How many artists invited to the Lasso festival wear a cowboy hat in their official photo? Zero. There are four caps and two tuques, the others have their hair in the wind. It’s not a detail, but a sign that we no longer have the country music we used to have. More pop, sometimes mixed with elements of soul, R & B and even rap, it diversifies and attracts new ears.
Posted at 9:00 a.m.
It is not yesterday that a hyphen brings together the labels “country” and “pop”. We could go back to Chet Atkins and the Nashville Sound of the 1950s. Without going that far, one need only think of the phenomenal successes of Garth Brooks and Shania Twain in the 1990s to remember that country records served by choruses catchy songs and a pop sensibility have no trouble appealing to a huge audience.
Lasso, which will be presented on August 12 and 13 at Parc Jean-Drapeau after being postponed twice because of the pandemic, is precisely betting on attracting thousands of people by betting on the most accessible and commercial fringe of the North American country music. Its headliners, Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan, are superstars whose tens and tens of millions of streams on a platform like Spotify rival those of pop stars.
“Convincing country artists to come and play in Montreal has never been easy because there are no country CKOIs here,” explains Nick Farkas, vice-president of programming, concerts and events at evenko. Even his team was unaware of the appeal of this musical genre in Quebec before scheduling a concert by Luke Bryan, whose tickets sold out in the space of a weekend ago. about six years. These results surprised the promoter.
We started to do more research and we realized that Montreal was the second largest market in Canada for streaming country music, behind Toronto, which also surprised us.
Nick Farkas, vice-president of programming, concerts and events at evenko
There was a market to be exploited there, which the promoter wishes to do by offering fans of the genre a festival experience similar to that which he offers within the framework of Osheaga, Heavy MTL or Île Soniq.
A growing attraction
With little presence in traditional media, country music is making its way onto streaming platforms and smaller channels, which are seeing the undeniable enthusiasm for the genre. This makes the time perfect to launch a festival like Lasso, according to Dany Côté, musical director of the Hit Country channel. “There is a growing demand”, also assures Gabriel Marineau, who has been leading for eight years The New Country area at WKND 99.5 FM.
“It’s music that sings well. Even if you’re not an English speaker, you understand the lyrics and the choruses are as catchy as possible, ”he adds, adding that the words easily resonate in everyday life.
Country music themes are about keeping it simple, having a good time with family and friends, enjoying life to the fullest, love songs.
The new attraction of country music is also due to the fact that pop has moved away from folk and rock, according to Nick Farkas. “Country got closer to pop, but it kept the guitars,” he observes. Those who appreciate a six-string instrumentation probably find themselves more in Riley Green than in Dua Lipa.
Dany Côté also believes that the variety of sounds put forward in today’s country music greatly contributes to its influence. “The pop and even hip-hop side comes to get young people,” he says. Country music isn’t what it used to be, which is to say nasal songs. The artists evolve a lot musically. Lasso also largely echoes this diversity. If the Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan stay more on the marked paths of country pop, others like Breland, Lily Rose or Sacha willingly borrow from soul, R & B or rap.
A universe that opens
The transformation of the country universe is not only musical, it is also social. Lasso presents Lily Rose, a rare openly homosexual artist in this environment often perceived as very conservative. “We want to showcase women and country artists from diverse backgrounds,” says Audray Johnson, programming coordinator.
There’s a pretty heavy stereotype that follows country: the American southern redneck. I think it’s less and less that.
Audray Johnson, Lasso Programming Coordinator
Nick Farkas adds that there was no question of having a festival with just men wearing cowboy hats or caps. “We wanted to be part of this wave of change and inclusion,” he says. These are not empty words since Lasso offers a joint poster: half of the 30 shows will be offered by women or a duo in which there is a woman.
“There are still references to traditional values in country, but less than before. I think new country is more than ever for an urban crowd, insists Gabriel Marineau. It joins a new generation that no longer identifies with the church and is, let’s say, more open-minded and open to the world. »