The Year in Country Music: Females struggled at country radio, but found a home in the pop world

ABC/Image Group LAIt’s no secret that these days, the female voices of country music struggle for airplay on country radio. But in 2018, some of pop music's hottest male artists proved they knew exactly what to do with the women of country: duet with them and tour the world with them.

Maren's in "The Middle," Kacey's Golden

Not only was Maren Morris the most-played female on country radio in 2018, she also scored her first major pop hit with “The Middle,” a collaboration with DJ/producer Zedd and electronic duo Grey.  Maren also One Direction's Niall Horan on his solo Flicker World Tour, which gave them the chance to sing “Seeing Blind,” their collaboration from his debut album, live.

Niall wasn’t the only member of One Direction who looked to the world of country music for an opening act: Kacey Musgraves set out with Harry Styles for both the U.S. and Canadian dates of his solo tour.  During the tour, the two routinely duetted on Shania Twain’s 1998 hit, “You’re Still the One.”

At the same time, Kacey’s Golden Hour album garnered critical acclaim outside the country world, finishing the year on practically every “best of” list, while also clinching the CMA Album of the Year honor. In 2019, it’ll vie for both the all-genre Album of the Year trophy at the Grammys, as well as Country Album of the Year.

The Cam 'n Sam show

While Cam’s “Diane” failed to find a home at country radio, she managed to build a “Palace” on the road with Sam Smith. The British superstar invited the “Burning House” hitmaker on his The Thrill of It All Tour, where they teamed up to do “Palace,” the song they wrote together for his album. The tune was also featured in a major commercial for Apple.

Cam also teamed with pop/rock group Train and rapper Travie McCoy on Train's hit single "Call Me Sir."

Though Cam has parted ways with RCA Nashville, she’s still set to release her sophomore album for RCA’s parent company, Sony, at some point in the future.

Kelsea's smokin' new hit

Kelsea Ballerini heads into 2019 with a top thirty country hit with “Miss Me More,” as she eyes pop success with The Chainsmokers on their collaboration, “This Feeling.” Look for her to perform the song with the Chainsmokers on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest on ABC.

Then, in January, Kelsea joins one of her idols, Kelly Clarkson, as the opening act on Kelly's Meaning of Life Tour.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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