For a genre of music that has not always been considered main stream, country music had no problem staying relevant and more popular than ever in 2013. Some have been quoted as saying country music is in the middle of its own civil war of sorts with hit makers such as Zac Brown Band calling Luke Bryan’s ‘That’s My Kinda Night’ the, “worse song he has ever heard”. Gary Allan also spoke out on the diversity and state of country music this year saying the genre isn’t the same as it was 10-15 years ago. Although country music is proving it has a cross genre appeal with fans, it is also evident the family of artists who place their music under the label of country music still understand the importance of remembering where their music roots were first planted.
Looking at music charts, 2013 could be considered the year of pop-country at first glance with Taylor Swift holding the Billboard #1 spot for 8 weeks with her ‘Red’ album. Florida Georgia Line blasted themselves into the country music spot light with their debut album ‘Here’s to the Good Times’ also holding strong for a full 8 weeks. However, when you dig a little deeper into the charts you will also find the traditional country sound is still popular with fans. George Strait, Gary Allan and Justin Moore also celebrated #1 albums in 2013.
This year also welcomed a wave of newcomers into country music. Artists such as Kacey Musgraves, Cassadee Pope, Brett Eldredge, Thomas Rhett and Charlie Worsham put their own spin on today’s country music. They all released new albums in 2013 and gave fans a change from some of the currently over produced sounds that have been making their way into many hit albums this year.
Live music has always been a significant part of country music. It is still alive and well with Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney continuing to sell out stadiums to fans who continue to be forever faithful. Luke Bryan hit the road on his first major headlining tour proving he is a new force to be reckoned with on stage. George Strait was honored this year by Billboard with the 2013 Billboard Legend of Live Award for his final ‘The Cowboy Rides Away’ tour. Jason Aldean confirmed country music fans are ready to rock by selling out Madison Square Garden in less than 10 minutes.
Taking their entertainment beyond the stage, Blake Shelton and Keith Urban helped country music stay relatable in the homes of millions as they use their musical abilities as judges on reality TV shows “The Voice” and “American Idol.” In addition, super stars Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Shania Twain reigned supreme on the Vegas strip.
Awards season always brings about buzz and ultimately takes artists from household names straight to radio waves resulting in big bucks and great opportunity for the artists and fans alike. For the genre of country music, the fans are clearly interested in who takes home the top honors. This year’s ACM Awards brought in the highest measure in viewers since 1998 while the recent CMA Music Awards drew its biggest audience in four years.
A recap of 2013 would not be complete if I did not mention the loss of George Jones. “The Voice” of country music fell silent with the passing of the iconic legend on April 26 in Nashville at the age of 81. The loss of the beloved “Possum” showed millions what a true music family looks likes when over 100 artists came together to pay tribute and celebrate his extraordinary life. “Playin’ Possum! The Final NO SHOW” was the best musical tribute country music has ever seen.
For country fans both old and new, as we listen back to the music of 2013 there is no doubt our genre has become one of diversity that will not allow labels to suppress our love for what we believe in. We can also stand strong in our music heritage proving that country music has always been about telling a story. As we look ahead to the New Year, we can be confident in knowing our favorite artists will continue to love us back by putting many miles on their tour buses, bringing us brand new sounds and keeping our community of country music strong with traditions that have been bound in a circle that will not be broken.