The 5,000th Grand Ole Opry Radio Show and the Evolution of Country Music
Nashville, Tenn. – home of the Predators, Honky Tonk, hot chicken and, of course, country music. Ask a person on the street where they will be going on a trip to Music City, and after Dollywood, the most common tourist spot is the Grand Ole Opry.
On October 30, the Grand Ole Opry celebrated its 5,000th radio show – 5,000 radio broadcasts in its 96-year history. Starting with WSM radio station in 1925, the place has withstood wars, cultural changes, changing musical preferences and much more.
Close your eyes and imagine the Opry scene, red lights and all. All the country singers known since the founding of the hall have performed on this 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 across generations of country music have come together to celebrate opera on the legendary stage for its anniversary show.
On this monumental evening, traditional country singers like Jeannie Seely, Connie Smith and the Gatlin Brothers, as well as more recent artists like Dustin Lynch, Chris Janson and Chris Young, performed. One of the most dynamic couples in Opry and country music history, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks also performed. These artists and many more helped ring this historic occasion for the entire music industry.
With its rich history, the Grand Ole Opry is representative of the modern and changing landscape of country music. From its traditional folk songs and violin roots to today’s intersection with pop, country music is constantly evolving. Now, country music genres have even appeared in Canada and Australia.
Country music has also gained new popularity in the United States, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a desire for happier tunes. Recent songs such as “I Hope” by Gabby Barrett and “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes have introduced a more pop sound into their production, going viral and propelling country music into the national limelight.
Country music has become even more popular with new visibility of TV shows such as American Idol, apps like Tik Tok and the rise of country singers to star status through these media. Country music has increased in popularity by up to 15.8% from its pre-COVID-19 figures, according to Time.
According to Anjali Paye (SFS ’25), the reason for the growing popularity of country music in recent times is its authenticity.
“Country music tells a story. The songs are filled with pure emotion. People these days really resonate with the emotions and the stories the songs tell, ”Paye said in an interview with The Hoya.
However, not everyone agrees with the increase in popularity of country, as there are still individuals who are even less sold about country music today, such as Patrick De Meulder ( MSB ’25).
“I just don’t think country music is the pinnacle of musical quality,” De Meulder said in an interview with The Hoya. “The lyrics often contain the same themes about beer, girls, trucks, etc. It’s not conducive to the music that should be popular today.”
Regardless of personal feelings about country music, there is no doubt that the genre is growing and evolving as more and more country pop artists appear on the national stage. Plus, the intersection of hip-hop and country is also a new kind of attention-grabbing musical exploration. For example, “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X 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, so artists are encouraged 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. Of course, the genre will continue to develop, but it’s in good hands. Young artists like Luke Combs, Brett Young, Kasey Musgraves, Gabby Barrett, Kelsea Ballerini and many more are taking the industry by storm. Therefore, there is no doubt that the Grand Ole Opry will continue for at least 5,000 more shows. There is no end in sight for country music; there is also none for the Grand Ole Opry.