By Bryan Curtis
hollywoodnews.com: Gwyneth Paltrow, the star of Country Strong, isn’t the only outsider invading the opry. Bryan Curtis on how Darius Rucker, Kid Rock, and Jewel conquered country.
What happened to country music? Well, first, you have to understand what happened to rock. Rock has been largely crowded out of Top 40 stations, replaced by hip-hop and rap. This leaves a gaggle of highly paid rockers with no place to hawk their music. They’re never going to take airtime away from Kanye West. But they might take it away from Keith Urban—especially if they are, say, Jon Bon Jovi, who recorded a No. 1 country hit with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and occupies Urban’s anthemic part of the music spectrum. Country is now seen as the genre that honors such a sound. Indeed, most country arrivistes insist they never left rock; it was rock that left them. As Jewel put it to The Los Angeles Times, “I don’t feel like I’ve changed, the formats have changed.”
If rockers were moving toward country, then country was also moving toward rock. The seminal event cited is usually the noisy late-1980s arrival of Garth Brooks, who mimicked rock’s grandiosity as he winged over the crowd at his stadium shows. “But go back and listen to Garth Brooks’ No Fences album,” says Kyle Coroneos, the excellent critic at the website Saving Country Music. “I don’t think that would be played on country radio these days. It’s too plain. It’s too country.” Indeed, genre-straddling acts like Taylor Swift, Sugarland, and Lady Antebellum have pulled country’s center of gravity further toward rock. “Once, Taylor Swift was the most non-country thing you could hear on country radio,” adds Coroneos. “Nowadays, she is the median.” It’s hardly a surprise that when Kid Rock enters the arena, nobody raises much of an objection.
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