What's Behind Our Return To Country Music?

With Lana Del Rey and Beyoncé leading the charge, mainstream artists are turning to country music. Why?


In Western North Carolina in the late 90s, you were just as likely to hear Tim McGraw’s anti-cancer ballad “Don’t Take the Girl” as you were Martina McBride’s fiery “Independence Day,” a narrative ode to burning down an abuser’s house. Let me state the obvious: times were different. The political climate was probably less fraught, but then again, I was seven years old, riding either in an angle-less sedan straight out of the X-Files or a bouncy white Ford Ranger. What mattered was not moral righteousness or political correctness but extracting maximum pathos from any given piece of art — turn the vibes up to eleven and swoon.

If my taste in art has changed dramatically, the embarrassing truth is that my litmus test really hasn’t. I want to be swept off my feet, momentarily humbled and unable to intellectualize. At 12, “Red Rag Top” revealed the saddest epiphanies life had to offer; at 34, I am more apt to cry to Gillian Welch’s “Revelator” or, on an especially sentimental day, The Louvin Brothers’ “What is Home Without Love.” This is to say: trends change, and so do we. Life shapes us like a river carves up a canyon.

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