Your RodeoHouston 2017 Lineup, One Night at a Time

Just three years ago, Aaron Watson played the rodeo's barbecue cookoff weekend. Now, he's first out of the chute at NRG Stadium on March 7.
Just three years ago, Aaron Watson played the rodeo's barbecue cookoff weekend. Now, he's first out of the chute at NRG Stadium on March 7.
Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

MARCH 7: AARON WATSON
Aaron Watson shocked country music when 2015’s The Underdog debuted at No.
1 on Billboard’s country albums chart, making him the first independent solo male artist to do so. Actually, the surprise was limited to those who hadn’t followed the Abilene-based traditionalist’s long career on the Texas circuit. His latest, Vaquero, is out now. (RodeoHouston Debut)

MARCH 8: OLD DOMINION
Eighty percent Virginian by birth, Old Dominion is nonetheless a shining example that contemporary Nashville fare needn’t be reduced to pandering country-pop formulas. The group’s 2016 debut, Meat and Candy, features an abundance of songs that sparkle with hooks and lyrics that lodge in the brain. (Debut)

MARCH 9: CHRIS STAPLETON
Already an in-demand songwriter for the likes of Kenny Chesney and George Strait, Chris Stapleton became a genuine phenomenon with a record inspired by his father’s death, 2015’s Traveller. Its heavy outlaw/Southern-rock vibe made a potent antidote to pop-addicted mainstream country, and Stapleton a most unlikely crossover success. (Debut)

MARCH 10: ALICIA KEYS
An R&B leading lady from 2001 debut Songs In A Minor forward, Alicia Keys radiates integrity onstage and off, equal parts diva, feminist and mother. A stark contrast to 2012’s high-concept, operatic Girl On Fire, last year’s HERE stripped her sound and image down to the raw, earthy essentials. (Previous: 2005)

MARCH 11: ALAN JACKSON
Now pushing two dozen appearances, Alan Jackson trails only memorable “Murder On Music Row” duet partner George Strait as RodeoHouston’s signature entertainer, certainly in the modern era. Recent albums have ventured into bluegrass and gospel, further enhancing his down-home, good-guy image — white hat and all. (Previous: 1992-2002, 2004-13, ’15)

MARCH 12: THE CHAINSMOKERS
Artists who have played RodeoHouston before releasing their debut album are a rare breed indeed. But the NYC dance-pop duo’s string of runaway hits since 2014’s “#Selfie” — “Paris,” “Roses” and “Closer,” for starters — has revealed their near-identical overlap of EDM and Top 40 can pay off big. (Debut)

MARCH 13: SAM HUNT
Traditionalists scoff, but Sam Hunt blurs the lines between country, pop and R&B so completely he’s earned the (totally serious) nickname “Country Drake.” The former college quarterback’s 2014 LP Montevallo quickly became one of the most-copied sounds in Nashville, setting Hunt up for his chart-devouring latest single “Body Like a Back Road.” (Debut)

MARCH 14: DEMI LOVATO
Still just 24 years old, Dallas-bred Demi Lovato is nearly a decade removed from her Disney Channel star vehicle Sonny With a Chance. Led by coy single “Cool For the Summer,” 2015’s Confident is her strongest argument yet for initiation into the single-name pop firmament alongside Taylor, Katy and Ariana. (Previous: 2010, ’13)

MARCH 15: THOMAS RHETT
Son of ’90s singer Rhett Akins, Georgia-born Thomas Rhett wasn’t even 21 when Jason Aldean recorded a song of his on 2010’s My Kind of Party. His own breakthrough album, 2015’s Tangled Up, doesn’t skimp on party cuts, but the No. 1 hit was snuggly ballad “Die a Happy Man.” (Debut)

MARCH 16: LUKE BRYAN
Country music’s reigning Mr. Congeniality, Luke Bryan set out to prove he was more than just the King of Spring Break on 2015’s Kill the Lights, and largely succeeded. Onstage, though, he’ll always be the wholesome stud of Tailgates and Tan Lines, inviting the ladies to crash his party anytime. (Previous: 2012-16)

MARCH 17: FIFTH HARMONY
Shrugging off the side-eyes often thrown toward artists who incubate in the made-for-TV factory, Fifth Harmony — the R&B four-piece originally assembled by Simon Cowell on Fox’s The X-Factor (and recently pared down to a quartet) — prove compelling chemistry and choreography can trump even songwriting by committee. This St. Patrick’s Day, girl power runs roughshod over NRG. (Debut)



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