Country music has always been the quintessentially American genre of music. While pop and rap depict aspirational lifestyles that listeners can only imagine living themselves, country music is about real people and real ways of life. It is only natural that country singers would begin to cross over into the popular realm as the voices of true Americans.
Perhaps the most famous country singer right now is Taylor Swift. Referring to her as a country singer may seem strange given her pop success, but she is a country singer at heart. She sings about the glitz-free lives of real girls in an authentic way that speaks to women of all ages. Her sincerity is mocked by cynics, but it is that genuine quality in her persona and songwriting that helps her connect to her massive audience. She is not afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve and expose her emotions on the public stage. Her fans imagine that she is telling them true stories about her own life. Taylor’s preference for acoustic instruments and skilled way with small-scale lyrical vignettes have drawn comparisons to folk musicians throughout the ages and, oddly enough, to contemporary indie rockers like the Shins and Fleet Foxes.
Carrie Underwood is another female country singer who owns a permanent spot on the pop charts. Ever since her rise to fame as an American Idol winner, she has maintained a steady fan base and an ever-growing string of hits because she stayed true to her roots. Her most successful song, “Before He Cheats,” is a classic female revenge anthem with a rock edge to balance out her sweet twang. She continues to toe the line between traditional country music and edgier fare with grace and finesse.
Country music’s latest crossover success is the Band Perry, fronted by Kimberly Perry and backed by her musician brothers Reid and Neil. “If I Die Young” is reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s early winsomeness and brings a sweet, earnest perspective of life to radio airwaves.
Male country singers like Toby Keith and Luke Bryan embody a rugged kind of masculinity that is only rarely seen in straightforward rock music. They sing about tried and true subject matter like girls and life on the road. They have both released strings of anthems affirming their modest ways of life that, in turn, evoke pride in their fans.
Country music is sometimes thought to be unimportant because it is earnest. Country musicians strive to be liked, a notion which is anathema in circles that fancy themselves ahead of the curve. Fans of country music are more loyal than fans of any other genre because of the honest reality that is captured in country music.