By Tava Hoag
“It’s hot out; the kind of hot that comes only with the sweltering sun of summertime. I am in a huge group and we are driving to Gillette Stadium with the windows down and the music blaring in the car. The excitement in the air is palpable and everyone is laughing and having the time of their lives. This was my first experience of a Lady Antebellum concert and it was a day I’ll never forget. When the concert started, the beat was pumping through my veins and I was overcome with the urge to sing along and dance with everyone else. When it was over I couldn’t wait to go to another country concert and that’s when I realized my love for country music.”
This was freshman nursing major Maddie Radock’s first experience with the modern genre of country music; and since that first show, she’s been obsessively hooked on the genre.
In the last ten years, there has been a rapid increase in ticket sales to country concerts as well as the purchasing of country albums. What is this sudden hype about country music? The genre has been around for nearly a century after all.
Sarah Masterson, a musical theory adjunct professor here at Fitchburg State, gave her opinion on this phenomenon.
“I think one of the main things that has caused country music to become more popular with people who previously wouldn’t have listened to it is a shift in style. If you listen to country music from the 80s and 90s and compare it with current artists like Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and almost any other popular artist, you’ll notice a big difference in the sound.”
Professor Masterson also adds, “Older country music uses more traditional instruments like steel guitar and fiddle. Current country music has become more mainstream and pop; the songs all sound very similar and talk about the same things – beer, girls in tight jeans, and jacked up trucks. Someone actually made a YouTube video combining several songs that highlights this really well.”
It seems indulging in music that’s easy to dance to is becoming more important to modern listeners of country. The new and improved sound and style seem to be what has made country music increasingly popular.
In the Washington Post, Emily Yahr writes about the sudden increase in popularity of country.
“It’s a fact that club DJs have known for years, and Nashville record labels and producers are now eagerly working to bring it to the mainstream. Remixing and mashing up songs is nothing new, but country is the latest genre to discover that behind a thumping techno beat sits a lucrative opportunity to breathe a second life into songs by turning them into dance tunes.”
The important element of adding a dance beat to country—allowing people to “shake it” rather than line dance or two-step with a partner—has brought a great deal of success to the genre.
Longtime producer Shannon Houchins, also from the Washington Post, pointed out that “the new track can expand the fan base or basically double your profit by performing a remix”.
This is a smart idea on the production front, as consumers have recently warmed to the party-like remixes that still keep some of the country in the songs they love.
When asked why she loves listening to country, freshman English major Natalie Chase offered her thoughts.
“Who doesn’t like to dance? I know that when I’m stressed out, I’ll blare country music in my dorm room and just shake to the rhythm. It’s the best way to forget about your worries for a while and blow off some steam.”
Chase wasn’t done there with her praise of the genre.
“I feel like most songs are relatable and tell a story. Also, the singers in general seem so genuine and that’s why I love it. When you listen to country it seems as though you hear songs about everything. It’s not just popular and something to listen to, every song is a life story.”
Maddie Radock wraps up her thoughts on country music.
“I am never worried about not liking music at a party or on someone’s radio because everyone likes some kind of country song… it has the power to warm our frigid bodies with an infectious beat and catchy melody, the perfect combo for a good time.”