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WE Fest acts strike gold with pop, rap stars

Carrie Underwood has increased her musical range recording with Aerosmith and rapper Ludacris. Jesse Trelstad / Forum News Service1 / 3
Jason Aldean will close WE Fest with Saturday night's late concert. Jesse Trelstad / Forum News Service2 / 3
Brian Kelley, left, and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line. Jesse Trelstad / Forum News Service3 / 3

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — When Florida Georgia Line headlines Friday night, Aug. 3, at the three-day country music event WE Fest, the duo may be breaking a record.

Singers Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley teamed up with Bebe Rexha on her single, "Meant to Be," which has topped Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart for 34 weeks. The tune's longevity there ties it with Sam Hunt's "Body Like a Back Road" for the longest stay at the top of that chart.

If country fans have never heard of Bebe Rexha, there's a reason — she's not a country singer. In fact, her best known song until "Meant to Be" was "Me, Myself & I" with rapper G-Eazy.

Mainstream country radio has been moving toward pop music for years, but 2018 may be the year the two genres have blurred the lines.

In late June, Rolling Stone published an article called, "How Country-Pop Crossovers Became a Defining Trend of 2018."

The answer is simple, according to Tom Corson, co-chairman and chief operating officer of Rexha's label, Warner Bros.

"Streaming is changing the rules," he told Rolling Stone. "Country's always been very close to pop, and pop a little less close to country, but you're getting a generation of writers and artists who listen to both. As people open up — programmers and playlisters — there's more room for these collaborations to move across genres."

Here's a look at how acts at WE Fest, which this year takes place Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 4, have landed crossover hits.

Florida Georgia Line

The kings of crossover, the duo made its debut in 2012 with "Cruise," but the song really took off after a remix featuring rapper Nelly hit the airwaves. That was just the beginning of their mix of bro country and pop music. In 2017, the group released tunes with reggae star Ziggy Marley ("Life is a Honeymoon"), DJ duo The Chainsmokers ("Last Day Alive"), pop singer Hailee Steinfeld ("Let Me Go") and boy band the Backstreet Boys ("God, Your Mama and Me.")

Carrie Underwood

The queen of country music is familiar with other charts — "Before He Cheats" was a hit on both country and pop radio. She showed a harder edge, teaming up with Aerosmith on "Can't Stop Lovin' You," but really turned heads this year when she released pop single "The Champion" with rapper Ludacris.

Jason Aldean

Like Florida Georgia Line, Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem" got a kick in 2011 when it was remixed, featuring rapper and fellow Georgian Ludacris.

Dan + Shay

The duo's current single, "Keeping Score," is a collaboration with pop star Kelly Clarkson.

Josh Turner

In 2007, the singer got into a different groove when he released the duet "Nowhere Fast" with R&B singer Anthony Hamilton.

Tyler Farr

The trained opera singer hasn't had any crossover recordings, but the night before he plays WE Fest, he'll be playing with rapper Nelly in Duluth.

If you go

What: WE Fest

When: Mainstage shows run Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 4

Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Tickets: Tickets start at $120 for a one-day general admission pass; wefest.com, (800) 493-3378

Schedule: Thursday: Devin Dawson, Carly Pearce, Dan + Shay, Vince Gill and Carrie Underwood; Friday: Rodney Atkins, Tyler Farr, Chris Janson, Justin Moore and Florida Georgia Line: Saturday: Ashley McBryde, The Cadillac Three, Josh Turner, Chris Young and Jason Aldean

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