Country Music Blog Rodeo: The Year of the Country Crossover

Over the last few years, country music has certainly expanded beyond the old stereotype of boots, big hair and ten-gallon hats. Artists like Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum have huge pop hits, the Zac Brown Band & Jason Aldean sell out Madison Square Garden and the Scotty McCreerys and Tate Stevens of the world rise to fame via televised talent shows. On the flip side, Mumford & Sons get played on country radio, UK-lite-rocker Ed Sheeran tours with Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson performs on the CMA’s. Over the last few years, it has become commonplace for country musicians to dabble outside of their genre, and if January of 2013 is any indication, this trend is only going to continue into 2013.

Interestingly enough, I grew up claiming that I loved all music “except country.” (Seriously – I think I wrote that on my Myspace…don’t judge me, I’m from NY.) However, after being taken to see Rascal Flatts at Madison Square Garden, my perspective on the genre completely changed and I was hooked. Now I’ll listen to anything from Garth to Reba to Taylor to Jason. However, if you were to ask a purist of country music, they’d probably argue that Rascal Flatts is just a boy (err, man) band in cowboy boots, Taylor is a dubstep-loving pop act and Jason’s renegade hick-hop style bastardizes country music. Yet, on the heels of Aldean selling out a show at New York’s Madison Square Garden in mere minutes, I’d argue that the biggest development of country music in 2013 will be the pure magnitude of its reach and ability to cross over, while also openly welcoming those who dabble and stretch the ideas of what typical “country” is.

Although the country community doesn’t completely accept anyone who simply tosses in a twang (Jessica Simpson, I’m looking at you), its doors have certainly opened more freely in recent years, a trend which only seems to be continuing into 2013. It didn’t take much work for Darius Rucker to go from Hootie to honkytonk because he did so genuinely. Likewise, Kelly Clarkson garnered an, albeit hotly-contested, CMA nomination and performance slot without even releasing a country album. Likewise, The Voice Season 3 winner, Cassadee Pope joined Team Blake and recently signed with Universal Republic Nashville, despite the fact that pre-Voice, she fronted a pop-punk band that toured with Fall Out Boy. Finally, as I write this, “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons is getting spins on country radio stations, while “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers is on CMT, only further proving the new found ability of country music to play nice with other genres.

The reach of country music will only continue into 2013, so why put limitations on it? ABC’s Nashville has put music city on the map in a huge way, Keith Urban finally represents the genre on American Idol and Blake Shelton was named Entertainer of the Year at the CMA’s due in large to his hijinks on both The Voice and Twitter. It’s time that country music fans accept the fact that country music isn’t our little secret anymore, and embrace the fact that we just may have to share our biggest stars and their music.

In many ways, it’s highly possible that 2013 could be the year that CMT Crossroads becomes way more than just a TV show, as country music is truly blending beyond traditional genre lines, and as a fan, I can’t say that I mind. Speaking as someone who once claimed to dislike country music, I can freely admit that I have no problem hearing Hunter Hayes on my favorite pop station sandwiched between Fun. and Pitbull. I have no problem with country acts winning every reality singing competition out there, and I certainly have no problem with going to see my favorite country artists at the iconic Madison Square Garden. Alternately, as a country blogger and true fan of the genre, I have no problem hearing Mumford & Sons sandwiched between Trisha Yearwood and Eric Church on country radio. I also have no problem with artists like Kelly Clarkson or Jewel transitioning from pop to country. Lastly, I take no issue with going to see a country act like Kenny Chesney and being introduced to an opener who may not be country, but is certainly brilliant, like Grace Potter.

Frankly, it’s an exciting time to be a country fan, and I’m buckling up to see what 2013 has in store for both our favorite genre and artists as country music explodes further into the mainstream. As true country fans, we can take pride in knowing that long before The Voice, Blake was singing about “Austin” & “Ol’ Red,” while Miranda Lambert & Chris Young were once on Nashville Star, a show most don’t even remember existed. Although it may be tough to have to share our faves with fair-weather fans, we can at least take pride in saying “I knew them first” when our favorites explode into superstars.

Blog Rodeo Roundup: See What Everyone Else Is Saying About Country Music in 2013!