Country music takes charge. Yee-haw! The genre is catching up and everyone wants to ride along.

Giddy Up, Jolene : Country music has undergone a facelift and is now attracting people from all walks of life.

Polish your boots, get out your plaid flannel shirt from the back of your closet, and dust off your Stetson - we're off to a country music festival.

But this isn't Texas or Tennessee, rather, the faded UK seaside resort of Blackpool, which is hosting the 2021 British Country Music from September 3-5 and visitors from all the country and way beyond are expected to attend, reported DW.

The typically American music genre is celebrating a global revival, with events all around Europe - even in Germany - giving it a new lease on life. This is, of course, pre-Covid. But with the gradual lifting of restrictions, country fans around the globe are excited to get back on the horse.

''The thing about country music that speaks to people is songwriting,'' Milly Olykan, VP of International Relations & Development at the Country Music Association [CMA] in Nashville, Tennessee, told DW.

''People have realized that country music isn't about geography,'' says Baylen Leonard, a country music broadcaster based in London. ''It's about storytelling and emotion.''

'The perfect storm'

But what has led to the explosive revival of country well beyond the US? '' It was almost like a perfect storm. It started back in the day when we had Taylor Swift, who never presented herself - especially in Europe - as a country artist. But she clearly was country artist. So she wanted to cross over.

And Kacey Musgraves also attracted people to country soon thereafter,'' Olykan explains.

''Then the TV show Nashville came out with all its stories and drama and intrigue, and that actually really opened people's minds to young people making making country music - as opposed to it being only older artists like Kenny Rogers. That kind of opened the door.''

The rise of streaming services in the early 2010s also made the genre more accessible, according to Baylen Leonard : ''You don't have to go to the country section of a record store anymore. You'll be listening to something on a streaming platform and then an algorithm will suggest something else you might like.''

In the US, country is now even the second fastest growing genre of music according to TIME magazine.

No pandemic blues

The numbers behind the stellar rise of country in the UK and then in the rest of Europe are impressive according to the British Phonographic Industry [BPI], which is the official charts company in the UK, the genre witnessed a growth factor of 19% in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the same time in 2020. And the year before, country even grew by 47%.

''TikTok has also been a great tool for discovery of new country artists, especially during the pandemic., like Priscilla Block and Callista Clark,'' says Milly Olykan. ''Some artists got major record deals because of TikTok,'' adds Baylen Leonard.

With all these modern developments, the country genre clearly is no longer all about your ''achy breaky heart'' -to quote a trope from the 1990s - but rather tackless relatable issues, not just in terms of lyrics but also in terms of sound :

Milly Olykan welcomes the fact that there are more and more country performers who ''enter the pop space and more pop artists [who] enter the country space. And I think that will be mutually beneficial. I would love to see more or such cross-genre work. Especially internationally.''

Radical Honesty

But even older country legends are celebrating revival in their own right. While back in the day, country music was treated much like Thanksgiving dinner - i.e. you don't speak about religion and politics - the new country age appears to have embraced diversity as a key message at its heart.

'' One of the most common misconceptions about country music is that it is all about a truck and a dog, and holding on to your gun. Another one is that country music is white, and that it is conservative and close-minded,'' says Baylen Leonard.

''Look, I'm not saying that music doesn't have a diversity issue,'' Leonard adds, '' but there are more Black artists and movements within country music that are challenging all those conceptions. Plus, the roots of country music are Black anyway. The banjo is an African instrument.

Forever Jolene

There's perhaps none other than Dolly Parton to prove that the country is moving with the times. Half a century ago already, she boldly sang about the fate of jilted women and teenage pregnancy, trying to inject a stuffy musical genre with some of the subversive energy of the Women's Lib movement.

Today, the mother of country music no longer needs to hide her messages under her impressive wigs [ although she still continues to don them with great style].

''Dolly Parton is not only a global icon. She's also a local hero in Tennessee. She is absolutely authentic to who she is. She is exactly who you think she's going to be. She's not an act.

She loves all God's children,'' Baylen Leonard told DW shortly after interviewing Parton on air.

The World Students Society thanks author News Desk, The Express Tribune.


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