2022 CMA Awards: Cole Swindell Welcomes Jo Dee Messina for Surprise ‘She Had Me at Heads Carolina’ Performance

by Suzanne Halliburton

The CMA Awards gave fans some fun-loving 1990s-era nostalgia, with Cole Swindell bringing out surprise guest Jo Dee Messina for his rollicking remix of “She Had Me at Heads Carolina” performance.

The CMAs already had announced Swindell as a performer, with the country star doing his live debut of the hit song. The Wednesday rendition was a remix. And it was entirely appropriate for Swindell to invite Messina, the 1990s breakout country star, to sing with him. After all, his version sampled Messina’s debut single from 1996. The song “Heads Carolina, Tails California” was her first hit. It zoomed to No. 2 on the country charts.

The CMA Country Music account shared a video of the duet. “Surpriiise!” the tweet said. “Everyone welcome Jo Dee Messina to the stage with Cole Swindell for “She Had Me At Heads Carolina”! We love us some ’90s Country!”

1990s country? Outsider is here for it.

Cole Swindell and Jo Dee Messina Released Single Earlier This Week

The CMA performance came two days after Cole Swindell and Jo Dee Messina released the new remix. So maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Swindell hyped the release of the remix, Monday, via Instagram. He wrote: “Did y’all really think we were gonna leave you hanging without releasing a version of this song w/Jo Dee Messina?!? Such a full circle moment for this here 90’s Country fan.”

Judging by the reactions on social media, country music fans loved this blast from the 1990s.

“I so loved this. Takes me back to my childhood,” one fan posted. Another wrote: “I screamed so loud at the tv when I saw her.”

This fan also drifted back to way back when. “By far the best. What a surprise. Took me back when my momma blasted Jo Dee Messina.”

Jo Dee Messina made a surprise appearance with Cole Swindell at the CMA Awards. She was such a country super star in the 1990s and early 2000s, that then President George W. Bush invited her to the White House. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Messina Earned Six No. 1 Singles on Country Charts

Messina was a dominant force in country a quarter century ago. She had six No. 1 hits, with six more climbing into the top 10. And she recently talked to Billboard about why 90s music whispers to the collective souls of country fans.

“The songs of the ’90s really get to the heart, she told Billboard. “They grab a hold of the heart strings. The stories that they tell, the emotions that they bring about, nostalgia. There are a lot of story songs from the ’90s that, the moment you hear them, you are brought right back to that time.

“The ’90s was such a magical time,” she continued. “There was such a vast bed of music throughout the entire genre, from male and female, traditional, poppish. The ’90s had it all.”