After growing in popularity in the past couple decades, pop country music has risen to become the most popular genre in the United States according to the NPD Group, beating out Top 40 and Classic Rock in 2012, both of which have been at the top of the charts for decades. Today, these country artists have become pop stars, crossed over into the main stream, and become as big as any super successful band that sells out stadiums.
What exactly is pop country music? From a pure sonic perspective, compared to classic country music, it uses the simplistic and down to earth writing of classic country while adopting the elements of pop music like electronic beats, vocal tuning, and drum replacement in order to achieve a more polished sound. It even crosses over into the realm of pop music and takes a place in the pop charts on a regular basis. Take a listen.
Artists like Taylor Swift, Luke Brian, Jason Aldan, and Hunter Hayes have experienced an incredible amount of success over the years, and being able to appeal to the younger demographic have also contributed to the genres explosion in the past few years. But its not just the younger crowd listening, there are plenty of older folks tuning in as well. The evolution of what has become today’s pop county goes back to artists like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw paving the way for the new music, just like any other genre that has evolved (alternative music) into something that it once was not.
To find proof of the popularity of this genre, we can look at sources like the Billboard Hot 100.
Currently a song released my Taylor Swift less than a month ago has risen to number 2 on the charts, and making a strong case for number 1 with over 20 million more views on YouTube than the current number one song All About That Bass.
So why does this kind of country music exist? I would argue because there is so much money in pop country. The artists and their music have become so lucrative that top people in the music industry want to work with them, labels want to back them and give them the resources to tour and put on massive shows, have super polished recordings in the best studios with the best producers. These catchy songs are moneymakers, plain and simple.
This begs the question, how does music become pop culture? If we start from the beginning of how a song gets out to the public, after its release it will be for sale somewhere, maybe virtually, maybe physically, and the artist will tell people about it. The more people spreading the word about the music, the more people will hear about it. If we introduce the reinforcement theory to this, you would hear about music through outlets like social media and radio, as well as through your friends. It makes sense then that music with more money to flood the market with their music would be able to reach more people, therefore having a better chance of becoming a hit. Hearing songs you and your friends like on the radio on a regular basis reinforces your beliefs that they are good songs.
Classically, he suggests that a hammer extends our arm and that the wheel extends our legs and feet. Each enables us to do more than our bodies could do on their own. Similarly, the medium of language extends our thoughts from within our mind out to others
This quote from Mark Federman’s Article called What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message? talks about how the medium allows us to extend our own personal thoughts out to other people, and with music this couldn’t be more true. Pop Country music is designed to be catchy and get stuck in your head, but it goes beyond that once people get emotionally involved in the music. And because the lyrics are simple and down to earth, theres not much guessing to what the speaker of the song is talking, which is easy for people to relate to reaches them on a different level. This definitely contributes to its success in becoming popular culture, a message that can easily be heard and related to.
So what lies ahead for this kind of country music? As incredibly unpredictable as the music industry is, the genre has gained a large following and its pretty certain that it will be around for a long time to come, continuing to get fans who idolize a simpler, more down to earth, cowboy boot wearing side of popular culture in America.