Are Dua Lipa & Avril Lavigne Going Country Too?

Also performing a duet with Nate Smith was the pop-punk princess herself, Avril Lavigne. While some have suggested the Lavigne-Smith collaboration is the result of a romance, her reps have denied they are a couple. So what gives?

Last night at the Academy of Country Music Awards, Dua Lipa made a surprise appearance duetting with country star Chris Stapleton for a performance of his song “Think I’m In Love With You.” And that wasn’t the only collaboration that caught people off guard.

The past year has seen a number of pop artists pivot to country music, and found success from crossing over. Beyoncé, of course, is the biggest success story of them all with her album, Cowboy Carter, which not only topped the album charts in virtually every country, it also made her the first black woman to reach #1 on the country charts.

Earlier this month, Post Malone made a similar move teaming up with Morgan Wallen for a collaboration called “I Had Some Help,” which they also performed at the ACMAs last night. It’s the first single for an album he revealed over Twitch. “Country album is coming,” he said.

“I keep singing a song that we made while I was in Nashville, and it’s so f**kin’ sick, but it’s not out. We made such sick music down in Nashville. It was so much, so much fun.”

Lana Del Rey also announced she will be releasing a country album called Lasso later this year. Add that to all the other pop converts before them, like Gwen Stefani, Kylie Minogue, Nickelback, Ed Sheeran and Adele, and there is definitely something going on here.

In an interview with Billboard, Leslie Fram, CMT Senior VP of music strategy and talent explained that there is an “overwhelming respect for the storytelling and the songwriting in Nashville.” Country has long been known for its ability to tell stories, which is something of a novelty in pop music. However, as more and more pop artists begin to write their own songs (with teams, of course), storytelling has become more important to distinguishing them as both a songwriter AND a singer.

As Forbes points out, country music fans continue to consume music at a rate much higher than other markets, up 23% in 2023. Country music also has a very dedicated audience that spends money on its artists, from sell-out tours to CD sales, it’s not just relying on streaming numbers.

Throw in the fact that country has recently been dominating the Hot 100 more than ever, with the likes of Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night,” Jason Aldean’s controversial “Try That in a Small Town” and Luke Combs’ faithful cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” simultaneously claiming the top three spots in August 2023, and there is a noticeably seismic shift happening with country’s influence across the music industry.

While that all seems great for pop artists, Fram forsees these crossover moments gaining airplay on country radio becoming a problem for country artists.

“[It] is going to be a major topic of conversation … If [a core country artist] has spent 30 to 50 weeks trying to climb up a chart and, all of a sudden, they’re replaced by someone who is not in the genre, I do believe there will be concerns,” Fram explains.

Like with most things, you can always draw a line back to Taylor Swift, who did the reverse with her career, going from country to pop. (Though, it’s interesting to hear her return to her roots on a song like “But Daddy I Love Him,” which sounds like the modern country sound she helped usher in on her pre-Red albums.)

“The pop labels are seeing the success of a Morgan Wallen,” Sony Nashville chairman/CEO Randy Goodman tells Billboard. “The biggest female artist in the world is Taylor [Swift], who started in country. I don’t think that’s lost on any of the labels.”

And so we likely shouldn’t be surprised when an artist like Dua Lipa, who has never shown any inkling of being interested in a genre like country, tests the waters with a proven star like Chris Stapleton, who sells records AND has songwriter cred to his name. Or Avril Lavigne, who is from Napanee, a small town in Ontario that has its own annual country music jamboree, which should make her just as country as someone like Timmins, Ontario’s Shania Twain, shouldn’t it?

Holy shit! Dua Lipa performed with Chris Stapleton at the ACMs! The intro was awesome but I missed recording that part because I wasn’t expecting it! — Mimi Renee (@MimiRenee_MOODZ) May 17, 2024

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