Thursday, October 16, 2014

Listen :: Country vs. Pop / What's the Difference? (Guest Post)

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A friend of mine is a hater of country music. I mean, absolute hater. Hates being in bars where country might play and will go on and on about how country music is no different from pop, except in some instrumentation...seems to hate it based on its lack of originality. So that got me thinking...what IS the difference between country and pop?

Well, we can start with Wikipedia, where we all start our research and see the definitions : country music vs. pop music. Wiki pretty much sums it up by classifying country music as a form of pop music. But what about what I think?

Take, for instance, Taylor Swift:

Even from the beginning, with "Tim McGraw," she was still labeled "pop country" and certainly through her evolution to songs like "22," she feels very much more pop and dance than country. Even including a banjo in "Mean," doesn't make it feel quite as country as say, Kacey Musgraves.

Nevertheless, both ladies are played on country music stations and Taylor continues to win awards within the country music industry. In fact, over time, plenty of "pop" artists have crossed over into country or vice versa, I'm thinking about Darius Rucker and Ray Charles, but I'm sure there are other examples as well.

So what is the difference?

For me, I would argue a feel. Taylor's latest album, "RED", comes just before Kacey Musgrave's album in my car. One will switch into the other, and I can feel a difference. Some of that is Taylor's using different producers and instrumentation to make some of her songs feel more like rock or dance pop. Some of that is Musgrave's voice, so mellow and cool. But there is a feel for me.

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To me, country music centers around a good story. (And Taylor has that one down.) Some of the stories are sad, but they have a lot of things in common, like a setting (the actual country!), or the ideals (lots of tradition), or their general leaning toward God or America. A really great country song, in my mind, has a clear beginning, middle, and end to the story. It's got a better structure than a lot of pop, with a verse and a chorus and probably a bridge, instead of a verse and a half and a chorus repeatedly, seemingly endlessly, 'til the end. There is the instrumentation too : a harmonica, steel guitar, banjo, or a fiddle will enhance the feel of a country song. To me, a country song could be played acoustically without losing the feeling of the song. All of these things help me categorize country beyond a distinction in radio stations and billboard charts.

But that's just me, and I love all music. What do you think distinguishes country from pop...or is there no difference nowadays?

Fenna Blue is a NEOhio native. She's an avid geocacher and photographer. Her favorite pastimes are snuggling with her fluffy kitties and cussing like a sailor! She writes for her personal blog, The Honest Badger, and TV review blog, Gotta Watch It.

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