Scattered among the usual suspects in the top 20 on the Country Airplay chart are two names closely associated with pop music: Demi Lovato and Elle King. They appear in the list’s top tier thanks to their hit duets with Brad Paisley (“Without a Fight”) and Dierks Bentley (“Different for Girls”), respectively. But while collaborations between county singers and stars of other genres are certainly nothing new, there have been quite a few in recent months. And others could find their way to country radio if Kenny Chesney’s team makes a single of his recently announced partnering with Pink (“Setting the World on Fire”), if Blake Shelton’s team releases his musical hook-up with Gwen Stefani (“Go Ahead and Break My Heart”) or if Keith Urban’s team sends radio his Pitbull pairing (“Sun Don’t Let Me Down”).
The Paisley duet just may be the beginning for Lovato. In a recent interview, she talked about growing up listening to country, noting that her mother was a country singer. She calls her format debut “kind of like a dream come true,” and says, “Hopefully I’ll be doing some more of it.”
When country awards shows pepper their performer and presenter lineups with stars from other worlds, some industry insiders blast the move as defensive or reflective of an attitude that country shows need outsiders to draw viewers. Surprisingly, however, there appears to be little of that feeling among country radio programmers when it comes to collaborative singles, with many praising their ability to potentially bring in new listeners and dismissing concerns that such duets might alienate core country fans.