In the ever-changing world of country music, it can be hard to keep up with trends and what’s popular. Here’s a simple guide to help out those budding country artists who want to hit it big in the mainstream.
If you’re a solo male act, the formula to stay popular in country music is pretty simple.
1. Be a co-writer on a hit song for somebody else.
Chase Rice: co-wrote Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise”
Cole Swindell: co-wrote Florida Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll,” Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some Of That” and like 400 Luke Bryan Songs
Kip Moore: co-wrote Thompson Square’s first single, “Let’s Fight”
2. Prove you’re country*, preferably on one of your first singles.
Canaan Smith: “I could never do it like a pretty city boy/I’m more a fishing in the dark nitty-gritty boy” — “Love You Like That”
Tyler Farr: “Park this Silverado on your front lawn/Crank up a little Hank/Sit on the hood and drink/I’m about to get my pissed off on” — “Redneck Crazy”
Chris Janson: “They call me redneck, white trash and blue collar” — “Buy Me A Boat”
*reality of what it’s like to grow up in the country not important. Instead focus on things that everybody can actually do, such as enjoying various bodies of water, drinking and sexual conquests.
3. BASEBALL HATS
Wear a baseball hat. ALL THE TIME.
Optional: unique talent, individuality, good songs
Not a solo dude? There are other options.
If you’re a solo female act, your best bet is to no longer be a solo female act, however you accomplish that. The second step is to be attractive and OK with somebody exploiting it, possibly over your talent. The third step is to be sassy, and perhaps a little violent.
Examples: Kelsea Ballerini. How sad there is only 1 recent example. The last solo female artist to hit number 1 with her debut country single? Carrie Underwood with “Jesus Take The Wheel.” We’re counting on you, Cam.
If you’re a male duo, don’t actually be a duo — just have one person sing and the other person be attractive and “sing harmonies” that are so low in the mix you’re not sure if it’s a keyboard or not.
If you’re a female duo, be Maddie and Tae.
If you’re a male/female duo, either be in a relationship or let the people think you are.
If you’re a group, be a combination of any of those things.
But what about the artists who have had a few more trips around the sun? How do they stay popular?
Thankfully, country music has proven time and again that country fans are fans for life. Garth Brooks’ first record in a decade may have been underwhelming on the charts, but it still hit platinum, and he still sold out seven Dallas shows in an hour and a half.
Reba McEntire may be one of the only legacy artists who could be seen as “straying” to access newer fans — her single “Going Out Like That” took an uncharacteristically rock-driven approach and chronicled the story of a twenty-something who got drunk to get over a breakup.
So what about the folks in the middle who have had success and don’t want to yield it? The Luke Bryans of the world, if you will. Apparently you beat a dead horse and then promote it enough to still hit No. 1.
If you’re Jason Aldean — one of the pioneers of rock-country (and not the other way around), you release a bizarre R&B-themed single, confront the “Bro Country” title and then go back to the shed, continually trying to release something that changes the game, despite increasing feedback that maybe the game was better pre-2010, before you changed it.
But really, what is popularity if it only lasts a few albums? What is the real sign of popularity? Going away for a decade and then still selling out shows when you come back, like Shania Twain and Garth? Suffering the biggest misguided shellacking of any artist and still being sorely needed in the country world, like The Dixie Chicks?
Popularity in country music is fleeting. Just check all the different country songs that have reached No. 1 since 2000 and ask yourself how many other songs you remember from some of those artists (Chad Brock, anyone?). The true test of popularity isn’t who cares about you now, but who cares enough about your music to put it on when they’re having a bad day in 10, 20, 50 years.
If I want a heat-themed tune to relate to my fiery passions, I’ll take Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire” over Jason Aldean’s “Burning It Down” any day.