“We were pioneers when country wasn’t cool”: Beyoncé, remixes and festivals mark the return of the North American sound | ICON

“We were pioneers when country wasn’t cool”: Beyoncé, remixes and festivals mark the return of the North American sound | ICON
“We were pioneers when country wasn’t cool”: Beyoncé, remixes and festivals mark the return of the North American sound | ICON

A brief metallic bikini, a bullfighter jacket and an ostentatious black cowboy hat are the aesthetic credentials that Beyoncé presents in her latest single. And no, it’s not a bluff: Queen B looks into country in a Texas Hold’em which, with its 118 million views on Spotify confirms that country is coming back strong.

With the urban sounds of Latin origin reaching their maturity as the sound of the moment of the last decade, hip hop in a perennial state of grace and the pop-rock of a lifetime settled in a discreet background from which it does not seem that it will emerge very soon, there are few candidates left to be the fashionable musical trend in the coming months. If we pay attention to what happens on Instagram (and, to a lesser extent, on Tiktok), the Country seems to be the new old sound enjoying a second youth, in which faces and demographics not usually associated with the canon of this sound make the difference.

Thus, if it is true that Beyoncé has been slow to pay tribute to her roots, it is no less true that her career is full of aesthetic nods to culture. cowboy. Other distinguished African-American style references such as Pharrell Williams, who gave a bath of North American roots to Lois Vuitton’s fall-winter 2024 collection or Dapper Dan, who filled his collaboration with Gap with country details, in which denim was the king. The inclusion of unusual faces and demographics in the country tradition has been a constant in almost everything that has resonated globally within this genre. At the end of 2018, rapper Lil Nas old town roadwho took a sampler instrumental by Nine Inch Nails to build a song finished off by a video clip in which the artist wore a whole series of costumes. cowboyboth on horseback and in a ballroom.

Country singer Brandi Carlile in 2007.NBC (NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Lil Nas The song ended up being a huge hit that garnered awards and launched her career. Less viral was the success of Orville Peck, mysterious crooner Canadian who takes the stage elegantly dressed as a fantasy cowboy and with his face covered by a mask like that of the Lone Ranger with fringes. South African Daniel Pitout, drummer of the punk group Nü Sensae, is the one who hides under the mask of the celebrated gay cowboy, whose debut album ponyloaded with tributes to Waylon Jennings or Tammy Wynette, was one of the sensations indies 2019. And although during this century success has been the constant for a large group of country female artists led by the openly lesbian Brandi Carlile, names like Sierra Ferrell, Nikki Lane or Whitney Rose have been able to add that sensitivity indie that perhaps was missing from the genre.

“I would compare what is happening now with country with what has happened here in recent years, in which flamenco has been integrated into broader music trends. Now, in America, you see punk artists wearing cowboy hats. It is a return to one’s roots,” says Marta García, booker agent of Heart of Gold, the Spanish promoter most committed to programming country and Americana artists in our country and promoters of the Huercasa Country Festival in Riaza, the main Spanish event for this musical genre. García maintains that, despite the fact that country and Americana continue to be niches in our country, there is greater interest from younger audiences. “Artists like Nikki Lake or Sierra Ferrell attract a much younger than average audience,” he says.

Uniting audiences with a country pedigree with others who perhaps had never thought that the genre had space for them has been the obsession since 2007 of David Wrangler, head of Vinyl Ranch, the creative space that has set out (and is managing) to transform the image of the country. country in the 21st century. “My brand sells an alternative perspective on music country, something like a Supreme meets Wrangler, a twist warholian in the remix of the most American iconography of the cowboy in the Wild West that is the Internet,” says the creative director of a concept that, after three decades, has established itself as a reference in that new sensitivity of American roots.

Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X at a festival in California in 2019.Matt Winkelmeyer (Getty Images for Stagecoach)

David Wrangler created Vinyl Ranch in 2007 in Houston, Texas, ground zero for urban cowboy culture in the late 1970s. It is this figure, that of urban cowboy, which has obsessed him since its beginnings. Perhaps also the key to the success of a brand that does not stop growing. Raised in a family of musicians, a young Wrangler cut his teeth as a DJ in gay bars and clubs. rave in the early 2000s before giving birth to the Vinyl Ranch brand. “On a red-eye flight from Tulsa to Houston I met the cowboy “original urbane, Mickey Gilley, of the famous Gilley’s nightclub, who gave his personal blessing to my vision.”

This experience served as the starting signal for a brand that includes parties, remixes, a clothing brand and a vital philosophy that lives mainly on social networks through memes and communication codes with one foot in the country tradition and another in internet culture. “I can say with complete certainty that we have redefined and readjusted the norms of music culture country, giving rise to the birth and normalization of new subcultures in music, fashion and thought. “It’s amazing to see how some of the biggest names in pop culture copy, borrow or steal things we’ve created,” says David Wrangler.

The truth is that his alter ego at the mixing desk, Disko Cowboy, has achieved with his unprejudiced mix of classics of the country and club culture attract a novelty-hungry public without the music fan two-step He was scared all his life. His latest release, a version of That don’t impress me much by Shania Twain alongside French Horn Rebellion and Kaitlin Butts, is the perfect summary of their proposal. You only need to go through the Instagram and Tiktok accounts of specialized festivals such as Stagecoach or Gulf Coast Jam, which offer an experience closer to the mecca of posturing that is Coachella than to the solemnity expected of an event where traditional music plays.

Orville Peck during a performance in Seattle in 2019.Jim Bennett (Getty Images)

“I grew up going to dance halls and music clubs country in Texas, and the DJ always knew that he had to serve all the audiences in the room without leaving the music aside country. You could hear the latest Alan Jackson single, a popular rap song and maybe the Electric Slide or a country remix at the same time and the dance floor wouldn’t empty,” Wrangler recalls. This is why, he believes, some festivals currently reflect this spirit in their programming “with a lineup focused on a mix of contemporary popular country, classic performances, new promises of the indie, fusion artists and DJs.”

Wrangler assures that country is in a moment of change that is conducive to its growth. “On the one hand there is Nashville, and then everything else. The country music generated from there is like a Colgate or Nabisco product: designed to look and sound good, but perhaps lacking in authenticity, artistry or substance,” he says. It seems, he concludes, “that a large section of fans are rebelling against the industry and choosing to spend their money on artists like Zach Bryan and Tyler Childers, who have no hits on pop radio. countrybut rather they are based on controlling their own narrative and creating grassroots followers.”

David Wrangler responds to this interview as he finalizes the details of the acquisition of his first nightclub. This energetic Texan is so convinced of his vision that it ends up being surprisingly contagious. “If you just got to country in 2024,” he notes, “you might not realize that the merchandising of its artists was not very avant-garde or exciting until we got to work. The same goes for digital content: our country memes are everywhere,” she assures. And she proudly concludes with what is for him the jewel in the crown of Vinyl Ranch: the experiences. “The parties and musical events we produce are born from the spirit of the culture rave and the punk attitude. A big record label doesn’t have people on staff who can replicate that spirit, but they can surely copy it. Every time I look at my phone there is a new country party thrown by a giant like Live Nation or another promoter who wants to cash in on a trend we pioneered when country wasn’t cool.”

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