Reba McEntire Joins Cody Johnson for Remake of “Dear Rodeo”

photo via Warner Music Nashville

If we’re being honest, the experiment of Texas country star Cody Johnson as a major label artist being promoted out of Nashville has rendered mixed results. His lead single launched after he signed a partnership deal between his own Cojo Music and Warner Music Nashville called “On My Way To You” resulted in a #11 placement on country radio, and a Platinum certification. But his second single “Nothin’ On You” stalled at #55. Pretty disappointing.

Cody Johnson assured his fans on numerous occasions after he signed his major label partnership that he wouldn’t change for anyone, or anything. But as we’ve seen many times over the years, the Texas star in Tennessee doesn’t always work out, especially when they hold to their scruples. Whether they’re too good, too country, or too hard to tame, it’s hard for the Music Row sausage factory to know how to handle them.

Nonetheless, Cody Johnson remains an important puzzle piece in the effort to save mainstream country music. Sure, he’s not Cody Jinks or Tyler Childers, but similar to someone like Jon Pardi, Johnson can be a bridge and intermediary between the traditional and contemporary, the mainstream and independent. But it will only be effective if Cody remains to be himself.

Cody Johnson’s latest radio single “Dear Rodeo” is doing a fair bit better than his last single did. It’s already at #41 on radio after jumping 8 spots last week, and spending six total weeks on the charts so far. Unlike “Nothin’ On You,” which felt like a play for radio acceptance (and colossally failed, as is often the case with these efforts), “Dear Rodeo” is very personal for Cody Johnson. Coming from a guy who tried his hand at the rodeo life and fell short before hitting it big in music, the song comes from a place that not only underpins the authenticity behind Cody’s music and the song specifically, but it’s something he can sing about with passion.

But what’s most interesting is how Cody and his label have decided to try and put an extra jolt behind the song. As we’ve seen over and over the last few years in nauseating predictability, as a song from an up-and-coming artist is climbing the charts and the label wants to put some extra oomph behind it, they bring in a pop star or hip-hop artist for a timely remix. Cody Johnson and Co. have chosen to go the star duet path with “Dear Rodeo” as well, but instead of selecting someone outside the genre, they’ve gone with a country legend in Reba McEntire.

“Dear Rodeo” is one of the highlights of Cody Johnson’s mainstream debut album Ain’t Nothin’ To It. But like you commonly see on mainstream records, it was the last track on the record. It’s not a world-beater, but it’s a world-beater for country radio, and now with Reba behind it, hopefully it will be a breakout moment for Cody Johnson.

Without the ability to tour extensively—which is one of Cody Johnson’s strong suits from being able to call upon the grassroots he developed over his time in Texas—Cody may have to get creative to find the success and attention his talent deserves. This duet with Reba is a perfect way to do this while staying true to himself, while potentially introducing Reba to a new generation of fans who may not know her much beyond “Fancy.”