At the turn of the century, pop-punk label Fearless Records had a then-clever idea: What if they mashed up pop punk with other genres? The Punk Goes … series was born, beginning with Punk Goes Metal in 2000 and the canonical Punk Goes Pop following in 2002. It was fun for a second, but looking back, some of the series’ releases are true abominations. Remember Punk Goes Crunk? And now, in the year 2022, we’re still reaping some of the horrors sown by Punk Goes … Like today, when the Grammy–winning producers the Berman Brothers released Country Goes Reggae, bringing together top country stars and a band of reggae players called Positive Vibrations. And yes, they got Dolly Parton involved.
Per a press release, the album has a semi-horrific origin story: “The brothers were sitting at a sunset beach bar listening to reggae classics as a car passed by blasting U.S. country songs. They knew the two worlds and styles and cultures would blend perfectly together.” So, yeah, blame some obnoxious American tourist for planting this idea. But blame the Berman Brothers for seeing it through, hiring a band that’s played with Ziggy and Damian Marley, Wyclef Jean, and UB40, and convincing 11 country stars to turn their often-good hits into generic reggae tracks. (In fact, they’ve done it before! They’ve reinvented music by everyone from Coldplay to Aretha Franklin on albums like Rhythms Del Mundo — Cuba and Studio Rio Presents: The Brazil Connection.)
The seams between the country vocals and reggae backing are visible. Emotional ballads, like Jimmie Allen’s “Make Me Want To” and Lainey Wilson’s “Things a Man Oughta Know,” come off like parody; that’s only exacerbated when they’re next to other songs like Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup.” And also, what are these song choices anyway? Where are the country artists who’ve actually explored reggae, like Willie Nelson or Little Big Town? Actually, never mind. Leave them out of it and listen below.