The 90’s and onward were some changing times for music, movies, and other forms of pop-culture. This is widely because of the introduction of Internet at a consumer level and the new waves of technology. Prominent names in country were making waves on the radio, and other outlets to sell out stadiums around the world. One thing that has stayed the same despite the new inventions of technology is the sound of country.
With mostly every other genre on the planet, we’ve seen thousands of sub-genres created and different sounds contorted off of an origin genre. With country, you don’t have many sub-genres, allowing country to remain one of the true few and that’s because it had worked so well. Even the earliest country music has had wild success in the mainstream of America – so why change the formula? Because times change, of course.
Speaking of subgenres, the main sub-genre that country saw was the creation of alt-country present in the early 1990’s, 1992 to be specific. Most notably found in Uncle Tupelo’s music, this was the start of a new wave of country with the original sound and a tangy twist. This type of pop-crossover allowed more of a platform for others to join in on to garner new fans and artists in the genre.
As the alt-country genre continues, the genre is seeing a younger wave of artists. In the 90’s, we saw Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Reba McEntire and more. Today, we see Sugar Land, and Rae Lynn. Don’t forget that the music mogul Taylor Swift was once alt-country, pop country, and has now transformed completely into pop.
While the sound of the genre has transformed slightly, technology, social media, and the oversaturation of pop has defeated many country artists and made them cave in to a pop-country or 70’s pop style. The evolution of Taylor Swift alone has many artists discouraged by encouraged to try the same route. Starting out country and slowing experimenting with a pop or alt-rock sound has let the true sound of country fade into the mix.
Because of the slight but obvious shift in the genre, some country artists have decided to go independent and remove themselves completely from corporate overlords. This includes the Dixie Chicks, who made a killing in the 90’s off of their famous country and fiddle sound. They want to remain at their roots which is quite clear in their single, ‘Long Time Gone” which states that “We listen to the radio to hear what’s cookin’, but the music ain’t got no soul”.
Technology has allowed artists to grow and experiment, but has somewhat taken the country out of country and infused it with pop to market and brand themselves more. What’s the source? Instant gratification, money, and wanting to be at the top of the game. Sure, there are tons of successful country artists as it is, but they typically only stay within the country genre and haven’t strayed not too much out of the general American mainstream like Taylor Swift has done.
Despite the huge changes in what appears to be the very core roots of country music, the genre is still being true to its name. The heart and soul of every song is as much tailored to the story today as it ever was. Whether sung by George Strait, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, Tim Mcgraw, Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line or Luke Bryan – the classic song about the love, heatbreak and pain over a woman rings true. Country ladies such as Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Faith Hill, Reba McIntyre, Carrie Underwood and Maren Morris still keeping the country soul alive with their devoted followers will never die.
The evolution of country music relatively speaking has been swift. I for one will still remain a country music fan true and true no matter where the evolution continues to travel. Whatever highroad or backroad it decides to take, where there’s a story of the heart ready for a guitar and song to bring it to life, I will be right round the corner with a listening ear.
We in the UK have been patient. We have bided our time, waiting. Waiting for that tomorrow when our songs are played in bars, on music channels, in restaurants and on the radio. Tomorrow has never been closer.