Quick, think of a country song. Maybe it’s Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson or Dolly Parton. Or maybe it’s something Morgan Wallen or Luke Combs. Over the years, country music has evolved from “bluegrass” to “honky-tonk” into a modernized genre that brings in the influences of country and, well, everything in between.
Though still popular, country music struggles in its battles for the music charts, competing with today’s hottest pop and rap beats. But conversely, that’s exactly what some country artists do to stand out a little more in the country genre: they use influences from other musical styles.
Country music has a reputation for being oriented toward conservative values, and there have been several scandals involving country singers exposed for their racism and conservative political views.
Orville Peck changed that narrative. The openly gay singer introduced country-influenced music to the queer community and brought greater visibility among queer country music fans.
Peck is known for both his fringe mask that protects his face and for giving queer people a visible place in the country music business. He has a background in drums and his music reflects that punk-influenced tone.
In a interview with NPR, Peck said he chose to write country music because “it’s the kind of storytelling”. He likes the vulnerability he can have through music, and his mask allows it too. For him, country music is After than “straight white men singing on trucks” but rather, telling raw stories.
His song “death of nightbecame very popular when it was used in the second season of “Euphoria”. The track has rock and classical influences but with a western, country tone and a lyrical component. It’s all obvious as Peck sung“Stark, hollow city, Carson city lights/Baby, let’s get high/Spend a Johnny’s money, take another ride.”
Kacey Musgraves is another artist changing country music. The six-time Grammy winner is one of country’s biggest stars today. She’s gotten a little more pop now, but her music still has roots in the country music genre, even in her most famous album.”golden hour.” She writes about her life, her relationships and her breakups.
One of Musgraves’ first singles, “follow your arrow” is a great example of how Musgraves made a impact in country music. The song alludes to marriage, divorce, mental health, gay relationships and drugs, all the things away from the truck, the beer and the pride of country that many people associate with this gender.
The song received praise from many, but it was banned on multiple country music stations, proving how pioneering artists truly are in the country music genre.
Musgraves doesn’t identify as queer, but she’s been an ally for years and has songs that the LGBTQ+ community considers anthems of pride. For her, country music is not political or limited to the heteronormative, white, southern stereotype.
Musgraves Told People Magazine that “one of the greatest compliments…I’ve ever received in my career was a gay country fan who said, ‘You know what, you made me feel like I was finally invited at a party that I was never invited to. “”Musgraves continues to fight for the LGBTQ+ community in media — and in life — through his music and his platform.
While the country genre has always been influenced by black music pioneers, the genre’s conservative turn has also made it whiter, but artists like Jimmie Allen are changing that today.
After debuting on American Idol, Allen won New Male Artist of the Year in 2021. He also spoke about racism in the industry: when Wallen got into a scandal after a video of him using a racial slur went viral, Allen said he discussed the incident with Wallen and his own personal issues.
The “Best Shot” singer preaches accountability and representation in the country music genre. The Unreleased Song”untitled songwas teased on Allen’s Instagram and talks about his struggle with mental illness.
He wants his fans and people to know that everyone is struggling and sent a message to his fans in the caption of his post: “You are not alone and it’s okay to say you are not going good”.
Although he hasn’t done any other country music so far, Lil Nas X is also another black and queer artist who got his big break in the country-rap hit “Old Town Road,” which started many of controversial on its classification as a country song upon release.
Country music isn’t all about dirt roads and spiked boots. That’s partly the case, but it’s not a bad thing to love country music. Whether or not you like this genre of music, it’s always nice to see the genre adapting to a more inclusive audience.