Country music making major shift in the genre

By Cassidy Pate | Reporter

What is country music? After 244 million Google search results, one thing is for sure – it is not what it used to be.

Following the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards last week, my father Jerry Pate reached out to me and said it would be hard to depict what category country music falls under nowadays.

“A lot of what we heard last night on the CMA’s would be hard pressed to be called country,” he said.

Beginning in the ’20s in the southern United States, country music has grown to be a staple in American culture. However, there are many debates on whether today’s country music can be placed in the same genre as its predecessors.

Country music has been defined as a mixture of ballads and dance tunes played on the fiddle, guitar, steel guitar, drums and keyboard. Based off of that description, the future of country music seems unwavering, but when you take the auto-tuned vocal aspect and add it to rap and techno accompaniment, the guitar can only take the genre so far.

The term “country music” can no longer encompass everything it once did. Instead, country has been faceted into three subgroups: country western, country rock and country pop.

Country western would be the Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks and early Tim McGraw eras. Country rock would be Kid Rock. Nowadays, country pop is becoming what we call country with Shania Twain, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood influences.

I am not a country music hater, nor do I intend to boycott it, but it would be cowardly to relate today’s country music to that of the past.

I am also not pinning the blame on anyone in particular. This issue can only be supported by the changing times of the world around us.

As music listeners in today’s world, we need catchy music that gives us a reason to smile.

Let’s face it – Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” is a song most of us sing before a weekend road trip, rather than being the first option on our Spotify playlist. “Jolene,” originally sung by Dolly Parton, is popular because of Miley Cyrus’ rendition on YouTube. The phrase “write this down” is something we say when we need to remember something in class and not one of George Strait’s No. 1 singles.

Yes, these songs may resonate with country music enthusiasts, but as popular culture changes, we are forced to abandon our former perspective of country music and expand it. If we do not do this, then country music will not be sustainable among the numerous genres appearing.

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