Nashville, Tenn. — home of the Predators, Honky Tonk, hot chicken and, of course, country music. Ask one person on the street where they will visit on a trip to Music City, and after Dollywood, the most common tourist location is the Grand Ole Opry.
On Oct. 30, the Grand Ole Opry celebrated its 5,000th radio show — 5,000 radio shows over its 96-year history. Starting as the WSM radio station in 1925, the venue has withstood wars, cultural changes, evolving music preferences and so much more.
Close your eyes and imagine the Opry’s stage, red lights and all. Every known country singer since the venue’s founding has performed on that stage, and for these singers, performing at the Opry represents a high point in their artistic career.
This occasion naturally called for a celebration of the past, present and future of country music. Performers from multiple generations of country music came together to celebrate the opera on the legendary stage for its anniversary show.
Performing on this monumental evening were traditional country singers like Jeannie Seely, Connie Smith and the Gatlin Brothers, plus newer artists like Dustin Lynch, Chris Janson and Chris Young. Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks, one of the most dynamic couples in Opry and country music history, also performed. These artists and more helped ring in this historic occasion for the entire music industry.
Through its own rich history, the Grand Ole Opry is representative of the modern changing landscape of country music. From its traditional folk song and fiddling roots to today’s intersection with pop, country music is ever changing. Now, genres of country music have even popped up in Canada and Australia.
Country music also has taken on a newfound popularity in the United States, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a desire for more cheerful tunes. Recent songs such as “I Hope” by Gabby Barrett and “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes have pulled a more pop sound into their production, going viral and pushing country music into the national spotlight.
Country music has become further popular with new visibility from television shows such as American Idol, apps like Tik Tok and the elevation of country singers to star status through these mediums. Country music has risen up to 15.8% in popularity compared to its pre-COVID-19 numbers, according to Time.
According to Anjali Paye (SFS ’25), the reason for country music’s increasing popularity as of late is its authenticity.
“Country music tells a story. The songs are filled with pure emotion. People these days really resonate with the emotions and stories being told by the songs,” Paye said in an interview with The Hoya.
However, not everybody is on board with the rise in country’s popularity, as there are still individuals who are less than sold about country music today, like Patrick De Meulder (MSB ’25).
“I just think that country music is not the pinnacle of music quality,” De Meulder said in an interview with The Hoya. “The lyrics often contain the same themes about beer, girls, trucks, etc. That is not conducive to the music that should be popular today.”
Regardless of personal feelings about country music, there is no doubt the genre is growing and evolving as more, and more pop country artists are appearing on the national stage. Moreover, the intersection of hip-hop and country is also a new type of musical exploration capturing the spotlight. For example, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” took the world by storm in 2019, and “Lil Bit” by Nelly and Florida Georgia Line became increasingly popular in 2019.
With the dawn of TikTok, music can become popular overnight and thus artists are incentivized to experiment with sounds and genres. Country music is no exception.
Although times have changed since the opening of the Grand Ole Opry, country music remains steadfast in its growth. Sure, the genre will continue to develop, but it is in good hands. Young artists like Luke Combs, Brett Young, Kasey Musgraves, Gabby Barrett, Kelsea Ballerini and so many more are taking the industry by storm. Therefore, there is no question that the Grand Ole Opry will continue for at least another 5,000 shows. There is no end in sight for country music; neither is there one for the Grand Ole Opry.