Why Is ‘Going Country’ The Chosen Path For So Many Aging Rock Stars?

07.19.16 1 year ago 3 Comments
Steven Tyler and Carrie Underwood

ABC

This past Friday, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler released his debut solo album, a country record entitled We’re All Somebody from Somewhere. For long time Aerosmith fans, the decision to look to the South might be a bit of a surprise. After all, Tyler and his trademark wail have been an essential part of the hard rock scene for more than 40 years; the thought of him singing country can certainly be a tad brow-raising at first. Still, it might make all the sense in the world considering Aerosmith’s 2012 album Music from Another Dimension! failed to make much of an impact. With the country world looking as lucrative as ever, you could see why he’d want to give that market a shot.

One thing’s for sure, he’s certainly not the only rock performer to make the crossover into country in recent years. One of the most prominent examples of this was Bon Jovi. Their 2005 album Have a Nice Day featured a lot of the band’s trademark arena rock sound, but there was also the single “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” which became one of the band’s biggest hits in a decade. It became even more popular after being re-recorded as a duet with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles. Two years later, the band released Lost Highway, which was essentially a country record with the occasional rock tune thrown in. The album debuted at No. 1, and spawned a top 40 hit with “(You Want To) Make a Memory.” While the band would return to rock on subsequent releases like The Circle, it was clear that the country world was quite kind to them, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them return to that realm sometime in the future.

Of course, not every ’80s hair metal act to make the country transition has the same success. Consider Poison frontman Bret Michaels, who released a country album in 2005 called Freedom of Sound. This happened around the time he became a judge on the music competition show Nashville Star, and seemed to reflect a permanent change in genre for Michaels. Instead, the album failed to find an audience, and he would quickly return to Poison’s pop-metal sound. Def Leppard flirted with the country crossover by collaborating with Tim McGraw on the 2008 single “Nine Lives,” but that appeared to be a one-off as well. Basically, plenty of rock acts have briefly dipped their toes into the country world, only to return to the sound that made them famous in the first place. It remains to be seen if that will be the case with Tyler.

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