LOS ANGELES—For the 50th episode of its genre-swapping performance show, “Crossroads,” CMT turned to two female performers at the top of their game: Katy Perry and Kacey Musgraves. (SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading now if you don’t know the songs they performed)
The taping, which took place Friday night (18) at Sony Studios, served as a precursor for what to expect when the two acts tour together this summer, as well as showed that the bridge between Musgraves’ traditional county tunes and Perry’s power pop isn’t as long a one as it might seem. That’s, in part, because Perry came prepared to cross the divide into country and seemed eager to show off her singer/songwriter side. For sure, she’s done that before in her ballads, such as “Not Like The Movies” or “Unconditionally,” but she’s best known for her uptempo, fun confections.
Also notable about this “Crossroads” iteration is that it’s one of the few in the more than four dozen tapings that features two solo females squaring off, following Dolly Parton and Melissa Etheridge, Martina McBride and Pat Benatar, Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson, and LeAnn Rimes and Joss Stone.
On a stage festooned with neon cacti (a motif Musgraves often employs) and palm trees, the two singers took the stage in equally sparkly outfits: Musgraves in a shorts set with fringe and hi-watt rhinestones and Perry in a glittery leotard and see-through purple skirt.
They first tackled a number of Musgraves’ tunes from her excellent debut album, “Same Trailer, Different Park,” including “Step Off,” and her breakthrough hit, “Merry Go ‘Round.” “A couple of years ago, Katy found this song and tweeted about it,” Musgraves recalled. “I was in Dublin and my Twitter starting blow up.” Perry has been a Musgraves champion ever since. As they traded off on verses on “Merry Go ‘Round,” Perry sang in a deeper, huskier register than she normally employs.
Following Musgraves’ bittersweet “Keep It To Yourself,” the two went into an even more heartbreaking tune: a cover of “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin, and made famous by Bonnie Raitt in 1991. Their voices wrapped around each other on the sorrowful tune.
Things lightened up with Musgraves’ affirming, peppy “Follow Your Arrow,” a tune Perry revealed Musgraves played for her in the studio and even suggested Perry cut. Perry, who had kissed a girl years before Musgraves suggested the action in “Arrow,” said, “I was like, ‘you need to keep this for yourself!’” Trading versions, they shared sweet harmonies on the verses before Perry leaned over and gave Musgraves a quick peck on the cheek,
The camaraderie between the two was obvious with Musgraves playing the quieter, shier sister to Perry’s bolder, brassier, more experienced sibling, but Musgraves shrinks in no one’s shadow. After the pair had to re-record Perry’s crackling “Firework” (recast as in an acoustic, more elegant version, complete with pedal steel), Musgraves’ joked “I was perfect, that’s all I can say.” For her part, Perry said, “If I sing this song one more time, I’m going to turn into a firework.”
For their second cover, they chose Dolly Parton’s ‘70s hit, “Here You Come Again.” “One time, Katy told me I’m like Dolly Parton without the tits,” Musgraves said, with the busy Perry quickly adding, “I’m like Dolly Parton with the tits. “
While all the numbers works, the pairing really soared on Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” taking the song about young carnal love to a new, effervescent place. It was the clear highlight of the night. They ended the night with Perry’s mega hit, “Roar,” with Musgraves’ range and Perry’s power providing perfect the perfect complement to each other.
Perry and Musgraves’ episode of “Crossroads” premieres on CMT on June 13. Their tour together starts June 22.