‘AGT’ country trio Chapel Hart offers modern viewpoint with ‘Jolene’ sequel: ‘We could not still be fighting over the same man!’

Dolly Parton’s love-triangular classic “Jolene” has been covered by everyone from pop stars Olivia Newton-John, Miley Cyrus, and Lil Nas X to alternative groups the White Stripes, the Sisters of Mercy, and Strawberry Switchblade In 2017, country singer Cam even released a inverted response track, “Diane,” telling the tale from Jolene’s point of view. But there’s never been a spin on Dolly’s ’70s hit quite like “You Can Have Him, Jolene,” a new sequel performed on America’s Got Talent this week by family country trio Chapel Hart.

“We were so inspired by the song ‘Jolene,’ and we just love the storyline,” Chapel Hart’s vivacious lead vocalist, Danica Hart, told the AGT panel Tuesday. “We figured, though, from 1973 to 2022, we could not still be fighting over the same man! So, we decided to tell her: ‘You can just have him, Jolene!’”

“Well, since the last song I’ve had time to think it over/A lot of tears, a lot a beer, a lot of wine. … I’m tired of second chances, and these sad-ass circumstances/He’s your problem, good luck keeping him home,” the sassy Chapel Hart ladies — Danica, her sister Devynn Hart, and their cousin Trea Swindle — belted in their flawless three-part harmonies. “Oh, Jolene, you can have him ‘cause he don’t mean much to me. … When you think that he’s in love surely leave/Like he did me.”

And the protagonist of Chapel Hart’s modern empowerment tune did get her happy ending — as well as a bit of “Before He Cheats”-reminiscent revenge. “I took my keys and threw him out his door/I found a man who loves me and he’ll give me all I need/What a woman could ask for any more?” the women sang, as the live AGT audience went wild.

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“The energy in here is amazing,” noted host Terry Crews. “Oh my God! Trust me, I needed you today. That was fantastic,” raved judge Simon Cowell.

This Mississippi-born/New Orleans-based trio was named one of CMT’s “Next Women of Country” artists last year, and they have released two independent albums and five singles — one of which, “Jesus & Alcohol,” even featured ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons on guitar and Debbie Allen in the music video. And yet, Chapel Hart somehow remain unsigned, which understandably surprised industry veteran Simon.

“We’ve been trying to break into Nashville for the last couple of years, but it’s been kind of hard when I think country music doesn’t always look like us,” Danica — who, like Devynn and Trea, is Black — explained through tears, as Devynn sweetly wiped her face. To that, Simon asserted, “Sometimes you’ve just got to break that door down, and you may have just broken down the door with that performance.” Judge Howie Mandel added, “You say country music doesn’t look like you? That is your win. Because you are going to be the original.”

All of the show’s individual Golden Buzzers were used up weeks ago during this talent-packed season — which both Simon and Heidi Klum lamented, saying they would have used their respective Golden Buzzers on Chapel Hart if they still could. But there was an easy solution: After a quick meeting between Terry and all four judges, they unanimously decided to use their group Golden Buzzer on the country trio. (This was the only the second time this had happened in AGT history; the group Golden Buzzer was introduced last season in response to opera prodigy Victory Brinker.)

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The confetti then rained down on the weeping Danica, Devynn, and Trea as they hugged and high-fived the judges. “There are little girls in Poplarville, Miss., who think that this isn’t possible, but we’re doing it!” Trea triumphantly proclaimed.

It remains to be seen if Chapel Hart can win America’s Got Talent, but after performing this dynamite number for one of network TV’s biggest audiences, they probably won’t be without a major record deal for long. As Nashville thankfully becomes more open and inclusive — note the recent success of Black country artists like Mickey Guyton, Jimmie Allen, Kane Brown, Yola, Rhiannon Giddens, Allison Russell, Amethyst Kiyah, Breland, Valerie June, et al — it seems like Chapel Hart’s time has finally arrived. And I think Dolly Parton herself would approve.

As for Tuesday’s other notable performers, they included raspy singer-songwriter Sam Cieri, whom Heidi described as “if Rod Stewart and John Mayer had a baby” (I was thinking more Lewis Capaldi/Michael McDonald lovechild, actually); Ballet After Dark, a troupe of assault survivors who find healing through dance; Ukrainian aerialist Svitlana Rohozhyna; viral folk artist Amanda Mammana, who uses music to work through her speech impediment; second-generation circus performer Jack the Whipper, who somehow convinced Simon to participate in a below-the-belt whip-cracking stunt that could have gone very awry; and Jackass-esque Brits the Lazy Generation, who received a standing ovation from Simon after they squirted hot sauce in their eyes, scattered thumbtacks all over the stage floor, and engaged in a pillow fight while being tasered. (Trust me, it was jolly good fun — but don’t try this at home or across the pond.)

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See you next week, as the America’s Got Talent Season 17 auditions continue.

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