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The Power Move Of The Century: Dolly’s New Album

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TX State chapter.

Dolly Parton released her 49th solo album and first ever rock album, Rockstar Nov. 10. The album debuted at #1 on six Billboard charts. One of those, being at #3 on the all genre Billboard 200 chart which is her highest charting album ever. 

What first caught my eye about this album was Dolly’s cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain”. As I scrolled through the album, listening to the woman with a coat of many colors sing my favorite song ever written, I saw names like Paul McCartney, Linda Perry, Steven Tyler, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Chris Stapleton, Miley Cyrus, Stevie Nicks, and Elton John (this isn’t even all of the names). As I felt my finger fidget, not knowing what song to tap on first, I realized this album was a star-studded collaboration orchestrated by Dolly.

The album also debuted at #1 on Billboard Top Rock Albums, Top Rock & Alternative Albums, Top Country Albums, Top Album Sales, Top Current Album Sales, and Independent Albums charts, according to Dolly’s official website. Rockstar blazed in all its glory as her biggest debut week ever and her biggest sales week in 30 years.

Dolly was just inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2022 and this 30-track album is quite possibly her “yes and” to the long-awaited statement of recognition the induction made.

Rockstar Deluxe is a pack of bonus tracks released on her birthday, Jan. 19, as a gift to her fans and friends, in honor of entering her 78th twirl around the sun.

“It’s my birthday so I’m going to give you a present!” Dolly wrote on her website. “I’m releasing four never released songs for my birthday, to go with the Rockstar album, and a few others that you may have heard before that were not on the album. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope you all have a happy birthday for me! LOL.” 

Here are the additional tracks on Rockstar Deluxe:

31. Rockin’ It (Live)
32. Hit Me With Your Best Shot
33. Mama Never Said
34. Two Tickets To Paradise
35. Jolene (featuring Måneskin)
36. Stay Out Of My Bedroom
37. Bridge Over Troubled Water
38. The Entertainer
39. Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

The title track “Rockstar” starts off with listeners overhearing Dolly having a conversation with her parents about practicing her guitar too loud. Her passionate defiance shines through the lyrics: “They say if you can dream it, you can have it so I play/ Hear me play/ Rockstar.

As we make our way down the album, the famous riff of “Every Breath You Take” starts playing but it’s Dolly’s voice that takes verse one. Her honey-soaked vocals bring the song to a whole new space. Sting comes in on harmony in verse one. Dolly keeps the lead vocal for the entire song while Sting sings assisting harmonies and rhythmic background repetitions through the four minute 22 second song duration.

Another favorite track of mine is “I Want You Back.” This electric guitar-bolstered anthem is written and produced by Queen Dolly herself, as well as Kent Wells. Dolly sings the first verse and then Steven Tyler comes in on the last line of the verse. Dolly takes the chorus, “No I was a fool and I want you back!” Dolly and Tyler belt out gorgeous harmonies and adlibs – “You did me wrong/ You left me alone!” Tyler wails. “Why did I do that? Why did I do that?” Dolly responds.

The power move of the century is Dolly covering lead vocal on hits such as: “Open Arms,” having Steve Perry take a backseat; “Baby I Love Your Way,” with Peter Frampton singing harmony on the chorus; “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” (take a seat for this one Sir Elton John). “Let It Be,” (watch how it’s done for a bit, Paul and Ringo) and “Free Bird.” Lynyrd Skynyrd, watches her soar but comes in later in the song.

Only Dolly could do this. And the talented artists who made these hits their own should be honored that Dolly invited them along for her covers of their beloved songs. This whole album feels like a block party of old familiar friends who came together to celebrate Dolly and her vision. It reminds me of “We Are The World” in 1985 when almost every big artist of that time came together to see a vision together and share that project with the world; seeing Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Rogers, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Lionel Richie, Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder in the same studio at the same time.

The beautiful thing about how Dolly executed this album is that she didn’t just do a cover album that could be criticized for being unoriginal. She didn’t just give us all brand new songs that may feel a bit too unfamiliar, keeping in mind it would still be her first rock album. She did what only Dolly would and could do, and she blended a well-balanced mixture of fresh, handwritten rock songs with the well-furnished, loved and celebrated rock songs that define the genre, establishing credibility and welcoming her new songs in with the familiar covers. Then she brought in the artists who made these hits, paying respect to them, and honored their songs alongside them, bringing them to life in a whole new way and to a whole new audience too.

The fact that Dolly has the repertoire to orchestrate a project like this says a lot about her character and her community-building skills on a personal level.

I highly recommend checking out the Rockstar album. Long live Queen Dolly.

AnaBelle Elliott is a journalism major at Texas State University. She writes for the University's newspaper, The University Star, in the Life & Arts section, as well as serving as the president of Texas State's chapter of SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists). She is also a songwriter and musician, carrying her love of storytelling off the page and into song.