Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Going country: Why artists are leaping to the up-and-coming genre

Beyonce, Post Malone and Lana Del Rey are among the artists throwing on their cowboy boots
Getty Images for Coachella
Photo courtesy of IMDb

Whether you like it or not, it’s undeniable that country music is on the rise. There’s no debating that artists like Noah Kahan, Zach Bryan and Tyler Childers have brought the heat back to the country genre with a refreshing, folkier twist.

With the genre’s recent skyrocketing popularity, the music industry is setting its sights on the genre, with many unexpected musicians taking part. Beyonce, Post Malone and Lana Del Rey are among some of the artists that are dipping their toes into more acoustic waters, and listeners are wondering why.

Country music originally drew influences from both rock and roll and the blues. Artists like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash put out some of the most influential and iconic country music of the 20th century, which formed the foundation of country music.

Country music is emotional and real, and artists may be turning to this style as a better means of expressing themselves. Currently, the genre is distancing itself from the modern bro-country vibe and hip-hop-influenced styles that were popularized in the 2010s. Some of the most popular country musicians of the last decade such as Morgan Wallen, Luke Combs and Thomas Rhett were steering the country genre to that more hip-hop-influenced sound.

Back in the 2000s and 2010s, country was starting to lose traction. So, in an inverse situation of what’s happening now, a majority of the genre made a switch to what is referred to as “bro-country,” or the combination of country music style with aspects derived from hip-hop. Hip-hop was extremely popular at the time, so combining it with country brought the genre back to center stage. However, it’s a far cry from the origins of country.

These artists, while very successful and still producing catchy country tunes, are very different from the country artists of the old days. There is nothing wrong with this style of country music, but it often doesn’t contain the same raw, emotional level of lyricism — something that is returning in the country music of the 2020s. With artists like Zach Bryan, Tyler Childers and even the folkier Noah Kahan, this new style of country is being reunited with its original roots.

These artists bring the honest and raw emotion back to country music. They’re not just talking about southern life and other common aspects of country music; they’re singing about their issues and loves, their triumphs and failures. The style has turned more folky, and this new take on country music is leading to an incredible increase in its popularity. Why shouldn’t non-country artists take a stab at what’s hot?

Two artists shifting their focus to country music are Beyonce and Post Malone, who are both from Texas, a state rooted in country music. Beyonce was born and raised in Houston, TX; Post Malone was born in Syracuse, NY, but was raised in Grapevine, TX. While Beyonce has remained tight-lipped about her new music, Post Malone has spoken a few words on it, apparently stating that he wants to make music “everybody can get down to.”

It’s possible that Beyonce is trying to reclaim country music’s origins in African-American blues culture of the South. Nevertheless, these meaningful intentions don’t overshadow the possibility that some popular artists might only be exploring country music due to its increasing prominence.

Lana Del Rey has confirmed her shift to country with a statement she made at Billboard’s pre-Grammy event in Los Angeles. “If you can’t already tell by our award winners and our performers, the music business is going country. We’re going country. It’s happening,” Del Ray said. She confirmed that she and Jack Antonoff, one of her longtime producers, have traveled to Nashville and Mississippi over recent years for this very reason.

The commercial and critical success of Beyonce’s new album, “Cowboy Carter,” proves this idea even further. Her newly released country song, “Texas Hold ‘Em,” hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100. The song also made history by making her the first Black woman to hold number one on Billboards “Hot Country Songs” chart. This is a huge triumph for Beyonce, and might appeal to other artists that are considering hopping on the country trend and increasing their popularity.

With this information, it is difficult to identify any other concrete reasons as to why artists are going country. It is a possibility that musicians may simply want to change up their style and cater to a larger audience, or bring country music back to its roots. But recent statements from artists are proving otherwise.

Can we really blame them, though? Music has trends in the same way that clothing and style do; certain trends cycle in and out of fashion. Artists thrive on their fan base, and to keep fans interested, they must play into what’s trending. Country is back in style, with the public and musicians hopping on the trend to stay on the bandwagon.

Ava Hebenstreit can be reached at [email protected]

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