Pop music does the two-step
Musical artists making genre switches is not something new- Katy Perry, the once Christian church singer debuted a pop career with “I Kissed a Girl,” Kanye West went from intense rap to synthed-up music on “The Life of Pablo,” and Taylor Swift has gone from a successful country career to a bubbly pop persona to a darker, sharper side of the pop spectrum as of recently. More noticeable, however, has been some of the biggest names in pop music recently foraying into country. From Beyoncé to Miley Cyrus to Kesha to Lady Gaga, country elements have been making their way into the pop stars’ newest releases.
Kesha’s newest album, “Rainbow,” her first release since her sexual assault legal battle, starts off with a country ballad entitled “Bastards” and later features collaborations with Dolly Parton and the Memphis-based Dap-Kings band. For Kesha, the country twang of “Rainbow” comes across as an empowering expression of tough femininity and resilience, inspired by her recent tumultuous experiences with her record label in court.
Once an outrageously costumed performer, Lady Gaga has toned down her eccentricity to explore a rawer side of herself on her 2016 album “Joanne,” named after her late aunt. Despite its difference from Gaga’s usual pop-rock style, the album still reached number one on the charts and was a commercial success. The album’s themes of family and life’s struggles lends itself to a more stripped-down folk-like style. While Gaga’s extensive career has had its extremes (i.e. wearing a dress constructed entirely of raw meat for the 2010 VMAs), her recent foray into less-flashy country-inspired music has made her millions of fans and the music industry fully realize her undeniable talent, no longer distracted by wigs and an avant garde persona.
Like Kesha, former Disney star Cyrus has recently taken inspiration from Parton who is also her godmother. After a few years of hip-hop and alternative music post-Disney, which resulted in two studio albums and one Grammy nomination, Cyrus has followed in her father’s, Billy Ray Cyrus, footsteps and begun a career in country music which, based on her previous fame, is more than likely to be successful. Her upcoming album, “Younger Now,” has already been supported by multiple country-inspired performances, with the Tennessee native making an effort to reconnect with her roots and leave her wild, but critically-acclaimed, years behind.
Former Destiny’s Child singer and 18-time Grammy winner Beyoncé, who was born and raised in Houston, Texas, released her first country song, “Daddy Lessons,” on her 2016 Grammy-winner “Lemonade” to widespread approval from her fans. Following a performance with country trio the Dixie Chicks at the Country Music Awards, however, conservative country fans were upset at Beyoncé’s breakthrough into a new genre. The controversy did not stop Beyoncé from releasing a studio version of the song featuring the Dixie Chicks vocals, which was chosen by NPR as one of the Best Remixes of 2016.
The cross-genre territory many pop artists seem to be experimenting in can be seen as a new era for pop music. In the past decades, rap, electronic, and hip-hop elements have become accepted in the pop industry, usually led by the biggest artists of the time. With household names such as Beyoncé and Lady Gaga taking the initiative to bring pop-country to the radio, the next big thing in music could just be beginning.
Photo courtesy of People.com