Justin Bieber on Country Radio: Is This the New Normal?

This ain’t Justin Bieber’s first rodeo.

His brand new, massive hit song with Dan + Shay, “10,000 Hours,” is already in the Top 10 on the Billboard Country Airplay charts, and it looks like it’s settling in for a very long stay. It’s also getting comfortable in the No. 1 spot on Hot Country Songs chart, which is the one that measures the coveted cocktail of airplay, sales and streaming.

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But remember in 2011 when he collaborated with Rascal Flatts for “That Should Be Me”? It won the CMT Music Award for collaborative video of the year that year, and it has aged nicely.

So really, this new team effort — a straight-up love song about the collective wives of Bieber, Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney — shouldn’t raise any eyebrows.

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The only real question becomes how to define a song like this. Is it country? Is it pop? That’s a tough call, because the lines between genres are currently at their blurriest.

It used to be an anomaly when a pop star came to Nashville to work with a country artist. And there wasn’t always a welcome mat when they arrived. I get it. You like what you like. Old-school traditionalists don’t want anything muddying the country waters.

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Even new, open-minded country fans may take issue with how country their country is, whether that means a preference for southern-rock country (think Jason Aldean), ’90s country (think Brooks & Dunn), all-American country (think Luke Combs), bad-ass country (think Miranda Lambert), rootsy country (think Brandi Carlile), outlaw country (think Eric Church), Texas country (think Cody Johnson) and on and on and on.

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Which is fine. But it may be time for some acquiescence from all of us.

You don’t have to love when a pop star’s voice comes on the radio, but you should start accepting it as the new normal. Because it looks like it’s a trend that keeps on trending.

As far back as 1983, Kenny Rogers was collaborating with Sheena Easton and in 1988, Johnny Cash was collaborating with U2’s Bono on a song they wrote together called “Ellis Island.” Then there were occasional collaborations from Toby Keith and Sting (1997), Sugarland and Bon Jovi (2005), Reba McEntire and Justin Timberlake (2007), and a handful of others over the years.

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But in 2016, when Florida Georgia Line teamed up with the Backstreet Boys for “God, Your Mama, and Me,” it’s as if Nashville had suddenly rolled out the red carpet to welcome more and more and more outsiders. What came next was a few years of non-stop genre-fluid songs: “Without a Fight” from Brad Paisley and Demi Lovato, “Meant to Be” from Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha, “Take Back Home Girl” from Chris Lane and Tori Kelly, “Palace” from Cam and Sam Smith, “Say Something” from Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake, and a special new version of “The Bones” from Maren Morris and Hozier.

(Then there was that 2016 fail when Nick Jonas tried to accompany Kelsea Ballerini on the ACM Awards. At least he had a sense of humor about it.)

There are also plenty of examples of country stars popping up over on pop radio as well, like Morris on “The Middle” and Ballerini on “This Feeling,” but that’s another story for another day.

Regardless of where you stand — from stalwartly rejecting new country and all its works, to accepting any and all sounds climbing up the country charts — we live in a world blessedly full of choices. There are satellite radio stations devoted to the most traditional country playlist, and then there are streaming options that will introduce you to brand new ways to define country. In which case you might just learn to love Bieber. And/or Thomas Rhett covering Bieber.

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Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.