Discussion: Favorite Artists Outside the Country Universe

It’s a bit too quiet around here, so I’m thinking we need a discussion thread.

I’d say my iPod is about 65% country.  I have more than 13,500 songs on it, though. so as you can imagine, there are a lot of non-country artists that  I like.   Honestly, most of my non-country stuff is old school: sixties pop and rock, Motown, Top 40 from the 80’s and 90’s.   My friend Charlie (of The Widening Geier fame) has introduced me to a ton of hip-hop that I really enjoy.

But there’s only a handul of artists I’d consider my favorites that are both outside of country music and relevant recording artists today.

One of them is Green Day.  I was a casual fan through the Warning album, but they really hooked me with American Idiot, where they fused so many genres together while also pulling off a coherent storyline.   It’s the only concept album I’ve ever heard where I have the slightest idea what’s going on.  (Sorry, Willie and Emmylou.)

Lately, I’ve really dug Pink. A friend of mine sent me a copy of her I’m Not Dead album a while back, but I never got around to listening to it until much later.  It’s one of the best pop albums I’ve ever heard.  I’m a big fan of “Who Knew” and “Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely)” in particular.   I went back and purchased her earlier albums Missundastood and Try This, and they’re both rock solid.

My favorite non-country artist by a long country mile is Madonna.  Even when I was listening almost exclusively to country music in the mid-nineties, I was always paying attention to what she was doing.  She gets so much more attention for her media exploits, but what I’ve always loved about the new Hall of Famer is her songwriting.   It’s sharp, vulnerable and nakedly honest.   She’s also the best live performer I’ve ever seen.

Plus, she’s always mixing it up.  Every album sounds completely different from the last.   My typical reaction to her lead-off singles goes like this.  First listen: “Wow. That sounds weird.”  Second: “KInda interesting, though.”  Third: “Great, now it’s stuck in my head.”  Fourth: “Add it to my favorites.”    Her new single with Justin Timberlake, “4 Minutes” is no exception.   That song’s on such a loop in my head these days that it’s practically a Shania/Mutt confection.

So, those are some of my favorite non-country artists.   How about you?


  1. Okay – you asked for it!

    There is contemporary music that I like but you’ll need to look hard to find it as I regard Melodyand Harmony as the two main elements of music. Musical forms based primarily on Rhythm mostly leave me cold

    Duke Ellington (actually Duke Ellington should be on everyone’s list – if you cannot appreciate Ellington, you simply are clueless about American music)
    Count Basie
    Benny Goodman
    Louis Armstrong
    Ken Peplowski
    Oscar Peterson
    Stephane Grappelli
    Susie Arioli
    Ella Fitzgerald
    Sarah Vaughan

    Bing Crosby
    Dean Martin
    Frank Sinatra
    Steve Tyrell
    Michael Feinstein
    Rosemary Clooney
    Peggy Lee
    Bobby Short
    Joe Williams
    Nat King Cole (possibly the greatest male vocalist ever)

    Big Joe Turner
    Louis Jordan
    The Four Tops
    Bullmoose Jackson
    Slim Galliard
    “Little” Richard Penniman
    Chuck Berry
    Dobie Gray
    Della Reese

    Beach Boys
    Creedence Clearwater Revival
    Bruce Springsteen
    The Ventures

    FOLK, GOSPEL and other impossible to classify

    The Chad Mitchell Trio
    The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem
    The Bothy Band
    The Dubliners
    The Tannahill Weavers
    Ladysmith Black Mambazo
    The Swan Silvertones
    Val Doonican
    Rolf Harris
    David Seville
    Homer & Jethro
    Norah Jones
    Jamie McCullum
    The Blackwood Brothers
    Great Day Gospel Trio
    Mandy Patinken
    The Baja Marimba Band
    Jenny Lewis & / or Rilo Kiley

  2. As long as we are talking about other music……..have you heard the duet, “In Gods Hands” by Nelly Furtado and Keith Urban??? BEAUTIFUL SONG! Sure wish Country Radio would play it!! HaHa…..that’ll be the day!

  3. I have a lot of music on mine as well — I have Kelly Clarkson (before she hooked up with Reba), Christina Aguliera, Meatloaf, Queen, Jim Croce and Bonnie Tyler.

  4. Lanibug,

    All of those artists are on my iPod too. Who doesn’t love a little Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler? God bless Jim Steinman!


    I haven’t heard that. I’ll have to check it out!

  5. Mariah Carey will always be tops in my book! Also, the B-52s, The Counting Crows, Tina Turner, Heart, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Vanessa Carlton, The Marshall Tucker Band, Ryan Adams, Mary J. Blige, Amy Grant (she’s not country just because she’s married to Vince…LOL!) and last but definitely not least, the incomparable, Patti Labelle….ya-ya, da-da!! I’m a country boy at heart…but these artists are nice tangents that I occasionally like to focus on.

  6. Nickel Creek
    The Be Good Tanyas
    The White Stripes
    K.D. Lang
    Alice in Chains
    System of the Down
    Nine Inch Nails
    Guns N’ Roses
    Neil Young

  7. I don’t know if I absolutely love either version of “In God’s Hands”, but the version with Keith is certainly a lot more interesting than the one with just Nelly.

    Here’s my list:

    1) Aerosmith – Because I like my rock music big, brassy, catchy, and sung within an inch of its life by Steven Tyler.

    2) Van Morrison – A very diverse artist. I don’t know what to say; I just love him. “Full Force Gale” is the song that locked me in.

    3) Rob Thomas/Matchbox Twenty – I don’t think he’s capable of writing a song I don’t relate to, and his melodies are pop perfection.

    4) Ray LaMontagne – I just discovered this dude, but dang. I listened through the “Trouble” album while walking through light rainfall. It was a semi-spiritual experience.

    5) I just generally love the music of the Motown era – Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Marvin Gaye…that stuff is terrific.

  8. 6aughtry is the first that comes to mind. I also like John Mayer and Bare Naked Ladies. I like a lot of songs, but not artists generally. You say your mp3 player is 95% country, well mine would probably 95% if I had every song that I liked on it.

  9. Okay, that was supposed to be Daughtry, but I’m reading it as 6aughtry for some reason.

    I did think of a few of my favorite non-country songs– Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me,” Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,” and Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” and “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”

  10. The first artist that I really took to outside of country music was Green Day, with their American Idiot album. I tried listening to other rock and pop music because of this, but I didn’t find much — except Hedley. Hedley is a Canadian pop rock band for those of you that don’t know. They became and still are my favourite band. I love their diverse sound; they have some purely pop songs, some very alternative songs, and some in between, plus the ability to sound happy, unlike a lot of rock bands that I noticed.

    I also slowly started to like more and more pop rock music including Billy Talent, McFly, Linkin Park, and more recently, The Jonas Brothers.

    I find that if I turn on the radio, I like to listen to country music because I like the genre in general. But when I turn on my mp3 player, I listen to pop rock, because I don’t like a lot of pop rock music, the stuff that I do like is some of my favourite.

  11. For me, it’s Steve Carlson, hands down. He’s an indie artist with a few CDs out (I actually found out about him through country music, but that’s another story.) I love his songwriting — some of his songs hit you with so much information in each line that it takes a few listens to sort out all the nuance. He has a great, gritty voice, too.

  12. Jazz & Swing
    Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Clark Terry, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan

    The Four Tops , Big Joe Turner, Louis Jordan, Slim Galliard, Bullmoose Jackson,

    Pop Standards
    Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Michael Feinstein, Rosemary Clooney, Nat King Cole, Susie Arioli, Peggy Lee

    Beatles, Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bruce Springsteen

    Folk & Other
    Chad Mitchell Trio, The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, Norah Jones, Jamie McCullum, Ladysmith Black Mambozo, Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys

    DUke Ellington is the epitome of American music – if you can’t appreciate Ellington, you are truly clueless about music

  13. I grew up in a decidedly non-country household and community (in other words, I have no friends or family that listen to country), so although I used to listen to mostly country, my musical influences and tastes have always been broad and varied…

    I’m from So Cal, so the Beach Boys, the Eagles and No Doubt (remember ska?) are in there. I became hooked on Greenday with “Dookie” and Weezer with their self-titled blue album (“Buddy Holly” anyone?). I was in school during the Seattle “grunge” era, so I like Nirvana, Soundgarden and the Smashing Pumpkins.

    I also like the Violent Femmes, Indigo Girls, Meatloaf, Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, Eminem, Pink, Joni Mitchell, Dropkick Murphys, Social Distortion, U2…

    Who doesn’t like 70/80’s rock? Bon Jovi, Springsteen (saw his concert the other day and he’s still amazing), Guns n Roses, Queen, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison are favs.

    I’ve spent a lot of time living and traveling abroad, so I LOVE The Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem (most all Irish/Scottish folk), and Carlos Vives, Juanes and Shakira.

    Also any oldies (big band era, 50s, 60s) will satisfy me and some great jazz and swing (I’m with Dennis!)

    Finally, I will admit to an embarrassing love of musical theatre (Raul Esparza’s “Being Alive” currently on my playlist). However, I think that may be what got me into country in the first place. My parents introduced me at a young age, and I’m a sucker for a song that tells a good story. :)

    Favorite song of all time? “What a wonderful world” by Louis Armstrong

  14. Well, this is a fun question!

    When I first fell in love with country music, it was all I could stand to listen to. Fortunately, as I got older and my experiences expanded, so did my musical taste. I should say, however, that I still listen to country music 95
    % of the time and country music probably comprises 90% of my music collection.

    So here is my random list:

    Indigo Girls, Nickel Creek, John Denver, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Jars of Clay, Billy Joel, Simon & Garfunkle, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Metallica, Cake, Weezer, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lincoln Park, REM, Green Day, Michael Jackson, Blues Traveller, Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Beastie Boys, Audio Slave, System of A Down…swing music & pop standards.

    Those are just some of my favorites that I can think of right now.

  15. I’ll take credit for Leeann’s interest Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lincoln Park, Green Day, Beastie Boys, Audio Slave, and System of a Down. She can of course take credit for the fact that I listen to any country music! Though in a strange turn of events I actually enjoyed Bluegrass before we met.

    Still surprised I managed to win her over with System of a Down! I’m so proud.

  16. As a musicologist of sorts, i love all kinds of music and it’d be too hard to list all my favorites so I’ll just list a couple.

    Classic artists like the Beatles, Beach Boys (first cassette), CCR/Fogerty, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, etc.

    Recent/currents: Soundgarden, Dave Matthews Band, Chris Cornell (best current rock vocalist), Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis, John Mayer, James Blunt, Paolo Nuitini, James Morrison, Simon Webbe, John Barrowman (the actor from Torchwood), and uk pop boyband Westlife. Being outside of the USA for a couple of years really makes you appreciate UK pop and really miss the days of good pop/rock here w/o rap taking over ALL of the songs.

    A couple favorite artists include Marc Broussard (That voice, those songs, C’mon!), Dave Barnes (Nashville-based artist, his new CD is 5.99 at iTunes) and Griffin House (who I’ve written about at The Lost Highway).

    Sorry, Kevin, I never got into Madonna. My sister’s did and that’s probably why I didn’t. But I do LOVE Pink’s stuff.

  17. Lynn,

    Norah Jones is really good. She also does a duet with Dolly Parton called “Creepin’ In”, which is fun. She’s good in her own right as well.

  18. I listen to country 98% of the time. I do however enjoy listening to a couple of artists outside the country realm. I still like Nirvana and LIVE (high school and college influences) I like Sarah Mclachlan too.

    Like Leeann I was mainly into country and my husband who did not listen to country at all has influenced me in my non-country musical tastes. He likes a little country now thanks to me and I like the bands CAKE, Dave Mathews Band, REM, Edie Brickell and Elvis Costello thanks to his influence.

  19. Interesting question..

    I like a lot of other music, but I mainly listen to country because that’s what I have the most of. I think Madonna’s pretty good but I only a few of her songs (I don’t really care for her older stuff, but I think her newer stuff is catchy).

    I’d say I also like (in no order) The Killers, Linkin Park, Sheryl Crow, CCR, The Eagles, 3 Doors Down, k.d.lang, Green Day, Maroon 5, and others.

  20. My favorites:

    Elvis Presley (his late 1960s/early 1970s material is still underrated [IMHO])
    Beatles (natch!)
    Beach Boys
    Ventures (their guitar instrumental sound set the pace for West Coast rock in the 60s)
    Led Zeppelin (still THE essential heavy metal band, though so much more too)
    Elton John
    Sheryl Crow

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