Dolly Parton is ready to rock! Dolly’s 49th studio album “Rockstar,” released on Nov. 17, is completely different from any other album in her traditional country and bluegrass discography. With a 30 song tracklist and more than 40 featured artists, she is diving deep into the world of rock and roll and bringing all of her famous friends with her.
At first listen, Dolly singing rock music feels out of place. The album almost sounds like one of those AI generated covers going viral on TikTok. The Guardian even compared it to “endless karaoke.” However, I believe that is exactly what Dolly intended it to be — an album where she sings some of her favorite songs with her musical friends. She wrote nine original songs for the album and covered 21 famous rock songs, most of them sung with the original artists that made them. So, what influenced Dolly to step away from her country music roots and record a rock and roll album?
Dolly first mentioned recording a rock album after being nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Initially, she did not accept the nomination because she believed that she had not "earned the right." However, she eventually accepted the honor and even shared with Billboard that if she won, she would have to make a rock album.
And that’s exactly what she did.
The lead single and an original by Dolly, “World On Fire,” was released on May 11. It’s followed by “Magic Man” featuring Ann Wilson, “Bygones” featuring Rob Halford of Judas Priest, “We Are the Champions/We Will Rock You,” “Let It Be” featuring Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr and “What’s Up?” featuring Linda Perry.
In the title track, Dolly includes an audio clip of her intentions for the album, which is summed up by the statement, “Well I'm gonna be in rock and roll whether you two like it or not!” She then proceeds to call herself a “rockstar” throughout the song.
As the album continues, Dolly includes dialogue with her features in “What Has Rock and Roll Ever Done for You” with Stevie Nicks and “I Hate Myself for Loving You” with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts that adds on to the overall playfulness of the album.
A highlight of “Rockstar” is “Wrecking Ball” featuring Miley Cyrus. Dolly and Miley harmonize beautifully, evoking the same raw emotions that came with the original version of the song. Dolly also incorporates her famous hit “I Will Always Love You” into the song, creating an interesting mashup of past and present music styles.
After “Wrecking Ball” comes a rock classic, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones were not featured in the song, and instead Dolly sings with P!nk and Brandi Carlile. With three strong artists on the song, it is another powerful moment within the album.
The most comedic part of the album comes around the very end of it. Dolly’s original song, “I Dreamed About Elvis” is delightfully ridiculous, telling the story of her conversation with Elvis in her dream. “I Dreamed About Elvis” features Ronnie McDowell, a country artist who assumes Elvis’s role in the song. In the song, Dolly talks about how she sang “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Heartbreak Hotel” and other songs with Elvis in her dream. They also sang, “I Will Always Love You,” referencing an actual dream of Dolly’s to have Elvis sing her song. Unfortunately, that dream never came true.
Then Dolly, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr create delightful harmonies in The Beatles’ “Let It Be.” She concludes the album with strong vocals in “Free Bird” featuring the band Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Although a little unusual at times, “Rockstar” is Parton’s tribute to rock music. Throughout the album, she expresses her love for some of rock and roll’s most iconic songs and artists.