"Once is chance, twice is coincidence, and three times is a trend," the old proverb goes. Following this rule, it would be hard to deny that pop music has strapped on its cowboy boots and begun yelping "Yee-haw!" over grimy, clubhouse beats. Beyoncé led the charge first with "Daddy Lessons" and Britney soon followed with her dubstep-meets-country track "Clumsy". When Lady Gaga premiered not one, but three country tracks last week, it became impossible to roll our eyes and skip on to the next song any longer. Yes, we are just as perplexed as you. But if 2016 has proven anything, it's that anything is possible. Reality stars can become presidential candidates and country-tinged pop music can be played in New York gay clubs to a receiving chorus of "YASSS!"
How did we get here? Country is a notoriously decisive genre. You either hate it or love it. Other genres, like folk, house music, and rock, have criss-crossed in and out of pop music. Heck, talking about the almost symbiotic relationship between rap and pop would require hours. But country has always been something that has existed in its own bubble. And before you open your mouth, yes, Taylor Swift first gained notoriety for her country music. But it wasn't too long after the Grammys and magazine covers came pouring in that she two-stepped over to pop. Think about it: when was the last time we've seen her playing a guitar? There have been country singers who have had crossover hits, like Carrie Underwood with her song "Next Time He Cheats", but those moments are rare shooting stars rather than constant fixtures in the pop constellation.
But now you can find western-themed songs like Rihanna's "Desperado" playing on the radio.
One possible explanation is the major down-to-earth vibes country gives off. Pop has been going through a major minimalist phase, outlandish costumes and high-production bangers no longer en vogue. Now, pop stars are working overtime to serve the public a stripped down look, attempting to present a rare sliver of authenticity to a social media-addicted society. Now, meat dresses and cotton-candy colored wigs are perceived as diversions and surprise midnight releases are perceived as authentic.
And what's more down-to-earth than country? The genre heavily employs a number of the requirements for a bonafide pop hit: strong storytelling, killer melody, and ruminating over a broken heart. Right now, artists are all about destroying the outdated conventions of what can and can not exist in pop, and genre-hopping is one major method of this. Gaga talked to People about wanting to bring people from all genres together with her music, saying, "When I wrote this record I wanted for my fans and the people that weren't to be friends. Somebody that loves that kind of music thinks, 'I would never get along with that person. I wouldn't be cool with that person. I don't hang with people that like country music…' I just put it all together in her [Joanne's] spirit hoping that it would bring people together."
Reception to Gaga's country-ballad "A Million Reasons" has not been entirely welcoming (note: our not-so-kind review). And when Britney released "Clumsy" as a preview track to her album, it remained just that: a preview, instead of getting promoted to "second single" status. The country trend might not reach the insane, absolutely everywhere level that dance music did in 2012… or pop stars could keep shoving it down our throats until we send them to number one. But we'll hold out on calling this a successful trend until Taylor Swift picks up her guitar again.