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|Stylistic origins||Country and western (especially countrypolitan), pop music, soft rock|
|Cultural origins||1960s Nashville|
|Typical instruments||Vocals - Guitar - Bass - Drums - pedal steel guitar or dobro- Occasional use of other instruments|
|Derivative forms||Adult contemporary|
|Nashville sound - Country rock - Urban cowboy - Country soul|
Country pop, with roots in both the countrypolitan sound and in soft rock, is a subgenre of country music that first emerged in the 1970s. Although the term first referred to country music songs and artists that crossed over to Top 40 radio, country pop acts are now more likely to cross over to adult contemporary.
Beginnings: Nashville sound 
The joining of country and pop began in the 1950s when studio executives Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley wanted to create a new kind of music for the young adult crowd after "rockabilly stole away much of country music's youth audience". According to Bill Ivey, this innovative genre originated in Nashville, Tennessee and thus became known as Nashville Sound. He believes that the "Nashville Sound often produced records that sounded more pop than country" after the removal of the fiddle and banjo. Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, and Eddy Arnold were among the most popular artists during this time. This was intended to have country singers gain more success in pop music and sell more records. The first male artists to come out of this new genre were Jim Reeves and Eddy Arnold, who both grew to have widespread acceptance in both country and pop music. Both Jim Reeves and Eddy Arnold had major influence on their RCA labelmate Elvis Presley, apparent not only in secular songs, but even more so in country gospel songs. The first female country singer to emerge from this new genre was Patsy Cline in the early 60s. She created a whole new breed of female country artists, such as Lynn Anderson, Crystal Gayle and Shania Twain, who gained prominence in later years. Even though Cline also gained widespread acceptance from country and pop audiences alike, the Nashville Sound did not maintain its popularity for long, receiving competition first from the Bakersfield Sound and later the outlaw movement.
Country pop in the late 70s and 80s 
Country pop found its first widespread acceptance during the 1970s. It started with pop music singers, like Glen Campbell, John Denver, Olivia Newton-John and Anne Murray, began having hits on the country charts. Songs like Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy" were among one of the biggest crossover hits in country music history. These pop-oriented singers thought that they could gain higher record sales and a larger audience if they crossed over into the country world. Among one of the most unappreciated artists who did this was Olivia Newton-John in 1974, who emerged from Australia in the mid-70s, hoping to make it big in the United States. When her single "Let Me Be There" became a big pop-country crossover hit in 1974, it became quite controversial, especially after Newton-John won a Grammy award for "Best Female Country Vocal Performance" for the song, and also won the CMA's most coveted award for females, "Female Vocalist of the Year" (beating out established Nashville artists Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Tanya Tucker, as well as Canadian transplant Anne Murray).
A group of artists, troubled by this trend, formed the Association of Country Entertainers in 1974. The debate raged into 1975, and reached its apex at that year's Country Music Association Awards when reigning Entertainer of the Year Charlie Rich (who himself had a series of crossover hits) presented the award to his successor, John Denver. As he read Denver's name, Rich set fire to the envelope with a cigarette lighter. The action was taken in some quarters as a protest against the increasing pop style in country music (some, including Rich himself, cited medication instead as reason for his behavior). However, the ACE would not last all that long.
In 1977 Kenny Rogers burst onto the country charts with "Lucille" and would go on to become the most successful of the country pop performers, topping charts all over the world and taking the genre to the zenith internationally. After "Lucille", Rogers had a string of songs that did well on both the country and pop charts around the world, including "Daytime Friends", "The Gambler" and "Coward of the County", all of which were produced by Larry Butler. Rogers would go on to push the boundaries of pop influence in country music, having records produced by the likes of The Bee Gees, Lionel Richie, David Foster and George Martin, all of which did well in both the pop and country markets.
Dolly Parton, who had already achieved considerable success as a mainstream country artist, wanted to expand her audience and go in new directions, so she decided to make a change in 1977, crossing over into the pop music world with No. 1 country and No. 3 pop hit that year called "Here You Come Again". She followed it up with a number of additional crossover pop hits, including "Two Doors Down" and "Heartbreaker" (both 1978), "Baby I'm Burning" (1979), "Starting Over Again" (1980), and "9 to 5", which topped both the country and pop singles charts in early 1981. (Ironically, despite her being one of the most successful practitioners of country pop crossover during the late 1970s and 1980s, Parton, because of her upbringing and mountain roots, is regarded by most critics as one of country's most authentic performers.))
Country pop reached an early peak immediately following the movie Urban Cowboy in the early 1980s. Some older artists from the 1960s and 1970s converted their sound to country pop or 'countrypolitan', such as Parton, Willie Nelson and Dottie West. Dottie West, who had been around since the '60s, completely changed her image into a more sexy and risky profile in the early '80s, following a series of hit duets with Kenny Rogers. (Rogers also had an enormous duet hit with Parton, the Bee Gees-penned "Islands in the Stream", which topped the country and pop singles charts in late 1983.) After the success with Rogers, West wanted to remain on top of her game, so in order to keep up with current country music, she continued to record more pop-sounding material. Because of this, Dottie West achieved her biggest success as a country singer during this time, acquiring her first No. 1 hit as a solo artist thanks to her music in 1980 titled "A Lesson in Leaving".
Alabama, Eddie Rabbitt and Ronnie Milsap also began experiencing crossover success during the early 1980s. Four of Alabama's most successful songs of the early 1980s — "Feels So Right", "Love in the First Degree", Take Me Down" and "The Closer You Get" — all reached the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, while four of Ronnie Milsap's No. 1 songs between 1980-1982 reached the Hot 100's Top 20, the most successful of which was the No. 5 hit "(There's) No Gettin' Over Me". Rabbitt had three Top 5 pop songs in 1980-1981, and "I Love a Rainy Night" reached No. 1 on both the Hot 100 and Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.
By the mid-80s, however, fans of more traditional country music were growing restless. For the next several years, country radio was dominated by neotraditional artists, although some country pop artists continued to have hits, most notably Alabama, Parton, Rabbitt and Milsap.
1990s revival 
Country pop enjoyed a resurgence in the 1990s, primarily because of the beginning proliferation of country music to the FM radio dial, which in turn was aided by the increase of FCC licenses for suburban and rural FM stations in the late 1980s and an increase in talk radio on the AM dial. Garth Brooks rose to fame during the 1990s with a string of several extremely successful albums and songs. Shania Twain would rival this success with her three albums The Woman in Me, Come On Over and Up!. In the last few years, country singer LeAnn Rimes has proved her ability to sing country pop songs such as the record-setting "How Do I Live", which spent 69 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, the second longest single in the record history. This achievement came in spite of the fact that a nearly identical version of the same song by Trisha Yearwood was released at the same time and was also a hit. Rimes also had a hit with the pop songs "Can't Fight the Moonlight" and "I Need You."
Incorporating elements of pop into country music became extremely popular by the late 90s thus producing many crossover hits and artists, especially on the adult contemporary charts. Country love songs also became more popular with songs like To Make You Feel My Love, Cowboy Take Me Away, "I Love You", "Breathe", "It's Your Love", "Just to See You Smile", "This Kiss", "You're Still the One", "From This Moment On", "You've Got a Way", Valentine, etc.
Martina McBride caused some controversy in 1993 with her hit song "Independence Day" which dealt with spousal abuse. She would also go on to release similar songs about abuse and other society injustices with songs like "A Broken Wing", "Love's the Only House", and "Concrete Angel".
While supporters of country pop contend the style has brought many new fans to the genre, others, particularly older country music artists and fans that embrace the more traditional styles, have criticized country pop music. Their main argument is that commercial country music, especially that which has been produced since 2005, already sounds too much like mainstream pop music even without an even more pop-sounding sub-genre. Kenny Rogers responded to both sides of the debate by stating "For country music, I'm not country enough. Everywhere else I'm too country".
In the 1990s many country artists experienced huge crossover success. These artists include Brooks, Twain, Billy Ray Cyrus, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, The Dixie Chicks, Jo Dee Messina, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Lonestar, Sara Evans and Rimes.
2000s and 2010s 
The early 2000s also saw continued success of these artists. Lee Ann Womack scored a big hit with I Hope You Dance". The Dixie Chicks had continued success with a less mainstream country-pop sound when they released their Bluegrass-influenced album Home in 2002. However, by the mid-2000s there were fewer country acts having crossover success. With her exposure on TV's American Idol Carrie Underwood became a crossover success in 2006 and 2007 though, with her hit single "Before He Cheats". Taylor Swift has also had crossover success in the late 2000s.
In the 2010s, Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum have achieved success recently, including winning numerous Grammy Awards. Taylor Swift 2010's release album Speak Now and 2012's Red had become top charter in different charts, and both of those album sold 1 million copies in their debut week sales opening 1.041M for Speak Now and 1.2M for Red. Uncle Kracker also achieved success when his number 3 peaking adult contemporary hit "Smile" also became a number 6 country hit. Lady Antebellum scored another crossover hit in the summer of 2011 with the song "Just A Kiss", and also during this past summer The Band Perry song "If I Die Young" crossed over to pop radio.
Country pop artists/groups 
- Lauren Alaina
- Lynn Anderson
- The Band Perry
- Garth Brooks
- Glen Campbell
- Billy Ray Cyrus
- John Denver
- Jessica Simpson
- Sara Evans
- Crystal Gayle
- Danny Gokey
- Faith Hill
- Elton John
- Martina McBride
- Lady Antebellum
- Jennette McCurdy
- Reba McEntire
- Jo Dee Messina
- Ronnie Milsap
- Anne Murray
- Olivia Newton-John
- Dolly Parton
- Kellie Pickler
- Eddie Rabbitt
- Rascal Flatts
- Charlie Rich
- LeAnn Rimes
- Kenny Rogers
- Taylor Swift
- Shania Twain
- Carrie Underwood
- Keith Urban
- Dottie West
- Lee Ann Womack
- Faron Young
- The Civil Wars
See also 
- Ivey, B: "The Nashville Sound." The Encyclopedia of Country Music, page 371-372