Country music is changing in just about every way. A more pop-friendly sound, sold out stadium tours, and a fresh batch of new talent is challenging tradition and moving the genre to new heights. Don't panic; the classic country style is still alive and well.
During the singing competition craze of the early 2000s, NBC developed a show for its cable channel USA to capitalize on the success of shows like American Idol. Nashville Star ran from 2003-2008, and had a bit of a kick to it; performers were limited to country music. Stars like Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves came just short of being crowned the winner of the competition, but season four winner Chris Young has built on his victory back in 2006 to become a rising star in the world of country music
Chris Young headlines a show at the Corn Crib in Normal this Friday, and has spent the better part of 2016 touring in support of his album “I’m Coming Over”, which released last year. Young, a native of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was born into a musically inclined family. His grandfather, Richard Yates, was a performer on the Louisiana Hayride, a radio program, later turned television show, that ran from 1948 to 1960, and helped launch the careers of musicians like Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, and George Jones. Young’s grandfather must have had a big influence on him, because in a genre being overtaken by what many refer to as “Arena Country”, Young stands out as a young voice carrying on the sound of country’s golden years.
This is the title track to Chris Young’s 2015 album I’m Coming Over, and the biggest hit the country songwriter has had in his career. Hitting #1 in both the US and Canada, Young appears to be on the rise, even a decade after entering the country music scene. There’s an incredible balance in Young’s songwriting and singing that both honors the country music of yesterday and feels modern. Tours with Brad Paisley and Jason Aldean helped increase his exposure to the highly inclusive world of country music, and even a high profile feature on his latest album from Vince Gill.
Joining Chris Young at the Corn Crib this Friday is another country music star who is familiar with reality singing competitions. Cassadee Pope was the season three winner of the Voice and the first female to do so. Country music became her focus after her relatively popular alternative band Hey Monday broke up. Her latest EP was released early this summer and is entitled, fittingly so, Summer. She joined Chris Young on his latest album for a duet entitled Think of You.
For a music genre so riddled in cultural roots and musical traditions, it’s a bit surprising that two of country music’s fast rising talents came to the spotlight in such modern ways. Country music is a huge market, and according to Billboard, is the third most profitable genre of music behind rock and hip hop. Country music’s longevity has been secured by an incredible attention to the artists that came before today’s hit-makers. Country music’s future is dependent, however, on making sure the past isn’t too prevalent in the present. Rock star status has been achieved by the likes of Luke Bryan and Eric Church, but Chris Young and Cassadee Pope aren’t out to become arena staples.
American Idol isn’t on television anymore, and reality TV is more concerned with following celebrities than is making them, but Chris Young is a product of time when America’s obsession with singing completions meant if you were talented and entertaining, you could win over millions of fans in a matter of months. Chris Young has that kind of talent, and he’ll bring it to the Corn Crib in Normal this Friday alongside Cassadee Pope.