Country has drifted a little more mainstream with its laid-back, all-purpose persona, but the mainstream has drifted Nashville's way as well. While it doesn't help to have certain wide receivers showing up to shows in Philadelphia and dropping N-bombs, country music is creating the inclusive, middle-of-the-road environment that country rockers like Linda Rondstadt, The Eagles, The Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival and even the Grateful Dead used to inhabit generations ago. It may have spawned punk and disco as folks tired of the homogeny, but hip-hop and electronic dance music exist as similar counterweights today.
There is always going to be a need for a soft, doughy, non-sugary middle in U.S. music. Country still has some of its rougher edges, but those huge Chesney and Aldean audiences are flocking to shows for their big-party inclusiveness, not for backwards division. If Taylor Swift can still be considered "country" in some circles after sharing a stage with Carly Simon, Tegan and Sara, Jennifer Lopez, Ellie Goulding, Nelly, Sara Bareilles, B.o.B, and train -- and counting Alicia Keys, Kesha, Katy Perry, Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna, Garbage's Shirley Manson and Lena Dunham among her fans -- it's a testament to how far both country and U.S. audiences have come.
That they've traveled that distance to embrace should only make us more optimistic about where we're headed as fans and as a country.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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