Guest Article: Bailey Tomkinson – ‘What Is She Wearing?’ (An Artist Perspective On Genre Boundaries)

It feels quite an odd thing to write in a publication devoted to Country Music, but like it or not, the concept of genre is slowly dying and the impact of that won’t just be felt in what we listen to.  It’ll be reflected by what we wear on stage.

My generation – the so called generation Z – a cohort of roughly 80 million folks born around the mid 90’s to mid 2000’s, are line dancing all over the boundaries of traditional music classifications.

Sure, millennials like Taylor Swift might have jumped from Country to Pop but the demarcation was still pretty clear. This is different. Lil Nas X and Billie Eilish aren’t swapping genres, they’re mixing them.

For a start, according to a study by Sweety High, GenZ girls listen to a greater variety of music than ever before. Most say they listen to at least five genres on a regular basis.  This morning alone, I’ve listened to Abba, Maggie Rodgers, Sinatra, Kacey, Camera Obscura and a dance remix of my own Crying in a Wedding Dress. And that’s all before I’ve had breakfast.  Blending different sounds becomes more likely when music-makers themselves are constantly listening to varied genres.

Add to that Spotify building playlists by mood or activity, throw in the impact of geography and you have the ingredients for the slow death of genre.

The Dolly fan in me finds that a little sad…but that whole blending thing is throwing up some interesting and quite liberating outcomes. Take what we wear for example; it used to be that as Country Singers we wouldn’t stray too far away from the whole cowboy hat, boots uniform combo. Now that sometimes feels a bit like ‘dress up’, the preserve of tribute acts. On occasion, it can be fun and I LOVE my boots…but I predict that the rising younger generation of British country music will be less recognisable on sight as a country or country influenced act.

We’re often told to “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have” Well, the job I want is one where I make music that I, and my peers like to listen to. I’m a 19 year old girl that likes to surf rather than one that grew up in small farm in Kentucky, I don’t feel the need to pretend to be something I’m not. The traditionalists aren’t going to like it – I’ve already had my fair share of ‘not country enoughs’ but the best style comes from believability like F Scott Fitzgerald once said, the wise writer writes for the youth of his own generation.

Bailey Tomkinson