What happens when a superstar DJ/producer goes country? We bet it means he's unleashing a herd of tracks you’ll hear at wedding receptions for years to come. Diplo’s country is more “Old Town Road” than Johnny Cash. Much more. The album closes on a remix of “Old Town Road”, even. Will these tracks inspire line dancing routines? Maybe. Will there be TikToks? Most certainly. The record is called ‘Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley Chapter 1: Snake Oil’, which has a whiff of ‘Garth Brooks in... The Life of Chris Gaines’. But Thomas Wesley Pentz is Diplo’s real name, not the name of his alter-ego, an Australian rock star. Anyway, there are lots of collabs on here, including Julia Michaels, Noah Cyrus, and the Jonas Brothers. ‘Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley Chapter 1: Snake Oil’ is out May 29. Ask for it by name.
She’s done jazz, pop, dance, and a duet with the Muppets. Where else could Gaga go but country? Her fifth record, ‘Joanne’, dealt with the heartbreak of her aunt’s death. It’s a collection of guitar-forward, acoustic-leading tracks best exemplified by the dusty rose cowboy hat Gaga adopted as a key wardrobe piece for this era. This record included the hits "Perfect Illusion", "Million Reasons" and "Joanne (Where Do You Think You're Goin'?)". Gaga promoted the album with the 2017-18 “Joanne” world tour. At the Grammys, ”Joanne (Where Do You Think You're Goin'?)" won for Best Pop Solo Performance, beating out "Million Reasons”, which was also in the running. Now that Gaga can tick ’country’ off her list, where will she go next? We are pulling for a bossa nova album.
Remember when he was in a suit and tie and sliding around in glittery places with Jay-Z? This is not that. This is JT in a fleece. This is 2018’s ‘Man of the Woods’, an Americana jam that painted him as a down-to-earth family man. The big hit from this record was “Say Something”, a dance track with prominent acoustic guitars in its groove. Featuring Chris Stapleton, it earned a nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the Grammys.
If you didn’t know that country music icon Dolly Parton was Miley Cyrus’ godmother, then that’s on you because Miley does her darndest to tell everybody about that, all the time. We would do the same thing. (So relatable!) Also, Miley’s dad? He had a huge country hit in 1992 with “Achy Breaky Heart”. (Sorry for putting that song in your head and doubly sorry that it will stay there for three weeks.) For Miley's followup to 2013’s ‘Bangers’, she went country for ‘Younger Now’ in 2017. It features guest vocals by Dolly Parton, who is Miley’s godmother, FYI.
Did Stefani go country by osmosis? For the past five years, she’s been very publicly loved-up with country star Blake Shelton. Maybe some of his country vibes wore off on her. First, there was Shelton and Stefani’s 2016 country duet "Go Ahead and Break My Heart”, then there was “Nobody But You”, and now they’re appearing on the ‘ACM Presents: Our Country’ special. We hope Stefani hasn’t gone so far country that she’ll never come back.
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What's a frat-friendly, adult-alternative rocker to do when success dries up? If you're Darius Rucker, you reinvent yourself as a country star. Rucker's old band Hootie & the Blowfish may be relegated to the '90s nostalgia bin alongside Tamagotchis, pogs and the Arch Deluxe, but solo Rucker has transitioned swimmingly into his new place in the world. On the revamped resumé: three #1 albums, a handful of hits and a CMA award for Best New Artist. Rucker's switch to country was preceded by an attempt at R&B stardom (see: 2002's Back to Then) that absolutely tanked and was never acknowledged ever again.
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An organic artistic shift or a crassly transparent attempt at pandering to a new fanbase? Bon Jovi's mid aughts shift to a country sound was met with a healthy dash of cynicism, but the move paid off on the charts. 2007's country-tinged Lost Highway (featuring guest appearances from LeAnn Rimes and Big & Rich) gave the Garden State rockers their first #1 album on the Billboard 200 since Reagan was in the White House. It was only a brief detour into countryesque sounds, though. Bon Jovi returned to a more pop-rocky sound for their follow-up album The Circle.
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And why wouldn't a one-time Daisy Duke try her hand at country? After 2006's 'A Public Affair' stiffed on the charts, Jessica Simpson applied for refugee status in the world of country music. In 2008, Jessica offered up 'Do You Know' to the world, to which the world responded: "yeah, we're not feeling this." Critics found the album underwhelming at best and record sales were lower than any of Jessica's previous efforts. At least she has that acting career to fall back on.
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Considering that Jewel had a rodeo star hubby and a hosting stint on Nashville Star on her country credibility CV, the Alaskan's shift to country music doesn't seem like that much of a curve ball. (Even if yodelling hasn't been in vogue in country in a long long time.) In 2008, Jewel put out the John Rich produced country effort 'Perfectly Clear', following that up two years later with the album 'Sweet and Wild'. She followed that up by playing June Carter Cash in a Lifetime biopic.
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Genre-hopping surrealist duo Ween knocked out a country album in 1996. '12 Golden Country Greats' features the pair employing a dozen legendary country musicians (including The Jordanaires, Charlie McCoy and Hargus "Pig" Robbins) to craft an album that includes such songs as "P*** Up a Rope" and "Help Me Scrape the Mucus Off My Brain."
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In 2004, Michelle Branch took a break from lite FM medium rotation stardom to team with Jessica Harp to form the country music duo The Wreckers. The pair notched a gold record (2006's 'Stand Still, Look Pretty') before calling it a day in 2007.
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Elvis Costello fans picking up a copy of 1981's 'Almost Blue' were greeted with a rather unique sticker: "WARNING: This album contains country & western music and may cause offence to narrow minded listeners." The album featured Costello performing nothing but covers of country music songs, including renditions of tunes made famous by Hank Williams, George Jones and Charlie Rich.
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Staind frontman Aaron Lewis abandoned post-grunge for country in the 2010s. Lewis offered up a solo country album, 2012's 'The Road'.
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"Cowboy" should've tipped us off, eh? Kid Rock has shifted from being the poster child for unapologetically white trash rap-rock to being...well still that guy but with the ability to knock out some country radio friendly hits too. "Picture" and "All Summer Long" crossed over onto the country charts, making Kid Rock something that gets blasted out of busted down vans at festival campsites where cowboy hats and Kenny Chesney t-shirts are the norm.
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Some pop stars dabbling in country music come across like tourists. Kelly Clarkson seems right at home in the genre. Thanks to her duet with Jason Aldean ("Don't You Wanna Stay"), Clarkson has an Academy of Country Music Award and a Country Music Association award in her trophy case.
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Ray Charles had no problem with doing his own thing and in 1962 the "What'd I Say" singer elected to go full country and release 'Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music'. The album proved to be a hit with record buyers and it's lauded to this day as an absolute classic.
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Justin Bieber won a CMT Music Award? You better believe it. The Biebs teamed with Rascal Flatts for a remix of "That Should Be Me" and the resulting music video earned the unlikely team a CMT Music Award for Collaborative Video of the Year. We can't help but imagine what Charlie Rich would have thought of Justin winning.
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Lionel Richie took a bit longer in life to embrace his country side, but the results were very impressive. The R&B legend's 2012 album 'Tuskagee' was a re-imagining of some of his signature songs with the help of the biggest names in country music including Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Shania Twain and many others. The album went platinum within 6 weeks of its release, becoming one of Lionel's most successful records in years.
C) at the Wonderwall portrait studio during the 2013 CMT Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena on June 5, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Wonderwall
Hip hop star Nelly's breakthrough album was titled 'Country Grammar', but it wasn't until several years later that he actually broke into the genre as a guest on 'Over and Over' with Tim McGraw. Nelly also collaborated with Florida Georgia Line (pictured) for their single 'Cruise'.