From “Over And Over” To “Meant To Be”: 10 Essential Country/Pop Collaborations
The line between pop and country has always been thin (and flexible) with artists of one genre occasionally embracing elements of the other. However, the dawn of the country/pop collaboration is still a relatively new development. There have been a sprinkling of duets here and there, but the rulebook was thrown out the window when Keith Urban joined forces with Pitbull on Riptide. That combined with the breakout success of Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s “Meant To Be” — on both formats — has led to a rush of collaborations and remixes.
As much as I love this trend, sometimes the country/pop hybrid works… and sometimes it doesn’t. To save your ears from distress and disappointment, I’ve put together a list of 10 essential examples.
1. Nelly & Tim McGraw — “Over & Over” (2004)
In many ways, this is the OG country/pop collaboration. Nelly and Tim McGraw coming together for “Over And Over” was a shocking turn of events in 2004, but the unexpected union worked brilliantly. It also became a huge hit, peaking at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and still holds up today.
2. Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line — “Meant To Be” (2017)
While “Over And Over” came first, Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s “Meant To Be” arguably had more impact. In the past, country/pop collaborations were geared towards pop or country markets. This conquered both. It’s currently the most played song on US radio across all formats and would have reached number one without Drake’s superhuman streaming prowess.
3. Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson — “Don’t You Wanna Stay” (2010)
Of all the songs on this list, Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay” deserved to crossover to pop radio the most. After all, it boasts one of the best vocals of Kelly’s career and exudes the kind of gut-wrenching loneliness and longing that cuts through any genre barrier. While it conquered the country chart, and sold almost three million copies, it never got a video or pop radio airplay.
4. Kenny Chesney & Pink — “Setting The World On Fire” (2016)
This is another song that was rolled out with minimal fanfare, but eventually found an audience. Pink made a seemingly random cameo on Kenny Chesney’s 2016 LP, Cosmic Hallelujah, but brought real magic to the nostalgic “Setting The World On Fire.” The song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and certified platinum.
5. Justin Timberlake & Chris Stapleton — “Say Something” (2018)
“Say Something” is the saving grace of Justin Timberlake’s Man Of The Woods era. In five years, when people talk about the album, the song that will immediately spring to mind is JT’s collab with Chris Stapleton — a song that charted in countries where country music is as foreign as K-Pop.
6. Shakira & Blake Shelton — “Medicine” (2014)
One of the (sadly) forgotten country/pop collaborations is Shakira and Blake Shelton’s “Medicine.” A product of their stint on The Voice (a hotbed for these genre-defying anthems it must be said), the emotional duet appears on the diva’s 2014 self-titled LP. It was never pushed as single, but received a little love from country radio. Which is exasperating because it’s very, very good.
7. Niall Horan & Maren Morris — “Seeing Blind” (2017)
Niall Horan, the thinking man’s 1D alum, dipped his toe in the country pool by teaming up with Maren Morris on “Seeing Blind” — one of my favorite songs on Flicker. This comes across as more of a soft/rock anthem than country, but still has a pleasantly earthy vibe. Perhaps this was the song that gave Maren enough confidence to record “The Middle.”
8. Florida Georgia Line & Backstreet Boys — “God, Your Mama & Me” (2017)
It wasn’t easy to get my head around this collaboration at first. The prospect of the Backstreet Boys teaming up with the kings of new country sounded like a terrible idea to me. But then, Florida Georgia Line’s “God, Your Mama & Me” dropped last year and turned out to be an utterly charming experience, elevated to a new level by the boy band’s sublime harmonies. It eventually became the veteran group’s biggest hit since 2005’s “Incomplete.”
9. Dierks Bentley & Elle King — “Different For Girls” (2016)
Bad ass pop/rock queen Elle King is the perfect foil for Dierks Bentley on “Different For Girls,” a song that would have been all kinds of awkward without a female perspective. Their raspy vocals combine perfectly and the girl-power approach is unusual in country. Think of this as the genre’s “If I Were A Boy,” but with lyrics about drinking whiskey.
10. Christina Aguilera & Blake Shelton — “Just A Fool” (2012)
Blake Shelton deserves a medal for his services to country/pop collaborations. In addition to the aforementioned Shakira duet, “Medicine,” and his lovely song with real-life girlfriend Gwen Stefani (“Go Ahead And Break My Heart” should probably be on this list too), he also teamed up with Christina Aguilera on “Just A Fool” — one of the highlights of 2012’s underrated Lotus. Watch a live performance up top or check it out in my country/pop playlist below.