A while back, Spotify came up with a theory: That Gen-Z is in love with ’90s country. And now, that theory has basically become scientific law.
Newly released data shows that streams of Spotify’s 90s Country playlist have grown 150 percent since 2018. And not only that, they’ve skyrocketed 70 percent among Gen-Z users specifically. There are 89 million playlists from Gen-Z users containing iconic ’90s Country tracks, so it begs the question, “Why?” It’s not like today’s country has anything to do with hit makers like Shania Twain, Brooks & Dunn or Tim McGraw, right? Well according to Parker McCollum, Tenille Arts and BRELAND, it actually does.
Helping offer proof of Spotify’s Gen-Z country connection, the three young stars have recorded faithful covers of three ’90s classics, and sat down to explain why the ’90s hold so much nostalgic sway for their generation. Each put their own spin on a track with special meaning for them, but more importantly, revealed how today’s hits do owe something to that iconic era. Looking back now, the music of the ’90s feels almost like classic country, they admit — but it wasn’t that way at the time. And that dynamic is all too familiar in the 2020s.
Likewise, Tenille Arts — the rising hit maker behind “Somebody Like That” — picked The Chicks’ classic, “Wide Open Spaces,” and explained how it helped inspire a girl from a Canadian prairie town to follow her dreams.
And meanwhile, BRELAND explained how the “playfulness” of ’90s country helped him create a whole new approach to country-rap, applying his gospel and R&B-inflected voice to Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine.”
Each cover brings new energy to one of your favorite songs, and there’s much more fun to be had over at Spotify’s new ’90s country microsite. But what’s most interesting is how these young artists see their music against the ’90s-country backdrop. All three felt their songs are indebted to the ’90s — and that they are currently facing the same obstacles as the icons who came before them.
“Any of the songs I grew up on, they were criticized for being too pop, but I hear them now and I’m like ‘That’s heat, I would love to write that song,'” McCollum said. “I’ve always gone back to ’90s country like, ‘How did they have those big uptempo hits, but were still really well written songs?'”
“There were so many songs in the ’90s that were about so many different topics,” Arts added. “It doesn’t all need to be love songs or breakup songs. I try to take a lot of that and bring it into today.”
“What I’ve been doing a lot recently is sampling 90s country, adding some modern instrumentation and putting a new perspective on it,” said BRELAND. “It’s cool for me to see how history repeats itself, and also how things directly flow.”
Check out Spotify’s popular ’90s Country playlist here.