I found out Aaron Lewis, the frontman of Staind, has just released a country EP that went to No. 1 on the country albums chart. He is just one of a number of rock or pop acts that have released country recordings in the last decade. Why? Also why has the country music industry been so accepting of non-country acts putting out country music? True, Conway Twitty and Kenny Rogers moved from pop to country, but it tooks years of paying dues for the industry to accept them as country acts. And I remember back in the 70s when pop acts like Olivia Newton John and Linda Rondstat crossed over to country there was a lot of “they’re not true country” resentment from other artists. Why not now?
I can’t answer your question, but I thought you might be interested to know, if you don’t already, that Tommy “Ramone” Erdelyi is now playing in bluegrass/folk band called “Uncle Monk.”
Increasing sales, I’d imagine. You’re broadening your fanbase. There is a perception that the kind of people who buy country albums are the kind of people that still buy albums, instead of downloading them for free, as well.
Alan Jackson-Gone Country
I think country has become more mainstream, both in the performers and the fanbase. It’s self-reinforcing - fans who cross over from other genres don’t have a problem with performers crossing over.
Country itself sounds more mainstream these days than it used to, so for some pop singers who have gone country, like Jewel and Jessica Simpson, it wasn’t really a huge change to their previous style. A fairly simple way to (hopefully) expand their fanbases and their finances, and a chance to reinvent themselves after sales of their regular albums have gone downhill.
Rock hasn’t been the dominant force in music sales in over a decade, and these guys have mortgages and retirement plans to consider. Darius “Hootie” Rucker is suddenly monstrously popular in Country music (He doesn’t sing any differently than he ever did, but his new band is heavier on steel guitar than the Blowfish ever were) and Bon Jovi had a recent album that got lots of airplay on country stations (“Who Says You Can’t Go Home” featured vocals by Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles).
Plenty of Country acts are also dabbling in Pop music (Dixie Chicks/Court Yard Hounds, Taylor Swift, k.d. lang, and I bet we’ll be hearing from Shania Twain in this regard pretty soon), so the street runs both ways.
Speaking of Shania, she actually released her last album Up! in 2002, with three different versions: the green version (country), red (pop) and blue (“international”). If that isn’t the ultimate in ensuring genre crossover success I don’t know what is.
Maybe rednecks aren’t smart enough to pirate MP3’s yet.
Last I heard, Christian rock is one of the fastest growing genres.
More than three times the number of “Rock” albums were sold in 2009 versus “Country” albums. If you include “Alternative” albums, it’s four times.
If you consider “Alternative” and “Metal” as subsets of rock and not their own genres, rock music outsells the combined sales of rap, R&B, country, christian/gospel music and a bunch of other smaller genres.
Rock music is still the dominant force in music and would require quite a fall to no longer hold that title.
First you ask, “where’s the money?” Then you ask, “what’s the competition?”
Rock is as a whole much larger than country, but it’s also far more diffuse. Outside the south a city may have a dozen or two dozen rock stations but maybe two or three country stations. The total audience for the rock stations may be larger, but the individual country stations probably beat most if not all of them in the ratings. It’s a concentrated listenership that’s also extremely dedicated and loyal. Country music probably keeps its audience longer than rock music, because rock fans move from subgenre to subgenre as their tastes change.
My wife likes a lot of country music, and I’ve noticed that it sounds an awful lot like 70s rock. Southern rock was a big influence. The Outlaws still tour and they will blow you away. A good portion of the country I’ve heard aspires to be The Outlaws. If you start out as mainstream rock you can cross over pretty easily and attract the older audience that’s still loyal to that kind of music.
You can’t switch to emo or deathmetal or shoegaze. Or from there. Mainstream rock to country rock is a half-step sideways and an extra decade for your career.
IMO, mainstream pop-country is also way easier for the singer, especially one that’s getting tired of the alt lifestyle. It’s got a whole production assembly line, with songwriters, studios, session players, producers, etc. all cranked up and ready to churn out the nearly-identical pop-country sausage. All the singer has to do is practice adding a slight twang and show up in Nashville or LA for a week or two to sing their (mostly non-challenging) parts that the producer hands them. Touring is nearly as easy: walk on stage, pretend to strum an acoustic guitar that’s not actually miked or amplified, and sing along to the session band behind you. You also probably only need to suck up to a much smaller handful of radio stations to get airplay, so the publicity part of promotion and touring is easier, too. It also helps that mainstream pop-country has been shifting towards a mild rock sound. If you asked a 1970’s listener to categorize current pop-country songs, you’d probably get at least as many votes for ‘soft rock’ as for ‘country’. It’s not nearly as jarring for a rocker to start doing an impression of an Eagles B-side as it would be to try and do hardcore Johnny Cash style.
Teen pop has a production line nearly as good at cranking out product, but touring requires dancing and being in shape and stuff, plus it can’t be done much after hitting one’s late twenties anyway. And it’s a less predictable market that needs a little more innovation as well.
And if you want to get into deathmetal, shoegaze emo, bluegrass (the kind that’s not pop-country) or whatever, you’ve got to actually write songs in that genre, get together a band, find a producer and label that have the same vision, and then beat your head against a wall trying to get enough publicity to sell a small handful of albums. There’s lots of rock albums and rock fans, but no single rock market, so it’s harder to sell and the rewards are smaller.
Why do the extra effort? I mean, doing a country album is still slightly more artistically rewarding and much easier than playing Vegas for six months, right? And we all gotta eat/pay alimony/satisfy our expensive guitar addiction.
This is not a completely new thing. Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the wild men of rock in the 1950s. When his popularity faded because of scandals, he went country where marrying your 13 year old cousin is more acceptable.
Ronnie James Dio mentioned this when talking about how loyal metal fans tend to be. He said the other style of music with similarly loyal fans is country.
Modern “country” music is basically nothing more than mediocre studio rock music with a slight Southern accent and a little steel guitar or fiddle. If you took away the vocals of a lot of modern day pop country, the stuff they play at Texas Roadhouse, there would be nothing in it to identify it as country music.
Is this “country music”? If the singer had a Southern accent, it could have passed for country music in America 30 years ago. Today, it would not be able to pass for rock music. Even if you took away the vocals, the beat and guitar would still give it away as country.
Is this a rock song or a country song? If you replaced the Rhodesian singer with an American one with a Southern accent and played it in Texas Roadhouse, nobody would know the difference.
The reason Rucker is doing so well is that his solo debut country album is actually really good. You can hear the same sort of sound as “Cracked Rear View,” but the themes are more mature. I think that is one appealing aspect of country for songwriters, the songs can be about married life and work problems. Or whatever, I can definitely see pop and rock stars feeling limited by the demands of the top 40 racket.
Country music has been bad for a while, and some new blood is doing some good, especially when it comes to those who don’t write songs about how great it is to be southern (every other freaking song, it seems).
Soon? Her “Up!” album had three different produced versions, one country, one pop, and one international.
the main guy from Verbena (90s noisy indie band) now makes really good country going by the name AA Bondy I would recommend any of his stuff because it’s good, not sell out
(first post btw hello)
Country is more “down to Earth” and I’d imagine a lot of artists grew up listening to country music and as they get older they can relate more to it.
Punk band Social Distortion has did country covers, most notably “Ring of Fire.” Singer Mike Ness has released a country album. Jack White of the White Stripes worked on a (good) album with Loretta Lynn and regularly sang her “Rated X” song with The White Stripes. And he recorded tracks for the Cold Mountain soundtrack. Kid Rock has a country slant and sings backup vocals on Jamey Johnson’s latest country album. James Hetfield of Metallica is rumored to be a country music fan.
And really the term country music covers a LOT of ground. There is prepackaged commercial country feel-good pablum, there is rockin country, and there’s “classic country” that gritty and sometimes depressing.
On their first Nashville record artists like Miranda Lambert, Jamey Johnson, and Shania Twain were given other people’s songs to sing and weren’t big hits right away. It wasn’t until they recorded their own songs that they really took off. Like Jamey Johnson said:
“Well, some record executives found me on night
I was singing half-lit, they said it sounded just right (right)
They put my name on an album but they shelved all my songs
Said I was somewhere between Jennings and Jones”
I guess established artists in other genres might not have to go through that to get their country albums released.
it’s sad that country fans welcome these posers
Good lord, why?
And Green Day isn’t *real *punk, either - right? Those bastards.