Cross Country: Top 10 Country-Pop Duets
Country music has its arms wide open. Not only has the genre flourished with infusions of rock, pop and even rap in its own artists’ songs, but it has also catapulted rock, pop and rap singers to the top of the country charts themselves … with a little help from their country friends. The Boot counts down our picks for the Top 10 duets by non-country stars and their country collaborators.
Pop icon Sting wrote and recorded this song in 1996, featuring it on his platinum-selling CD, ‘Mercury Falling.’ A year later, he recorded it with Toby for the country star’s album, ‘Dream Walkin’,’ with the two performing the tune together at the 1997 CMA Awards. The song marks the only time Sting has ever landed on the country charts.
Nelly included this song on his album, ‘Suit,’ and hand-picked Tim as his duet partner for the tune. Enticing the Nashville resident with the promise that it was a country-sounding tune, the hip-hop craftsman said he thought “the song was gonna be one of the best songs that I’ve ever done, or one of the worst. I didn’t think anything in between. It was truth or die.” Since the song went to No. 1 on four different charts, we’ll call it a success.
Jason recorded this song as the follow-up to his chart-topping hit, ‘Don’t You Wanna Stay,’ with pop star Kelly Clarkson. The song was released as a solo on his ‘My Kinda Party’ CD, but it was his CMT Music Awards performance of the tune with rapper Ludacris, which included a new verse written by the rapper, that became a genre-bending hit. Of the duo’s performance, Jason told The Boot, “I thought it went off great and I had a blast performing with him.”
Bon Jovi recorded two versions of this song, one with just the band, and a country radio edition that includes the powerful pipes of Sugarland‘s Jennifer Nettles. Originally intending to feature Keith Urban as their duet partner, when Jon Bon Jovi asked for a female singer instead, Jennifer stepped up to the plate. The song soared to No. 1 on the country charts and the Top 10 on the pop charts.
The lead single from Reba’s 2007 platinum-selling CD, ‘Duets,’ this song had already reached the top of the charts two years earlier, when Kelly wrote and recorded for her sophomore ‘Breakaway’ album. The duet version may not have ever seen the light of day, if not for a fortuitous ‘CMT Crossroads’ pairing between the two powerhouse vocalists. The twosome had already recorded another song to be included on the ‘Duets’ album when they performed ‘Because of You’ as part of the TV special. Reba’s husband, Narvel Blackstock, who happens to be Kelly’s manager, heard their version of this song and suggested they use it instead, and the rest is music history.
The legendary rocker recorded this tune in 1998 with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, but it was his version with Alison on their collaborative 2009 Grammy-winning album, ‘Raising Sand,’ that made fans and critics alike take notice. With poetic lines like “Please read my letter and promise that you’ll keep / The secrets and the memories and cherish in the deep,” the duo’s long-standing friendship comes through loud and clear in their seamless delivery of this powerful tune.
For the debut single from her sophomore album, ‘Hearts in Armor,’ the Georgia native snagged the Eagles lead singer to perform with her after the two met at a taping of the ‘Tonight Show.’ The ballad, which chronicles the tragic story of a 17-year-old who falls in love with “a walkaway joe” who was “born to be a leaver,” earned Trisha a Grammy nomination, and helped ‘Hearts in Armor’ hit platinum status.
It was one of the best kept secrets in country music. The debut single from his ‘Greatest Hits Volume II’ album, Alan hinted for weeks prior to the release that he was doing a song with a surprise artist, keeping fans tuned to their radio for the new track’s scheduled debut. With lines like “It’s only half past 12, but I don’t care / It’s five o’clock somewhere,” the song is quite fitting for the ‘Margaritaville‘ singer. It was a No. 1 hit for a whopping eight straight weeks and is now a country classic.
This beloved U2 song touched the hearts of country fans when lead singer Bono passed the microphone to Johnny Cash for lead vocals. Found on the band’s multi-platinum-selling CD, ‘Zooropa,’ the haunting lyrics describing a man who “went out searching / looking for one good man … with a Bible and a gun,” had Bono insisting the song was made for the Man in Black’s voice.
It’s been 27 years since the country icon and the Latin superstar hit the airwaves with this chart-topping hit, but it remains one of the most-beloved classics of all time. Paying homage to the women in their respective pasts, including the ones who “now are someone else’s wives,” the men say they are “glad they came along” and they “dedicate this song / to all the girls’ I’ve loved before.”