Meet the Contenders for RodeoHouston’s 2019 Resident Pop Act

Taylor Swift would make a welcome addition to next year's RodeoHouston lineup.
Taylor Swift would make a welcome addition to next year's RodeoHouston lineup. Photo by Jack Gorman
RodeoHouston is no stranger to hosting pop stars. If anything, the Rodeo has played host to some of the most famous pop icons of their respective eras. From Elvis to the Black-Eyed Peas, Alicia Keys to Boyz II Men, RodeoHouston has certainly hosted its share of pop stars. Some remain iconic, while others were very much of a certain era or moment.

Now, what does this have to do with Garth Brooks? Well, quite a bit actually. For one, Brooks – who both opened and will close this year’s Rodeo – is a pop star himself, despite the country get-up. Secondly, Garth Brooks ranks among the biggest pop stars of all time, an artist whose presence bolsters the Rodeo’s already sterling reputation.

And this is where Brooks returning to the Rodeo changed the game, particularly as it pertains to pop musicians. When an artist the caliber and scope of Garth Brooks both opens and closes RodeoHouston, the event becomes more desirable for those of a similar level.

And with all due respect to Alessia Cara, who served as this year’s resident pop act, the Rodeo needn’t fear dreaming a bit bigger in 2019. If anything, RodeoHouston organizers should consider some of these heavy hitters for next year’s concert lineup.

Clarkson previously played the Rodeo in 2004, shortly after winning American Idol but before she truly hit superstardom with the release of her sophomore record, Breakaway. Clarkson’s career has cooled a bit in recent years, as she’s opted to start a family and transition away from standard, radio-friendly pop fare. But she boasts more than enough hits to fill out an hour-long set, and as a native Texan, likely understands the stature of RodeoHouston.

Kesha around the turn of the decade? Perhaps a bit too risqué for the Rodeo crowd. But, after a career slump and a host of personal issues, Kesha returned last year with Rainbow, a change of pace for the pop star. Rainbow still features up-tempo dance tracks, but also features country fare like “Bastards” and a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You.” Dolly even appears on the track, and once you have Dolly’s blessing, you’re all set in country circles.

I’ve had my issues with Post, but you can’t deny that the guy makes hits. He’s also a Texan, and just strikes me as a guy who would play RodeoHouston just because it would be something new and interesting to do. It’s doubtful the Rodeo would entertain the notion of a concert headliner with face tattoos, but if they are open to it, Post would make for a sneaky-good choice.

Adam Levine and the boys are no strangers to RodeoHouston, having played NRG Stadium in 2005, 2006 and 2014. As pop acts go, that’s essentially a Rodeo residency. Why not join the four-timer’s club after a few years off? Maroon 5 is essentially the ideal RodeoHouston pop performer – great frontman, litany of hits, popular enough to fill seats, safe enough not to scare anyone away or cause blowback from Rodeo traditionalists.

It's kind of surprising Perry has never set foot on the RodeoHouston stage, considering she’s now been in the pop limelight for more than a decade. That said, if Rodeo organizers are going to get Perry to commit, now might be the time. Simply put, Perry’s career has cooled considerably since she abandoned more traditional pop fare in favor of a more nuanced “woke pop” approach. If Perry is looking to get back into the commercial music-buying public’s good graces, dust off hits like “Teenage Dream” and “Roar” in front of 75,000 screaming Texans.

Sheeran boasts more than enough hits to fill out an abbreviated rodeo set. He is more than noteworthy enough to put people in the seats at NRG Stadium. And his singer-songwriter cred would play well with country diehards. In fact, Sheeran breaking out a couple of iconic country covers – perhaps “The Dance” or “Baby Blue” – would go over huge.

Speaking of 20-something Brits, the former One Direction member has experienced quite a bit of success since setting out on his own a couple years back. His self-titled debut hit No. 1 in a number of countries, and lead single “Sign of the Times” was a big hit as well. Styles may not yet boast the hits to fill an hour-long set, but that’s why God invented One Direction covers.

This one almost makes too much sense not to happen. Swift has only played the Rodeo once, in 2009, when she had emerged as a country star but had not yet become the cultural force she is today. Now, Swift has gotten quite a bit of blowback for her newfound pseudo-risqué persona, and this makes sense, since the persona doesn’t really suit her. If anything, it wouldn’t be a surprise for Swift to revert back to her country ways at some point as a way to get back to her roots. When, or if, that day comes, a return to the RodeoHouston stage – ideally in a rodeo-closing capacity – is a surefire way to fill every single seat at NRG Stadium.
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Clint Hale enjoys music and writing, so that kinda works out. He likes small dogs and the Dallas Cowboys, as you can probably tell. Clint has been writing for the Houston Press since April 2016.
Contact: Clint Hale