The recent ACM awards were a virtual who’s who of young country. Stars like Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift were front and center for the night’s festivities. Though traditional country music is still alive and well, the night was owned by country-pop crossover star, Taylor Swift.
Taylor has sold millions of albums, won countless accolades, single handedly changed the face of fan interaction via social media and has been named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. At twenty one years of age, Taylor has achieved every dream she’s ever had. Most impressively, she has made the cross over to mainstream radio few artists have been able to successfully navigate.
Where is the downside to crossover success, you ask? Overexposure of an artist due to cross over success can prove to be harmful in the span of an artist’s career. Remember the huge crossover hits from Shania Twain during the late 90’s? How about the smash crossover single Breathe from Faith Hill? You could not turn on a radio station without hearing their songs…and after a few months of the same songs over and over, I can’t take it anymore! Both artists experienced the inevitable backlash from traditional country music fans who felt the stars had abandoned their genre for the greener pastures of mainstream success. Shania tried placating her fans when she released a “pop” version and a “country” version of her album Up. This attempt to appease both sets of fans was not met kindly by the country music community.
Taylor Swift has felt the sting of criticism for her sometimes pop-tinged singles. If an artist wishes to retain their country fans after crossover success, they need to stay true to their country roots. Country music has the most loyal fans of any genre and though crossover success will come and go, the core country fan base cannot be forgotten. Faith Hill proved her loyalty to fans with her comeback hit Mississippi Girl, a song penned to show the “down-home” side of the singer.
Taylor Swift’s undeniable success seems eerily reminiscent of a certain star who dominated the 90’s. Garth Brooks dominated the air waves and bolstered country music into something “cool” for fans of all genres of music. Garth’s sound was not traditional country but he won over traditional fans by continually honoring the legacy of those who sang before him and letting his fans know they were what mattered most.
If Taylor can ride out the criticism, she has an opportunity to emulate the trail Garth blazed. Garth’s crossover success stood the test of time (as long as we forget the horrible Chris Gaines stint). Taylor can be a triumphant crossover sensation in the realm of country and pop if she stays true to what truly garnered her worldwide success-the loyalty and passion of her country fans.