While country music has been going through a sort of identity crisis in recent years, there are a few acts that are helping re-focus or re-define the genre, to help take country into the next generation. Sometimes these “movers and shakers” are impacting country mucis by their crossover appeal, occasionally blending elements of pop and rock into the mix (if you’ve read me at all, you know I’m a “purist” and have mixed feelings about this trend, but it exists nonetheless). Others on this list are simply innovative, or forward-thinking, in their approach.
No doubt everyone has their opinion of who the real “movers and shakers” are in country; this is my opinion alone. If you have a different opinion, feel free to rag on my picks in the comments. I can handle it.
Ready? Here they are:
5. Luke Bryan
The “dark horse” on this list, Luke Bryan has essentially had only one hit so far—but what a hit it is. “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” is one of the catchiest tunes to hit the country charts in years, imho. For me, Bryan represents the next generation of Toby Keith-esque “party country,” and if this single is any indication, he’ll have a huge crossover appeal in the days to come.
4. Taylor Swift
I was conflicted putting Taylor Swift on the list, for two reasons: a) everyone’s tired of hearing about her; and b) I wondered whether Carrie Underwood would be a better choice. No doubt it’s close, but the fact is, Taylor has accomplished a huge amount given her age. Not only is she a gifted songwriter (despite her penchant for targeting her exes in her songs), but she reportedly designs and creates her own live shows. She knows how she wants things to look and she knows how to get people moving in that direction (a sign of a leader). She’s also one of the youngest country superstars ever, and she’s just getting started. For those reasons, Taylor Swift just can’t NOT be on the list. She is destined to be a country legend.
3. Blake Shelton/Miranda Lambert (tie)
Right now, this married couple has “country sweetheart” status, and both are equally popular. I put them as a “tie,” but really they are on the list as a team. I don’t know if either could be a mover/shaker on their own, but together they are definitely shaping the direction of country, for different reasons—Lambert, with her split sweet girl/bad girl persona, and Shelton, with his wry sense of humor and his role as a coach to up-and-coming artists on The Voice.
2. Reba McEntire
Reba’s already a legend, and certainly the oldest person on this list (which she probably wouldn’t appreciate my saying)—but she’s still a mover and shaker, not just for her overall musical contributions to country, but for being a forward thinker where country is concerned. Many country up-and-comers cite Reba as an influence, and she has also been influential in bringing up others after her. She’s also considered by many to be a spokesperson for country music in general. She’s on this list primarily because of her continuing influence on the genre.
1. The Band Perry
I wrote a whole article about this band of siblings not too long ago, but I put The Band Perry at the top of the “movers and shakers” list because in my view, their sound truly represents the future of country music. They are young, they are vibrant, and they are country, all at the same time. Along with others like Taylor Swift, they are making country “young” again.