What the hell is happening to country music?

Not long ago I wrote an article about Blake Shelton’s comments on the direction country music was going in. The crux of my argument there was that (and this might surprise people) I’m not opposed to country music’s attempts to modernize its sound.

Now, in recent months I’ve noticed a definite trend towards country music songs sounding more like rap and hip hop tunes. This video, for example, not only borrows rap’s rhythmic cadence, it borrows the “chicks and booze” party atmosphere that seems to populate rap videos.

What to make of this? A lot of folks might argue that country has sold its soul. It’s certainly hard to see how this music connects in any meaningful way to traditional country like Hank Williams or Willie Nelson.

Of course, we can then ask what it means for music to sell out. The presumption, I believe, is that the form’s practitioners are making music that no longer reflects any kind of or organic evolution, it is instead merely a land grab of popular trends. I’m not sure what’s really happening here. I’m pretty far removed from what rural teens* are up to, but I do get a sense that they do both embrace roots country and modern pop. (“A little bit of Hank and a little bit of Drake” as the song above says.)

* This statement presupposes that rural teens are country’s music’s target audience which may or may not be true.

That said, I can’t help watch this video and feels like it’s some kind of weird parody video they might have shown on SNL Ten years ago. This stuff seems and sounds pretty strange to me.

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