Beyoncé’s appearance at the Country Music Association awards (CMAs) Wednesday solidified her interest in going country since the release of Daddy Lessons, a song from Lemonade that earned some radio play on country music stations this year and was covered by the Dixie Chicks on their summer tour.
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The synergy continued as she teamed up with the Dixie Chicks for a six-minute televised performance of the song that became the highlight of the night. Dressed in a long white gown to contrast the Dixie Chicks in all black, Beyoncé and lead singer Natalie Maines traded verses while Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer answered on fiddle and banjo. A larger band provided backing vocals, horns, and harmonica to give the production a slinky groove until, mid-way through, the song paused and became Long Time Gone, a Dixie Chicks song.
The performance was followed by the announcement that a studio version of the collaboration was posted for free download on the Dixie Chicks’ website.
The ominous theme of Daddy Lessons is rooted in traditional country. The song is sung from the perspective of a father giving his daughter advice from the grave. “Here’s what you do/When trouble comes to town/And men like me come around/Oh, my daddy said ‘shoot’,” Maines sings on the new version. But the music sounds more comfortable dancing above a New Orleans street parade. The studio version, with its handclaps and percussive horns, replicates the open-air revelry of traditional brass bands in that city opposed to the more traditional string-based arrangements driving most country hits today.
Beyonce at the CMAs is on the heels of last year’s surprise guest shot by Justin Timberlake, who performed a duet with Chris Stapleton that became a viral hit all year long. The match-up between country and pop stars is not unprecedented, as the country charts have become an unexpected refuge for many established outsiders from the pop and rock worlds, including Kid Rock and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.
One obvious reason for the crossover is greater exposure. Last week Nielsen released data that shows how country music is the top radio format in the US. In 2008, total country stations numbered 2,874; today the stations number just over 4,000. Country is also where the adults are. Country Music Association data shows country music is the number one format among adults 18-54. Growth in the genre is coming from the coveted Millennial generation (18-34), as well as those represented by Generation X (35-49) – two groups that listen to country radio the most.
Does that mean Beyoncé’s next move is an album of classic country duets, or maybe all bluegrass? Maybe not, but after the CMAs, it’s certain that the door is open.
Country music is well known for its collaborations, and there is no shortage of duets within the genre's lifespan. But we've cut it down to 50 of the genre's most memorable duets over the past several decades, as you'll see here.
While real-life couples Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have several standout duets that make our 50 Best Country Duets Ever list, so do many unlikely pairings. There's Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow with their 2003 hit "Picture," Kenny Chesney and Pink's "Setting the World on Fire" and more recently, Florida Georgia Line and Backstreet Boys' "God, Your Mama, And Me."
Acts like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, and Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire make our list twice, while Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton and Alan Jackson also have multiple duet appearances that are showcased in Taste of Country's 50 Best Duets. Although the majority of our list includes male-female features, high-ranking female duets are also worth mention. McEntire and Linda Davis' striking 1993 hit "Does He Love You" kept country fans mesmerized until the last note was played, while Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood's memorable "Somethin' Bad" reminds us once again of the power females have when they team up together.
“I wanted to collaborate with Carrie because we need to,” Lambert previously said of their 2014 hit. “There’s not that many females in country that do collaborate, and we’ve known each other for a really long time. But I needed it to be the right song, and I thought that one could be really cool.”
What collaborations did we leave out? Let us know!
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