Soundcloud Rappers are creating emo, pop acts are making hip-hop, and now rappers are making country. The Golden Age of genre blending has arrived. Lil Nas X country-trap hit ‘Old Country Road‘ climbing the Billboard Hot 100 will be the big story of 2019. Nobody could guess that an Atlanta based rapper would be the talk of the town in Nashville. We could see more of this since digital streaming has created its own industry outside radio.
Many artists won’t even label themselves. Anthony Fondale, the keytarist from the up & coming act Recess says, “I’m not sure what we are. Some consider us alternative rock. Others label us EDM infused pop. Heck, Pop Crave said we merge rock & classical music.”
Popular country act Florida Georgia Line takes a similar stance. “If you’re trying to put things in a box or a genre, you’re kind of wasting your time,” Tyler Hubbard said in a Billboard interview. “If you like the song, play the song, if you don’t then don’t.” FGL Brian Kelley further states, “If we sit here and try to figure out if it’s country or not, we miss the point of it being a great song. I mean that as respectfully as possible,” he says. “I love the song. I don’t think the question is whether it’s country or not; it could probably fit in there. I don’t have a problem with that at all.”
R&B artist Khalid told Billboard “I’m coming in from outside the genre,” he said. “I really do enjoy the song. I’m a big fan of fusion of genres, crossover, of hip-hop and country because I feel like that’s something I do as well.”
Of course the king of genre blending is Ed Sheeran. He mixes pop and country with an occasional touch of hip-hop. As the lines blur between genres it will the make the job for a marketer more challenging. In fact, marketers like genres and distinct boundaries because it’s easier to target an audience. Occasionally, an artist like Lil Nas X defies the boundaries of genres and the sky is the limit.
Apple Music has surpassed Spotify in paid subscribers. That’s hard to believe because Spotify has been the king of streaming music. But according to the Wall Street Journal, Apple Music has 28 million paid subscribers while Spotify has only 26 million. Spotify still has more subscribers than Apple that comes with their free service. While Spotify and Apple are battling it out, both are trying to lure new subscribers.
Apple Music rise to dominance also follows the extreme backlash towards Spotify’s songwriters royalty rate. Music mogul Irving Azoff said, “Apple understands they’re in the artist business. Clearly, Google, Pandora, Spotify and Amazon don’t.”
Singer-songwriter, Leandro, has just released the track Talk as well as the video. Drawing influences from Bastille, The 1975, and Coldplay, the latest song follows his previous impressive pop tunes Hey Now and Bad For You. Leandro tells Kings, “The video was super fun to make because of the white room. It allowed myself to really create my own space.” While releasing a video for each track, the indie pop artist has self directed nearly all of his videos. Check it out.
Lil Nas X ‘Old Town Road’ will certainly go down as one of the most memorable marketing campaigns. The rappers song was removed from the Billboard Country Charts last week because it wasn’t country enough. Although it references country lyrics, it’s a hip hop song. “Christian radio won’t jump on heavy metal act Slipknot because they reference GOD in a lyric” says an industry insider.
Regardless, this was a genius marketing strategy. The track was released by Columbia, which labeled the song as a “country-inspired rap track”. The track shot up the Apple Music country chart and it was tagged as country on Soundcloud. It simply didn’t make sense and Billboard didn’t know what do with situation, so they pulled the song. Billboard noted, “while Old Town Road incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version”.
Lil Nas X says the song had a right to be placed there. “The song is country trap. It’s not one, it’s not the other. It’s both. It should be on both. I believe whenever you’re trying something new, it’s always going to get some kind of bad reception.”
Although Old Town Road may not be added to the country charts anytime soon, it doesn’t matter. The track is benefiting from non-stop press coverage.
Cara Hart, an LA-based singer-songwriter from Barcelona just released her debut pop track Breaking Habits. It’s not groundbreaking but still fun and playful with a hooky chorus. Cara says, “Breaking Habits’ is a tribute to that moment where you can see a situation in hindsight and it’s all 20/20. Obviously, in this case, it’s about a boy, but it’s also a song about all the cycles we get trapped in because of our own bad habits… and sometimes our bad habits can be the people we let in that might not be good for us.” Give it a stream!