For the first minute and 45 seconds of his new, self-titled album, Zach Bryan lays out his vision for a life well-lived.
There are no pickup trucks, no girls in bikinis or short shorts, no football games, or fishing boats.
There is only the vastness of the land, from the Pacific Coast Highway to the Empire State Building, and the simple meaning of our own actions.
“I’ve learned that every waking moment is enough,” he intones in the album-opening poem, “and excess never leads to better things.”
It’s a message that has resonated with listeners in an undeniable way.
This week, Zach Bryan debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200 albums chart, moving the equivalent of 200,000 units in its first week.
It simultaneously topped the rock, rock & alternative, Americana/folk, and country charts, as well as Spotify, iTunes, and iTunes Country.
All 16 of its tracks landed in the Top 50 of the Billboard Hot 100, with “I Remember Everything,” his duet with Kacey Musgraves, debuting at Number One. https://youtu.be/uDaoeKwHzMA
Zach Bryan is the biggest album in the country, but it’s much more than that, too.
Bryan has clearly hit on something. The buzzword so far is “authenticity.” A military brat who served in the Navy and claims Oklahoma as his home (if not his current residence),
he fits the bill of a hard-working, blue-collar kid — one who not only believes in the American Dream but devoted years of his life to defending it for others.
His unlikely musical rise only fuels the narrative. Bryan’s big break came in 2019 when a shaky, self-recorded video of his song “Heading South” went viral.
It was the perfect calling card, a tale of an underdog singer “out to make a name and fool of ’em all” that neatly predicted his own future.
The unvarnished quality of that song courses still through Zach Bryan and reintroduces earnestness to the genre, which just may be what country music needs right now.
Country music, indeed, is having a moment, led by a surge in streaming. But what exactly is that moment?
Morgan Wallen holds the record for the most weeks at Number One on the Billboard 200 this year thanks to One Thing at a Time, an honor duplicated on the Hot 100 with his song “Last Night.”
In the past six weeks, Jason Aldean and Oliver Anthony planted the country flag atop the Hot 100 chart twice more.
Each of those, however, comes with an asterisk, be it political baggage or even unadulterated dog whistling.