The Hodgepodge: The CMA Awards’ Awful Exclusions for Song of the Year

Yesterday, Steven Tyler and Kelsea Ballerini announced the nominees for the upcoming CMA Awards. Some nominations came as no surprise to anyone (notably the Entertainer of the Year category, Vocal Group of the Year category, and the trio of Carrie, Miranda and Kacey at the top of the Female Vocalist category). Other nominations like Chris Stapleton for Album and Male Vocalist of the year are pleasant surprises. I can’t say I’m too surprised to see his name under New Artist, but that nonetheless is a welcome nomination as well.

The one category that draws ire from me, however is the Song of the Year nominees:

  • “American Kids” (Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird, Shane McAnally)
  • “Girl Crush” (Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, Hillery Lindsey)
  • “Like a Cowboy” (Randy Houser, Brice Long)
  • “Like a Wrecking Ball” (Eric Church, Casey Beathard)
  • “Take Your Time” (Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)

Three of the five (“Girl Crush”, “Take Your Time”, and “American Kids”) are also nominated for Single of the Year. The other singles up for grabs are “Talladega” and “I Don’t Dance.” I find it very odd that none of Carrie’s two recent eligible singles “Something in the Water” and “Little Toy Gun” are nominated in either category, especially Song of the Year. Song of the Year is an award that celebrates songwriting and story telling in country music.

“Something in the Water” and “Little Toy Guns” had great chart runs, continuing Carrie’s trend of most of her singles getting to the top three of the airplay charts. “Something in the Water” has been certified platinum and “Little Toy Guns” gold. Both songs feature some fantastic storytelling and songwriting. It’s an insult to country music that two successful, well-written singles are overlooked for Song/Single of the Year while Sam Hunt’s stupid talk-sing pop song and Kenny Chesney’s boring checklist song are nominated for both. I know that the CMA, for whatever reason, have no love for Carrie Underwood, but this is a huge injustice to her music. The mere fact that neither song got at least one nomination is appalling and further exemplifies how the establishment of country music in Nashville continues to abandon its roots in favor of “cool pop music.”

Another song I think was vastly overlooked for the Song of the Year category was Tim McGraw’s “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools.” A song that is true country music and that had an impressive chart run among a dreck of pop songs, it’s surprising that “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” didn’t get a nomination. When you look at songs that have won Song of the Year in the past, Tim’s song and Carrie’s two songs fit right in with the slower tempo songs that rely on a raw emotion to draw in listeners.

In a just world, all three singles alongside “Girl Crush” and Jake Owen’s “What We Ain’t Got” would have been nominated for Song of the Year, making for an intriguing list and a must-watch category (controversy aside). Instead we have to put up with the fact that the CMA have traded timeless quality and roots in one of their most important categories for songs that are hip today and forgotten tomorrow. The only positive we can take from these two categories is if Sam Hunt goes home empty-handed, but that’s only a moral victory at best.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • The Damn Quails released their second album last Friday on September 4th. I’m bummed I overlooked it in this section until now, but the crowd-funded Out of the Birdcage is an album well worth your time. We should have a review for it soon.
  • Tami Neilson has released a new song and video from her upcoming release Don’t Be Afraid. “Lonely” is a song Ron Neilson, her father, at began writing but never finished before his death in February of this year. Tami and her brother Jay finished the song in his memory.
  • Turnpike Troubadours will release their fourth studio effort on September 18th.
  • Stoney LaRue will be releasing a new album of covers called Us Time on October 16th. This announcement comes quickly after LaRue’s arrest for domestic abuse.
  • And more Red Dirt news, Cody Canada and Mike McClure, of The Great Divide and Mike McClure Band, recently collaborated in a live acoustic show which will be mixed and released into a live acoustic album.
  • Tim McGraw has tweeted a date without any reference “11-6-15.” Being a Friday, this is 100% a date that will coincide with new music, most likely a new album.  I’m sure more details will be revealed over the next two months.

Today in Country Music History

  • In 1957, Johnny Cash’s first album, Johnny Cash With His Hot and Blue Guitar, is released.
  • Lynn Anderson records “Rose Garden” in 1970.

Today’s Country Music history facts come courtesy of RolandNote.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Rose in Paradise” by Waylon Jennings. Also on this day in 1986, Waylon recorded this song at Groundstar Labs in Nashville. This is simply a great country song and shows a nice vocal range for Jennings. While I think Chris Young and Willie Nelson’s collaborative cover of this song is also great, Waylon’s original will always be the best version of the song.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

The Arcs Yours, Dreamily, This is a side project for The Black Keys singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach. Auerbach teams up with multi-instrumentalist Leon Michaels for this experimental rock album. Yours, Dreamily, has a good pace and rhythm over the album and features some excellent harmonies and instrumentation.

Tweet of the Week

Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, and Cole Swindell walk into a college football game…..

An iTunes Review That Makes Me Smile

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 9.18.29 PM

This review was left under Maddie & Tae’s Start Here.  The album received high praise here, and this reviewer seems to be in agreement with us.  Also, you have to love any opportunity to call out Sam Hunt, Florida Georgia Line and Chase Rice for their trashy pop music.

Now is the Time for Country Music to Bring Back the Women

Source: Public Domain in Wikimedia Commons
Source: Public Domain in Wikimedia Commons

The lack of female representation on the country charts hasn’t gone unnoticed. There have been a total of nine solo female artists who’ve topped the charts in the past ten years; with three of those nine, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift, accounting for more than half of those number ones. To make matters worse, the explosion of bro-country further pushed women off the charts, even our beloved Queen-Bees.

However, bro-country appears to be in a decline. Most recently, Taylor Swift has officially gone pop with her new album due out late October. Let’s assume that the powers that be in country music accept Taylor’s departure and don’t play any of her new songs on country radio. Though with “Burnin’ It Down” on top and everything with Sam Hunt’s name climbing the charts, it’s possible Swift’s new single, “Shake It Off”, could find its way onto country radio. But I’m getting away from myself.

The point is with Taylor’s departure to the pop world, this leaves a gaping hole for country music female representation. For years now, it seemed the awards category for Female Vocalist of the Year, at any country award show, would consist of Taylor, Carrie, Miranda and a random assortment of other women who had a mildly successful hit or two in order to round out the nominations at five. Then Kacey Musgraves came in and rightfully earned a spot on the list next to those three, and we were only down to one random name. With the CMA award nominees to be announced in a few short weeks, we can guarantee to see Miranda, Carrie and Kacey on the list. But who else? The category has been weak for a while, and may even be the weakest category this year.

Now is as good a time as ever for Music Row and country radio to bring many fantastic female solo artists to the spotlight they all deserve. Each one of these women is more than capable of filling the void left by Swift.

  1. Kellie Pickler – An American Idol alumna who hasn’t found as much success as her Idol counterpart, Carrie Underwood. Kellie had early award show success with “I Wonder” and “Red High Heels” and cracked the top 10 on radio charts with “Best Days of Your Life.” But Kellie kept a strong classic country sound and didn’t let the pop-country wave become an influence in her music on future albums. It’s a shame Kellie isn’t a radio staple. Her last two albums, The Woman I Am and 100 Proof were raved by critics. Her sound is pure, her voice is strong, and she records and writes great lyrics. Kellie has certainly done more than enough to earn a spot at the table.
  2. Sunny Sweeney – Sunny’s recent release, Provoked, is a fantastic listen from start to finish; arguably the best country album of 2014. Her single, “Bad Girl Phase,” is slowly creeping up the charts and is the perfect female anthem to battle bro-country. Sharp songwriting, a truly unique voice, and a brilliant sound that’s traditional, yet surprisingly fitting in the contemporary country world. Sunny has all the makings to be one of, if not the, top country female artist.
  3. Brandy Clark – Brandy Clark has a few hits on her resume as a songwriter including “Better Dig Two” and the award-winning “Mama’s Broken Heart”. Not to mention other hits recorded by Reba and LeAnn Rimes. Last year, her album 12 Stories was met with critical acclaim and widely considered one of the top country albums from last year. She fits right in the mold freshly carved by Kacey Musgraves. Her writing has a hint of darkness, and she tackles tough subjects in her songs that go against the grain of feel-good partying, but Brandy’s talent is not one that should be ignored or hidden in the shadows.
  4. Keeley Valentino – Who? This San Francisco singer-songwriter is fairly unknown, but has a true talent as an Americana, roots musician. She recently debuted “Little Things”, her lead single off an upcoming EP. “Little Things” features the instrumentation of Zac Brown Band’s Clay Cook. Her EP will also feature more musical and production assistance from the ZBB camp including John Driskell Hopkins and newly added Matt Mangano. While Keeley is still too unknown to be a quick replacement, “Little Things” proves that Keeley Valentino has the potential to be a female leader in country music. And if she has members of the Zac Brown Band on her side, I’m sold.
  5. Holly Williams – Hank Sr.’s granddaughter. Her 2013 album, The Highway, was another critically acclaimed record alongside Brandy’s 12 Stories.  She’s a smooth singer-songwriter who evokes a great amount of emotion into each of her songs. While Holly has a great classic sound to her, she doesn’t have many upbeat tracks on her albums compared to the first two entries on the list, but her music is pure, raw and emotionally true. Everything country music should be.

These women have a more traditional country sound; a sound I think should be reintroduced to radio. However, there are many women who have a pop country sound that could also fit nicely at the top of the pecking order. Lindsay Ell, Leah Turner, Danielle Bradbery and Gwen Sebastian all show promise as successful solo female country artists. Yes, a more traditional sound of country music would be the best option, hands down, but solo female artists evoking a more contemporary sound, a sound that harkens back to even five years ago, would be a satisfactory, temporary solution. The fact of the matter is, now is the time for country music to open its doors back up to women and bring back a healthy, diverse radio sound to its fans.