Investigating the Grammys Magic When Pop and Country Music Collide

Zedd, Maren Morris, Billy Ray Cyrus, Lil Nas X and more have all proven that combining country and pop music can provide unforgettable Grammy Award moments.

By Mike Vulpo 25 Jan, 2020 11:00 AMTags
Zedd, Maren Morris, Chris Stapleton, Justin TimberlakeGetty Images

Sometimes, pop and country music is meant to be together.

When it comes to the Grammys, pop culture fans know that the star-studded award show always brings unexpected guests together. Just look at Sunday's show where BTS, Diplo and Mason Ramsey will join Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus for an "Old Town Road All-Stars" performance.

But in recent years, artists from two specific genres have been creating some music magic that cannot be ignored.

Music's biggest night has been able to knowledge the magic that comes when pop and country music artists come together.

Just look at last year's show when the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category featured the talented pairing of Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton's "Say Something" as well as Zedd and Maren Morris' hit song "The Middle." Ultimately, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's performance of "The Shallow" came out on top.

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But in reality, those are just a couple examples of artists coming together to make some unforgettable hits.

"We're an unlikely pair, but because it fit the song so well, it was a great marriage of genres," Maren previously shared with Billboard when discussing the track. "The Grammys are known for these unlikely Grammy Moment collaborations, so to have a song that really represented what the Grammys are about is really full circle."

Watch: Lil Nas X & Billy Ray Cyrus Celebrate Win at 2019 CMAs

While you may correlate Nashville with Maren and Las Vegas nightlife with Zedd, both artists aren't completely surprised that the match worked. Besides, streaming has changed the way consumers discover new music and explore various genres.

"People being able to just switch straight to the next song if they don't like it, there's not this barrier anymore because you're not selling a song to somebody," Zedd explained to Billboard. "You can just mix genres however you want. If people don't like it, they can listen to something else cause, thanks to streaming, they basically own all songs."

If you're thinking these collaborations are extremely difficult to nail down, you may want to hear how Chris and Justin came together.

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As it turns out, the pair met up in Los Angeles to write some songs. What came next were a few words that inspired one of the biggest hits of 2018.

"It's a very fluid process with him," Chris previously shared with Billboard. "He was like 'All right, you hop in there and take a verse' and I'm like, 'You want me to do what?'…It came out great. I had a blast with him. He's a great creative force and one of those guys that if you get a chance to work with him, you should."

Another category music fans always like to watch is Best Country Duo/Group Performance. Last year, Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha were nominated for their monster hit "Meant to Be."

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The track recently claimed the record for the longest-ruling No. 1 in the history of Billboard's Hot Country Song Charts. The song it beat? Sam Hunt's crazy catchy tune "Body Like a Back Road."

"I think this song has a really powerful, universal message that fans are connecting with," Tyler Hubbard previously shared with E! News. "It shows me that this song is anointed by the best writer there is, the Lord. With every unexpected surprise in the 'Meant to Be' story, God was showing himself to be stronger than any tradition or genre."

While pop and country collaborations may seem fresh, it's not exactly a new thing in the industry.

Musicians Performing Live on Stage

Brad Paisley and Demi Lovato found huge success when they teamed up for "Without a Fight." Chris Lane and Tori Kelly created a massive hit thanks to "Take Back Home Girl." 

And at the 2017 Grammys, Kenny Chesney and Pink were nominated for Best Country Duo/Group Performance thanks to their hit "Setting the World on Fire."

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"To me, great songs are great songs regardless of genre—and the core of being alive is the same no matter where you are," Kenny once shared in a statement to Rolling Stone about the song. "That rush of realizing there's something going on here, you're really clicking with someone, or even just one of those perfect nights with your friends—there's no feeling like it."

Perhaps that's the magic music fans can look forward to in the months and years to come. Billy Ray and Lil Nas X made history for the longest-running No. 1 track on the Billboard Hot 100. "NO F--KING WAY," the rapper shared on Twitter when learning "Old Town Road" was nominated for Best Music Video, Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at Sunday's show.

Believe that this is only the beginning!

(Originally published February 9, 2019 at 3:00 a.m. PST)

E!'s coverage of the 2020 Grammys begins Monday on!