“Jolene” is probably the most-covered song of Dolly Parton’s wide oeuvre. (“I Will Always Love You” likely comes close, but “Jolene” reportedly tops it—and has the added benefit of still feeling only, and entirely, like it’s Parton’s in the public consciousness.) Olivia Newton-John, The White Stripes, and more have all offered their takes on the song, in which Parton’s singer begs the beautiful Jolene not to take her man. (Arguments about Jolene’s stance on this situation remain widely debated, including in a number of response songs that have attempted to answer Parton’s hit.)
Last week added another high-profile version to the pile, as Lil Nas X, deep into the Montero hype, released his own stripped-down, somewhat mournful take on the classic track. Nas (no stranger to dipping into the country sound, obviously), dropped his version of the song on BBC1 during a Live Lounge set, infusing it with a heavy note of despair.
And, for what it’s worth, Dolly approves: Parton got on social media today to dispense her saint-in-all-but-name blessing to Nas’ spin on the song, calling it, “Really good.” “Of course,” she adds, “I love him anyway.” Which, what would that even feel like, to know that Dolly Parton is “honored and flattered” by you, in addition to the general all-purpose approval she seems to beam out into the world? Lil Nas X—who tried to pitch Parton on an “Old Town Road” collaboration once upon a time—tweeted out a straightforward “HOLY SHIT” in response to the tweet.
“Jolene” is having something of a cultural moment at present, not least of which because Parton tossed out a few bars of “vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine” when she issued her request that her fans please get vaccinated against COVID-19, especially since she went to all the trouble to help fund the damn thing, because she’s Dolly Parton.