Last week we provided you with a list of what music was uniquely popular in a couple of dozen Texas towns. That list came courtesy of the streaming service Spotify, which is tracking such musical peculiarities wherever its reach extends: mostly Europe, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, and the more wired cities of Asia.
We scoured the rest of America and the whole world to see if, and where, Texas-based or Texas-bred artists enjoyed pockets of strange popularity, but beyond America, there isn’t that much. Wink, Texas crooner Roy Orbison’s “Penny Arcade” is an American obscurity but a hit overseas. It’s well-received in both Glasgow and Belfast, thanks to its status as an unofficial theme song for the Glasgow Rangers football club.
Stateside, the Spotify maps show where Texas music travels well and where it doesn’t. For instance, Texas rap doesn’t translate across the Sabine River, or really anywhere else for that matter. (Although Hispanic rappers are another matter, as we shall see.) And although some Mexican music does well in Texas, the love of Lone Star artists is not reciprocated south of the border.
In a way, the Spotify lists lend credence to reporter and author Colin Woodard’s eleven nations of North America map, in which four distinct cultures converge within Texas. Spotify did not provide data for Woodard’s “Midlands” strip of Texas – the northernmost counties of the Panhandle – but his “El Norte,” which he calls “the oldest, and most linguistically different, nation in the Americas” is exemplified by Spotify’s Spanglish El Paso chart, one of the most unusual in the United States.
And he kind of shares my own long-held observation that the Deep South doesn’t really end until you get to Brookshire on I-10, which is where real Texas finally begins. Music tastes bear this out. For example, even if Houston rappers aren’t specifically well-received in Louisiana or the Deep South in terms of style, the lists of both Humble and Houston in East Texas have a bit more in common with Baton Rouge and Memphis than they do with, say, San Antonio or even Dallas. Both of the East Texas population centers show far more of a taste for various African-American music styles (mostly hip-hop, but also blues and zydeco) than places west of the Brazos and north of College Station, where country takes over. Houston’s western suburb of Katy is more akin to Lubbock than it is to Humble.
Texans do well in both Oklahoma and New Mexico, too, as well as southern Arizona. The half-Texan duo Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon” holds down the top slot in both Albuquerque and Tucson, the latter of which also shows major love for King George (three songs), Selena (two), and a little for Kacey Musgraves, who has a single entry.
Back to Albuquerque: Strait’s roped in three of the top seven there, where Brooks & Dunn’s (slightly) lesser hits “My Maria” and “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” also still reign, and Clay Walker even makes an appearance. Musgraves and Miranda Lambert are each represented with a tune apiece, while incarcerated Houston rapper South Park Mexican tracks three hits. Selena resonates in Albuquerque too.
But as for Phoenix? Nada. That’s where California and western Mexican music takes over. You start running into bands like Sublime, Slightly Stoopid, and 311, super tight norteño kings Grupo Maximo Grado and local hero, rapper Sincerely Collins.
As for Cali, only Bakersfield still shows vestiges of the Texas-Oklahoma Dust Bowl migration: Worship music is still big there, unlike most of the rest of California. So, unsurprisingly, is the local anthem “Streets of Bakersfield,” penned by Sherman native Buck Owens; slightly more surprising is the fact that both Selena and South Park Mexican sneak in the low end of the chart there.
North of the Red River, Texas country artists do well, but not so well as the Sooner State’s own Red Dirt brigade such as Turnpike Troubadours, Stoney LaRue, and Cross Canadian Ragweed. And any love for Texas artists stops at the Kansas border.
And that’s it for Texas artists oddly popular outside of Texas, for the most part, save for the tastes of Hipster Nation, and one other Texan with a strange pocket of popularity.
Speaking of the former, both Kacey Musgraves and Leon Bridges are big hits in those “creative class” metropolises like Boston, Manhattan, and Seattle. Bridges, the Dallas-bred, NPR-approved Sam Cooke throwback, holds down three of the top ten positions in Portlandia, and is also popular in Nashville, whose fast-budding hipster cache makes it seem more and more like Austin every year.
At any rate, Musgraves is even more beloved in Nashville than she is in Austin, her narcotic tonic of smart country a balm in a city beset with bombastic bro-country.
One other oddity, this one much less hip: Moody Houston alt-rockers Blue October are big in Mormon country, with two songs on the Salt Lake City chart and one in Boise, where they vie for positions against the likes of Owl City, various BYU and LDS choirs and something called hazy electronic duo Purity Ring.
(image via Flickr Creative Commons/David Masters)