In a music industry often dominated by polished pop hits and catchy tunes, Zach Bryan's raw approach is a breath of fresh air. The rising country star from Oklahoma possesses a traditionalist's appreciation for songwriting and the intense, earnest emotion of heartland rock, making his self-titled album a standout success.
Bryan's debut album, "Zach Bryan," is nothing short of a phenomenon. All 16 songs from the album simultaneously debuted in the Top 50 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a feat that speaks volumes about his talent and the connection he has forged with his audience. This achievement is even more impressive when you consider the weighty and introspective nature of his music.
From the very beginning of the album, Zach Bryan sets the tone for what's to come. In "East Side of Sorrow," he acknowledges the potential criticism he might face for delving into painful subjects and singing songs that are deeply personal. His lyrics are poignant and vivid, offering a glimpse into his life, experiences, and emotions. From his time as a Navy veteran to the loss of his mother in 2016, Bryan's songs are not just melodies but also hard-won pep talks, reflecting on the journey that has shaped him.
Despite the weightiness of his themes, Bryan infuses his music with a sense of fight and resilience. He has become a force on both the country and rock charts, even if he remains a reluctant celebrity. In interviews, he's expressed his devotion to songwriting as a pure, unfiltered outlet for sharing his story, a sentiment that resonates deeply with his fans.
While Bryan's music can evoke the essence of a pop star at times, he firmly roots himself in the tradition of old-school country songwriting. His songs are filled with references to the rugged landscape of his childhood, family, and the hard-earned wisdom of adulthood. This balance between pop appeal and traditional storytelling is part of what makes his music so captivating.
Bryan's views on the country music industry are as forthright as his songwriting. He's unafraid to criticize elements of the genre that don't align with his vision. His preference for stripped-down arrangements and the authenticity of live takes and four-track demos sets him apart from the slick sound of his contemporaries. He cherishes the imperfections and the intimate moments that come from recording in a lo-fi setting.
In songs like "Smaller Acts" and "Oklahoman Son," Bryan's lo-fi recordings embrace a sense of nostalgia and vulnerability, reminiscent of the emotional depth found in Bon Iver's "For Emma, Forever Ago." It's this earnest intensity that defines Bryan's music and aligns him more with heartland rockers like Sam Fender than traditional country chart-toppers.
With the release of his self-titled album, Zach has achieved something that has never been done before in the industry. All 16 songs from "Zach Bryan" simultaneously debuted in the Top 50 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a feat that not even the biggest stars in the music world can claim.
The crowning jewel of this monumental achievement was his duet with Kacey Musgraves, "I Remember Everything," which not only landed in the Top 50 but shot straight to the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This marks a significant milestone for both Zach Bryan and Kacey Musgraves, as it's their first time reaching the pinnacle of the chart.
However, what truly sets Zach Bryan apart is that every single song on his eponymous album found a place within the Top 50 of the all-genre chart. This remarkable achievement marked the first time in history that 20 country songs had placed in the Hot 100's top 40. In addition to "I Remember Everything," there were several other standout tracks that gained recognition on the chart.
"Hey Driver," featuring The War & Treaty, secured the 14th position, while "Spotless," featuring The Lumineers, wasn't far behind at number 17. "East Side of Sorrow" held the 18th spot, and "Tourniquet" arrived at a strong number 20. In total, five of Zach Bryan's singles graced the Top 20 simultaneously, a feat only previously accomplished by Morgan Wallen.
Speaking of Morgan Wallen, Zach Bryan is now the second country act to chart at least 13 Hot 100 hits in the top 40 in a single week, a milestone initially achieved by Wallen with the release of "One Thing at a Time."
Billboard reports that with 18 songs on the Hot 100, Zach Bryan is only second to Morgan Wallen, who holds the record for the most songs charting at the same time with a staggering 36, also coinciding with Wallen's album release.
One of the most striking aspects of Zach Bryan's success is that he has breathed new life into the country music genre on the Hot 100 chart. In 2023, "I Remember Everything" became the fourth country song of the year to reach the number one spot, dethroning Oliver Anthony's "Rich Men North of Richmond." This achievement is a testament to the growing influence and popularity of country music in the mainstream.
Looking back at the history of the Billboard Hot 100, only 1975 can boast a similar year for country music, with five country songs topping the chart. This historical context underscores the significance of Zach Bryan's accomplishment.
Zach Bryan's debut has certainly turned the music world on its head, and it's clear that his self-produced album authentically represents who he is as an artist. With such an explosive start to his career, there's no doubt that this is just the beginning for the talented musician. As fans continue to revel in his chart-topping hits, it's evident that Zach Bryan has transcended the boundaries of country music to become a bonafide superstar in the broader music landscape.