Reacting to The Absolute Joke of the 2017 ACM Awards Nominations

pile_of_shit

Let’s be honest, I’ve never been that fond of country music award shows. Outside of the 2015 CMA Awards that helped launch Chris Stapleton to a brand new level of stardom, I’ve pretty much scoffed at these shows. As I’ve said before, no other genre spends more time patting themselves on the back than country music. This is evident by the heaps of award shows held throughout the year and this trains the viewer to basically not give a shit. But nevertheless we keep an eye on these shows in hopes they get it more right each time. Well we now have the nominations for the 2017 ACM Awards and there’s no other way to put it. These are an absolute joke. My first reaction was are these the mainstream country radio awards? Because it’s mostly a list of radio darlings that programmers fall over themselves to play. After seeing these nominations it makes me not want to watch and may not. Each category seems to have its own joke, so let’s pick through each.

Entertainer of the Year

  • Jason Aldean
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban

No Eric Church or Chris Stapleton, but sure Aldean and Florida Georgia Line get nominations. Complete failure already before we even get to the more insane nominations. I know the ACMs are in the tank for Aldean, but could they be any less discreet about it? The only nomination even worthy of winning is Carrie Underwood for her excellent touring numbers and consistently churning out hits and I give her a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. Aldean and Bryan are the odds on favorites here.

Male Vocalist

  • Jason Aldean
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Keith Urban

Once again Eric Church isn’t a nomination. Church released the best album of his career and is releasing the best singles of his career. And every awards show is stiffing him. I guess the industry is pissed he isn’t giving them radio fodder anymore. But I’m guessing Church doesn’t give a shit. Another category with one worthy candidate in my mind: Chris Stapleton. Remember when Dierks Bentley was considered one of the good guys at these shows? Then he decided he wants to be Luke Bryan and make a bunch of cheesy and stiff adult contemporary schlock. No Tim McGraw. Also no Blake Shelton in any categories. Well there’s some good news.

Female Vocalist

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Maren Morris
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood

I don’t know why Kacey continues to go to these awards show when she and everyone else knows she’s just a token nomination to fill out the field. What did she do in 2016 to earn a nomination? She didn’t release any new music. And keep in mind this isn’t a jab at her. She’s one of the best on a major country label. You would think Miranda is the shoe-in to win, but with her turn towards a more songwriter/Americana-like side I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Maren Morris wins. She seems poised to usurp Lambert as the new female darling in mainstream country and is racking up awards like crazy.

Vocal Duo

  • Big & Rich
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae

Big & Rich are a Vocal Duo nomination in 2017…..hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! They released one single last year that took like 40 weeks to peak at #14 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. They’re completely irrelevant. What in the hell makes them deserving of a nomination? Maddie & Tae are a complete token nomination like Musgraves above. I don’t see Dan + Shay being quite in the position to win yet. So it’s between CMA 2016 Duo of the Year Brothers Osborne and past years favorite Florida Georgia Line. I’m hopeful the former wins, but being a radio favorites show I expect the latter to win.

Vocal Group

  • Eli Young Band
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Old Dominion
  • Rascal Flatts

Eli Young Band?! Where are they getting these joke ideas for nominations? You’re telling me Eli Young Band is a nomination, but not Zac Brown Band who at least had a song reach the top 15 in the last year and are a mainstream staple? Get out of here! Lady Antebellum was on hiatus for all of 2016. Rascal Flatts are irrelevant. Yet despite this joke of a category, the best group Little Big Town should easily walk away with this award.

New Male

  • Kane Brown
  • Chris Janson
  • Chris Lane
  • Jon Pardi
  • Brett Young

Out of all the categories, this actually might be the one I have the least qualms with because these are all new male artists who have did something notable in the last year. Despite not being a fan of him, Kane Brown is deserving based on the fact that he does sell well and has great streaming numbers. While you and me might not like him, there are many he does resonate with and it’s ironic he’s one of the few nominations where the ACM looked beyond radio. Hands down this should go to Jon Pardi, who achieved a #1 album with California Sunrise, racked up a #1 hit in “Head Over Boots” and is on his way to another #1 in “Dirt on My Boots.” And I think it actually does go to him because his accomplishments blow the others out of the water. If anyone else wins I’m calling shenanigans.

New Female

  • Lauren Alaina
  • Cam
  • Brandy Clark
  • Maren Morris

That’s right they couldn’t even fill out the nominations for this one. Hey ACMs: Margo Price and Aubrie Sellers. Did you forget they exist? How is Brandy Clark new? This is just another award for them to give Maren.

New Vocal Duo/Group

  • A Thousand Horses
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • LoCash
  • Maddie & Tae

None of these are really new, but then again barely anything else makes sense with these awards. I’m guessing Brothers Osborne or Dan + Shay win here.

Album

  • Dierks Bentley – Black
  • Florida Georgia Line – Dig Your Roots
  • Maren Morris – Hero
  • Keith Urban – Ripcord
  • Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings

This should 1000% go to Miranda Lambert for her great album. But it’ll probably go to Urban or Morris or maybe even Bentley. You could take the best material from all of the non-Lambert ones, put it in one album and it still wouldn’t top Lambert’s album.

Single

  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Maren Morris – “My Church”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

Key distinction is this is single. I’m kind of surprised Thomas Rhett’s “Die A Happy Man” isn’t here, but rather under Song below. I don’t give Lambert a chance here either sadly. I could see any of the other four winning.

Song

  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
  • Thomas Rhett – “Die A Happy Man”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Tennessee Whiskey”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

I would be happy with any of the bottom four winning, but watch one of the top two win. If I had to pick the winner I would definitely go with “Kill A Word,” being the best song of the nominations and for Church getting screwed over in general.

Video

  • Chris Stapleton – “Fire Away”
  • Various Artists – “Forever Country”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

With all due respect to the other videos, “Fire Away” is the no-brainer best video. It’s one of the powerful music videos I’ve watched in years and takes the song to a whole new level of meaning. Instead though “Forever Country” will probably win because it’s done insane numbers on YouTube and sold well (also great numbers on this very blog). The only hesitation I have of it winning is this song was specifically made for the ACM’s chief rival show CMA’s 50th Anniversary. How ironic would that be if it won an ACM Award?

Songwriter

  • Ashley Gorley
  • Luke Laird
  • Hillary Lindsey
  • Shane McAnally
  • Lori McKenna

McKenna has to win this one, right?

Vocal Event 

  • Dierks Bentley (feat. Elle King) – “Different For Girls”
  • Various Artists – “Forever Country”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All”
  • P!nk (feat. Kenny Chesney) – “Setting The World on Fire”
  • Chris Young (feat. Cassadee Pope) – “Think of You”

I could see a case made for any of these conceivably winning. I think this will largely depend on the other categories’ winners.

The Hodgepodge: Five Ways I Would Fix Country Radio

Alan Jackson

I don’t think it’s much of a secret how I feel about country radio. Anyone who has followed Country Perspective and The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music in particular know my distaste and at times outright anger towards country radio. At times they can get it right, only to screw up again. But one thing I have come to accept compared to when I first started to track country airplay charts is that I don’t entirely represent their target audience. As much as I want to hear Jon Pardi, Maddie & Tae and Eric Church get played on country radio, the person down the street simply prefers Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt. We all have different tastes and country radio doesn’t always deliberately play the worst music being released. Some people choose to listen to this music and I respect this choice, even if don’t understand it or agree with it.

But I think something all country fans can agree on, especially in light of what has happened so far in 2016, is there’s a clear lack of direction at radio and several other problems accompanying it. There’s a lack of traditional country music still, even if there has been some notable accomplishments by traditional artists on the airwaves this year. Most female artists continue to be ignored and older artists are still shunted aside. Not to mention there seems to be this never-ending chart clog, as every label desperately tries to push their new act so they can become established. That’s a lot of issues and it got me thinking of how exactly I would go about fixing this issues. And by fixing that doesn’t mean removing every artist from the airwaves I don’t like, as much as I would love to ban Sam Hunt from country radio. So after doing some thinking, I came up with what I believe to be five sensible solutions that would go a long way in helping fix country radio and turning it into something that can appeal to both traditional and modern fans.

  • Ban the On The Verge Program

iHeart’s On The Verge program looked like it could be a useful program at first for country radio. It seemed to promise to help up and coming, new artists at radio and give them a chance to make a successful career. Well after a couple of years of observing this program, I would call it an absolute failure. The only two acts to actually benefit from it and help them launch successful careers is Sam Hunt and Old Dominion. The rest of the artists chosen for the program haven’t really done much since being chosen. Even a quality artist like Cam has failed to produce a hit since “Burning House” was chosen for the program. Maren Morris is struggling right now at radio with “80s Mercedes” after “My Church” was chosen for On The Verge and she’s probably been one of the biggest breakouts recently in country music. It reminds me similarly of A Thousand Horses with “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” stalling out after “Smoke” landed them a #1 hit. The latest On The Verge pick though has really exposed this sham of a program, Lauren Alaina’s “Road Less Traveled.” She isn’t a new artist by any stretch and has had plenty of time to establish a career. Alaina is undoubtedly a talented artist, but this is not the way you build her career up because I don’t see the followup to this netting her another hit and establishing her as a star.

The whole situation with On The Verge is very forced and inorganic. It represents a problem that has been plaguing country radio, which is why I would end it effective immediately. It’s not creating stars and it no longer serves a purpose. Why continue to run something that is ineffective and only strokes the egos of label executives? It’s just causing problems and getting the hopes of young artists and their fans. You can’t force radio and people to like a song, no matter how hard you push it down their throats. Speaking of which…

  • A Song Can Only Be On The Airplay Charts for 25 Weeks at Max

This solution is 100% directed at labels pushing the likes of Chase Bryant and Canaan Smith down our throats when nobody cares about them and their music. Just look at the chart right now and you can find songs that have been on it for over 30 weeks. As glad as I was to see Jon Pardi hit #1 with “Head Over Boots,” I cringe when I see it took over 45 weeks to reach this achievement (ironically it took exactly 11 months). Chase Rice infamously pushed a song for over a year to reach the top ten. This kind of gerrymandering bullshit needs to end and that’s why I would cap the limit for charting at 25 weeks. This gives labels just over six months to push their single at radio. After 25 weeks it must leave the chart and go recurrent. I think this is a good balance between giving labels enough time to push songs, as well as account for slower growing songs. It’s more than enough time to determine the true peak of the song. If this type of rule were to ever be implemented I could just see labels crying this is unfair because they can’t push their newest project for 40 weeks. And to them I say this: Perhaps this demonstrates how you shouldn’t waste time and money on artists that simply don’t connect (looking at you Curb Records).

  • The Top 30 on Both Mediabase & Billboard Airplay Charts Must Contain At Least 10 Songs with Female Artists

Now this solution and the next one are bound to be controversial, especially since I just said that you shouldn’t force music on the charts. But hear me out. Tomato Gate did absolutely nothing to improve the standing of women being played on country radio. A bunch of words and think-pieces have been churned out, yet no viable solution has been put on the table. Having the same three female artists in the top 30 is not enough progress. So in my opinion the only way you reverse the discrimination of country radio against women is to implement a rule like this one. Radio programmers aren’t going to willingly change their ways, so you have to force feed it down their throats so they will comply. Women deserve a fair chance and this is the only way I can think of them getting it. Notice I say it doesn’t have to be songs by solo female acts, but it simply must have a female artist on the song. The reason I word it like this is because major labels aren’t equipped at the moment to have ten female solo artists on the radio. They simply aren’t enough to be pushed, but by implementing this rule it would force them to sign more female talent and more importantly push them to radio when they’re guaranteed to have a chance. Now I realize not all of these pushed female acts would connect with audiences and if they don’t, they simply fall out of the top 30 in favor of a new one. Nothing would be forced.

  • The Top 30 on Both Mediabase & Billboard Airplay Charts Must Contain At Least 2 Songs by Artists 45+ Years Old

While women have been the victims of sexism and misogyny at country radio, the other big problem country radio has always had is ageism. As soon as an artist gets older, they casted aside and ignored by country radio. This is bullshit. Alan Jackson, Reba and George Strait are all still making music and want to be played on country radio. There’s plenty of people who still want to hear them on country radio. I say they should still be getting played and this rule would force radio to continue to consider these senior acts. Why should Chris Lane be getting played over George Strait when Strait can outsell and outperform him in his sleep?

  • The Implementation of a Quality Assurance Panel

This last one is pretty self-explanatory, but might also be the most important. I would establish a Quality Assurance Panel for country radio. It would consist of ten people whose job would be to vote on whether or not a single should qualify for country radio. In other words, is the single country enough for country radio? This would eliminate pop carpetbagging and outsiders hijacking the format. It would also still allow for pop country songs, which many people enjoy and wouldn’t be taken off the airwaves. A strict checklist would have to be met for the song to get passed by the panel (instrumentation, lyrics, etc.). So while I’m not banning Sam Hunt off the airwaves, a quality panel would force him to either start making country leaning songs or get the hell out and go to pop radio. Kelsea Ballerini would be forced to incorporate more country elements into her music too if she wants to stay on country radio.

For the fun of it, I decided to apply my hypothetical solutions to the current chart. Here’s what the top 30 would look like after removing all songs that would fail to be on the current chart and applying my rules:

  1. Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls”
  2. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory”
  3. Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime”
  4. Zac Brown Band – “Castaway”
  5. Miranda Lambert – “Vice”
  6. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be”
  7. Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time”
  8. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All”
  9. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song”
  10. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute”
  11. Jerrod Niemann & Lee Brice – “A Little More Love”
  12. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night”
  13. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry”
  14. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
  15. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl”
  16. Michael Ray – “Think A Little Less”
  17. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”
  18. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”
  19. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill a Word”
  20. Eli Young Band – “Saltwater Gospel”
  21. Runaway June – “Lipstick”
  22. Mickey Guyton – “Why Baby Why” (“Heartbreak Song” is not country)
  23. Easton Corbin – “Are You With Me”
  24. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You”
  25. RaeLynn – “Love Triangle”
  26. Ashley Monroe – “Dixie”
  27. Toby Keith – “A Few More Cowboys”
  28. George Strait – “Goin’ Goin’ Gone”
  29. Maddie & Tae – “Sierra”
  30. Margo Price – “Hurtin’ On The Bottle”

Let me know in the comments what you think. These are all hypothetical solutions and are closer to fantasy than reality. If you have any ideas you would like to add I would be glad to hear them.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow the following albums will be released:
    • Dwight YoakamSwimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
    • Reckless KellySunset Motel
  • Next week the legendary John Prine will release his duets album For Better, or Worse
  • William Michael Morgan will release his debut album Vinyl next week too
  • Wayne Hancock will be releasing a new album titled Slingin’ Rhythm on October 28

In Memory of Windmills Country

Country writer Grady Smith brought to us the unfortunate news this past week that beloved country writer, chart analyst and all-around wonderful person Windmills Country (real name Devarati Ghosh) has passed away. Her loss will be greatly felt throughout the country music insider community, as her kindness and insight was second to none. I know she influenced several of my best posts on this blog and inspired me to take on many challenging topics. While I never met her in real life, her advice and presence will be forever felt. May she rest in peace.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Born on the Bayou” – I’ve been digging into CCR’s catalog lately and they’re probably one of the most unsung acts of the 60s and 70s in my book. The way they blend soul, R&B and that swampy rock sound is infectious and memorable. You really can’t go wrong with any of their music.

Tweet of the Week

Yep! Also ties into last week’s Hodgepodge.

A Spot-On Review of the New Jason Aldean Album

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I’m still unable to listen to the new Aldean album, but I don’t have any plans to do so when I can anyway. According to people I trust on country music opinions, they all echo this above review: every song sounds the same. Based on what I’ve heard on the previews and Aldean’s track record, I’m not surprised. After all you don’t want to get too “songwriter-y.” Aldean is such a meat head.

Breaking Down & Examining The Quality of #1 Country Songs: 2015

Homegrown

Last week in comments section of the The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music, reader Nadia brought up the great point of Eric Church’s “Record Year” being the first great song (+4 or better) to top the charts in a few years. It really highlighted the importance of Church landing the #1 spot at country radio with such a quality song. The last song to do this in my book was Zac Brown Band’s “Sweet Annie” in 2013 and before that in 2011 with Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather.” Only three songs were able to rate a 9 or better in the last five years and top the Billboard Country Airplay chart. That’s kind of crazy and really puts things into perspective. This sparked me to think further and made me want to look back at the quality of #1 country airplay songs throughout the years. So that brings us to this new semi-regular feature and that’s picking a year and taking a look how I would rate the #1 songs of that year. The rankings will work exactly like The Current Pulse does, so if you’re not familiar with that criteria just take a look at the most recent one linked above. Reaching #1 is a big deal for an artist, which is why I want to look at the strength and quality of songs that are supposed to be smash hits. When I think #1 song, I think it should be pretty important not just to the artist, but demonstrates the direction of the industry at the time as a whole. We’ll start off with last year’s #1 songs…

  • January 3-10: Tim McGraw – “Shotgun Rider” +2
    • McGraw has been in the midst of revival/comeback the last few years after drifting aimlessly with Curb for years and then going through that whole “Truck Yeah”/”Lookin’ For That Girl” phase. McGraw in other words rediscovered who he was and why people loved him in the first place. “Shotgun Rider” went a ways in helping fuel this comeback and at the time was refreshing to hear after the bro era. There’s nothing that significant about this love song, but it’s solid all around and decidedly country. 7/10
  • January 17-24: Brad Paisley – “Perfect Storm” +2
    • Paisley admittedly pissed me off with his 2014 album Moonshine in the Trunk because it felt like a pandering, low-grade effort from him in comparison to his full capabilities. The previous single before this was “River Bank,” which really caught my ire. This song kind of got back to what he does best and that’s heartfelt love ballads. In the last two years it’s safe to say this has been his best single. It’s also the last song he’s had reach #1 on the airplay chart (granted great timing helped aid it). 7/10
  • January 31: Kenny Chesney – “‘Til It’s Gone” 0 (Note: This was the last and only time the Pulse has ever been positive)
    • The story of Kenny Chesney’s career is beach music and playing it safe. In this case it’s the latter. This schmaltzy love song really does nothing to standout and it’s kind of telling I had to listen to it again because I really didn’t remember it. That’s how I feel about most Chesney songs though. 5/10
  • February 7: Eric Church – “Talladega” +3
    • This song has grown on me from when I originally heard it. It’s definitely one of the better ones from The Outsiders, an album I didn’t care for at all. Church really nails the nostalgic/reflective tone of this song and gets the listener to buy into what he’s singing. 8/10
  • February 14-21: Luke Bryan – “I See You” -2
    • The quality starts to take a big dip here, folks. “I See You” is an overproduced, pop rock mess of a breakup song. The point of a country breakup song is to express sorrow and sadness. Yet this song feels more happy and upbeat. Instead of trying to understand it I just tell myself its Luke Bryan and this par for the course for him. 3/10
  • February 28: Florida Georgia Line – “Sun Daze” -5
    • And here we have a 2014 finalist for Country Perspective’s Worst Song of the Year. Yet it didn’t win (you can thank Jerrod Niemann). This song not only has an annoying reggae beat and sound, but an annoying whistle too. Florida Georgia Line’s singing is at its most grating and by Florida Georgia Line of course I mean Tyler Hubbard because the other one never sings. Then you get to the lyrics, which are just a dumpster fire of quality. Two horrific lines stand out in particular:”Rock a little bit of hip-hop and Haggard and Jagger” and “I’ll sit you up on the kitchen sink
      And stick the pink umbrella in your drink.” These lines are disgusting and offensive in so many different ways. I never want to hear Hubbard sing about his dick again. 0/10
  • March 7: Thomas Rhett – “Make Me Wanna” -4
    • Overtly slick production and a blatant pop sound back this slow jam sex song. It’s easy to forget how bad this one was from Rhett because he still wasn’t that well-known and it proceeded a much clearer offensive song. There’s nothing country about “Make Me Wanna” and really nothing country about Rhett still. Just make sure you continue to forget this one. 1/10
  • March 14: Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe – “Lonely Tonight” +1
    • I remember being quite happy for Monroe to get this opportunity from Blake to be heard by more people. I was also happy to see her associated with a #1 song. But now looking back at this song, I’m not nearly as smitten to it as I was originally. It’s pretty dull by both artists standards and could have been so much more. Luckily Monroe’s vocals and Blake’s charisma elevate it just enough. Then again this sounds like a damn masterpiece after the last two songs, so that perhaps explains my higher enthusiasm originally. 6/10
  • March 21: Jason Aldean – “Just Gettin’ Started” -3
    • Tell me what’s more vanilla and uninspiring: this or Aldean’s most recent #1 “Lights Come On.” They’re essentially the same rocker-infused anthem that says nothing. 2/10
  • March 28: Brett Eldredge – “Mean To Me” -1
    • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….Oh I fell asleep. This song makes me sleepy with its uninspired production and cliché, banal lyrics. Eldredge is a fine vocalist, but this is generic at it’s finest. 4/10
  • April 4: Cole Swindell – “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey” -2
    • You’re not worth the whiskey, Swindell. You’re not worth giving a full review for this subtly vindictive song. 3/10
  • April 11-28: Zac Brown Band – “Homegrown” +3
    • Ah it feels so long since we’ve had this Zac Brown Band. This was the lead single for Jekyll + Hyde and you all know how I feel about that album now. When I reviewed “Homegrown,” I said it gave me high hopes for the album. This was the exact type of song not only to get people excited about that album, but what should be on country radio in this day and age. It deservedly got a three-week reign at the top and I remember it even hung on the chart for another month after falling from the top spot. It was a true hit in every sense of the word. 8/10
  • May 2: Sam Hunt – “Take Your Time” -5
    • This was the song that kickstarted the reign of terror of Sam Hunt. I loathe this song with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. To the naive and quite frankly clueless listener, this is a sincere and sensitive love song about a guy treating a girl right. In reality, this song is all about Sam Hunt perfectly playing to a girl’s emotions so he can get down her pants. It’s deceptively creepy, sleazy and in no way country. 0/10
  • May 9-16: Dierks Bentley – “Say You Do” +1
    • This another song I remember liking a lot more originally, but now not so much. It’s an above average love song at best, even by Dierks’ standards. There were better songs on Riser, but then again just like “Lonely Tonight” this song has the benefit of being propped up when put next to all of the other terrible songs around it. 6/10
  • May 23: Keith Urban & Eric Church – “Raise ‘Em Up” 0
  • May 30: Tyler Farr – “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” +2
  • June 6: Billy Currington – “Don’t It” -2
  • June 13: A Thousand Horses – “Smoke” -1
    • This one has definitely worn thin on me since I originally reviewed, some thanks in part to the absolute success it had getting hits. It’s one of the top five most popular posts ever in the history of this blog. And one of the reasons why is because people wanting to know the name and identity of the stripper in the music video for the song. I’m dead serious and there’s still to this day some stray hits based off this Google search. Why in the hell do you want to know the name of the damn stripper? A Thousand Horses has pretty much been irrelevant since this song had its run. And they even had Dave Cobb produce their debut album. But hey they’ll always have that stripper video.
  • June 20: Florida Georgia Line – “Sippin’ On Fire” -4
  • June 27: Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter – “Wild Child” 0
    • I remember being told by some readers I should be praising this song more and I just had a pretty lukewarm response to it. Over a year later it’s still pretty lukewarm. Go listen to “You & Tequila” instead.
  • July 4: Kelsea Ballerini – “Love Me Like You Mean It” -4
    • This is the best example of bro pandering.
  • July 11: Blake Shelton – “Sangria” -3
    • With time every Blake Shelton single now gets even more annoying and grating on the ears. He’s a wizard in churning out sterile production backed, annoying ear worm songs.
  • July 25: Canaan Smith – “Label Pushed Song You Don’t Remember the Name Of” -3
    • Seriously can you remember it without Googling?
  • August 1: Jason Aldean – “Tonight Looks Good on You” -3
  • August 8: Brantley Gilbert – “One Hell of an Amen” +1
  • August 15: Luke Bryan – “Kick The Dust Up” -5
  • August 22: Michael Ray – “Kiss You in the Morning” -4
  • August 29: Zac Brown Band – “Loving You Easy” +2
  • September 5: Frankie Ballard – “Young & Crazy” +1
  • September 12: Sam Hunt – “House Party” -5
    • One of the most annoying songs I’ve ever heard. It’s vapid and completely lacks in substance in all facets of music.
  • September 19: Dustin Lynch – “Hell of a Night” -4
  • September 26: Thomas Rhett – “Crash and Burn” -5
  • October 3-17: Kenny Chesney – “Save It For A Rainy Day” 0
  • October 24: Brett Eldredge – “Lose My Mind” -2
  • October 31-November 7: Luke Bryan – “Strip It Down” -4
  • November 14-21: Old Dominion – “Break Up With Him” -5
    • One of the douchiest songs I’ve ever heard and yet it didn’t win worst song of the year. Thanks, Sam Hunt.
  • November 28-December 12: Chris Young – “I’m Comin’ Over” +1
  • December 19: Dan + Shay – “Nothin’ Like You” -2
  • December 26: Blake Shelton – “Gonna” -2

Overall #1 Song Pulse for 2015: -61

 

Break Down of Number of Each Pulse Score

+5: None

+4: None

+3: 2 (Eric Church’s “Talladega” and Zac Brown Band’s “Homegrown”)

+2: 4 (Brad Paisley’s “Perfect Storm,” Tim McGraw’s “Shotgun Rider,” Tyler Farr’s “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” & Zac Brown Band’s “Loving You Easy”)

+1: 5

0: (Three of the four are Kenny Chesney songs)

-1: 2

-2: 6

-3: 4

-4: 6

-5: 6

 

So in 2015 there were 39 songs to reach #1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. Of those 39 songs, a whopping 24 of these 36 songs were in the negative. That’s 2/3 (or about 67%) of all #1 songs for the year! It gets even worse, as 1/3 of the #1 songs have a score of -4 or worse, indicating horrendous or of horrifically bad quality (33% of the #1 songs). On the flip side, there were zero songs that I considered great or excellent to reach the top of the airplay chart in 2015 and only two songs I would consider pretty good to reach #1. Needless to say I would have to evaluate the quality of #1 songs in 2015 to be quite shitty. The year actually got off to a great start, as three of the first four #1 songs were positive. Then you look at the end of the year, from September 12 onwards there was only one positive song to top the chart (ironically having the longest reign on top during this time). I would be willing to go out on a limb and say this was one of the worst stretches in the history of country radio. Also there was only one solo female artist to top the Billboard Country Airplay chart in 2015 and that was Kelsea Ballerini. Meanwhile Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and Kenny Chesney each had three #1 airplay songs in 2015. Of their nine songs to top the chart, five have negative scores, three have neutral scores and one has a positive score.

Let me know what you think in the comments below of the songs and this new feature. And feel free to ask me about my grades for the songs. 

The Hodgepodge: Substantive Lyrics on the Rise

It’s no secret that the rise of bro-country was quickly followed by a rise of complaints. Complaints about the shallow party lyrics and themes repeated in song after song from many artists. Well after a few years of party hits dominating the radio waves, we appear to be on the brink of some more depth finding its way into our mainstream country music. It’s not close to being good, but attitudes seem to be shifting and steps are being taken toward a more substantive side of country music. Substantive lyrics are the pride of country music.

Some of the lesser offenders are shifting away from the party themes to something with more story and substance. Justin Moore’s “You Look Like I Need a Drink”, Frankie Ballard’s “It All Started With a Beer”, Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” and Kip Moore’s “Running For You” are all in the top 40 of the Country Airplay Chart. New singles from Toby Keith, Big & Rich, and Eric Church also show commitment to the task of deeper songs. And Love & Theft’s excellent “Whiskey on My Breath” has seen some revival thanks to Bobby Bones.

While some of the biggest offenders of bro country can’t quite get the depth in their songs, I think their attempts, however futile, shows that it’s a trend worth looking at. Sure Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man”, Cole Swindell’s “You Should Be Here” and Florida Georgia Line’s nonsensical ballad in “Confession” are all about as deep as a rain puddle, but I think the success of these songs will inspire more to follow in the depth. If his CRS performance is any indication, Luke Bryan’s next single could very well be the tender love song “To The Moon and Back.” Again, not a home run in terms of depth and substance, but I’d argue it’s the best of the four songs mentioned in this paragraph.

Beyond established mainstream acts shifting their music, we’re seeing several Americana and independent country acts get more attention in the mainstream spotlight. Chris Stapleton’s rise has been well documented by us. Sturgill Simpson signed to a major label and is poised to release an album later this year. Jason Isbell is starting to catch more attention and earning some performance time next to the likes of Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt at an upcoming benefit show for the Country Music Hall of Fame. And if you keep an eye on the articles Taste of Country and The Boot are churning out, you’ll notice that they’re starting to expand their coverage to Americana artists like Whitney Rose, Sam Outlaw and The Black Lillies.

None of this is to say that country music is on the mend or close to being great again, but more and more, we’re starting to see little steps away from shallow anthems. We’re starting to see some more depth added into the popular music. But even with one step forward, country still manages to take a few steps back. Despite promises of deeper albums, Chase Rice and Dierks Bentley’s new singles are terrible, clichéd radio fodder. And Thomas Rhett is poised to follow-up his ballad with “T-Shirt,” which is nothing more than a funky dance tune for him to further rip off Bruno Mars. Who knows what the future holds, but we could be looking at the pieces falling into place for a swing back in the right direction.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Vince Gill’s newest album, Down to My Last Bad Habit will hit the shelves tomorrow.
  • Wynonna & The Big Noise will debut their self titled album tomorrow.
  • Chris King will release his second album, Animal, at the end of the month.
  • Dan + Shay have released a new single called “From the Ground Up.”
  • Lorrie Morgan’s Letting Go…Slow will be released tomorrow.
  • A Thousand Horses announce “Southernality” as their next radio single.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Shot Full of Holes” by Jason Boland & The Stragglers. From their 2001 album, Truckstop Diaries, “Shot Full of Holes” is hard-hitting tale of an imprisoned man who struggles to adapt to life inside of jail then outside of jail. Stoney LaRue also has a recording of this same song on his Downtown album.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


The Temple EP by Parson James. Parson James is a pop/R&B singer songwriter from New York and born in South Carolina. James found some success last year with his single “Stole the Show” and now has released this five song EP. I’m trying to expand my musical variety, and I enjoy pop and R&B music in the appropriate genre!

Tweet of the Week

Windmills’ response to Grady Smith’s tweet is perfect. Thomas Rhett did rip off Ed Sheeran with “Die a Happy Man.”

Two Chase Rice Facepalm Reviews

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 2.51.00 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 2.46.56 PM

Chase Rice fans have a lot of hate for traditional country music. It’s apparently full of whiny twang. But Claire is happy that Chase Rice isn’t conforming to traditional country. He’s doing his own thing by conforming to Nashville’s bro-country/metro-country trend.

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [January 11]

Each week I take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. How do I determine if a song is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Songs rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Songs rated a 5 or 6 receive a 0. Songs rated 4 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Thomas Rhett – “Die A Happy Man” -1
  2. Jason Aldean – “Gonna Know We Were Here” -1 
  3. LoCash – “I Love This Life” -1
  4. Brothers Osborne – “Stay A Little Longer”
  5. Sam Hunt – “Break Up In A Small Town” -1 [Worst Song]
  6. Luke Bryan & Karen Fairchild – “Home Alone Tonight” -1 (Up 2)
  7. Jana Kramer – “I Got The Boy” +1 (Up 2)
  8. Blake Shelton – “Gonna” -1 (Down 1)
  9. Tim McGraw – “Top of the World” (Down 3)
  10. Granger Smith – “Backroad Song” -1 (Up 1)
  11. Kelsea Ballerini – “Dibs” -1 (Up 1)
  12. Keith Urban – “Break On Me” -1 (Up 2)
  13. Randy Houser – “We Went” -1 
  14. Brad Paisley – “Country Nation” -1 (Up 1)
  15. Zac Brown Band – “Beautiful Drug” -1 (Up 1)
  16. Eric Church – “Mr. Misunderstood” +1 (Up 1)
  17. Carrie Underwood – “Heartbeat” (Up 1)
  18. Florida Georgia Line – “Confession” (Up 2)
  19. Rascal Flatts – “I Like The Sound of That” -1 (Up 2)
  20. Chase Bryant – “Little Bit of You” -1 (Down 1)
  21. Chris Stapleton – “Nobody To Blame” +1 (Up 1) [Best Song]
  22. Brett Eldredge – “Drunk on Your Love” -1 (Up 2)
  23. Cole Swindell – “You Should Be Here” -1 (Up 3)
  24. A Thousand Horses – “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” -1 (Down 1)
  25. Lee Brice – “That Don’t Sound Like You” -1 
  26. Michael Ray – “Real Men Love Jesus” -1 (Up 1)
  27. Old Dominion – “Snapback” -1 (Up 1)
  28. Dustin Lynch – “Mind Reader” -1 (Up 1)
  29. Brantley Gilbert – “Stone Cold Sober” -1 (Up 1)
  30. Tyler Farr – “Better in Boots” -1 (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -20

The pulse fell two spots this week. 

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Cam – “Burning House”

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Tyler Farr – “Better in Boots”

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • Thomas Rhett – “Die A Happy Man”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Cole Swindell – “You Should Be Here” – Up 3 from #26 to #23
  • Six Different Songs moved up two spots

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Cam – “Burning House” – Out of the Top 30
  • Tim McGraw – “Top of the World” – Down 3 from #6 to #9

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Blake Shelton – “Gonna”
  • Tim McGraw – “Top of the World”
  • A Thousand Horses – “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Chase Bryant – “A Little Bit of You”
  • Lee Brice – “That Don’t Sound Like You”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Maddie & Tae – “Shut Up and Fish”
  • Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With A Beer”
  • Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots”
  • Chris Lane – “Fix”

 

As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s chart in the comments below.