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9 Country Acts You’ll Go For If You Like Pop Music

They’re all borderline pop, I swear

Wednesday night’s 2016 Country Music Association Awards pulled in viewers who don’t typically watch that particular awards show (and/or those who don’t even consider themselves country fans) mainly because of a surprise performance from Beyoncé, who joined the Dixie Chicks for a rollicking “Daddy Lessons” rendition. Of course, not all Beyoncé fans are country lovers, and if you relate, your initial reaction was probably similar to this.

Many pop fans simply can’t get into the country scene, and some criticize what they see as stereotypically twangy beats and humdrum topics like dirt roads and small towns. But if you can look past the lyrics about front porches and pickup trucks and dive into thoughtful songs about heartbreak and life lessons, you’ll probably enjoy these country artists that basically cross into the pop realm. (Thanks, Taylor.)

  1. Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney are the opposite of the “bro-country” stereotype (e.g., Florida Georgia Line). The duo write energetic songs that effortlessly send you on a nostalgia trip, evoking feels from your first love or your most memorable summer.

  2. If you loved Taylor Swift’s Fearless fairytale era (think “Love Story”), you’ll dig everything Kelsea Ballerini has going on. Her youthful and relatable lyrics have a touch of sass but are reminiscent of Tay’s early pop/country crossover hits.

  3. Cassadee used to be the head-banging lead singer of pop-punk band Hey Monday until 2011, and a few years later, she slayed every genre of music on The Voice and ended up its first female winner. She’s since settled down in the country scene, signing to Big Machine Records (T-Swift’s label) and crafting a new sound that still incorporates her powerhouse vocals, rock elements, and catchy choruses.

  4. Country music’s breakout artist of 2016 crosses over to soulful pop in her latest single, “80s Mercedes,” but doesn’t limit her reach, touching on some elements of classic rock, gospel, and hip-hop.

  5. Sam Hunt, onetime stage guest of Taylor Swift, turns casual sentences into melodic lyrics, and when you think he’s about to continue speaking, he delivers an unexpectedly talk-singing chorus. This style might take a little getting used to, but it provides the perfect elements for dramatic sing-alongs with your friends.

  6. Megan & Liz started out as YouTube cover-song stars and initially went the pop route but have since moved to Nashville to hone their songwriting and guitar skills. They pumped out some gorgeous tunes on their latest EP, Deux, released in March.

  7. Jessie James Decker is all about girly-power anthems — for proof, listen to “I Look So Good Without You” ASAP. With feel-good choruses and sweet lyrics (which are mostly gushing about her #goals-worthy relationship with Eric Decker of the New York Jets), you might find yourself addicted.

  8. Another alum from The Voice is dominating the country scene — props to Blake Shelton. While Danielle has roots in country, her songs throw together elements of pop, R&B, and soul.

  9. Attention, One Tree Hill fans: Alex Dupre is now a country-music goddess with sweet vocals and heartwarming songs. She’s also returned to TV to compete on Dancing With the Stars. Casual.