I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while but didn’t want to interrupt the flow of my travel pieces. However, since Wednesday is the 52nd Country Music Awards I thought now was as good a time as ever to write this. For those that know me this won’t come as a surprise but for those that don’t, I’m a lover of all things country. You name it, I love it. Films with cowboys (anyone seen The Longest Ride?), cowboy boots, hats and plaid shirts (yes I own all three), the classic country lifestyle and that Southern charm but most of all, country music. The lyrics are such heartfelt stories it’s impossible not fall in love with them. I listen to it so much I think my family are even coming round to it.
Country music has never been very popular in the UK, perhaps it’s even been laughed at, but over the past couple of years and the last year in particular it’s really taking a hold. There are numerous country music events across the UK throughout the year; whether it be concerts from artists such as Lady Antebellum, Old Dominion or Kacey Musgraves, country music festivals like Long Road festival, Nashville meets London, Country to Country (the biggest country event in the UK) or Nashville Nights, a country music nightclub experience. Mainstream radio station BBC Radio 2 has a country music show every Thursday from 7-8pm which I’m sure has been a huge help in showcasing the best in the genre, often featuring interviews from big names like Little Big Town, Zac Brown Band and the one and only Tim McGraw, as well as helping up and coming artists reach the spotlight. There’s also Chris Country, a smaller radio station that is currently broadcast in Manchester, Portsmouth, Cambridge and Greater London with growing traction all the time, and available to listen to anywhere from the app. There are a number of UK country acts now, Catherine McGrath, The Shires and Ward Thomas to name a few. The hit ABC show “Nashville” even featured a British country singer as one of the title characters and I’d highly recommend watching if you haven’t already.
This past year there have been a number of pop-country collaborations in the Billboard charts and doubt many people know they’re partly by country artists.
So without further ado, here’s my list of the most recent/most popular country crossover collaborations…
- “Meant to Be” – Bebe Rexha ft. Florida Georgia Line
The duo from Nashville Tennessee hold the record for the best selling digital country song of all time with their debut song “Cruise”. They’ve also collaborated with The Chainsmokers back in 2017. “Meant To Be” is nominated for 3 CMA’s this year, watch the video for it below.
2. “The Middle” – Zedd, Grey ft. Maren Morris
Maren Morris, from Texas is a Grammy Award winning country artist that spent many years writing for other performers including Tim McGraw and Kelly Clarkson. “The Middle” peaked at number 5 on the Billboard top 100 chart. I’d highly recommend giving her record a listen, my personal favourites are “Rich”, “My Church” and “I Could Use a Love Song”. Morris is nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year as well as Musical Event of the Year for “Dear Hate” which she released with Vince Gill after the 2017 Las Vegas Strip Shooting.
3. “Seeing Blind” – Niall Horan ft. Maren Morris
4. “Say Something” – Justin Timberlake ft. Chris Stapleton
Initially this pair were writing together until Stapleton was asked to sing on the record. It peaked at number 9 on the US Billboard chart, number one in Slovakia and Slovenia as well as the top 10 in 11 other countries including the UK. Along with country, the song encompasses rock, gospel, pop, acoustic soul and jazz elements. Stapleton is up for 5 CMA’s including Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year.
5. “Keeping Score” – Dan & Shay ft. Kelly Clarkson
Clarkson has made a couple of appearances in the country charts before, dueting with Reba McEntire in 2007 which reached number 2, as well as collaborating with Jason Aldean in 2011 which got to number 1. Dan & Shay are nominated for Vocal Duo of the Year, Single of the Year and Song of the Year at this weeks award ceremony.
6. “Polaroid” – Jonas Blue, Liam Payne, Lennon Stella
Stella, who found fame starring in Nashville with her sister Maisie, has released a couple of her own singles recently, including this which peaked at number 2 on the British iTunes chart. Her songs “Fortress”, “Bad” and acoustic number “Like Everybody Else” are available to stream or download now.
7. “This Feeling” – The Chainsmokers ft. Kelsea Ballerini
Twenty five year old Ballerini, from Mascot, Tennessee has had four number ones from her second album “Unapologetically” as well as winning a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in back in 2017. After being influenced by the likes of Taylor Swift and Shania Twain her style is quite pop-country with my favourites from her album being “Legends”, “Unapologetically” and “I Hate Love Songs”. Ballerini is nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year.
Some other artists with recent country music influences are listed below
- “Shelby ’68” – Kylie Minogue
- “Hunt You Down” – Ke$ha
- Una Healy – Originally from pop group The Saturdays, her album “The Waiting Game” has a very country feel and was promoted whilst supporting Maddie & Tae on their UK tour back in 2016. The album features “Stay My Love” a duet with Sam Palladio, the aforementioned Brit from ABC’s Nashville. Having only sold 12,000 copies of her album my favourites are “Please Don’t Tell Me”, “Staring at the Moon” as well as “Stay My Love” – I’d give it a listen if you like chill country vibes.
Now, it wouldn’t be an article about pop-country crossovers without mentioning Kacey Musgraves. Since her first album “Same Trailer Different Park” which featured songs “Merry Go Round” and “Follow Your Arrow” she has always paved her own way within the genre of country music with her witty, humorous lyrics along with her big hair and multitude of rhinestones. Her most recent album “Golden Hour” which is nominated for CMA Album of the Year is even more different than the last. Like her albums before, she doesn’t shy away from the typically “un-country” topics of drugs or LGBTQ rights but mixes them with themes of family, with reference to her mother and grandmother, as well as singing about small town life. The album is like a psychedelic kaleidoscope, country mixed with everything else making it a standout country crossover record. It’s hard to pick a favourite 3 from this album but “Wonder Woman”, “Velvet Elvis” and “Oh, What A World” are definitely up there. Listen to “Velvet Elvis” below and see for yourself.
Musgraves also supported Harry Styles on the American leg of his tour last year, during which they sang the Shania Twain classic “You’re Still The One” which has some of the prettiest harmonies, I only wish they’d produce a studio version. Watch the video below but skip to about a minute in to avoid the screaming crowds.
The CMA’S are being aired live from Bridgestone Arena, Nashville on Wednesday 14th on ABC at 8/7c, hopefully there’s a way the UK can watch too.