The Evolution of Country Music

I am so happy to finally see the cultural shift that has put country music back in the mainstream category.  While some die hard “old country” fans (think: George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, etc) complain that new country is to “pop-y” and isn’t truly country, I think it is a great transformation of the genre.

Think about it… 10 years ago, if someone asked you what kind of music you listen to, you’d likely have one definitive answer: country, rock, rap, etc.  However, ask somebody this question today and 99% of the time, you’ll get an answer along the lines of “I listen to a little bit of everything.”  This is great for our culture… it adds a little “Kumbayah” unity among us all no matter our background or style.

This is, of course, partly attributable to the increase in individual song selections from places like iTunes, where you no longer have to buy an entire album and commit to listen to the whole thing (since you did pay $20 for it after all).  Now, you can check out tunes from other genres and for $1.29, why not jam out to some song that you otherwise would not have found on your usual radio station?

Of course, the shift country musicians have made is the biggest factor.  Spearheading the path toward pop, singers like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood have added a new energy to their music.  Musicians like Jason Aldean and Big & Rich have introduced rap to the country music scene.  And my personal favorite (responsible for converting my “classic rock only” husband and “80’s/90’s only” brother) is Zac Brown Band who has meshed bluegrass, classic rock, ballads, country, pop and more into one beautiful conglomeration that leaves me unable to find a single person who doesn’t enjoy at least one ZBB tune.

The old stigma around country music of lyrics like “my dog just died and my wife is in the pen’, so I’ll go to the saloon and drink ‘till she’s pretty” are typically a thing of the past and have even been mocked by country music stars like Rascal Flatts (re: [When You Play A Country Song] “Backwards”).  Of course, there are still sad songs and goofy songs in country, but when you put it up to some mainstream tunes, like “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, I think country has finally gotten the upper hand in the lyrics department, so it has finally earned some long overdue respect.

How does this have anything to do with line dancing?  Well, duh…. Line dancing in America started out as “country western line dancing” done to “country western” music.  Well, lucky for us, as country western became just country and now has become this morphed form of upbeat tunes, line dancing has picked up the pace from very stiff and low impact moves to a high energy, high cardio, multi-faceted dance form that would make your aerobics instructor proud.  Previous articles about the caloric benefits of line dancing had it burning about 115-150 calories/hour.  In January, I wore a calorie counter for a few weeks to test this theory and found that we were burning more than 400 calories/hour!  If country music hadn’t picked up the tempo, we likely would not have picked up our pace and seen such a health (and fun) benefit.  It has made line dancing become a very popular dance form again!

We now line dance to all kinds of tunes from pop, rap and rock, but our heart is in country and thankfully country music is adapting to our new found appreciation for other genres.  So kudos to country music execs, artists and proprietors such as iTunes for growing with us and expanding our horizons!

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2 thoughts on “The Evolution of Country Music

  1. Very well written Danielle! As one of those who has lived during this transformation, it has been good to see some of this change occur. All genre of music has their good songs and their bad songs. Music also tends to reflect the mood of society at the times the songs are popular. Society in 1940s and 1950s was recovering from the worse depression in history and two major World Wars and preparing for the Korean War and Viet Nam. Times were sad and depressing and the music reflected this. That WAS and still is to some extent traditional country music. Although we are still at war with terrorism, it is not the same.

    You are also correct about the health benefit of line dancing or any dancing for that matter. When I first started this kind of dancing, I was on the dance floor dancing (not passed out from drinking) seven nights a week. There were that many places to country line dance 20 years ago! With a slight change in my diet and all this exercise, I dropped my weight by almost 40 pounds in the first six months (from 198 t0 160). (Editor’s note: Unfortunately all of it has returned when the number of places to line dance dropped to 2 or 3 and no other form of enjoyable exercise).

    I believe that there will be a day far into the future that we will be essentially a single race (no reference to white, black, red or yellow skin pigmentation) and music will essentially lose its genre. It will sound the same but not be the same. Hard to imagine now but so was Rap music 50 years ago and 50 years goes by quickly. Unfortunately none of us living today will live to see this Utopia of a single gender and a single genre. Thanks for posting this article and having a “Reply” box for me to pontificate and thanks for helping to keep (country) line dancing alive. :o)

  2. I really like the broad range of music available to us as line dancers, even with the restrictive label of “country”. Let us have our Hanks, but also our Carries and Taylors and Shanias and Rascalls. To me, it’s really more about “music I don’t like” and “music I like” rather than trying to put it into a genre, and if it’s got a beat then by gum I’ll try to dance to it.

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