Speaking as a bit of a closed off music snob the name Billboard rarely pops into my mind as a worth while topic of conversation. After all, they are really known for the “Hot 100” which occasionally and very temporarily houses a song or album that is in my musical hemisphere. It isn’t to say that what Billboard does isn’t fine, it is, it just isn’t where my scene is. Regardless, the music rating service did provide a “Folk Album Chart” and of course, that is the place my eyes would jump to first. But purists would be quick to note that much of what populated that chart could hardly be called folk music. So to remedy this, Billboard has renamed its “Folk Album Chart” into something that I believe is far more inclusive and appropriate for what the chart actually contains.
Well, I never thought I would say this, but that is a great move by, Billboard nicely done! The new name is the “Americana/Folk Album Chart” and I think that is far better. Now this may not be ground breaking stuff to a lot of people (or to anyone) but it is a good idea in that it moves us away from seeing folk music as this vague catch-all for anyone with an acoustic guitar or banjo and a sad song. For example, The Lumineers topped such a chart with both of their albums respectively however, neither album contains a single folk song. Sure, folk instruments like the acoustic guitar and mandolin are used but they are not folk songs. What they are, are Americana to their core and that is why this shift is so positive. Not because it redefines any genres but because it corrects a long mistaken assumption that anything quiet and contemplative was folk.
Bringing the emerging Americana genre into the conversation even more may be the biggest and best byproduct of the change. With the growing mainstream popularity of Americana artists and festivals, this is a social movement that Billboard was smart to catch on to, if maybe just a bit late. Finally, adding Americana to the forefront of the title opens up the chart to new artists that may have a more electric sound that would not be traditionally considered folk. Alt country and Newgrass deserve a place on the Americana list but throwing them in under the folk umbrella would be incorrect.