Much has been said the last couple of months about the role of genre in the music scene today, incited almost entirely by one singular event – the release of a “pop” album by country singer, Taylor Swift.
Because Taylor’s album has been so incredibly successful, outselling all other albums in 2014 and not just in pop, country, R&B, or whatever. The next closest competitor in sales to Taylor’s 1989 was the soundtrack to the Disney movie Frozen. For 13 consecutive weeks, Taylor’s album remained the number 1 selling album in the nation, and sales are still growing.
So, what about this so-called “country” artist Taylor Swift? Traditional country singers like Eric Church have praised Taylor for her success, and for her self-identifying that 1989 is not a country album. Eric Church himself likes to be identified as a great singer, occasional songwriter. Call him a “country” singer and he answers to it, but he is on the lineup on the Motley Crue farewell tour. Hmmmm.
Ask country music singers about the music, and many, if not all, will tell you they sing “good” music, no matter what genre. David Nail sings blues, as well as country and folk by his own admission. Darius Rucker, former lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish, indicated that he has ALWAYS been a country singer, even when singing the songs of HATBF, the incredibly successful pop group of the mid-1990’s.
Today, we have numerous up-and-comers in the country music industry that are still trying to catch the big break. It’s not easy to get a record deal in Nashville, and even then it’s no guarantee that you will break through and become a superstar. Newcomer Ruthie Collins on Curb’s imprint Sidewalk Records sings genuine country music. But with a talent such as hers, she could sing Katy Perry’s Roar with every bit as much vigor and skill as Katy herself.
I think that genre isn’t quite the limiter that it used to be. When Buck Owens famously wrote that he would not sing “any song that is not a country song,” I think it was in a different day and age when genre was really a much more important identifying characteristic of the song. In the current landscape, I think there is room for Eric Church, Taylor Swift, Hootie and the Blowfish, Ruthie Collins, Katy Perry and Buck Owens all in the same collection of what can be called “good” music. Let’s face it, they all have real estate on this country music fan’s iPod.