By Brian Ives
For years, the rock, pop and R&B industry have been operated out of New York and Los Angeles, while country’s home is, of course, in Nashville. But there’s always been a lot of cross-pollination, with country singers enjoying going outside of Music City, and vice versa. Here are some of our favorite collaborations between country and non-country singers from over the years.
Brad Paisley and Demi Lovato – “Without a Fight” (2016)
Paisley’s guitar-driven ballad is taken to the next level by Lovato’s vocals. At one point in the music video, she takes off Brad’s signature cowboy hat and puts it on, as if she’s thinking, “Hey, this fits.” The same is true of the genre; here’s hoping she does more country duets in the future.
Nelly and Tim McGraw – “Over and Over” (2004)
These days, country stars are brought up listening to hip-hop, but in 2004, this was a groundbreaking collaboration, and both the song and the video showed that country and R&B music aren’t that far apart.
Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett – “It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere” (2003)
Back in the day, country singers advised their listeners to tell their bosses to take this job and shove it. But on “It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere,” Alan Jackson took a different approach, asking “What would Jimmy Buffett do?” It’s one of the earliest examples of country music’s obsession with beach culture.
Keith Urban and Alicia Keys – “Gimme Shelter (live)” (2007)
A country superstar and a R&B superstar team up for a roaring take on a ’60s rock and roll classic. Recorded live on stage at Giants Stadium at Live Earth in 2007.
Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson – “Superman” (2011)
Willie Nelson has a catalog that has spanned the decades, but — against all odds — his collaboration with Snoop Dogg adding one more classic to his catalog. Their bromance also yielded another awesome song: “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” which also features Jamey Johnson and Kris Kristofferson.
Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani – “Go Ahead and Break My Heart” (2016)
They were an unlikely couple, and also an unlikely duet team. And yet, they seem happy together and this ballad definitely works.
Dierks Bentley and Elle King – “Different for Girls” (2016)
Dierks often colors outside the lines of country music, and Elle King is practically in her own genre of blues-pop. She was an inspired choice for a duet partner for this song.
Norah Jones and Dolly Parton – “Creepin’ In” (2004)
Norah Jones always had a big country influence (she covered Hank Williams’ “Cold Cold Heart” on her 2002 debut album, Come Away With Me), but it got even more pronounced on her second album, 2004’s Feels Like Home when she invited Dolly Parton for a collaboration. Dolly loved the song so much, she played it on her tour this past summer.
Loretta Lynn and Jack White – “Portland, Oregon” (2004)
Some duets are conceived in the offices of marketing departments, but not this one. Jack White took time off from his career during the height of the White Stripes’ popularity to produce Loretta Lynn’s 2004 classic comeback album, Van Lear Rose. He plays guitar on the whole album, but “Portland, Oregon” was his one duet with Loretta, and it’s a classic.