What makes a song a country song? Is it the instruments? The lyrics? The artist? The label? Those aspects play a role in a song being deemed “country,” but when asking fans what made them fall in love with the genre in the first place, many would credit the visuals and stories country artists depict in their music. However, songs like this are not unique to the genre; there are plenty of pop songs that do the same. Here are a few pop songs we think would sound great covered by a Nashville-based artist.
Pick: “Say You Won’t Let Go” – James Arthur
Songwriters: Andrew Frampton, Daniel O’Donoghue, James Arthur, Mark Sheehan, Neil Ormandy, Stephen Kipner, Steve Soloman
Who Should Cover It?: Mitchell Tenpenny
James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go” is one of my all-time favorite pop songs, and as we think about which songs could have their own country versions, I can’t help but feel like this song could be at the top of that list. At its core, the song tells a story of falling in love from the very first meeting and taking the listener through all of those moments when you knew you loved that person and hoping and knowing those moments will last a lifetime. Like true country music, the song makes you feel like it’s actually happening to you and you can envision the story playing out perfectly.
“I knew I loved you then // But you’d never know // ‘Cause I played it cool when I was scared of letting go // I know I needed you // But I never showed // But I wanna stay with you until we’re grey and old // Just say you won’t let go”
When I think about a country version of this song, I can easily picture Mitchell Tenpenny singing it. Adding his own unique flair and distinct vocals to the track, Tenpenny has such a way of telling a story and making the listener feel each and every lyric that this feels like a song that would really resonate with his fans. I’d love to see a cover of it from him!
Pick: “Let It Go” – James Bay
Songwriters: James Bay, Paul Barry
Who Should Cover It?: HARDY
Although I do love all genres of music, I have to admit that for the most part, my playlists are mostly country music. Once in a while, though I will hear a song on Top 40 or Pop and be captivated. That was the case with “Let It Go” by James Bay. His simple falsetto voice and storytelling are right on par for the country music world.
“I used to recognize myself / It’s funny how reflections change / When we’re becoming something else / I think it’s time to walk away / So come on, let it go / Just let it be / Why don’t you be you / And I’ll be me?”
I would love to hear someone like HARDY put their own spin on the song, maybe grunge it up a little bit and put his signature sound on it.
Pick: “Thinking of You” – Katy Perry
Songwriters: Katy Perry
Who Should Cover It?: Kelsea Ballerini or Brett Eldredge
Katy Perry is an artist who defined so much of the music for my generation. Many of her biggest songs air on the side of pure, danceable pop, but she also has a vulnerable side. An early hit of hers, “Thinking Of You” is one of my favorites from the last couple of decades. It easily could be a country song based on its melodic and lyrical composition. It’s vivid with imagery and metaphors, with lyrics like, “You’re like an Indian summer in the middle of winter/Like a hard candy with a surprise center/How do I get better once I’ve had the best/You said there’s tons of fish in the water, so the waters I will test”.
Perry’s ability to tell an intimate and epically heartbreaking story is so country. So many of the best country songs are tragic and like journal entries. If you add some more harmony, more guitar, and maybe some banjo or mandolin, it could be a stunning country hit.
As far as who I would love to cover the song, if it were a female, Kelsea Ballerini would 100% nail it. She has the raw emotion and vocal empathy to do an amazing rendition. If a guy were to sing it, Brett Eldredge would also do an incredible job. He has so much vulnerability and passion in his voice that he would without a doubt make it his own.
Pick: “Lucky” – Jason Mraz feat. Colbie Caillat
Songwriters: Colbie Caillat, Jason Mraz, Timothy Fagan
Who Should Cover It?: Kenny Chesney & Tenille Townes
Virginia-native, Jason Mraz has always been a great storyteller and his musical-style is soft and acoustic, making him a great fit in Nashville! Mraz been making hits since 2002, my favorite of which being his Grammy-winning collaboration with Colbie Caillat, “Lucky.” Its chill, beachy vibe along with its sweet lyrics make it a great song about being in love with your best friend.
I think it makes perfect sense to have Kenny Chesney sing the male part. His subtle voice will fit perfectly into the simple, island melody. For the female part, I want to hear Tenille Townes sing it. She is an up-and-coming artist with a beautiful, unique voice that would compliment Chesney well. All it needs is some banjo backed by a steel guitar to make it a wonderful country cut.
Pick: “Since U Been Gone”
Songwriters: Lukasz Gottwald, Martin Sandberg
Who Should Cover It?: Kelsea Ballerini or Lauren Alaina
If there’s one thing country music does well, it’s break-up songs. “Since U Been Gone” is probably one of the most iconic breakup songs of our generation but it’s not a country song. You won’t hear it on country radio or any country playlist. It’s considered “pop” but anyone who listens to this song could easily close their eyes and hear it turned into a killer country song.
“But since you been gone // I can breathe for the first time// I’m so moving on, yeah, yeah // Thanks to you //Now I get what I want //Since you been gone”
Pick: “Best Part of Me” – Ed Sheeran feat. Yebba
Songwriters: Abbey Smith, Benjamin Levin, Ed Sheeran
Who Should Cover It?: Chris Stapleton & wife, Morgane Stapleton
From the 2019 No. 6 Collaborations Project, Ed Sheeran’s “Best Part of Me” with American singer-songwriter YEBBA eloquently suits the vocal ability and artistry present. The lyrics and honest storyline is enough to give listeners heart smiles and fight tears welling up in the eyes. Production-wise, the delicate finger-picking and soft melody only emphasize the significance of the subject material – undeserving love.
Similar to Ed Sheeran, Chris Stapleton stands out from the crowd with his unfiltered, sentimental tracks where lyrics hold the listeners’ ear from beginning to end. Both are talented entertainers and storytellers as well as seasoned, guitar-amplified musicians.
The “Starting Over” Kentucky native force-field who has found himself in the most acknowledged and prestigious class of artists after a few short years, covers a broad range of music, promoting headbangers and the most intensely passionate air-guitar mock-ups around town. Though, despite Stapleton’s tendency to hit the electric, he’s likely to execute a stripped-down and intimate performance as well with his wife, Morgane Stapleton by his side.
A reimagined duet of Sheeran’s “Best Part of Me” with vocal contribution from both Stapleton’s would only add fire to the flame of a well-executed, venerable production. While, at the same time, allowing Stapleton to incorporate his well-known, powerful rasp and unspeakable range to the mix may grant the song a life of its own – separate from itself, from where it’s been.
Pick: “Lose Somebody” – Kygo and One Republic
Songwriters: Philip Plested, Alex Dilicata, Alysa Vanderheym, Jake Torrey, Kyrre Gorvell-Dahll, Morten Ristorp, Ryan Tedder
Who Should Cover It?: Brett Young
This song has been on my go-to/everyday playlist this past year. It’s a heartbreak song but also one I find myself listening to on my runs. I find it to be very similar to the way Brett Young can deliver a catchy upbeat heartbreak song like “Left Side of Leavin’ ” or “Memory Won’t Let Me”. When I think of my favorite country voices, Brett Young immediately comes to mind. I love how he vocally delivers each song and lyrically, this is exactly the kind of song he would sing. He has a way of telling a story that makes you pay attention to every word. I’d most look forward to him hitting “until it’s gone” just before the chorus of “Lose Somebody”.
“You let go / And now i’m holding on / I guess you don’t know what you got / Until it’s gone / Sometimes you gotta lose somebody / Just to find out, you really love someone / Oh-Oh / And I do and I do and I do, yeah / Sometimes you gotta lose somebody ”
Pick: “Before You Go” – Lewis Capaldi
Songwriters: Ben Kohn, Pete Kelleher, Phil Plested, Tom Barnes, Lewis Capaldi
Who Should Cover It?: Brett Eldredge
Memorable melodies and lyrics that tell a story are the marks of a great country song, and Lewis Capaldi’s “Before You Go” would sound amazing stripped down and covered with a twang. The track is full of imagery (heartbreak described as “troubled water running cold” under the surface) and unlike most songs, there are question marks throughout the lyrics, allowing the listener to ask ‘what if?’ right along with the character. I would love to hear Brett Eldredge cover this song because his tone and heart would be a perfect fit for the powerful ballad.
Pick: “drivers license” – Olivia Rodrigo
Songwriters: Daniel Nigro, Olivia Rodrigo
Who Should Cover It?: Devin Dawson
My favorite thing about country music is the story-telling aspect. Truthfully, I believe that any song that has that “it factor” can be made into a killer country song. Olivia Rodrigo’s hit “drivers license” is one of the newest songs out there that I have fallen in love with. The entire song is a heartbreaking story about lost love, so I can really see the lyrics with a country melody.
“And I know we weren’t perfect, but I’ve never felt this way for no one / And I just can’t imagine how you could be so okay now that I’m gone / Guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me / ‘Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street”
After learning about it on Devin Dawson’s livestream, I immediately thought about how cool it would be to see his version of the song, potentially from the male perspective. Dawson also shared on Instagram that he really liked this song, so maybe it’ll actually happen! The moodiness and the overall vibe of the song fits in so well with Dawson’s catalog of incredible original songs.
What are some pop songs that you would love to see country music artists cover? Head to Twitter & let us know!