Before radio formats were invented every song on the radio was a crossover. Long before country music emerged as a full time "format," country music and its artists were charting and thus 'crossing over.'
Hank Snow's "I'm Moving On" was in the Billboard "Top 40" chart in the top ten for 44 weeks and held onto the #1 slot for 21 weeks in 1950.
Historically, when country music gets airplay on other formats (thank you, Taylor, Lady Antebellum and all of the others who count themselves among the hundreds of country acts who have achieved crossover success over the history of recorded music) that improves our image and bodes well for the overall growth of the genre and country radio's format ratings/rank.
When country radio starts looking outside its traditional boundaries for new music from other formats, is that a sign of desperate times or just another turn of the wheel of pop culture?
For example, Train, just back from a tour of Australia and Asia, has watched their hit from last year "Hey Soul Sister," move from AAA to Top 40 to Hot AC to Rhythmic to AC, even Adult Hits and this morning it hits #57 on the BDS Real Time COUNTRY chart with BNA's release of a country mix.
To add to the multi-formatic irony, this happened just as they learned that the song is up for a Teen Choice Award as "Best Rock Track."
So, what format IS it? Does it matter?
I started this post with the Hank Snow factoid to place all of this into context. Music has always crossed boundaries and its power to mash cultures and bring people together has been well-documented.
One of CMT's most popular and enduring benchmarks is Crossroads as country fans relish the magic that emerges as stars jam together, playing one another's songs.
Uncle Kracker seems to visit our playlists every year or so, receiving a warm research welcome, as some of country's most "country" current songs come from performers from other formats, who for all appearances came to country for the sheer love of their roots, like Darius Rucker (also up for a Teen Choice prize), Jewel (who finds herself on both NPR and working country radio at the same time) and LeAnn Rimes (I'll save a riff on the pro's and con's of cover tunes for another day).
Broadway star Laura Bell Bundy certainly doesn't need to prove anything by going country, yet here she is.
Adding to the goulash, with - it seems - the mission of defying categorization, counting on talent to win out: Gretchen Wilson, John Rich, Colt Ford, Brantley Gilbert and many others who seem to agree that what we need is a little more fun, edge and variety in our lives.
Bring 'em on. Forget about labels. If the people who listen to country radio love them, that's country enough for me.
May the best songs win!
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