September 30, 2019 by Don Russo
An Exploration of Country-Crossover
Country music is often considered a “love it or hate it” genre, with a very particular sound and cultural context. However, in recent years, there has been more and more cross-over between country and the mainstream. Since today is International Country Music Day, let’s explore instances of country music intersecting with other genres!
Old Town Road
As recently as this year, the genre has seen a lot of evolution. One of the biggest stories in country music this year revolves around the surprise hit, Old Town Road, by Lil Nas X. Unexpectedly taking the country charts by a storm, this song, which began as a meme, quickly rose to the top, and was bolstered even further by controversy created by its attempted suppression–Billboard attempted to quietly remove the song from Hot Country Songs. Featuring a hip-hop sound, a trap beat, banjo, and a Nine-Inch Nails Sample, this song and its success is a clear signifier of the evolving nature of the genre.
This song has had an enormous impact on the younger generation, and it wasn’t until Lil Nas X teamed up with country legend, Billy Ray Cyrus (of Achy Breaky Heart Fame), for a remix and accompanying music video, that Billboard could no longer ignore the wide appeal of the track. What followed was a record-breaking 17 weeks as the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100!
It’s no secret that the classification of country has begun taking on a new form. Like any genre, it is susceptible to being a victim of formula. A similar game-changer happened in 2016, with the release of Beyoncé’s visual album extravaganza, Lemonade. One track, in particular, Daddy Lessons, took on all aspects of a barn-stomping country jam, culminating in an awe-inspiring performance with the Dixie Chicks at the 2016 Country Music Awards:
As well, this year gave us a new Vampire Weekend album, Father of the Bride, that featured a notably country sound, particularly on Hold You Now. The use of steel guitar twang and slide guitar demonstrate yet again the increasing ubiquity of the country sound. However, the membrane between country and the rest of music has always been permeable. Check out the chart below to see the crisscrossing of which stars have gone country and vice versa!