Back in January, it was reported by Nielsen Music, that rap, hiphop and RnB had overtaken rock as the ‘most listened to’ genre in the USA. Taking their data from 2017s year-end charts and overall trends, it made stark reading for lovers of guitar-based music. However, with the likes of Justin Timberlake and Florida Georgia Line fusing country music with pop, country music is making a climb back up to relevancy with some quite profound implications.
Spurred on by the extant global interest in American culture and the availability of cultural figures via social media, the genre most closely associated with American legend is making ripples across the planet. Through international interest and the absorption of other genres, three chords and the truth is becoming cool.
Diplomacy through music
America is currently subject to a shifting political landscape and the nature of its relationships with other nations is changeable. One such country is Cambodia, where relations with the United States have chilled following a reduction in foreign aid. Trying to bridge this gap is Cambodian country-pop musician Yorn Young, who has taken elements of the pop genre, the unforgettable sound of traditional acoustic guitars, thumping bass and fiddle driven country, and written about his love for America and related it to Cambodia in an attempt to warm relations.
Finding momentum in youth
As recently as 2015, several opinion and pieces and editorials remarked on how ‘uncool’ country music had become perceived as. Far away from the American legend of masculine, brave cowboys on the frontiers of American civilization, writers like Charlottesville commentator Grady Smith remarked instead on how overproduced and reactionary the genre was.
Today, research from the Country Music Association – CMA – has found that more millennials are listening to country than ever before, with a 2017 year end study finding that 57% more 18-24 year olds were listening to country. The reasons for this is varied, but the UK’s Guardian reported earlier in March 2018 that the breaching of genres, as exemplified by Yorn Young, Timberlake and more, has made the genre more accessible and inclusive, resulting in bands springing up as far afield as the UK.
Country and western is one of the hallmarks of American culture. Since the basic pluckings of a guitar or banjo in the 1920s, it has become synonymous with global views of Northern American and especially rural culture. The interest of different nations and fusion with other genres is benefiting the time honored genre.