(Editors Note: Both Derek and myself are taking a look back at what we considered the highs and lows of country music in 2015 so far. This will give you a good idea of our overall thoughts on the year. And of course be sure to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments below.)
Favorite Album So Far – Please note that this is favorite album and not necessarily indicative of what I think is the best overall. My favorite album from a female artist is Holidays and Wedding Rings by Jamie Lin Wilson. The writing to the production is just top-notch. From the males, my favorite album is Will Hoge’s Small Town Dreams. With the exception of Hoge’s bro-country song, that album features some great song writing and fun pop country anthems that I can listen to over and over. I know there are better, technical country albums this year, but Small Town Dreams is an entertaining one for me.
Favorite Song So Far – My personal favorite so far is “El Dorado” by Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen. The story these two tell of a cowboy preparing himself to die is fantastic. This song has great writing, great vocals from both Rogers and Bowen, and beautiful instrumentation. The instrumental outro swapping guitars with fiddles and steel guitars is what makes this song. The more I listen to this song, the more I love it.
Worst Song So Far – “Better Do It” by RaeLynn. Where do I begin? From RaeLynn’s near screaming while she sings, to a terrible rap inspired breakdown and valley girl backing vocalists saying “You better do it” about 5 million times, this song straight up sucks. It’s not country, RaeLynn isn’t a good singer, and “Better Do It” proves it.
Biggest Surprise – Tyler Farr. I know, I only graded his album a 5 out of 10, but Tyler Farr had some excellent album cuts on Suffer In Peace. I loathe “Redneck Crazy” and thought Tyler Farr was a joke after hearing that song. But after hearing songs like “I Don’t Even Want This Beer,” the excellent “Suffer In Peace,” and the album’s lead single “A Guy Walks Into a Bar,” I’m starting to give Farr the benefit of the doubt.
Biggest Disappointment – The lyrics of Eli Young Band’s new single, “Turn It On.” Phrases like “if I kiss you up against the wall, it ain’t my fault” because he can’t “turn it off the way [she] turns it on” seemingly excuse male actions when a girl turns him on. Careless lyrics like that send the wrong message to male listeners, you know, the song’s target demographic. Mike Eli, you are most certainly capable of turning it off and controlling your inhibitions and libido. These shameful lyrics cannot be excused.
Best Male Artist – Whitey Morgan. Morgan’s intense, heavy country music is impressive. Morgan recorded some great cover songs and equally great originals. Sonic Ranch may be one of the most impressive albums overall that I’ve heard this year, and his recording of “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue” is certainly a top five, maybe even a top three, song for me so far this year.
Best Female Artist – Jamie Lin Wilson. Wilson is a heck of a songwriter, and an equally great singer. Wilson’s solo debut, Holidays and Wedding Rings, is a great collection of 12 songs with a variety of sounds and stories, all while keeping it country from start to finish.
Breakout Artist – Chris Stapleton. This is a fitting accolade for Chris Stapleton, a man who’s been writing song after song in mainstream country. Luke Bryan, George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Gary Allan, and Trace Adkins have all cut songs from him, just to name a few. Chris gained a ton of support as a songwriter and it was only a matter of time before fans were treated to a full album, and Chris didn’t disappoint with Traveller. 2015 may end up being the year of Chris Stapleton.
Worst Artist – RaeLynn. I’m sick and tired of living in this new Back to the Future spinoff where RaeLynn travels to 2015 from 1950. Did she learn to write songs from her mother or grandmother? RaeLynn’s one-sided views on male and female roles in relationships are outdated and annoying to listen to. If she seriously thinks God made girls to only wear pretty skirts, and that boys aren’t allowed to show any vulnerability or sensitivity, than I feel sorry for her worldly exposure. I hope she joins the rest of us here in the real world soon. Also, her EP called Me absolutely sucked.
Most Anticipated Release in the Second Half of 2015 – July 17, 2015. This will be the first official Friday release day for music, and both Alan Jackson and Jason Isbell will release new albums that day. I expect both albums to be great in their own way and can’t wait to hear them.