What the Hell is Indigo Country?

Spotify recently released a new collection under the title Indigo, a collection of country musicians that lie a little outside the norm. The collection is a little unusual in that it doesn’t tote a clean-cut collection of artists or songs and arguably doesn’t even really have a defining genre. Rather, it pulls from the pool of alt-country and indie country artists that are rarely a staple for country radio, with the addition of a few classics, such as Waylon Jennings, to cement the rough idea that surrounds Indigo. Spotify has essentially pulled these songs together in an effort to collect modern country music that incorporates characteristics of the classics. There’s a heavy focus on storytelling, and though many of the songs differ greatly from one another, it’s pretty easy to see the common through-thread that connects them all back to the country boom of the ’70s and ’80s.

Tyler Childers is the big name Spotify has decided to use to define the collection-slash genre, but even his own music is vastly different from the music of other artists included, such as Orville Peck and Miranda Lambert. It’s a little hard to describe, but think of it this way: it’s a collection of songs that can all trace their roots back to classic American country, but that’s where the similarities end. There’s an abundance of sad old bastards drunk at bars and telling off of exes, but each song is marked by the uniqueness the artist brings to the table.

The playlist has over 325,000 followers, but not everyone in the country music world is a huge fan. The folks over at Saving Country Music have a few choice words for Spotify’s re-branding of what was, essentially, formerly their Back Porch playlist, which though it was born from a slightly different idea, featured many of the same artists and songs. In fact, for some time, clicking the link for the Back Porch playlist brought users to the new Indigo collection. Saving Country Music also brings up another interesting point: this move on Spotify’s behalf seems comparable to company-exclusive content, like Netflix originals. By essentially “creating” a new genre, Spotify is in a unique position to benefit greatly from the artists and musicians featured on the playlist. If shit really kicks off, this could be “the genre Spotify built.”

Ironically, Childers himself has voiced opinions in the past that seem to put him in a bit of conflict with this kind of move. Previously, Childers has expressed concern over the new-ish Americana genre, saying it pulled attention away from the issues that the country genre as a whole is facing. Even the name of the collection is a little off-kilter. For a move that’s supposedly meant to “help widen the playing field for artists who span country subgenres,” the word “indigo” seems a little hoity-toity. It doesn’t really bring to mind square-body trucks or sun-faded jeans, but instead makes me think of some gastro-pub with string lights on the patio where you listen to some lady named Sunflower in a $400 ethically sourced wool hat play an acoustic guitar cover of a Taylor Swift song. Even Rolling Stone doesn’t seem to really understand who the playlist is targeted to, as some of the language in the article seems to almost talk down to country musicians.

All in all, it’s not a bad listening experience. Personally, I lean more towards Corb Lund or Colter Wall when it comes to contemporary music. However, there’s still some tracks that I’ve added to playlists of my own. That said, it strikes me more as a corporate move to astroturf a genre in order to exert a little more control over the world of country music. And that’s not exactly something that everyone’s going to love. 

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