Pop Country Artists Saved Country Music

By ACM Awards, AMAs, Brett Eldridge, bro country, Chris Stapleton, CMAs, country music, cruise, Dierks Bentley, Dolly Parton, Entertainer of the Year, florida georgia line, johnny cash, justin timberlake, katy perry, Kelsea Ballerini, Lee Brice, luke bryan, Male Vocalist of the Year, nelly, New Artist of the Year, Nick Jonas, Nielsen, pop country, Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett, Waylon Jennings,

With the Academy of Country Music Awards coming up on Sunday, I want to take a look at the rise of country music over the past few years. Just like everything else, country music had to evolve if it wanted to stay alive. People get up in arms about how modern, pop country has ruined their beloved genre. I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. It SAVED country.

Back in the day, I loved country music, but by the time sophomore year of high school came around, I was over it. It was all the same. I couldn’t handle the accents anymore, and I was over listening to guys complain via song.

Fast forward to freshman year of college, I slowly started listening to country music again. Why? Luke Bryan, that’s why. I realized that there was such a thing as upbeat, happy country music.

 Luke Bryan at the 45th ACM Awards. Author: Keith Hinkle, http://www.flickr.com/photos/burningkarma/4535363656/

Luke Bryan at the 45th ACM Awards. Author: Keith Hinkle, (Source: burningkarma via flickr/Wikipedia)

With the emergence of artists such as Luke Bryan, statistics show that country music started its climb in popularity. According to Nielsen, “Country is the No. 1 format radio genre in the U.S., and its audience has increased by 17% since 2006… 69.7 million listeners tune to country radio in the U.S. each week.”

2012 brought on Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise.” With over 7 million downloads in the U.S. alone, “Cruise” is the best-selling digital country song EVER.

And then came this innovative and incredible collaboration with Nelly:

Although country was changing tones before this point, many consider “Cruise” the turning point. People criticize country artists like Thomas Rhett, Brett Eldridge and Sam Hunt for being influenced by other genres like hip-hop and rock. But Lee Brice stands up for them: “Johnny Cash didn’t sound like any other country music before him, neither did Waylon Jennings! They were rock and roll!” And if Johnny Cash isn’t the biggest country icon, then I don’t know who is.

Sam Hunt takes the criticism in stride, and as far as I’m concerned, puts the debate to rest: “I think country songs are truthful songs about life written by country people, but the beats and sounds will continue to evolve.”

Hunt’s song, “Take Your Time” is nominated for “Single Record of the Year” at the ACM Awards.

The success of his songs, as well as his numerous awards, proves his point. Hunt won “New Artist of the Year” at the American Music Awards last year – in case you needed even more proof that country music is America’s favorite genre.

Pop country collaborations have been popular in past country music award shows; if you haven’t yet seen Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake’s performance at the CMAs, look it up now! From Dolly Parton and Katy Perry to Kelsea Ballerini and Nick Jonas, the upcoming ACM Awards boast some must-see collaborations.

Some of our favorite pop country artists will definitely be taking home the prize at the ACM Awards. I’m going to predict that the hosts Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley will each be taking home awards for “Entertainer of the Year” and “Male Vocalist of the Year” respectively. I also have my money on nominees Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line winning a category or two. It’s a close race for sure, with many qualified nominees; which is why I, for one, am excited to see who comes out on top!

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