No, Country Music Was Not “Dying” Before Beyoncé

Lainey Wilson Morgan Wallen Zach Bryan
Alysse Gafkjen/Cameron Baird/Trevor Pavlik

Good news everybody: Country music has been revived.

At least that’s what you would think if you listened to some of the chatter around Beyoncé’s new album, COWBOY CARTER.

Honestly though, this isn’t even about Beyoncé or her album. Everybody’s already given their opinion on that, and mine doesn’t matter anyway.

But what does matter is getting your facts right if you’re going to report on country music, something that Page Six deputy editor Nicholas Hautman didn’t bother to do in his review of the album which proclaimed that Beyoncé revived “a dying genre.”

Let’s see what he had to say:

“Country music has been on life support.

With legendary trailblazers like Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette and Charley Pride long gone, we’re left with Walker Hayes and his god-awful Applebee’s jingle.

Maren Morris and Cassadee Pope fled Nashville faster than you could say, “Yeehaw!” to get away from their racist peers.

Even all-time greats Loretta Lynn and Alan Jackson declared the genre is “dead” and “gone.””

That’s a lot to unpack in just four sentences.

First, some common ground: I think we can all agree that “Fancy Like” is terrible. So no argument here. Nailed that one.

But using Maren Morris and Cassadee Pope leaving country music as examples of how the genre is “on life support?” Maren herself even said she wasn’t leaving “country music,” calling that talking point “clickbait” that got blown up:

“I will sort of just clarify: I have not left country music; that was just the headline. What I said was that I was just leaving behind the kind of toxic parts of it – and that’s in any part of the music industry. But just like the things that I am in control of. Yeah – I want to take the good parts with me. 

I’ve always written everything like very genre-bendy for years. 

I don’t think people label it as much anymore. I’m from Texas, I grew up on all of that music, so the way I write, the way I sing, that’s just how it comes out -whatever genre I’m doing or whatever feature I’m doing. 

So yeah, that was just a headline, clickbait that got blown up. I just make music.” 

As for Loretta Lynn and Alan Jackson declaring country music “dead,” let’s take a closer look at those comments.

In 2021, Alan gave his thoughts on the state of the genre – not that it was dying, but that it was getting away from its roots:

“I’m such a fan of country music. I just feel like it’s fading away, the real roots. It’s always been up and down but usually there’s just a little bit of it hanging on. Now, I just feel like it’s getting further and further away, and it’s makin’ me sad.” 

And Loretta’s comments were much the same:

“There’s such a hard push to crossover and change it up, and do something new that we can lose what country music really is all about.

I like it country—pure, simple, and real! I am so proud of all the artists out there, especially the younger ones, who know what I mean and are still keeping it country.”

Both artists were lamenting the loss of traditional country music – something country music fans have complained about for decades, going back to the rise of the “Nashville sound” in the 1950s and continuing through changes heralded by artists like Garth Brooks.

And neither of these two legends cited by Hautman were too happy about the increased influence of pop on country music – which doesn’t sound like it really helps the argument that Beyoncé “revived” country music. It was the pop sound in country music that Loretta and Alan both thought were killing the genre in the first place.

But disregarding all of that, was country music really “dying” anyway?

By all available data, not only was country not dying, but it was actually bigger than it’s been in decades.

Let’s look at what country music did in 2023. For the first time in the 65-year history of the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart, country songs held the top three spots – not once, but twice.

Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town,” Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night” and Luke Combs’ cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” held down the top three spots in early August. And just few weeks later, Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” debuted at the top of the chart – joining Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs in the top three, marking the second time in history that all three spots were held by country songs.

Not bad for a dying genre.

And not only that, but Morgan Wallen also topped the year-end chart for both singles with “Last Night” and albums with One Thing At A Time. In fact, his album stayed at the top of the Billboard 200 album chart for 16 weeks – the longest of any album in 2023, which saw releases from artists like Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Drake and Nicki Minaj. (Morgan’s album has since spent 3 more weeks at #1 in 2024).

It wasn’t just Morgan who made his way to the top of the album chart though. Zach Bryan also spent two weeks at #1 with his self-titled album, which saw all 16 songs from the album debut simultaneously within the top 50 of the all-genre Hot 100 chart.

As for the top artists? Two of the top five on the year-end chart of biggest artists were country, with both Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs joining names like Taylor Swift, Drake and SZA as the biggest artists of 2023.

Country music was also the fastest-growing genre in streaming in 2023. According to Luminate, country received nearly 24% more streams in 2023 than it had the year before, a bigger jump than any other genre.

Of the most-streamed songs of 2023, four were country songs: Morgan Wallen scored two with “Last Night” and “You Proof,” and was joined by Zach Bryan’s “Something In The Orange” (which was released in April of 2022) as well as Luke Combs’ cover of “Fast Car.”

This isn’t even taking into account the touring numbers that artists managed to pull in. Morgan Wallen had the 6th highest-grossing tour of any genre in 2023 with his One Night At a Time tour. And Zach Bryan proved to be one of the hardest tickets in country music to come by with his first headlining arena tour. All while George Strait continued to fill stadiums despite only playing a handful of shows, and Luke Combs and Kenny Chesney were both selling out stadium tours of their own.

Country music was far from dying in 2023.

When you throw in newer artists like Lainey Wilson and Jelly Roll having breakout years, along with the massive numbers put up by some of the biggest artists in the genre, it’s pretty ill-informed to say that country music was a “dying” genre before Beyoncé came along.

But if nothing else, maybe her venture into country will help some of these people who know nothing about the genre discover more about what country music has to offer.

There’s some good music over here. And it’s perfectly healthy, thank you very much.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock