Bebe Rexha has just crossed a country milestone. Her single featuring Florida Georgia Line, “Meant To Be” has now held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart for 11 weeks, longer than any other female in the chart’s history.
Previously Taylor Swift held the No. 1 spot for 10 weeks with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and Carrie Underwood’s “Something in the Water” sat at No. 1 for 7 weeks.
The record, though obscure and exactingly specific, signals a couple of things for the industry. Both “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “Meant To Be” are not true country songs. They involve country musicians who are interested in crossing over to pop but involve nothing emblematic of the genre that you cannot find in pop.
What stands out is the effort country fans make to hold on to their artists. Even though Swift left for pop a long ago and Florida Georgia Line is trying their damnedest to break free, fans will hold onto their coattails shouting that they are country no matter what kind of music they produce. But it doesn’t really matter what we say. The telling fact is the way other genres embrace”our” artists. Swift has mass appeal outside of country music. Florida Georgia Line? Not at all. They are so rooted in country music that simply featuring them on “Meant To Be” pulled a New York pop star into a genre she was never tangentially related to.
People who “don’t like country” will never listen to FGL, despite the duo’s growing pop sensibilities. As a result, they won’t break out of country, they’ll keep making it more like pop. As it stands, thanks to songs like “Meant To Be,” all you really need to be country is someone with a wide-brimmed hat and an accent on your track.
Oh, and a flannel shirt. Don’t forget that.