My high school girlfriend introduced me to country music. 6 years later, we’re still together. Country music and I are so lucky to have each other, and I hope my high school girlfriend has found someone as special. Today, millennials make up for 57% of country music’s fan base (insideradio.com)! Why is everyone all of a sudden acting like they love country, after they always said it was the one genre they hated? I have some ideas.
Country Pop Is Hot
Long-time country fans make fun of me when I tell them I like country music. They’ll ask who I listen to. If I don’t name Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton or Hank Williams, they say I just like pop music. They’re not altogether wrong. These long-time country fans are referring to how popular country music today is categorized as country pop. Country pop is the melting of country and pop sounds to catch a more mainstream audience. Great examples of country pop hits we are all familiar with are Sam Hunt’s Body Like A Backroad, Taylor Swift’s Love Story, and Florida Georgia Line’s Cruise. All of these songs have a country foundation, but if you listen close (and sometimes you don’t have to), a singer’s voice may be auto-tuned or there may be background chanting like there is in Body Like A Backroad.
FYI: Country pop isn’t new. It grew in popularity in the 1960s. The most famous country pop artists include Shania Twain and Garth Brooks.
Love, Trucks, Money and Alcohol
There is no one alive that does not enjoy love, trucks, money or alcohol. Once a country song has caught someone’s ear with its hint of pop, all it has to do is portray a relatable message for the listener. Often times, a simple message is what it takes to catch a listener’s ear. What’s more stereotypical country than Old Dominion’s Beer Can In A Truck Bed?
Old Town Road
The very fact that Old Town Road was the longest lasting #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in history, gave lots of credit to country music. Although most of the song is sung by Lil Nas X, everyone knows that country music star Billy Ray Cyrus had a lot to do with its success, and the association can arguably heighten interest in potential country listeners. Lil Las X was not the first rapper, hip-hop, or R&B artist to do a collab with a country music artist. Well before Old Town Road, Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson worked together on Superman. Florida Georgia Line worked with Jason DeRulo to put out the single Women. And F.G.L. also did a collab with Nelly on their hit single, Cruise (feat. Nelly).
It is tough for millennials to relate to the older generation of country singers. Now, country music stars don’t look like they live on a ranch and can grow a beard in 30 minutes. Country music stars like Kane Brown, Maren Morris, Sam Hunt and Kacey Musgraves show country roots in their music, but not in the way they look. As listeners, this is part of the reason why millennials make up 57% of the country music fanbase today (inside radio.com).
Clever Song Titles
Country music singers have been following a trend recently: creating song titles that have double meanings. This is not a practice country music is known for exclusively, but it is undeniably a recent trend. Florida Georgia Line’s H.O.L.Y., Mitchell Tenpenny’s Alcohol You Later, Sam Hunt’s Ex To See, and Kacey Musgraves High Horse refer to more than just the first thing you think of when you look at the title. For example, H.O.L.Y. is an acronym for “high on loving you”, while it also refers to the word “Holy”, which describes a noun as sacred. These clever song titles could be one reason why people are streaming country songs very frequently today. Feel free to connect with me on Instagram and Twitter!