Single Review: Gwyneth Paltrow, “Country Strong”

A moment of honesty, please.  Just by listening to “Country Strong”, would you have any idea that this was recorded for an upcoming film by a Hollywood-born star who grew up in New York?

There’s nothing substantively different about Paltrow’s new single and all of the other “country and proud of it” songs that are out there. If it was recorded by any other new female singer that didn’t have an established public persona, it wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow.

The last few years of country music have so conclusively moved toward artifice that most country artists are already faking it. Alongside all the former pop stars and homegrown country artists who sound like them, it’s no surprise to see actual actors pulling off their country music efforts. The game has been moved to their turf, and they’ve got home court advantage.

So sure, she’s only acting.  But aren’t they all?

Grade: B-

Listen: Country Strong


  1. Great review, and I think you nailed it with your observations about acting and artifice..

    I actually like this song and performance as much as anything I’ve heard on the charts lately, maybe even more so.

    Looking forward to this movie as well…I hear that both Sara Evans and Patty Loveless each have songs on the soundtrack! A little art perhaps, added to the acting and artifice.

  2. …it doesn’t sound bad, does it? if she sang for example: i’m whiskey bound – hard to wake… it would also work quite nicely. tinseltown versatility should not be underestimated – a real country song that starts with…. say: two cigarettes in an ashtray, neither.

  3. Jeff Bridges and Colin Farrell aquitted themselves nicely as Country singers in Crazy Heart, and Robert Duvall with some self penned and performed Country tunes in Tender Mercies before them. Then there’s Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash…lot of good stuff from Hollywood actually..I’m sure there’s more as well.

  4. In all honesty, it’s the best of the three versions I’ve heard so far. I think it’s a pretty basic song, and she stays within its boundaries more than Ashley Ray or Carrie Hassler did. There’s nothing wrong with pushing things a bit, but some songs can’t support too much experimentation without collapsing.

  5. Ew, this was recorded as a legitimate song by actual artists? It works well for me as a film’s approximation of what mainstream country sounds like, I guess because in that context I become as much concerned with accuracy of representation as with quality. This definitely sounds like modern country, so it works in that regard, and Paltrow is a good singer. But what a lame song.

  6. One compliment I can give this song is that I’ve heard plenty that were much worse. At least she doesn’t start thumbing her nose at the city slickers, like so many country singers do. And judging by vocals and instruments, it SOUNDS good. But when a song is meant for a movie soundtrack, the standards just aren’t very high.

  7. Its actually much better than I thought. Its not a great song, but she sings it well and there’s more country instrumentation than what’s often on country radio. It’ll be interesting to see what country radio does with this. Will they play it because of who she is? If this were anyone else, no one would ever hear it.

  8. And how could I forget for best Hollywood performance in the role of a Country singer…has to be Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn, and Bevery D’Angelo as Patsy Cline…and in their own voices no less. Amazing, amazing stuff.

    I think Hollywood does have a good track record honoring Country music, and I look forward to the Country Strong movie as well.

  9. true about the artifice, but a B rating,really. this song is awful even if it sounds like the equally awful stuff that comes out of music city. she may compare well to mediocre country music but never with the good stuff.

  10. I’ve heard the demo from the writers and it is apparent Gwyneth recorded Hassler’s version of the song. I personally still love Carrie Hassler’s amazing voice more than Gwyneth’s, but Gwyneth did a great job in singing Carrie’s version.

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