Lil Nas X celebrated the release of his debut album Montero by re-inventing Dolly Parton’s signature song “Jolene” during a recent performance for BBC Radio One’s Live Lounge. Singing in a deep baritone over a sparse rock arrangement, Lil Nas X delivered an intense, gender-flipping rendition of Parton’s 1973 hit about a woman with “flaming locks of auburn hair” who can steal men with ease.
It’s been clear for some time that the two artists are mutual fans. After Lil Nas X openly solicited Parton’s participation in an “Old Town Road” remix in the summer of 2019, the country legend told Elle that she was contemplating a future collaboration with the Atlanta-raised rapper.
“I had an opportunity to be part of that [song],” Parton said. “But it had done so well with so many people. I thought, ‘Well, I’ll wait and do something later on. No point in going down that same Old Town Road. We got other roads to travel.’”
After the rapper originally performed the song on BBC, Parton shared her thoughts on it. “I was so excited when someone told me that Lil Nas X had done my song #Jolene. I had to find it and listen to it immediately…and it’s really good,” Parton tweeted. “Of course, I love him anyway. I was surprised and I’m honored and flattered. I hope he does good for both of us. Thank you @LilNasX.”
Critics and writers have compared the two artists in recent years. “Combined with Nas X’s full embrace of camp and of the gay and queer cultures that have elevated camp into political art, Lil Nas X takes Dolly’s ambitions from subversive into the realm of revolutionary,” wrote professor and writer Tressie McMillan Cottom earlier in 2021.
Lil Nas X released Montero last Friday, and the project includes the Jack Harlow-featuring single “Industry Baby” as well as appearances by Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, and Miley Cyrus.