Luke Bryan has witnessed a resurgence in country music's popularity, and with his latest disc "Crash My Party," the hip-shaking crooner might see his album become the third best-selling record of the year. As the mainstream continues to catch on with what's happening in Nashville, more and more pop and hip-hop influences are permeating what was originally dubbed "country and western," a label that even Bryan doesn't quite understand.
"A lot of people still call it 'country and western,' and I always think that’s funny," he tells Huffington Post. "I'm not knockin' country or western, but people look at me and they’re like, 'Oh you're a country western singer?' and I'm like, 'Well, I would say I'm not much western here.'"
He continues, "I don't know, I think every genre has stereotypes. You assume a rock artist is a drug addict, you assume a country artist is rolled out from under the trailer. Those are just natural stereotypes. I think what's so great about music is that people are really giving all genres now a fair start. Maybe the stereotypes are getting less and less prominent."
With the cultural shift for crossover appeal, Bryan notes that it's all in the hands of the fans. He explains, "I think it's always dictated by the fans, and kind of the fans drive, or what they’re loving. I think there’s been somewhat of a change with our generation. You know, nobody grew up more countrier than me, but I mean, I had Beastie Boys playing on little boomboxes and Run–D.M.C. and all forms of music, so through the years, I just think it's all constantly blending together."
Of course, country music has come under fire with not being "country" enough. In fact, many songs in recent years are more pop-leaning than anything. "There’s always room for your hard-core country songs and that will always shine through and I'll always have those on my albums," Bryan says. "And then I'll have fun stuff that gets people up and dancing that some people may want to say, 'Well that sounds real pop-y!' but I don’t really think it does, I just think it's what's going on."
On Taylor Swift, whose "Red" album moved one million copies its first week out in Oct. 2012, Bryan notes, "I wouldn’t necessarily say she is a country artist. I mean, obviously Taylor Swift started in country, but she morphed into somewhat of a cultural icon, so, who am I to judge what she is?"
With Swift exploring more pop and dubstep sounds to her brand of country music, Kelly Clarkson has entered the genre through her various collaborations and her latest solo single "Tie It Up," a uptempo romper about being engaged. From a country artist's perspective, Bryan has no qualms about Clarkson deciding to release country singles. He says, "You know, if Kelly Clarkson wants to do country albums because that’s what inspires her, then let her do it. Look at Kanye West or Ludacris ... they aren’t rappin' and cussin' like they were on their first few albums, so what does that make them? It’s all in the eye of the beholder and the listener. We all use our outlet to grow ourself."