’s the one posting photos of her activities on Insta-gram or whatever the hell you call it.
February 27, 2014 @ 9:48 am
Yeah, I didn’t hang out with 17 year olds when I was 24, either. I was farily fresh out of college and starting my career and those 17 year olds were still in high school. Taylor Swift and Lordes are both major pop stars and so maybe they have more in common than I did with those 17 year olds.
February 27, 2014 @ 11:55 am
Lorde is quite mature for a 17-year-old. That may be why Taylor can bond with her.
February 27, 2014 @ 10:11 am
Yes, “socially anxious” describes her fan base very well.
As I see it, about 30% of girls are introverts. About 70% of girls are extroverts. The extroverts include roughly 20% who are the popular girls or “alphas”, and roughly 50% who are the wannabes or “betas”.
The “betas” are the largest segment of the young female demographic. If Taylor had written songs for the introverts she would probably still be a minor artist recording with an indie label. If she had initially tried to appeal to the “alphas” she would be competing with almost every young pop and hip hop singer. By appealing to the “betas” she was able to avoid serious competition for a long time. You could say it was a disruptive business model. Smart marketing.
February 27, 2014 @ 12:40 pm
This is a very intelligent analysis of the demographic fan bases of music.
I am sure, though, that Taylor and her team were not the first to discover that the shy, socially anxious female fan base is a lucrative marketing opportunity. The difficult part here was in writing songs that could appeal to them emotionally. This is where Taylor’s true talent shone through.
February 27, 2014 @ 10:14 pm
The conventional thinking is to record songs that appeal to the alpha girls, and the betas will follow. What Taylor did differently is that she wrote songs specifically for betas. She seems to have moved away from that with “Red”, which is consistent with all betas wanting to be alphas.
February 27, 2014 @ 7:21 am
I love this site and I am glad to see that there are more people out there that feel the same as I do. I have been a traditional country singer/songwriter all of my teenage and adult life and I have absolutley no problem with experimental/EDM/Rap/Hip-Hop or any other genre. The only major problem we all have is that Music Row is marketing all this as country music simply to suck money from young listeners. And as we all know, the Mega-Radio companies are guilty as well. Keep the comments coming…I love reading them. I have my own opinions just like everyone else, but usually keep them to myself. I would like to share a couple of verses from two of my songs-I hope you will visit my Reverbnation channel and hear them in their entirety. Have a laugh on me: First up, Who Are TheClowns: You know if Willy came to town today, he wouldn”™t stand a snowball”™s chance
He ain”™t no pretty boy and you can”™t see him through his pants
And Hello Walls and Angel Flyin”™ Too Close To The Ground
Would be gatherin”™ dust in a shoebox somewhere outside of Austin town Hello, Hello, Hello
Next up, Truck Truck, River,Tractor,Beer: Well, I went to a seminar in Fargo
They told me how to write a new hit song
They said it had to grab them teenage cowgirls
And not be more than three minutes long
I hope you get a chance to give them a listen. Enjoy!
March 2, 2014 @ 5:14 pm
I found my refuge in AM classic country, You Tube (I love the country music documentaries, BBC has some excellent ones which go deeper than just who was charting in any given era), and the old Hee Haw show which often showcased either up-and-coming country talent or established stars. Also love to watch the old Grand Old Opry episodes.
And of course iPod playlists of country and bluegrass (Awful Dreadful Snake, anyone? Or Knoxville Girl, or Banks Of The Ohio, or any of the other sad and morbid songs?)
February 25, 2014 @ 4:43 pm
Rewinding back to “Lookin’ For That Girl” and its inclusion in this article, I honestly have to say I don’t consider it predominantly EDM-influenced as I do “Sunny And 75”, “Compass” and “Get Me Some Of That”.
To me, “Lookin’ For That Girl” is “country” radio’s equivalent to Drake (who, surprise surprise, is also name-dropped in Florida-Georgia Line’s current single “This Is How We Roll”. -__- )
For those of us unfamiliar with Drake as a performer, Drake has a moody, atmospheric vibe to his music that more often appeals to more melodic Rhythmic sounds than rap. Drake does indeed include a few “brag-raps” on every album, but his sound overall is decidedly more Urban-Emo as I term it. Very somnambulant, drousy, introspective sounds that err closer to modern soul than rap.
“Lookin’ For That Girl” is a vague attempt to cash in on this same young audience who is eschewing brag-rap in favor of more ambient Rhythmic sounds.
Six String Richie
February 26, 2014 @ 11:45 am
I remember Rascal Flatts was touring with a dance crew to line dance to remixes of country songs in between sets on their most recent tour. I also seem to remember hearing that Dee Jay Silver would do some stops with Brad Paisley to play remixes in between sets on his tour as well. Also, the Country Thunder music festival has had a tent for dancing to remixes of country songs for two years now.
I can’t tell if the EDM trend will be huge on radio but I think it will be a popular feature at major concert tours like the examples I’ve mentioned above. I’m sure there will be dance remixes of country songs released online that will become popular. I hope EDM country doesn’t become too popular.
February 27, 2014 @ 4:31 pm
I would love to see a country music remake of this song!!!!
February 27, 2014 @ 4:39 pm
Actually, Seth, I believe I shall be the innovator of black metal and country!!! Any artist out there want to do a collab remake of this hit??
March 1, 2014 @ 8:34 am
Get ready for the new undisputed worse song ever.
Jerrod Niemann follow up to Drink to that all night.
March 3, 2014 @ 12:55 am
Just shoot me. Music Row is taking advantage of the fact that pop and rap are big sellers and they are ruining country in the process. It’s a shame artists who were already millionaires are selling country out to other genres like they are broke and starving. I think they call that greed.
May 5, 2014 @ 2:06 pm
The funny thing is, this article shows it wasnt researched properly.. Jason Aldeans Dirt Road Anthem was popular here in South Carolina already by Colt Ford who is the origional singer of the song.
Same thing with Bottoms Up by Brantley Gilbert. He was popular wa before this song in muy area.