Given that last year’s biggest song (by whatever metric you care to choose) was Lil Nas X‘s country-rap breakout track Old Town Road, it’s perhaps not a surprise that others are hitching their wagons to what was once a niche genre. DJ, Major Lazer linchpin and producer-to-the-stars Diplo’s first solo album in 16 years is being billed as his “country album”, features a string of collaborations with country singers (and the Jonas Brothers), and just to hammer the point home closes with his own remix of Old Town Road. But truth be told, aside from the trying-too-hard Do Si Do – which is excruciating from the title in and ends up sounding unnecessarily like Fun Lovin’ Criminals covering Rednex’s Cotton Eye Joe – the actual country elements here have been diluted to homeopathic levels. For the most part it’s less Johnny Cash, more Cash Money Records.
What you get instead is a slick, modern R&B record that happens to have guest turns from the likes of Cam, Thomas Rhett and Zac Brown. The standouts are recent single Heartless, a ballad with trap undertones featuring Morgan Wallen, and On Mine, a big-chorused pop banger fronted by Noah Cyrus. It’s a perfectly serviceable album, as one might expect, given the pedigree of those involved. But it’s hard to imagine it being met with anything but bemusement at the Grand Ole Opry.