Contemporary Country Music: What Is It?

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Contemporary country music is a blend of traditional country music and modern pop music. It’s a popular genre that has produced some of the biggest hits in recent years. If you’re a fan of contemporary country music, or if you’re curious about what it is, read on to learn more.

Defining Contemporary Country Music

While the genre of country music has always been about stories of heartache, loss, and redemption, contemporary country music has shifted its focus in recent years. So, what is contemporary country music? Contemporary country music is a subgenre of country music that includes music made after the 1970s.

The influence of pop music

The line between country and pop music has always been blurred, but in recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to tell the two genres apart. This is due in part to the fact that country artists have been borrowing heavily from pop music in order to stay relevant and appeal to a wider audience. The result is a sound that is more homogenized than ever before, and it has led some critics to argue that contemporary country music is simply pop music with a twang.

Despite these criticisms, there are still some defining elements that make contemporary countrymusic distinct from other genres. For one, most contemporary country songs are still rooted in traditional country themes such as love, heartbreak, and friendship. In addition, many contemporary country artists continue to sing about their attachment to small-town life and the importance of family and community. These themes may be delivered in a more polished and pop-friendly package than in the past, but they still resonate with many listeners who appreciate the values represented in the lyrics.

The influence of rock music

Since the late 1990s, country music has been infused with elements of rock music, resulting in a more contemporary sound. This rock influence can be heard in the way electric guitars are played, as well as in the overall production values of contemporary country songs. As a result of this rock influence, contemporary country music is sometimes referred to as “country-rock” or “country-pop.”

The influence of other genres

Other genres have also had a significant influence on contemporary country music. Rock music, in particular, has been a major influence, as can be heard in the work of artists like Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, and Keith Urban. Contemporary country music has also been influenced by pop music, hip hop, and even electronic dance music.

Themes in Contemporary Country Music

Although country music has always been about heartbreak, loss, and pain, contemporary country music has taken on a different sound in recent years. Instead of focusing on the sadder aspects of life, contemporary country music often celebrates the good times and the simple pleasures in life. This change in focus has led to some interesting and unique themes in contemporary country music.

Love stories

A hallmark of contemporary country music is the focus on love stories. In contrast to earlier forms of country music, which often told stories of hardships and struggles, contemporary artists frequently sing about the joys and challenges of relationships. While some love songs are lighthearted and fun, others explore more serious topics such as heartbreak and betrayal.

Small-town life

One of the most commonly recurring themes in contemporary country music is small-town life. This theme is often explored in songs that celebrate the simplicity of living in a close-knit community, where everyone knows each other and looks out for one another. Small-town songs often paint a picture of a place where people are friendly and welcoming, and where life moves at a slower, more relaxed pace. These songs often evoke feelings of nostalgia and longing for a simpler time.

The working class

Contemporary country music often paints a picture of the working class. Themes of hard work, blue-collar jobs, and the day-to-day struggles of life are common. This relatability is one of the reasons contemporary country music is so popular. People see themselves in the songs and can connect with the artists.

Life on the road

In contrast to the classic country songs about life on the road, which tend to focus on the toughness and drudgery of life away from home, many contemporary songs celebrate the freedom and adventure of life on the road. This is especially common in songs by male artists, who often sing about their love of touring and their excitement at being able to live out their dreams by playing music for a living. For female artists, songs about life on the road are more likely to focus on the challenges of managing a career and a personal life while being constantly on the move.

The Sound of Contemporary Country Music

There is no one answer to the question, “What is contemporary country music?” The sound of contemporary country music has been influenced by a variety of factors, including the popularity of rock and roll, the rise of the Nashville Sound, and the influence of other genres of music.

The use of electric guitars

In contemporary country music, the use of electric guitars is now commonplace. In fact, many country songs today feature a mix of both acoustic and electric guitars. This has helped to create a more unique sound that is distinctly different from the music of other genres.

While the use of electric guitars is now more common, it was not always this way. In fact, the first country songs were typically played on acoustic instruments such as banjos and fiddles. It was not until the 1950s that electric guitars began to be used more frequently in country music.

The sound of contemporary country music has come to be defined by the way in which electric guitars are used. In particular, the use of “slide guitar” has become one of the most distinguishing features of this genre. Slide guitar is a technique in which the guitar is played without using frets. Instead, the player slides a metal or glass slide up and down the strings while they are being plucked or strummed. This creates a unique sound that is instantly recognizable and often associated with country music.

The use of drums

In contemporary country music, drums are often used to provide a backbeat or keep time. They may be played with traditional Concert Snare Drum and Bass Drum strokes, or they may be played in a more Rock & Roll style. In some cases, electronic drums may also be used.

The use of synthesizers

Contemporary country music is a broad genre that includes many different subgenres and styles. While the genre is generally defined by its overall sound and feel, there are a few specific elements that are commonly found in contemporary country music. One of the most important and defining elements of contemporary country music is the use of synthesizers.

Synthesizers are electronic instruments that can create a wide range of sounds, from pads and strings to leads and basses. They can be played with keyboards or programmed to play sequences of notes, and they are often used to create ambient textures or fill out the sound of a track. In contemporary country music, synthesizers are often used to create expansive sonic landscapes, which give the genre its characteristic sound.

In addition to synthesizers, other electronic instruments such as drum machines and sample-based instruments are often used in contemporary country music. These elements, along with the use of traditional country instrumentation such as guitars, banjos, and fiddles, give contemporary country its unique sound.

The use of steel guitars

One of the most distinctive elements of contemporary country music is the use of steel guitars. Steel guitars are played with a slide, which allows the player to create a range of sounds by changing the pressure and speed with which they slide their hand up and down the strings. This style of guitar playing was first developed in Hawaii, and it became very popular in country music in the 1930s and 1940s.

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