Underneath the Guitar: The Reason People Listen to Country Music
January 24, 2020
Old Town Road by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus has dominated the charts, peaking. The popularity of this song may be shocking to some, but others realize that country music is becom
Old Town Road by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus has dominated the charts, peaking.
The popularity of this song may be shocking to some, but others realize that country music is becoming more mainstream lately. As a southern young woman, I’m no stranger to country music. Country music is a part of my culture and the sound reminds me of home. However, country music’s popularity has expanded further than the mason dixon line; there are fans all around the country, and around the world.
Why do people love country music? I think one major reason why people love listening to country music is because it tells a story. Pop music can be fun to listen to, but sometimes the words are repetitive and best suited to dance to. There are pop songs that I love, that I also might not be able to tell you the lyrics to. With country music, there is typically an emphasis on the story. In the song, the person could be going home, enjoying a day on the beach, or dealing with a romance gone wrong. Country music doesn’t shy away from the complexities of life, it explores. When people are looking for those nuanced stories about life, country music is a place they can go.
Along with storytelling, country music has a lot of emotions. Love, loss, heartbreak, jealousy, simple joy are all topics they sing about. The song “Jolene" by Dolly Parton is known all around the world and talks about a woman who is worried about her name. Totally relatable and also catchy enough to sing for karaoke. The song “Sweet Home Alabama" can get a crowd going even if no one singing it is from Alabama. The Pistol Annies have a witty way of talking about the ups and downs of life that is infectious. Another cool thing about country music is how it highlights instruments. A nice banjo playing in the background is always fun to hear. One song from the Zac Brown Band will make you wonder what other ways people combine instruments for a different sound.
In the more recent past, we’ve seen musicians embrace their southern roots and the country sound that goes with it. People like Kacey Musgraves, Solange, and Beyonce have all released music with a country sound. Kacey Musgraves, in particular, has attracted non-country music listeners to her music with her authenticity. I’ve seen friends from living in New York City say that she’s the reason why they started listening to country music. Once people find a musician they appreciate in a new genre, they often start listening to it more. Artists like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood have also contributed to people’s exploration of country music. Although Taylor Swift no longer released country, music, her past albums were the beginning of other people’s love of country music. Carrie Underwood, the winner of American Idol, had the same effect on audiences. The nature of American Idol makes fans more invested in the outcomes of the contestants, and after she won Carrie Underwood became a major star on the country music scene. Her fans regardless of their preferences followed her music too and are now country music fans.
As time goes by, I suspect there will be more country music fans. Some of the stigma around the genre is starting to fade. Now artists and fans alike are using country music as a way to authentically express themselves. So the next time the radio stops on the country station or Spotify recommends a country song, give it a chance.