Entertainment Weekly

Subscribe

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Music

Dolly Parton is having a moment — here's the proof

Pop culture can’t get enough of the ‘Backwoods Barbie.’ Here’s why she’s exactly what we need.

Posted on

At 71 years old and now in her 50th year as a singer and entertainer, Dolly Parton seems unstoppable. With 43 studio albums to her credit, not to mention an enormously popular namesake Tennessee amusement park, Dollywood, and several popular film roles, including 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias, the musician and actress has long been a landmark figure in pop culture. This year, though, has brought on a Dolly tidal wave no one was expecting… and maybe right when we need her most.

From her current music collaborations and latest Emmy nomination to getting name-dropped in a popular summer movie, ahead are 9 reasons why Dolly Parton is having a moment.

One letter closer to an EGOT?
Dolly’s NBC musical special Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love just received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Television Movie. She might not win… she probably won’t win, but it’s her second Emmy nomination ever! Is it too late to start a Dolly EGOT campaign? She has the G (nine of them, in fact), plus two Oscar nominations, and one Tony nod. Now, to turn those into (silver and) gold…

Somewhere over the Rainbow
Earlier this month it was announced that Dolly will duet with Kesha on a cover of the legend’s own song “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You”) for the pop star’s first album in four years, Rainbow, out Aug. 11. And it’s the most recent in her rash of collabs, album guest spots, and covers, which started around the end of 2016.

I’m begging of you, please listen to this cover
Pentatonix covered “Jolene” and performed it with Dolly live on The Voice in November with none other than her goddaughter and Voice coach Miley Cyrus. They later released a recording of it on their album PTX Vol. IV – Classics, and the group and Dolly won a Grammy earlier this year for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.

Dolly will cover your song — and school you in the process
In May, Dolly put her spin on Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” for Carlile’s cover album, Cover Stories. In an interview with PEOPLE, Carlile says Dolly “takes her to school” in her version, hitting all of the high notes, and then some. 

She will always love this song… and helping cover it
Dolly also appeared on Michael Bolton’s album, covering her other universally known song “I Will Always Love You.” It is, of course, always an honor to guest on another artists’ album, especially for a killer duet. Here, though, she’s asked to be cover her own song — as a duet — and Dolly breathes new life into her catalog.

Sneak a listen below:

Baby, she’s burnin’!
As if it wasn’t enough that she’s a country icon, Dolly also has earned the adoration of the gay community. Dolly’s movie 9 to 5 plays at gay bars like football games at Buffalo Wild Wings, and the eponymous single and album have inspired countless drag renditions. On RuPaul’s Drag Race, Farrah Moan and Alexis Michelle lip-synced for their lives to “Baby I’m Burning” from Dolly’s 1978 album Heartbreaker. In 2016, she recognized her gay following in an interview with The Guardian, saying, “They know I’m a little different myself. I’ve fought for the right to be myself, so that is one of the reasons that the gays and lesbians relate to me.”

Music-making machine
Dolly is showing no signs of slowing down. She’s still producing new music, and it’s outperforming all of her past albums from this century. Her most recent album, 2016’s Pure & Simple, earned Dolly her first No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart in 25 years, and in EW’s review, correspondent Madison Vain said the album shows that “five decades into her career, Parton isn’t a nostalgia act — she’s still one of America’s most vital country songsmiths.”

Dolly 101
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, which honored the star with an honorary doctoral degree in 2009, introduced a new class at the start of its spring semester this year called “Dolly Parton’s America: From Sevierville to the World.” Repeating this fall, the course offers an examination and understanding of Appalachia’s modern history, using Dolly’s life as a way into the region’s history. 

“She is beloved here,” Lynn Sacco, the associate professor behind the course, told the Times. “If she would run for governor, no one would oppose her.”

Dolly knows a thing or two about big life moments, and this is certainly one that wasn’t lost on her, as she tweeted in April: “From the girl voted in High School ‘least likely to succeed’ this sure is a blessing!”

She helped “Wright” the end of this new movie
Dolly hasn’t starred in a movie since 2012’s Joyful Noise, but she plays an important role in Edgar Wright’s hit summer action flick Baby Driver, currently in theaters. While in a bank, Ansel Elgort’s Baby says “Dolly Parton, I like her,” to which the teller replies, quoting the music legend, “Everybody wants happiness, nobody wants pain; but there can’t be a rainbow without a little rain.”

SPOILER ALERT: Later, when Baby is released from prison, a rainbow is visible in the background. Moral of the story: Wright knows a powerful quote when he hears one, and Dolly’s wise words provide the perfect foreshadowing for the end of his movie.

Bottom line: Dolly does something to us that we can’t explain.