Album Review – Brandy Clark’s ‘Big Day in a Small Town’

Brandy Clark’s debut album, 12 Stories, was a critical darling, and instantly made her a singer to watch. When Clark finally announced her second album with high anticipation, she also revealed that she was working with producer Jay Joyce on Big Day in a Small Town. Admittedly, I was taken aback by the news as I haven’t enjoyed when Joyce has produced country albums in the past, most notably Little Big Town’s Painkiller. And after hearing the album’s debut single “Girl Next Door,” I was even further discouraged by Joyce’s production. However, “Girl Next Door” appeared to be a radio friendly single to appease her label because Brandy Clark delivers some quality country music with Big Day in a Small Town, even with a production that has a little edge.

Brandy Clark also said the album will have a bit of a concept to it. Big Day in a Small Town isn’t a straight forward concept album with a cohesive story from track 1 to track 11, but rather an album that follows a theme with unconnected scenes that provide a snapshot into the harder, yet more realistic side of life in small town. “Soap Opera” sets the theme and style for the album. Everyone has their own relationship issues from ex-spouses to nosey in-laws, and the song focuses on the local hairdresser and bartender who hear the bulk of these complaints from their customers. Clark works a few TV soap opera titles into the lyrics. The production follows a typical upbeat country-style with banjo plucks, guitars and a nice organ ring throughout the song. My only complaint with this song is that I hear a little too much of Jennifer Nettles in Clark’s twangy vocals, which doesn’t suit Brandy as a singer.

A tambourine shake fades into the snare of “Girl Next Door,” which is a great transition. While the songs aren’t related in content, that kind of focus on transition details adds an element of cohesion to the album and virtually ties the songs together. While I like the lyrics of “Girl Next Door,” the production sounds like a dance-remix of what used to be a country song. In the mix of the whole album, though, the production of “Girl Next Door” is an outlier. The acoustic mid-tempo “Homecoming Queen” follows. The song looks at local high school heroes who haven’t had the same type of pomp and glamour in their life after graduation. The popular homecoming queen is now a mother of three living down the road from her own mother. The song sends a message of how life doesn’t quite work out like one planned. “Broke” is a look at a farming family who is, well, broke. Brandy Clark provides several humorous lines in the song, providing a light-hearted take on poverty. “The white left the picket, the fleas left the hound. And even the crickets have moved into town.”  “Broke” has fitting upbeat production with heavy guitars in the melody.

Following is a standard country ballad in “You Can Come Over.” With a piano leading the production, the song carries a bit of blues influence. “You Can Come Over” tells a story of unfinished love. Told from her point of view, the woman gets a call from her ex who wants to meet up. Knowing full well if they get comfortable with a glass of wine that the lustful tension will grow, she tells him that he can come over but can’t come in. It’s a good approach to the common “we still have feelings for each other” type of song. The final piano note reverbs into the next song, “Love Can Go To Hell,” as another great transition ties the two songs together. And moving from trying to get over someone into a full fledge heartbreak songs further connects these two songs. “Love Can Go To Hell” takes the approach of personifying and cursing the feeling of love. The lyrics are great as Brandy uses that point of view on love to write an excellent heartbreaker, sung beautifully with a catchy chorus.

The album’s title track takes a more grand look at a few different scenes from the soap opera of a small town life. Dealing with darker topics like teenage pregnancy, drunk driving, and a married man wanting to spend some time with “a jailbait checkout queen” at Walmart, Brandy Clark pulls no punches as she fearlessly breezes by the situations with a touch of black humor. Being the title track of a thematic album, the chorus feels quite anthemic with several voices chiming in on the harmony. Another album standout is “Three Kids No Husband.” This solemn song tells the story of the hurdles the single mom jumps through. She has trouble making rent and keeping the house clean, all while trying to keep the kids on track in school and working at the local diner. It’s a well told story, with a production and style that fits right in Brandy Clark’s wheelhouse.

Brandy Clark takes a humorous approach to heartbreak with “Daughter.” After getting worked over by a smooth talking guy, Clark wishes for karma to catch up with him. “I hope you have a daughter, and I hope that she’s a fox. Daddy’s little girl just as sweet as she is hot. She can’t help but love them boys who love to love and leave them girls, just like her father.” “Daughter” has great throwback country production, and Kacey Musgraves provides vocal harmonies during the chorus. It’s a fun, light-hearted song with a catchy chorus and some great lyrics.

Clark keeps the traditional country going with “Drinkin’, Smokin’, Cheatin’.” The song takes a traditional country groove with an acoustic guitar and cranks it up with an electric guitar during the chorus. It’s country music with some rock edge mixed in, and it sounds great. Big Day in a Small Town ends with “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven.” Clark sings from the point of view of a woman who’s just lost her father. She worries about her mother will adjust to life alone, her brother has fallen off the wagon, and the economy’s crash hasn’t been easy on them. Clark ties the song together by saying “since you’ve gone to heaven, the whole world’s gone to hell.” “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven” exemplifies the country music notion of three chords and the truth.

Brandy Clark is committed to not only making great country music, but moving the genre forward. For those who defend crappy Nashville pop as country music evolving, Big Day in a Small Town is a truly great example of country music evolving. With the help of Jay Joyce, the album has songs firmly planted in country’s traditional styles, yet they’re given room to explore and reach to different heights and areas. Big Day in a Small Town is the best example of a modern country album. With a great production and songs that standalone well, yet fit into a nice, cohesive theme, Brandy Clark has followed up a great debut album with an even better album.

Grade: 9/10

Album Review – Brothers Osborne’s “Pawn Shop”

 

“I think people are tired of the bullshit and are ready for the real substance,”

John Osborne told that to Rolling Stone as new country music duo, Brothers Osborne, readied their second radio single, “Stay A Little Longer.” John (lead guitar) and his brother T.J. (vocals) are ready to go toe to toe with country’s hottest male duos like Florida Georgia Line and Dan + Shay. Osborne also said that we may be on the cusp of a country music era where songs will have longer shelf lives down the road. While that remains to be seen, Brothers Osborne seem poised to bring forth more organic music to country radio. The duo has a Grammy nomination for Country Group/Duo Performance for the Gold-Certified “Stay a Little Longer.” Riding the wave of a top five single and Grammy nomination, Brothers Osborne have released their first full length album with the help of producer Jay Joyce. Pawn Shop features 11 songs, all of which the brothers co-wrote with several of country’s hot shot writers like Jessi Alexander, Craig Wiseman, and Shane McAnally to name a few. I’d argue that Pawn Shop isn’t quite an album full of substance, but the Brothers Osborne certainly take country music a step in the right direction.

Brothers Osborne and Pawn Shop have already differentiated themselves from the pack with singles like “Rum” and “Stay a Little Longer.” But that’s taken one step further with the album’s lead track, “Dirt Rich.” A heavy picking acoustic guitar lays the ground for the melody before a simple percussion track joins the mix. The “less is more” attitude fits with this song’s production. Playing off the phrase “dirt poor,” the song encourages those blue-collar, down on your luck folks to embrace their situation. The appliances in the kitchen may be broken and the mailbox may be standing crooked, but that’s the way life goes sometimes. Brothers Osborne have more rock influence in their music than country, in my opinion, and “21 Summer” is one of the several songs on Pawn Shop that show the rock influence. The gentle beat of guitars and percussion set the mood for the nostalgic ballad. T.J. sings of the memories of the summer he turned 21 and the girl who made a man of him.

The album cut of “Stay a Little Longer” features an extended guitar outro that was cut from the radio edit. The song nicely strides the line between country and rock, fitting nicely into both genres. Brothers Osborne made a great choice with releasing the single to radio, because this is arguably the best song on the album. The whole package of lyrics, vocals, and production work together in “Stay a Little Longer.” “Pawn Shop” is a song where the heavy acoustic picking is in the forefront of the production mix. Sticking with the blue-collar themes of those just getting by, the song is an ode to pawn shops. Selling for some extra cash, finding what you need at a cheap rate, even if it isn’t the best. The deep, baritone vocals are a nice touch to the song with the production to help the song stand out. Even though the lyrical content is nothing special, the song is packaged nicely.

The duo’s lead single “Rum” comes next. As Josh wrote in the song review, “This is a song you listen to after a long day of work and just unwind to. The instrumentation used in this song is what really makes this song good. There are a lot of influences from rock, blues and folk mixed in with this country beat. Really the instrumentation is the star of “Rum.”” Brothers Osborne are joined by Lee Ann Womack for “Loving Me Back.” This love song finds a man happy with the fact that he’s found a woman who can love him back. The production of this song is top-notch. It’s simple with little guitar tracks. The production allows the vocals room to stand out, which is a good thing as T.J. Osborne and Lee Ann Womack harmonize together really well on the chorus of the song. The lyrics, though, of this song are a cliché pile of crap. “You get me high, you get me stoned, it’s a ride I ain’t never been on. It’s a binge, it’s a buzz, it’s a drunk I can’t find in no glass.” Sure the verses sort of set the stage about how this man has spent years loving his vices and things that bring him down, but to resort to a chorus with a lead line like that is major cop-out. “Loving Me Back” is a wasted opportunity for a collaboration with Lee Ann Womack.

“American Crazy” is a song that doesn’t help the cause of bringing real substance to country music. The song is basically “Drunk Americans” 2.0. Brothers Osborne sing in the chorus, “We’re lost, we’re found, we’re up, we’re down, we’re all just American crazy. We’re left, we’re right, we’re black, we’re white, we’re all just American crazy.” This song is nothing but two and a half minutes of stupid clichés that should have been left off the album. The blue-collar blues continue in “Greener Pastures.” The song finds our narrator down to his last resort after praying and working hard with nothing to show for it, so he moves onto greener pastures. In this case, though, greener pastures is marijuana. Growing and smoking weed in order to cope with life’s tough battle. Sure, it’s another country music song about pot, but there’s semblance of something deeper about the motivations for turning to pot. “Greener Pastures” also has a more country/rockabilly feel to the production, a great, modern callback to country’s early sound. While the content of the song will detract some, I think the song works because it’s packaged nicely in its story telling and production.

“Down Home” is another rock-like song. The electric guitar leads the way, showing no signs of trying to cater to the country side of music – save for the lyrics. “Down Home” is a party song in a small town. A bunch of buddies getting together and raising hell in a town where nothing much happens. “Heart Shaped Locket” is perhaps the most country song on the album. Noticeable banjo and steel guitar find its way into the mid-tempo production. The song finds a woman in a relationship ready to go out on the town. The man, already suspicious of her cheating, feels that his suspicions are confirmed by the way she’s dressed. He wants to know who’s in her heart-shaped locket, because he knows it’s no longer him. “Heart Shaped Locket” is another song that shows the full potential of Brothers Osborne; it’s the kind of modern, substance-filled song that country radio should embrace. Pawn Shop ends with “It Ain’t My Fault.” The narrator is out on the town having a good time, but it’s not his fault. It’s the band’s fault who played the song that fueled the party. It’s the ex’s fault that he’s drinking, and it’s his family’s history that he’s a wild boy. Essentially, the lyrics try to tell some story, but this is a song meant to get a crowd rowdy and having fun. The electric guitar leads the beat and drum kicks in this rollicking rock song.

Overall, Pawn Shop shows flashes of what the Brothers Osborne are capable of bringing to country music. They have an organic production that shows commitment to their own style away from the masses of their country music pop peers. The almost folk style of rock/country with the lone acoustic guitar like in “Dirt Rich” or even “Loving Me Back” is a definite musical niche for the duo. The lyrics, however, don’t do quite enough to bring more substance to country music. Several songs rely on overdone cliches and lazy tropes to tell the story. There are moments here, like “Heart Shaped Locket,” where if you let the brothers be who they want to be, they can bring some great country music. Pawn Shop shows nothing but potential for the Brothers Osborne. If Music Row can leave them alone and allow the duo to grow and progress as artists on their own terms, then we will be in for a treat with future albums. Pawn Shop isn’t anything special, but it’s worth listening to at least once.

Grade: 6/10

Album Review – Striking Matches’ Nothing But The Silence is an Energetic, Entertaining Debut

Watch out Florida Georgia Line. Why don’t you boys take a step aside and watch a brand new mainstream country duo do what you guys have never done, which is making worthy, entertaining music. Now, I know Striking Matches aren’t quite brand new; their self-titled EP back in 2012 was praised by outlets like NPR and the BBC. Not to mention the number of songs they’ve had recorded on the hit TV show Nashville. But their first full-length album, Nothing But the Silence, has now been released to the masses, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With a radio market unwilling to play well written slow songs because they’re “tempo killers,” Nothing But the Silence offers 11 great, well-written tracks, many of which won’t kill the tempo of country radio’s constant party atmosphere. The duo, Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis, also act like a real musical duo. They trade the lead vocals on songs, verses, even lines within verses, and harmonize together at almost every moment. Together, their voices shine and deliver on this album.

Nothing But the Silence kicks off the rocking duet “Trouble Is As Trouble Does.” It’s a new relationship for the two of them, but he’s the bad seed that influences her to rebel a bit out of her well-behaved lifestyle. Yet, she can’t stay away from trouble. This up-tempo rocker is led by both Zimmerman and Davis’ acoustic guitar licks. Yes, acoustic guitars on this rocking, fast paced song. It’s a great track that shows what Striking Matches are capable of in both vocals and musicianship. Davis leads the way on “Make A Liar Out Of Me.” He’s been burned by love and vowed to never love again. Her love however is tempting enough where he encourages her to make him a liar; he wants her love. With a bluesy guitar in the forefront creating an infectious rhythm and a fantastic guitar solo on the song’s outro, “Make A Liar Out Of Me” stands out as one of the better tracks here.

The pair slow it down for the title track. Their relationship has fallen to a point where they aren’t speaking to one another. Davis leads the vocals here again, and pleads for communication to happen. “There’s nothing but the silence in between us that hasn’t already been broken…can we break it tonight?” Sarah Zimmerman’s harmonies on this track are a perfect fit behind Davis. Though the lyrics can get repetitive here, “Nothing But The Silence” still tells a great story. “Hanging On A Lie” is another one of the top tracks on this album. Zimmerman takes the lead on this song about calling out her man on his lies. She knows it’s over; she knows he’s a liar, and she simply wants him to spit out the truth before she leaves. The production on this song is fantastic: a grooving beat behind Zimmerman’s wonderful vocals creates a beautiful melody on this country rock tune.

“Never Gonna Love Again” is a solid mid-tempo track. A noteworthy percussion beat drives this song where Zimmerman sings of catching her man cheating on her. This breaks her spirit to the point where she believes she’ll never love again. Again, this a song that features a bit of repetition with the lyrics, but Zimmerman’s vocals are nearly flawless here. She sells the pain and anger of the situation presented on this song. And after an intense heartbreak song, Striking Matches brings forth one the best love songs I’ve heard in a while. “When The Right One Comes Along” was a tune featured on Nashville, but reproduced a bit on this album. A soft electric guitar and a simple drum beat behind Sarah’s beautiful vocals. The song discusses how you’ll know in your heart when you meet the one. “There’s no music, no confetti. Crowds don’t cheer and bells won’t ring. But you’ll know it, I can guarantee, when the right one comes along.” It’s a love song that tells a beautiful story without tired, clichéd bits from almost every other love song in existence.

“What A Broken Heart Feels Like” bring back the duets of Sarah and Justin. The two trade lines and harmonize well and talk about the aftermath of a breakup. Reminders from photographs and support from friends can’t change the immediate pain one feels after a relationship ends. On “Miss Me More” the relationship ends on a bit of bitter note. He ends it and tries to move on, and she calls him out on how much he’ll miss her afterwards. She doesn’t want him to crawl back to her though. This song features a great harmonies (have I mentioned that already?) on top of a simple, rocking upbeat production. Yet, the relationship on “Like Lovers,” while still ending, wishes to end of strong note. It’s a slow tempo ballad where the couple wants to walk away like lovers.

Up next is “Missing You Tonight.” As Josh wrote in his review of the song, “it’s a tad repetitive and I was really waiting for the climax of this song to blow me away. Instead it was kind of whimper. I could say the same of the instrumentation. They simply didn’t reach the full potential of this song.” There’s not a bad song on this album, but I’d say “Missing You Tonight” is the weakest of the bunch. The song, in it’s production and vocal performances, seems much more subdued than the rest of the album, especially compared to the first two tracks. The album ends on a slow note with “God And You.” It’s another love song, this time led by Justin Davis. He sings how he carries a hard heart and stubborn personality. Yet the only two who have been able to successfully challenge his personality and bring out his venerable side are God and his love. It’s another unique love song with great lyrics.

Overall, Nothing But The Silence shines as a great debut album. Producer T Bone Burnett brings out his signature style for Striking Matches. At times, the songs can find themselves to be repetitive. Lyrics are repeated over and over again, and the similar themes can find themselves a bit tiring. However, there’s a unique production among the songs; and the music is truly unlike what you hear on country radio. There’s an energy and life within this album, especially on the mid tempo and upbeat tracks. Striking Matches have a reputation for energetic performances, and it’s easy to see why after hearing this album. If country radio latches onto Striking Matches, than we’re in for a treat. They are one of the best country duos out there; miles better than the aforementioned Florida Georgia Line, Dan + Shay, and Thompson Square. Nothing But The Silence comes highly recommended: well-written songs and stories with a fresh, entertaining production.

Grade: 8/10

 

Country Perspective’s WORST Song of the Year Is…..

Mainstream country music in 2014 was a party: a party in a small town field, on the beach, in countless fields, riverbanks, and tailgates. And when the vanilla pop-country melodies got old, more and more hip-hop influenced sounds took over. This all came to a roaring rise in popularity when Jerrod Niemann found massive success with “Drink to That All Night.” Quickly rapped, auto-tuned verses on top of a club beat took Niemann’s song to the top of Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. At the time (however short-lived), “Drink to That All Night” was probably the most un-country song to achieve such success. So how did Jeorrd Niemann follow-up his commercial mega-hit? By releasing Country Perspective’s Worst Song of 2014: “Donkey.”

Yes, “Donkey” is what Josh and I believe to be the worst song of the year. Now, the song had some tough competition from Florida Georgia Line (“Sun Daze”) and Jason Aldean (“Burnin’ It Down”), but the fact of the matter is, “Donkey” has pretty much killed Jerrod Niemann’s commercial appeal. While “Drink to That All Night” topped the Airplay charts, “Donkey” peaked at 43 on the same chart. And Niemann’s current single, “Buzz Back Girl” merely sits at 35 at the moment. Niemann was on fire with “Drink to That All Night”; a simple, backyard bon fire, and “Donkey” extinguished that fire like a fire truck hose at full force. And if one song is bad enough to do that, then it’s bad enough to be the worst song of the year.

Why, you may ask, is it so bad? Well to start, Niemann’s voice here is way too distorted to make anyone believe it came from an actual human. This distorted robot provides us with an awful spoken-word rap about wrecking his truck and being left penniless. So in order to get to the party in town, Niemann hops on his trusty steed to ride him in. Just read the lyrics to the chorus. “Gonna ride that donkey donkey, down to the honky tonky, it’s gonna get funky funky.” I can’t believe that anyone with a pulse could actually think that these lyrics were worthy to be heard, let alone even put on paper. I have to imagine that everyone from the writers to the producers, even Niemann himself, were drunk through the entire process of creating this poor excuse for music. That’s the only possible explanation that I could accept for this song.

But the second verse here is just the worst damn thing ever. Firstly, there’s a name drop of George Jones and referencing Jones’ famous booze run on a John Deere. LEAVE THE POSSUM OUT OF THIS SHIT. HE DOESN’T BELONG IN YOUR STUPID DONKEY SONG. And sure, the jockey bros make fun of Niemann, but he doesn’t care, because the girls think it’s cool. Why do they think it’s cool? Again, just read the lyrics to get the full effect of the awfulness: “But the ladies think it’s cool, I kick it with a mule. I fill their glass, they tip them back; they dig the way I ride that ass and I do, you would if you could, too. They all walk funny when they’re done, riding you know who.” In third verse, Jerrod wants to pick up a girl and romp in the hay with her… well if that’s your go-to pick up line, good luck. And they actually pulled a donkey mask out for a live performance of the song. Maybe, just maybe, if this song was left on the album as a sort of fun joke for the fans, then it could have a just enough pass to avoid this distinction. But since they released the song as a serious single, it deserves to be hated on in full force.

I’ll leave you with this: The beat of Jerrod Niemann singing “gonna ride that donkey, donkey” sounds an awful lot like this song by 12 Gauge released 20 years ago. I only know that song from the National Cheerleading Championship routine from the 2004 movie Dodgeball. I’m thankful that Dodgeball didn’t come out this year, or “The Donkey’s” could have danced to the worst country song of 2014, and I would forever be subjected to listening to this crap while watching my favorite comedy movie.

Here’s to hoping 2015’s worst country song isn’t worse than “Donkey”………

Country Perspective’s 2014 Worst Country Song of the Year Nominees

 

As 2014 comes to a close, Country Perspective will be handing out a number of awards to the artists, songs, and albums we covered over the year. We’ll be crowning the best of the best and the worst of the worst. While there was a lot of good in country music this year, we were also subjected to a lot of bad songs in 2014. Some artists had a single or two that made us cringe, while others released albums full of terrible songs. We have an extensive list of worst song nominees, but I will highlight five I believe are the true worst of the worst.

From Lady Antebellum’s “Bartender” to Little Big Town’s “Day Drinking” our male-female groups sold out for airplay. We had bro-country galore with “Where It’s At (Yep Yep)”, “Beachin”, “Yeah” by Joe Nichols, Dylan Scott’s “Mmm, Mmm, Mmm”, Lee Brice’s “Girls in Bikinis” and two Cole Swindell number ones. Then we had guys like Chase Rice, Florida Georgia Line, and Sam Hunt release albums with nothing but terrible country songs (save for Rice’s “Jack Daniels and Jesus” and FGL’s “Dirt,” both of which were diamonds in the rough). Let’s not forget Florida Georgia Line’s collaboration with Luke Bryan in “This Is How We Roll.” Brantley Gilbert had some bad hits with “Bottoms Up” and “Small Town Throwdown,” and Blake Shelton’s new album had an ultra dud duet with RaeLynn called “Buzzin’.” Throw in Darius Rucker’s “Homegrown Honey” and Toby Keith’s “Drunk Americans” and we have a long list of bad music to consider for this award (and I haven’t even given you the bottom of the barrel yet).

Awards will be handed out in mid-late December. Josh and I will deliberate and reach the final decisions together, but we will also take reader input into consideration. So if you have a strong opinion about a song listed here, or about a song we may have forgotten, feel free to comment below and let us know. Who knows, you may sway the vote!

 

Without further ado, here are my six worst songs from 2014 (some language ahead):

  • Burnin’ It Down” by Jason Aldean – This song isn’t country by any means. It’s just an auto tuned, computerized mess of R&B and pop. Aldean doesn’t take any risk to at least give this an authentic slow-jam feel. “Burnin’ It Down” is just a lazy, monotone, cry for attention.
  • God Made Girls” by RaeLynn – The song that made the heads of feminists everywhere explode. Was this song written by a 5-year-old? As my fiancé said “we wonder why women are underrepresented in modern country music, then they come out with this shit.” What a terrible song.
  • Donkey” by Jerrod Niemann – If you haven’t listened to it yet, here’s a link to it. You’ll understand in about 45 seconds why it’s terrible. If you want to save yourself from ripping your ears off in disgust, then don’t listen to it and just trust me that it sucks.
  • Girl in Your Truck Song” by Maggie Rose – This might be an actual case of Stockholm syndrome. Bro-country has been around so long, that we might as well just sing a song about being that girl. And not to mention, this songwriting is just plain lazy. At least Maddie & Tae turned those bro-lyrics around and threw back at the guys. There’s no cleverness in this attempt by Rose.
  • Lookin’ For That Girl” by Tim McGraw – If you’ve read my reviews of some of the mainstream albums released this year, you know I can’t stand auto tune in country music. And this song is full of Tim McGraw’s awful sounding robotic voice. And with the rest of Sundown Heaven Town being actual country music, it almost makes this song even worse by comparison.
  • Sun Daze” by Florida Georgia Line – A song so pandering, so trying to include every possible demographic that it ends up being an awful, dumb, mess of a song. There’s no continuity: Tyler opens up singing about wearing flip-flops for the country and beach lovers, but then in chorus he sings about lacing his J’s for the hip hop and urban crowd. Then the awful sexual innuendos and shameless name-dropping come in to play. There’s just too much here to sufficiently summarize what makes it bad.

That’s the worst of the worst. Please share your thoughts and help us decide what to crown as the worst country song of 2014.  Any song I talked about in the article is up for consideration, and many of them have a legitimate case to be awarded this oh-so distinctive honor! If you haven’t already, check out the rest of our nominations for our awards: best male and female singers, best duo or group, best and worst albums, and best song of 2014.