February 7, 2013 - 9:30pm
BY GIBSON JOHNS
And now, for the country duet you totally forgot you always wanted! But seriously, ever since Taylor Swift sang her debut single “Tim McGraw” to, well, Tim McGraw back at the 2007 ACM Awards, this duet needed to happen.
Anyway, it’s about time we got another epic pop-country midtempo collaboration, is it not? I mean, it’s been a year and a half since Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood released ”Remind Me” and a little over two since Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s ”Don’t You Want to Stay.” It’s the void that we didn’t know we needed filled, y’all. And Tim and Taylor have hit the spot in our achy breaky hearts with “Highway Don’t Care” off of McGraw’s new album Two Lanes of Freedom.
The odds of this duet ever happening, though, seemed to dissipate in recent years with McGraw focusing on his acting career with supporting roles in “The Blind Side” and “Country Strong,” and Swift making it clear that she’d rather dress up like a hipster and dabble in dubstep than make a country record. Not that I’m complaining — Red continued Swift’s impressive evolution as an artist and McGraw proved his multifaceted talent in those films — but I did miss the days when a duet between these two country superstars seemed possible.
Well, the day has arrived and, man, did those two deliver. “Highway Don’t Care” tells a heartbreaking story of a guy driving around trying to figure out what he did wrong in a relationship when a song that reminds him of the girl he lost plays on the radio. It could just be me, but the whole driving-around-when-an-important-song-comes-on theme gave me shades of “Our Song.” Regardless, “Highway” seamlessly moves from its soft verses to its big, electric guitar-backed choruses while Swift and McGraw’s vocals meld together to create a track that is pure modern country perfection.
Complete with a guitar solo from fellow country power player Keith Urban, “Highway” ‘s destined to give McGraw and Swift yet another hit on the country charts and has some potential crossover appeal. Sure, the track’s message that a highway doesn’t care about a person as much as the singer does could delve into ridiculousness, but McGraw and Swift’s performances here prevent that from happening. And besides, isn’t that what makes country so likeable? Despite an occasionally inane comparison, country music embraces it to tell stories that hit home. After all, that is what made Taylor Swift so famous in the first place, right? Her storytelling? You have to love seeing Swift, even for just a moment, return to her roots in this duet with McGraw, the man that she titled a song after seven years ago and sung it to at an awards show with just a guitar.
—A version of this article ran in the print version of the Daily on Feb. 8, 2013.