By Annie Reuter
With the release of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton‘s single “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” we got to thinking: What are the best male/female country duets of all time? Certainly Rogers and Parton’s “Islands in the Stream” is a classic, but what are the most memorable duets?
We’re starting with contemporary country artists, so on today’s list, we look at male/female duets from the most recent period of country music, beginning with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill‘s 1997 hit “It’s Your Love.” Our “new school” list then leads all the way up to Kenny Chesney and P!nk‘s 2016 single, “Setting the World On Fire.”
In a separate list, we step back in time to country music’s golden age for a list of our favorite classic country male-female duets.
Kenny Chesney enlists the help of pop star P!nk on his latest duet and the unlikely pairing delivers. A song about living in the moment with one’s significant other, “Setting the World On Fire” has both Chesney and P!nk capturing the song’s urgency. “I wanted a song that packs all that joy, all that fun, all the energy that love is made of,” Chesney said in a press release announcing the single’s release. The combination of the soaring musical arrangement and P!nk’s striking vocals paired with Chesney do exactly that.
It’s often tough to find the right duet partner, but Chris Young stikes gold with Cassadee Pope on this song about being unable to get over an ex. In an interview with Radio.com, Young said it was performing an acoustic show with Pope that convinced him to ask her to be his singing partner. “I’d always loved her voice … and I’m just so glad she agreed to do it and said yes. It’s one of my favorite things on the record.” The fans and country radio love the song too, as “Think Of You” went to No. 1, marking Young’s eighth chart topper and Pope’s first.
We bet Taylor’s been dreaming up this collab since her first single, 2006’s “Tim McGraw.” For this highway heartbreaker (released on McGraw’s 2013 album Two Lanes of Freedom), McGraw and Swift–along with Keith Urban guesting on guitar–paint the picture of a horrific accident spawned by the dangers of texting and driving. McGraw told Radio.com that he wanted Swift on the song right from the start, “because I thought it fit her vocal perfectly, and I liked where it’s set in the song.” The song hit the top of country singles charts in June of 2013.
Country legend Loretta Lynn teamed up with rock artist/producer Jack White (the White Stripes, Third Man Records) for the first time in 2004 on Lynn’s album Van Lear Rose. Her only duet on the album, White assists on guitar and vocals, making the track a unique, yet eerie country-rock amalgam.
This two-time GRAMMY-nominated track (cowritten by Deana Carter) peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and introduced Grace Potter to the country world. Following the success of the single, Chesney invited Potter and her band, the Nocturnals, on his 2012 Brothers of the Sun tour with Tim McGraw. All summer long, Potter and Chesney performed the tequila-infused track of regret from stadium and arena stages, no doubt inspiring plenty of tequila drinking along the way.
Keith Urban’s single (from his 2013 album Fuse) waxes nostalgia on a past relationship. During an interview with Radio.com, Urban said he’s been looking for a song to duet with Lambert on for years. “I just love Miranda’s voice, I love her artistry,” he said. “We did some shows together many years ago. She got up and did a song with me each night and I loved our voices together.” While Urban said it’s not necessarily a song Lambert would have done in the past, their voices blend together for a convincing tale of long lost love.
Who better to duet on a love song than married couple Faith Hill and Tim McGraw? While the two have released many songs together over the years, “It’s Your Love” went all the way to No. 1 in 1997, staying there for an impressive six weeks (it also cracked the Top 10 on Billboard‘s Hot 100). And the accolades didn’t stop there, as the song wound up winning them four ACM awards: Single of the Year, Song of the Year, Video of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year.
Originally written for Bon Jovi’s 2005 album Have a Nice Day, the song reached No. 23 on Billboard’s Hot 100. However, a country version recorded with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles brought it all the way to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, making it Bon Jovi’s first country hit.
Country rocker Jason Aldean shows his softer side with this beautiful duet with Kelly Clarkson. Aldean’s first duet, it was his decision to invite Clarkson on the track. The song went all the way to No. 1, becoming Aldean’s fifth chart topper and Clarkson’s first on the country charts. The song also became a crossover hit for Aldean, as it was played on pop radio, too.
Cowritten by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, this track helped Kid Rock transition from rap to Southern rock. His first crossover hit, it made its way to the Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart as well as the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. He went on to perform the track with many of country’s leading ladies including Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson, LeAnn Rimes and Kellie Pickler.
2. “When I Said I Do” – Clint Black & Lisa Hartman Black
This track earned Clint Black the ACM Vocal Event of the Year in 1999. It first appeared on Black’s album D’lectrified, which was comprised of guest artists who’d had an impact on him. Towards the start of the recording process, Black realized the person who’d had the biggest influence on his life–his wife, Lisa Hartman Black–had no role in the record. So, as he told Radio.com, he carefully convinced her to participate. “I’m standing around the kitchen with the guitar on, and she’s cooking and doing housework. Over a two-day period [I’m] teaching her the chorus and getting her to sing along for fun,” he said. “She didn’t know I was writing it for us.”
In the spirit of alcohol-soaked country songs, you better grab the tissues for Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss’ poignant duet. The video brings the heartache to life and paints an even sadder picture of a man coming back from war to find his dream life has drastically changed. Appearing on Paisley’s 2003 album Mud on the Tires, the track peaked at No. 3 on Billboard‘s country singles chart (and cracked the Top 50 on the Hot 100), no doubt eliciting some whiskey-infused tears along the way.
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