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BRELAND emerges, at The Ryman, as an unprecedented country superstar – Tennessean

A sold-out Ryman Auditorium on Tuesday evening ushered in the arrival of 26-year-old country artist BRELAND, an artist on the cusp of being the genre’s most unlikely male superstar in years.
The live event (also streamed via Amazon Music) was also a benefit for Nashville’s Oasis Center, an organization described via press release as “on a mission to help young people in Middle Tennessee” who are challenged by violence, bullying prevention, discrimination, intolerance and more.
In just two years, a complete neophyte to country music has gone from TikTok posting pop-trap ditties about not scuffing his Air Jordans or touching his truck to singing about sharing beers with Dierks Bentley. Expecting that to land him a headlining gig at country music’s mother church would be both laughable and unprecedented.
However, for just under two hours, there BRELAND was, doing just that. More importantly, he was not a step out of place in such an audacious moment.
More: ‘My mind is racing’: BRELAND says having clear mission helped land him three CMT Music Awards nominations
2022 ACM Awards: BRELAND, Thomas Rhett excite with duet performance of ‘Praise the Lord’
Intriguingly, he’s arrived in a way where he already fits on a stage laden with more veteran stars.
Yes, Nelly, Kane Brown, Sam Hunt, Lady A’s Charles Kelley and Thomas Rhett taking the stage to wild applause at a capacity-filled Ryman Auditorium without BRELAND on the lineup would make sense. These artists’ singles and albums have occupied the industry’s top tier for two decades.
Moreover — though you would be wrong in believing so — you could also think that BRELAND’s success is solely a magical moment attached to calls for reparational equity in country music. Mickey Guyton, that movement’s de facto leader, was present and performed her 2021 duet with the New Jersey native, “Cross Country.” Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer, and country-inspired rapper Lathan Warlick also performed. 
More than 20 stars of the past two decades responsible for nearly 80 Billboard No. 1 radio hits appeared on Wednesday evening. Getting artists likely exhausted from the previous evening’s 2022 CMT Music Awards to perform in front of 2,500 screaming people just under 24 hours removed from an awards show day is impressive.
Ultimately, the power of streaming, video, a well-developed narrative, and an undeterrable focus on dynamic success has allowed him to sail courses across genres with smooth efficiency. Thus, BRELAND has done in two years what most artists achieve in five times as long.
“Surprisingly, they almost all agreed to come after I texted them and asked them to pull up at The Ryman. So, thankfully, a bunch of artists helped me sell this venue,” said BRELAND in a candid moment on stage, between laughs.
He’s humbly underselling his excellence as a drawing card.
Watching BRELAND open the show by bringing out Kelley highlighted what makes him such a once-in-a-lifetime talent.
The first song performed was Lady A’s 2009 No. 1 song, “Need You Now.” Flawlessly, the African-American male vocalist slid into the lead vocal sung by Lady A’s Hillary Scott. 
However, his skill as a songwriter showed when the tandem sang the unreleased song “Told You I Could Drink” with the Music City Walk of Fame honoree.
It’s a love ballad, but it — along with other songs performed — serves to articulate points about the extraordinary qualities of his craftsmanship.
BRELAND speaks directly to the unique humanity of the subject he is writing about (“you know, I hear that you know a little bit about drinking, Charles,” he joked), then pairs that with novel metaphors and similies (Dierks Bentley collaboration “Beers on Me” includes “I like my drinks like my roof, on the house”), inflections or musical flourishes familiar to sanctified churches (every vocal run in his Thomas Rhett duet “Praise The Lord”), plus a spoonful of pop-adored hip-hop swagger. 
The incredible mix he’s improving at concocting with each new song released (or unreleased, as was the case in many moments on the Ryman’s stage on Tuesday evening) is equal parts saccharine and nitroglycerine: deliciously addictive to the mainstream but stunningly explosive, too.
Also, BRELAND’s appeal is notable because COVID forced him to be the first pop star in many generations to have such a lengthy space between just being seen and being seen live. 
Typically, when a headlining act takes the stage at The Ryman, the crowd rises to its feet in enthusiastic approval of their favorite artist’s arrival. However, when BRELAND hit the stage at The Ryman, the venue sat and watched in curious silence. They appeared to be comprehending how someone who only existed as two-dimensional videos could achieve three-dimensional real-time movement. 
Likely, for many in attendance at The Ryman, Tuesday evening’s performance was the first time they had ever seen him in person since he exploded as a social media and streaming favorite.
Country music’s favorite superstars of the moment are keenly aware of just how massive of a potential star BRELAND can be. On April 12, they went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that their fans and the genre’s industry know, too.

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