How The Tiger King Brought 90’s Country BACK Into the Mainstream Spotlight

Follow along as WhiskeyChick explores how we went full-circle from snap-clap pop country back to the neon dance hall tracks of the 90’s through a little bit of algorithmic shenanigans.

Could a giggle and a gag have accidentally launched a revival?

It’s a funny thing how we all thought that when the AI robots take over it would be some nefarious plot to destroy humanity and overthrow our leaders… I bet you never expected the AI Algorithm to fill your life with more Reba, B&D, Shania, and Lonestar instead. So how is it that’s exactly what’s happening then? Well let me tell you… It’s all because at the beginning of the pandemic, you and everyone you know binged through the Tiger King docuseries on Netflix. You think I’m kidding? Well allow me to elaborate.

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Back when we all thought we were just staying home for a few weeks to “slow the curve” we indulged in the insane and unbelievable story that was the Tiger King. Don’t lie, you know you gave in to the WTF. At first we were drawn into the train wreck that was the show… The lovers. The fans. The animals. The race for President. Carole effin Baskin. The whole shebang. But then we got to the music career. We rolled our eyes at how cringy “I Saw a Tiger” was, but it got stuck in our heads. It became a meme and a punchline almost overnight, causing you to pull up the video on YouTube or play the track on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.

This is where the algorithm starts… These services don’t understand viral memes or one-time jokes. They just look at the identifying markers of a song you intentionally picked to hear, and try to feed you more like it to keep you listening. So when you break down a sudden mad rush for “I Saw a Tiger” and other hits like “Here Kitty Kitty” and “My First Love” the engines read it as
Genre: Country
Circa: 2013
Fans Also Liked: Rodney Carrington, David Allen Coe, Hank Williams Jr, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, Alabama, Brooks & Dunn

You see that? You see where they paired your favorite male artists of the 90’s with the joke of 2020? That’s where the shift happens. Now the streamers are playing “Chattahoochie” and “How Do You Like Me Now”, and you’re remembering what a good time you had in the neon-filled dance halls, and falling right into the nostalgia cycle of playing your favorite country club hits from the first wave of success these artists had. You’re having such a good time reliving these tracks that you didn’t even realize you’re further confirming these associations for the streaming services, linking these nostalgic tunes to Joe Exotic so that the when the next listener pulls up “I Saw A Tiger”, the suggestions on autoplay are even more fine-tuned.

Do this for a few months as the rest of the Netflix-binging public plays along and the record exec’s start noticing the uptick in plays of those vintage classics and instead of being reactive, they flip to pro-active and start uploading the back-catalogs of artists to capitalize on the surging trend of nostalgia streams. Add to it the nature of TikTok trends where a single obscure song can go viral (I’m looking at you and your Neon Moon Brooks and Dunn) further increasing the backwards glances down radio row. And all of this record label meddling and head-scratching to make the most of our renewed interest in vintage tracks has led us to this very moment where the labels have gone from reactive to proactive with their big announcement this week.

Spotify has launched a campaign to celebrate one of the most iconic decades of Country music: The 90s. 90s Country music gave us power anthems  like “Man! I Feel Like A Woman,” seven hit-filled albums from the legendary Reba, and made stars out of the young duo Brooks & Dunn.  As listeners return to these classic songs, albums, and moments in droves, Spotify has decided to honor them with a microsite, Spotify Singles, video content, and more. 

To celebrate this resurgence, Spotify launched a creative campaign highlighting the staying power of the platform’s 90s country catalog, while also promoting the next generation of emerging country stars who are inspired by those that came before them, whose music they likely grew up listening to. –
Read more at Spotify.com

How The Tiger King Brought 90's Country BACK Into the Mainstream Spotlight
Tune in to Spotify’s Best of the 90’s Country Music Playlist right here.

So to sum up, what started as an indulgence, became a gag, and got buried in nostalgia, might actually have accidentally saved us from drowning in the current wave of awful bro-country on snap-tracks and you can thank Joe Exotic for throwing out the life raft. Meanwhile, if you want a playlist that spans from the 70’s to now, enjoy 8 hours of upbeat honky tonk tunes custom curated by WhiskeyChick herself at the Country Music Clubhouse on Spotify!

Dance along to WhiskeyChick's favorite honky tonk hits from the 70's through today on Spotify!
Dance along to WhiskeyChick’s favorite honky tonk hits from the 70’s through today on Spotify!

About Shauna "WhiskeyChick" Castorena

Shauna "WhiskeyChick" Castorena is a freelance writer for both Country Music News and Country Music On Tour. You can reach Shauna on Twitter or Facebook.