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Country Music in the Mainstream Pop Industry

Country music is one of the most universally loved and long-lived categories in the whole of popular music. From humble beginnings as a type of folk music in the southern states of America, it took the world by storm over the course of the 20th century and is still monumentally popular amongst listening audiences today. So, how does it fare in the modern pop landscape? To find out, first we’ll take a look at those classic artists who rose to the forefront of the genre in the 1950s and 60s; we’ll then progress to the crossover acts who brought country music to the mainstream in their own unique ways, before finally taking a look at where country music sits in today’s charts.

The Classics

Johnny Cash

Perhaps the most well-known and best-loved country music artist ever to exist is Johnny Cash. Though the Man in Black sadly passed away in 2003 aged 71, his music lives on. He performed as a solo act, as one half of a duet with his wife            June Carter, and, later on in life, as a special guest on tracks for modern rock bands Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden. Cash is a great example of a country artist who managed to stay true to his origins whilst maintaining a respected presence in the modern music scene.

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton is more a force of nature rather than simply a mere country music singer. She has been writing and performing music since she was a child, and now has theme parks, a musical and a production company under her belt, as well as being one of the most honoured country music singers of all time. She continues to stay relevant in an ever changing world, bringing a touch of classic country to every project she gets involved with.

Crossovers

Bob Dylan

Whilst Bob Dylan’s music often comes under the umbrella terms of either ‘folk’ or ‘rock’, he is responsible for easing several examples of country-flavoured hits into mainstream pop music. His 1969 album Nashville Skyline featured country songs like ‘Lay, Lady, Lay’, ‘Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You’, and his duet with the one and only Johnny Cash, ‘North Country Girl’. Mind you, it’s unlikely that there is any musical genre that Dylan can’t turn his hand to, if he so wished.

Elton John

Despite being born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in the English county of Middlesex, Elton John has always had a country twang to his music. This is partly due to his lifelong collaboration with writing partner, Bernie Taupin, who has a fascination with America and cowboys, but also partly due to John’s singular vocal style. Songs like ‘Country Comfort’, ‘Texan Love Song’ and ‘Dixie Lily’ are just a small example of the superstar writing team’s country leanings, whilst some of John’s stage outfits could rival even Dolly herself for rhinestones and glitter.

New Blood

In the 21st century, a new crop of country-influenced pop stars are enjoying mainstream success, sometimes at an astronomical level. Taylor Swift is perhaps the most successful modern crossover story from the country music circuit, making her way firmly into mainstream pop. She is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, of any genre, and yet returns to her Nashville roots periodically. Although she’s not yet on a par with Dolly, she’s certainly making her way up to take the crown.

Other noteworthy artists include Miley Cyrus, daughter of country music star Billy-Ray Cyrus and a successful musician in her own right; she even claims Dolly Parton herself as her godmother. There are also global pop sensation Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, and Laura Marling. Even the Queen B herself, Beyoncé, doesn’t shy away from the appreciation of her Texan country music background; tracks like ‘Daddy Lessons’ prove that she can turn her hand to country as well as anyone.

How To Access Country Music Today

Gone are the days when music was only accessible either live or on a fragile vinyl record. The world wide web and modern technology have combined to make our favourite forms of entertainment available at our fingertips wherever there’s a decent internet connection. In my downtime, I like to practice my language skills at duolingo, take a few spins at pokerstarscasino, or browse the latest tv shows. However, you can also access all the latest releases, along with well-loved classics, from your favourite country singers through services like Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube.

The world truly is your oyster; all you need is a smart phone, tablet or laptop to delve into a back catalogue filled with thousands of hours of quality country music. This is also a great opportunity to discover new artists and broaden your listening horizons even further. Whilst hits like Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus’ ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’ and The White Stripes’ cover of Dolly’s ‘Jolene’ have seen enormous mainstream success, it’s also satisfying to find those newer, smaller artists to listen to who might be the next big thing.