Justin Timberlake Isn’t Alone: Inside the Year That Pop Went Country–to Mixed Results

Call it the Joanne effect.

When Lady Gaga released her fifth studio album in the fall of 2016, no one expected the pop diva behind dance floor fillers like “Poker Face,” “Born This Way” and “Applause” to make a hard detour into Americana-courting, country-inflected folk-pop-rock pastiche, but that’s exactly what we got. The pink cowboy hat donned on the album cover that came to define the era in her career was no random fashion choice. Rather, it was indicative of the singer’s decision to country-fy every genre she dabbled in on the record, as if each track was sporting a pink cowboy hat of its own.

However surprising Gaga’s make-under was—and make no mistake, to some die hard fans who’d fallen in love with the diva’s outre fashion and unparalleled electropop, the move was perplexing, to say the least—no one could’ve predicted that she was merely the beginning of a trend in pop music that’s still kicking up dust today.