Hey, it turns out Lil Nas X loves “Jolene” just as much as we do! Mr. X dropped a new video this week featuring himself in crooner mode, doing a pretty faithful version of Dolly Parton’s classic — and much covered — gem. We share his love for “Jolene;” our most popular post is a list of some of the best “Jolene” covers. Will Lil Nas’s make the cut? Let’s take a listen:
As I mentioned, Lil Nas plays it straight here. When I heard about it, I expected more of a hick-hop kind of take. After all, Lil Nas took his horse and rode to the top of the charts in 2019 with “Old Town Road,” a country-rap single with a video featuring hip-hop and line dancing. He cooled his spurs for a record 19 weeks astride the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
Here he sheds the bolo tie and ten-gallon hat and shows off his vocal chops. Lil Nas is a charismatic guy who has skillfully used the levers of Internet promotion to make a name for himself. While this cover is generating a lot of buzz, it’s frankly a pretty tepid version. I appreciate that he stands and delivers without a lot of production shenanigans or a special guest. But covering a song like this with its legendary status, an artist needs to own the thing. While a sense of vulnerability is appropriate for “Jolene,” Lil Nas seems a bit timid.
I very much dig his supporting band. The eerie chime of the guitar, the laid back rhythm and supporting vocals make this quite an enjoyable listen. I appreciate that he’s keeping it in his vocal range — he’s very comfortable with the material. And I love that he doesn’t change the perspective or gender of the lyrics.
While this track isn’t hot enough to melt the tar off the old town road, it’ll definitely keep you warm on these cool autumn nights. I applaud Lil Nas X’s courage to take on “Jolene,” and I hope there’s more of this to come from him. A string of classic-country covers would be very interesting indeed.
For your reference, here’s Dolly singing her own composition on Porter Wagoner’s show in 1974:
Now stick and stay and have a look at our list of great “Jolene” covers. Hit us up on Twitter @360degreesound and let us know how Lil Nas X’s version measures up.