Here are 10 instances when country artists ventured outside the genre’s borders in completely unexpected ways.
10. Carrie Underwood, Kristen Chenoweth and Christina Applegate –“Be My Baby”, “Leader of the Pack”, and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”
In 2009, the three bombshells performed a 60s-inspired medley during Underwood’s Christmas variety show. Almost as surprising as the collaboration itself, their bright pink outfits and giant up-dos made quite the theatrical statement. The choreographed dance moves and vast differences between the three ladies vocal abilities resulted in a peculiar performance.
9. “Firework” –Katy Perry and Kasey Musgraves
Perry is known for her sensationalism and over-the-top performances, whereas Musgraves’ is acclaimed for her laid-back spirit and delicately crafted lyrics. On “Firework” the two artists beautifully united these opposite styles. They preserved the original track’s sweeping sound while stripping back the instrumentation to reveal its intricate melody.
7. “Accidental Racist”—Brad Paisley & L.L. Cool J
Brad Paisley and L.L. Cool J made a statement with the unexpected nature of this collaboration. The song highlighted how misunderstanding, rather than malice, is at the center of racial tensions. In addition to generating controversy, the song missed the mark in blending the two artists divergent musical approaches. L.L. Cool J’s rap felt dropped into the twang-filled melody, rather than smoothly integrated with it.
6. “Hard Luck Woman”—Garth Brooks & KISS
Garth has worn many hats over the last decade—both literally and from a career perspective. Recently, he dabbled in the tech industry, with the launch of his digital music service GhostTunes. While some viewed that venture as out of the ordinary, Garth has been a man of surprises throughout his entire career, as demonstrated by this collaboration with KISS. That being said, seeing KISS without makeup is almost as surprising as the performance itself!
5. “Sweet Lovin’ Friends”—Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone
Parton and Stallone both earned countless accolades in their respective fields over the course of their careers. Pairing together two highly successful individuals seems like a recipe for success, right? Well, not quite. The only award this duet took home was a 1985 Razzie Award for “Worst Original Song.”
4. “From This Moment On” –Shania Twain and the Backstreet
A beautiful fusion of 90s hit-makers, the Backstreet Boys combined their smooth harmonies with Shania’s powerful vocals on this 1999 performance. Although both artists are known for their high-energy performances, they slowed things down for a moving interpretation of Shania’s hit. The joyous screams of the crowd at the song’s conclusion suggest that the band might have had the potential to extend their short-lived dip into the country music industry.
3. “Thug Story” – Taylor Swift and T. Pain
Swift has shared the stage with many artists throughout her career, but none provides for a more interesting listening experience than when she broke out her rap skills with “T. Pain” at 2009’s CMT awards. The cleverly named “Thug Story” garnered millions views—a feat that only Queen Taylor could have pulled off in such circumstances.
2. “That Should Be Me” –Justin Bieber and Rascal Flatts
Rascal Flatts has always walked closely to the pop side of the pop/country line. Even so, their 2010 collaboration with Justin Bieber came out of left field considering Bieber’s status as a “teen heart-throb.” The band had been in the business for over 10 years at the time of release, making the pairing feel a bit like a “mid-life” crisis in which the band sought to relieve their carefree youth.
2. “You and I” — Jennifer Nettle and Lady Gaga
Jennifer Nettles and Lady Gaga combined their dynamic voices for a soul-filled performance at the 2011 Grammy Nominations Concert. Kristen Bush stripped down the track’s theatrical-feel with his intricate artistry on the acoustic guitar. Of all the Lady Gaga’s songs, “You and I” has the greatest country-feel, making for a great choice for the unlikely pairing to tackle.
1. “Justified and Ancient” – KLF & Tammy Wynette
Acid house band meets glamorous country star! The British duo invited Wynette into their bizarre alternative universe for an 80s-pop inspired track, released in 1991. Perhaps due to shock-value, the track performed well on the charts—coming in at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 11 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Wynette’s ability to pull off the song with grace is a testament to her brilliance as a vocalist.