Why Billy Ray Cyrus Is Country Music’s Low-Key Renaissance Man
Billy Ray Cyrus is a controversial figure in country music. He's sometimes perceived as a lightweight in some circles and disparaged for his more extreme projects. But if you look at his career objectively, the "Achy Breaky Heart" singer has consistently been one of the most groundbreaking artists of his generation — and he's not done yet.
After years of struggle, Cyrus shot to overnight superstardom with the success of "Achy Breaky Heart" in 1992, and he also touched off the line dance craze. That enormous success earned him more than a few detractors, including Travis Tritt, who famously disparaged Cyrus for turning country music into an "ass-wiggling contest."
But Cyrus proved not to be a one-hit wonder. He went on to deliver a string of radio hits that includes "Could've Been Me," "She's Not Cryin' Anymore," "In the Heart of a Woman," "Busy Man" and more, and Cyrus proved to be one of country music's most chameleon-like artists, adapting his sound and his look many times over the years to move with changing trends and sometimes preceding them.
Cyrus left some of his fans scratching their heads when he recorded a hip-hip version of "Achy Breaky Heart" with rapper Buck 22 in 2014, but the song and the video earned him massive exposure, and his eagerness to explore new styles has paid off again with the smash success of "Old Town Road." The song has become a multi-format No. 1 hit practically overnight after Cyrus teamed with rapper Lil Nas X for a remix of the original track.
The singer has also proven to be an actor of some range. Though most fans probably remember him most for his comedic role on Hannah Montana, Cyrus also acquitted himself well prior to that on Doc, demonstrating that he could handle drama. He's also branched out into films, and now that his career is back into highest gear, there's literally no telling what to expect next from the unpredictable performer.
Taste of Country featured Cyrus in a recent episode of the video series The Secret History of Country Music. Every Monday, Taste of Country News host Ania Hammar reveals the untold stories of country music's biggest hits, moments and artists.
Carrie Underwood, Kid Rock and Alan Jackson are among the artists already featured, with many more to come. Be sure to subscribe to Taste of Country's YouTube channel so you never miss a new episode.
Watch More Secret History of Country Music:
All of the Cameos + Pop Culture References in the "Old Town Road" Video: