Predictions for Country & American Roots Categories at the 2017 Grammy Awards

Grammy

This Sunday we celebrate the biggest music awards show of the years. I’m of course referring to the 59th Grammy Awards, set to air Sunday night at 8 pm ET on CBS. Many of the awards however are presented in the pre-show that’s live streamed online and information for this can found be found here. After hosting for five years, LL Cool J steps aside as host and The Late Late Show host James Corden takes over. Multiple country artists will be performing on the show, including Sturgill Simpson, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban (most likely new single “The Fighter”), Little Big Town (part of tribute to Bee Gees), Maren Morris (duet with Alicia Keys) and Kelsea Ballerini (duet with Lukas Graham). Now let’s get to the predictions! Keep in mind I’m not the best at this prediction game, but I feel like I do a little better each year. The award shows can be unpredictable. And be sure to make your own predictions in the comments.

Note: I will not be doing a live blog this year. I will however be live tweeting it all on Twitter, where you can all of my live thoughts as the show unfolds. Just go to twitter.com/realcountryview to follow if you don’t have Twitter. I’ll also most likely be doing a recaps/reaction post.

Album of the Year

  • Adele – 25
  • Beyoncé – Lemonade 
  • Justin Bieber – Purpose 
  • Drake – Views
  • Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth

What I Would Pick To Win: Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide To Earth of course. Just imagine the outcries afterwards of all the big names that got taken down by some guy from Kentucky who made an album for his son.

What I Predict Will Win: Beyoncé’s Lemonade is the clear favorite I think, with Adele being the closest competition. But with other big names in Drake and Bieber also here, the votes could easily split and lead to Sturgill pulling off an upset similar to Beck a few years ago. I’d be fine with Beyoncé and Adele winning if Sturgill doesn’t, as I enjoyed both of their albums.

Best New Artist

  • Maren Morris
  • The Chainsmokers
  • Chance The Rapper
  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Anderson .Paak

Who I Would Pick To Win: Anderson .Paak or Chance The Rapper, as both of their latest albums were awesome. But if I had to pick between these two, I would go with .Paak.

Who I Predict Will Win: Honestly I have no clue here. I could see any of these nominees winning, even Kelsea Ballerini because despite being a complete unknown outside of the country music bubble, Black River Entertainment continues to prove they have a lot of friends in high places. Morris is getting to duet with Alicia Keys and is quickly becoming a darling on the awards circuit. I’ll be content as long as Ballerini or The Chainsmokers don’t win.

Best Country Solo Performance 

  • Brandy Clark – “Love Can Go To Hell”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”
  • Maren Morris – “My Church”
  • Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells”
  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color”

What I Would Pick To Win: Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” (Anything but Urban’s song, which is ironically exactly what I wrote here last year)

What I Predict Will Win: Maren Morris’ “My Church” due to as I said above Morris quickly become an awards circuit favorite and this single being extremely popular. The other favorite I would think is Underwood, as she’s been a favorite of the Grammys.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

  • Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls”
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”
  • Kenny Chesney & P!nk – “Setting The World on Fire”
  • Dolly Parton & Pentatonix – “Jolene”
  • Chris Young & Cassadee Pope – “Think of You”

What I Would Pick To Win: Woof this category is rough. I guess I would go with “21 Summer.”

What I Predict Will Win: Dierks Bentley & Elle King’s “Different For Girls” because apparently people are okay with stereotypical bullshit and really think this is some deep song.

Best Country Song

  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” (Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey & Steven Lee Olsen)
  • Thomas Rhett – “Die A Happy Man” (Sean Douglas, Thomas Rhett & Joe Spargur)
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind” (Lori McKenna)
  • Maren Morris – “My Church” (Maren Morris & busbee)
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice” (Miranda Lambert, Shane McAnally & Josh Osborne)

What I Would Pick To Win: Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” (Not Urban or Rhett)

What I Predict Will Win: Any of these have a great shot at winning I think. But I think they’ll go with “Humble and Kind” or “Vice.”

Best Country Album

  • Brandy Clark – Big Day in a Small Town
  • Loretta Lynn – Full Circle
  • Maren Morris – Hero
  • Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth 
  • Keith Urban – Ripcord

What I Would Pick To Win: Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide To Earth

What I Predict Will Win: A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is pretty much a lock here, with Simpson getting an overall Album of the Year nomination and a performance slot.

Best American Roots Performance 

  • The Avett Brothers – “Ain’t No Man”
  • Blind Boys of Alabama – “Mother’s Children Have a Hard Time”
  • Rhiannon Giddens – “Factory Girl”
  • Sarah Jarosz – “House of Mercy”
  • Lori McKenna – “Wreck You”

What I Would Pick To Win: Rhiannon Giddens – “Factory Girl”

What I Predict Will Win: The Avett Brothers – “Ain’t No Man”

Best American Roots Song

  • Robbie Fulks – “Alabama at Night” (Robbie Fulks)
  • Jack White – “City Lights” (Jack White)
  • Roddie Romero And The Hub City All-Stars – “Gulfstream” (Eric Adcock & Roddie Romero)
  • The Time Jumpers – “Kid Sister” (Vince Gill)
  • Lori McKenna – “Wreck You” (Lori McKenna & Felix McTeigue)

What I Would Pick To Win: Lori McKenna – “Wreck You”

What I Predict Will Win: Jack White – “City Lights”

Best Americana Album

  • The Avett Brothers – True Sadness 
  • William Bell – This Is Where I Live
  • Kris Kristofferson – The Cedar Creek Sessions
  • Lori McKenna – The Bird & The Rifle
  • The Time Jumpers – Kid Sister

What I Would Pick To Win: Lori McKenna – The Bird & The Rifle

What I Predict Will Win: William Bell – This Is Where I Live

The Hodgepodge: 2015 CMA Awards Reactions & Thoughts

Chris Stapleton Traveller

Last night the 49th annual CMA Awards took place where all kinds of awards and performances took place. There were certainly a fair share of ups and downs throughout the night. So let’s get to what I thought of each part of the show. We have to start though with the biggest and best of the show…

Chris Stapleton Shines Bright & Wins Big

Without a doubt the biggest story of the 2015 CMA Awards was Chris Stapleton. Going into it many of us critics and his fans didn’t give him much of a chance to win a single award. We just thought it was neat he was even nominated. One of the first awards given out is New Artist of the Year. Lo and behold Chris Stapleton wins it, beating out the likes of Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett, Maddie & Tae and Kelsea Ballerini. This was an amazing feat. Then they get to Album of the Year, the one award everyone thought Stapleton had an outside chance at winning. He wins this too (with a Dave Cobb appearance too). This is turning into a euphoric show for Stapleton, his fans and fans of traditional country everywhere. He was nominated for one more award, Male Vocalist of the Year, going against the likes of Blake Shelton and Eric Church. And he wins again! A year ago many never even heard of Chris Stapleton, unless you were country music insider or songwriter. Now he’s beating out the biggest and hottest names of the genre and winning three major award on national television.

This wasn’t all that happened with Chris Stapleton on this show. Stapleton and Justin Timberlake delivered the undisputed best performance of the night when they sang Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” and Timberlake’s “Drink You Away” together. The entire place erupted after the performance and social media was ablaze. Both Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan mentioned Stapleton in their acceptance speeches for their wins. As of this writing Stapleton has the #1 selling album on all of iTunes and “Tennessee Whiskey” is #2 on the all-genre chart, only trailing the record-breaking Adele song “Hello.” This night and this show was all about Chris Stapleton. It was a historic night not only in the career of Stapleton, but perhaps all of country music. Think about it. Stapleton walked away with three awards, while Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett walked away with nothing. We could be looking back on this night as one of the biggest moments in country music history and could signify a drastic shift in mainstream country and country radio.

This couldn’t happen to a better person in Chris Stapleton, who was in tears when he accepted his third award of the night. I know I was teary eyed with several others watching too. He’s such a humble and hard-working guy who puts his heart and soul into all of his music. The 2015 CMA Awards was the Chris Stapleton show and he was deserving of every bit of adulation he has received.

Little Big Town Wins Awards for Song of the Year, Single of the Year & Group of the Year

If it wasn’t for Chris Stapleton, this night would have been about Little Big Town, who took home three awards themselves. This wasn’t a big surprise at all, considering “Girl Crush” was one of the biggest hits in all of music this year. I didn’t see it winning all of these awards, but I probably should have seen it coming. I don’t mind it winning at all, as it’s better than 90% of the other stuff on country radio. Little Big Town needs to savor this though because I don’t see them ever having this big of a hit ever again (similar to Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now”). Their performance of the song was also one of the better ones of the night.

Hank Williams Jr. & Eric Church Open With “Are You Ready For The Country”

The show kicked off with Hank Jr. and Eric Church singing the Neil Young-penned “Are You Ready For The Country” and it wasn’t a bad performance. It wasn’t either’s best performance ever, but they were in-synch and they delivered for the most part. It’s the first single for Williams under the NASH Icon label and with Church being a part of the song might give it a good chance of getting radio play. Out of everyone in the mainstream to re-do this song with, Church was probably the best pick for Williams. And hey it’s definitely country music, which is a step in the right direction. This wasn’t the only big moment for Church of the night…

Eric Church Surprises The World With Brand New Album

In addition Church caught all of us off-guard and released a brand new album titled Mr. Misunderstood. His fan club had all received copies of it in the mail on Tuesday afternoon, which was the first inkling of it even coming out. Maybe he was inspired by Strait? Regardless this is an album many will be listening to and discussing in the coming week, including yours truly. Church may have only walked away with one award for the night, but this surprise album will surely be one of the buzzing stories in country music.

Blake Shelton Becomes The Most Hated Artist in Country Music

One of the biggest secondary stories of the night was Blake Shelton’s publicist announcing to the world 20 minutes before the show that he was dating fellow judge on The Voice and pop artist Gwen Stefani. It seems like a douche move to do this right before attending a show where your ex-wife is also attending. This screams Shelton wanting to “win” the breakup and basically rubbing it in Miranda Lambert’s face. It was a disgusting scene to watch and no doubt he pissed off several fans watching. Also if I were him I would avoid the Miranda fans because they were ready to throw daggers on social media.

Miranda Lambert Performs “Bathroom Sink” & Wins Female Vocalist of the Year

Lambert didn’t look too good up there performing “Bathroom Sink.” She definitely isn’t having the best year and you almost wanted to hug her. You can see why the anger for Blake was so high. Lambert was pretty short in her acceptance speech and just looked like she wanted to get off the stage quickly. But she accepted the award wearing a Chris Stapleton shirt and praised him for his big night. Look out for her next record because it could be her best yet.

Zac Brown Band Performs “Beautiful Drug”

This was such a godawful performance and I let everyone on Twitter know it. This song is bad enough at it is and what made it even worse was how flat Brown sounded throughout it. In fact he missed some big notes. The Zac Brown Band fanboys ate it right up, but the rest of us were waiting for it to just end. The good news though is that this song is at a snail’s crawl at country radio right now and we can only hope it flops to slap some sense back into Zac Brown. In my mind it was tied for the worst performance of the night. Speaking of…

Sam Hunt Performs “Take Your Time”

It speaks volumes that Hunt performed his mega-hit from months ago instead of his current single “Break Up In A Small Town.” Just like “Beautiful Drug,” this song is not gaining at all right now at radio. This of course a good sign that maybe country radio is considering dumping this un-country stuff and getting back to actual country music. We can only hope. This was tied for worst performance of the night.

Kacey Musgraves Performs “Dime Store Cowgirl”

This was without a doubt one of the top five performances of the night. Kacey sounded and looked absolutely stunning on the stage and I’m glad they gave her a full performance. Apparently her label has re-sent this song to radio in hopes that it gets a second chance from radio programmers. It’s one of her best songs off of Pageant Material and arguably the best single she has ever released. It deserves a chance, but I’m not confident.

Florida Georgia Line Performs “Confession” 

These two followed Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake’s mind-blowing performance with their blandest song yet. It was the most hilarious moment of the night. This is probably going to be their next single, which is a curious choice. They previously said they were taking a break after “Anything Goes” was done at radio, but that song didn’t perform nearly as well as they thought. It’s perhaps a sign that we’ve reached the Nickelback level with them? “Confession” will say a lot about this group’s standing moving forward. They might not be winning anymore Vocal Duo of the Year awards anymore. Also tied for worst performance of the night.

Fall Out Boy & Thomas Rhett Perform Together

Well this happened and I wish it hadn’t. I even enjoy “Uma Thurman,” but it has no business being performed on country awards show. This also tied for worst performance of the night. This is starting to turn into The Pulse.

The Rest

  • Keith Urban performed “Ain’t That America” with John Mellencamp and it was good thanks to Mellencamp mostly. Urban’s performance of “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” was pretty forgettable, especially after following Church and Williams.
  • The Little Jimmy Dickens tribute was touching and appropriate. Kudos to everyone involved for making that happen.
  • Kenny Chesney performed “Save It For A Rainy Day,” which has dominated country radio recently. It was an okay performance and it did nothing to chance my thoughts about it.
  • I enjoy Carrie Underwood’s “Smoke Break.” But her performance was pretty stilted thanks to the audio. This on the production crew because Carrie’s voice sounded fine as always. It didn’t help she had to follow the absolute euphoria that erupted over Stapleton winning New Artist of the Year.
  • Kelsea Ballerini followed Stapleton winning Album of the Year and it was the most unintentionally comical thing I’ve seen at an awards show.
  • Brad Paisley performed “Country Nation” and it just made me long for his early days when he was singing “Too Country” with George Jones and Whisperin’ Bill Anderson. Bring back the old Brad!
  • Maddie & Tae did not get a full performance, which was a big bummer. But their short, stripped-down performance of “Girl In A Country Song” was really great. Plus they won Music Video of the Year, so they weren’t completely ignored. I’m sure they will be featured more in the future on these shows. Keep the faith in these two.
  • Pentatonix, one of my favorite pop groups, did a short a cappella performance of the Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira.” A lot of country folks were making snarky comments about them, but hey it’s their loss if they aren’t familiar with this group.
  • Jason Aldean sounded terrible performing “Gonna Know We Were Here.” I’ve dubbed him the Kim Kardashian of country music.
  • Reba performed with Brooks & Dunn and they still sound pretty good. Bring them back to radio I say.
  • Dierks Bentley performed “Riser” with Lindsey Stirling on violin. Dierks didn’t sound 100% tonight and it wasn’t his best performance. I always enjoy hearing this song though and Stirling getting to perform on the national stage was nice to see too.
  • Luke Bryan won Entertainer of the Year and the world pretty much yawned. But I applaud him for his classy acceptance speech and giving a shout out to Stapleton. This gives you a good idea though how big of a night Stapleton had when nobody cared about Bryan winning this award.

Overall

This was one of the best country awards shows I’ve seen in several years. Stapleton having a big night was a huge reason why. But there were also several good, country performances throughout the show and most of the award winners were of quality. Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett, Cole Swindell, Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton walked away empty-handed. Sure there were some terrible performances too, including all-time awful ones in Zac Brown Band and Thomas Rhett with Fall Out Boy. But this was a night with overwhelming positives. I’ve haven’t been this positive about the future of mainstream country music in a long time. We can only hope this marks a major turning point in the genre returning to its roots and bringing quality artists in Chris Stapleton back to country radio.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Eric Church surprised released his new album during the CMA Awards last night and it’s titled Mr. Misunderstood. We’ll have a review on it soon.
  • Tim McGraw will release his new album Damn Country Music tomorrow. We’ll have review on this early next week.
  • Josh Abbott Band will release their new album Front Row Seat tomorrow.
  • Jeff Crosby & The Refugees will release their new album Waking Days tomorrow.
  • Cam announced last week she will release her debut album Untamed on December 11.
  • Hank Williams Jr. announced he will release his first album under the NASH Icon label on January 15, 2016 and it will be called It’s About Time.

Great Music Currently at Country Radio

The very best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly.

Throwback Thursday Song

Brandy Clark – “Stripes” – This past week I decided to go back and give a good listen to Brandy Clark’s 2013 album 12 Stories and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The standout from the album and one of the most popular songs on it is “Stripes,” a song about how a woman won’t shoot her husband for cheating on her because she doesn’t like to wear orange or stripes. This wry humor combined with your standard cheating song was a nice touch and definitely recommend giving this album a listen if you haven’t yet.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Rise Against The Machine – “Bulls on Parade” – I’m not a big fan of rap metal, but this song just flat-out rocks.

Tweets of the Week

There were a lot of awesome tweets during the CMA Awards. But this has to be featured. For those unfamiliar, Jimmy Kimmel Live has a popular feature called Mean Tweets in which celebrities, artists and even President Obama read mean tweets about themselves. They’re hilarious and I warn you that they can be addicting to watch. Anyway tonight they came out with a country music edition and it’s very funny. In particular I was pumped to see Reginald Spears get featured twice, who has been featured in this space many times. If you’re on Twitter, he’s a must-follow. Anyway just watch this video.

iTunes Review That Rocks

Sam Hunt Isn't Even Bro Country

This was left under Sam Hunt’s new acoustic mix tape album Between The Pines. Like this reviewer above says it’s not country (you’d think acoustic would mean it would be a little country), not even bro country. We’re to the point where bro country is an upgrade. I’m just going to go back to listening to music on the Americana chart.

Thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in below! 

The Hodgepodge: Traditional Country Fans and Urban Country Fans Have Striking Similarities

The Odd Couple - Traditional vs Urban
Traditional country fans and urban country fans. Truly an odd couple.

You know I was going to destroy mainstream country artists for whining about not being able to make the music they want and using their employees’ well-being as excuses for churning out terrible music, but I’ve decided to tackle another problem that has been bugging me for a while. This is a problem that many fans of country music don’t want to face because they may just be part of this problem. One of the biggest issues in country music right now is the growing divide between traditional country fans and mainstream country fans. The absolute extremes of both sides showcases how this genre is essentially busting at the seams: at one end you have the hardcore traditionalists who refuse to give anything mainstream or close to it a chance. On the other end you have casual, radio country fans who refuse to give the likes of Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell the time of day. And guess what? You’re both hurting country music by not opening up your minds more.

Their refusal to open up their minds to either side is why this genre will never be “saved.” It’s why I view it as a silly notion to save country music (at least at this moment). Both sides would have to compromise and find a balance between what each wants. And thing is there’s plenty of balance out there demonstrated by various artists. A perfect example of this type of balance is Maddie & Tae. Here’s a fresh, young duo that makes country music that is rooted in tradition and still keeps it upbeat enough for casual fans to listen to them. Really the women in general seem to find the best balance to appease to both sides. Of course radio has been shutting them out for the most part, even though lately there have been a few more female artists showing up in the top 30 of the airplay chart, such as Jana Kramer, Maddie & Tae and Carrie Underwood. But I’ve come to the conclusion it’s just not country radio that’s been holding back females in the genre. It’s also the under-the-radar sexism that has existed in country music for decades.

Country music has always been male-dominated without a doubt. The female artists have always been held back and overshadowed by the male artists. I first came to this realization last fall when I compared #1 country songs from 1984 and 2014. At that time period for both years, only 10% of #1 songs were from female artists in 2014 and around 17% in 1984. Only a 7% difference in a 20 year gap. The only reason more attention is called to this nowadays is because the drastic shift in sonic changes and the much greater amount of media that covers country music. Country music has always had this problem with playing female country artists and will continue to do so. Why? Well let me tell you the harsh reality: staunch traditionalists can be just as sexist and misogynistic as the bro country and urban country fans.

Both sides will look at each other and it’s like they’re looking in a mirror. Both insist that their preferred style of country music is in the right. Both believe that their current favorite artists are the true evolutions of the genre. Both have a lukewarm opinion at best when it comes to female artists (I’ve seen this just by observing various country blogs and forums). Both love to mock and ridicule the other side. Both sides have posted childish and stupid comments on this very blog. Both sides don’t listen to country radio (streaming vs buying physical media). Both embrace whatever scene they worship puts out (urban country fans embrace every new artist with boyish good looks and a drum machine, while traditionalists embrace every grisly voiced indie artist from the underground). Both sides have a country music “savior” (another silly notion espoused by fan boys). And neither really want to embrace Americana.

Have I been some of these things sometimes? Absolutely. It’s why in recent months my attitude has shifted to taking a more balanced approach. It’s why I’ve given more coverage and will continue to give more coverage to Americana. But at least I’ve recognized it. Hardcore traditionalists and urban fans don’t want to recognize. Now I’m not trying to tell you how to think or what music to listen to at the end of the day. But I’m simply pointing out to those of you that fall under these categories that you are what you hate. The beauty of music is it’s all subjective and we all have a different opinion. You’re free to listen whatever you want and call it whatever you want. But when it comes to the livelihood of a genre and really the value of anything in life, you need to find a balance. Country music needs to find a balance. It needs to find a balance in its sound. It needs to find a balance when it comes to playing male and female artists. And it’s fans need to find a balance. When traditionalists can’t embrace a song like Charles Kelley’s “The Driver” and mainstream fans can’t embrace Jon Pardi and Kacey Musgraves, it’s a clear demonstration that country music is far from solving it’s problems.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Carrie Underwood will release her new album Storyteller tomorrow. I’ll have a review on it early next week.
  • Chris Janson will release his first album under Warner Nashville, titled Buy Me A Boat, next Friday.
  • The Yawpers will release their new album American Man next Friday.
  • Brett Eldredge’s next single will be “Drunk On Your Love.”
  • Keith Urban will be releasing “Break on Me” as his next single. Expect a review on this soon.
  • Toby Keith is releasing “Beautiful Stranger” as his next single. Derek’s review on his new album will be out tomorrow.

Great Music Currently at Country Radio

The very best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly.

Throwback Thursday Song

Reba – “The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia” – This is a true southern gothic classic, originally written and recorded by Bobby Russell. Reba’s cover is the most popular version of the song. It’s definitely one of those songs as a country fans it’s worth listening to if you haven’t heard it before.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

The new album from the a capella group Pentatonix is pretty solid. I was blown away when I came across this group a few years back and still am today. They’re truly a unique and special group of musicians.

Tweet of the Week

Me too!

iTunes Review That Rocks

Thomas Rhett Isn't Country Part 1,584

A slam on Thomas Rhett AND Luke Bryan? That’ll get you featured in the Hodgepodge every time. And the comparison to Gwen Stefani is hilarious.

Thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in below! 

The Hodgepodge: The Return of Garth Brooks Has Fallen Well Short of Expectations

542px-Garth_Brooks

When Garth Brooks announced he was returning to country music last year, many expected it to be one of the biggest stories of the year in music. After all Brooks is one of the highest selling artists of all-time and was the undisputed face of country music in the 90s. Expectations were set high and many thought he could be a voice of reason in a genre that has no leadership or direction. I was certainly one of those people too. As I said in my review of his comeback album last year, I considered Taylor Swift to be the only current artist in the same range of Brooks’ icon status. Here’s how I led off my review of Man Against Machine:

In the world of music there were two albums everyone was looking forward to listening to this year: Taylor Swift’s 1989 and Garth Brooks’ Man Against Machine. Everyone looked forward to listening to Swift of course because she’s one of the top-selling and most popular artist in music today. To add to the hype she announced she left country music and that 1989 would be her first documented pop album. Regardless of the quality of the album, everyone knew it would have huge sales numbers. This proved to be true as it’s the only album of the year to be certified platinum. It gives you an idea of how bad music sales are right now and shows you why country music was devastated to lose her. Luckily for country music, Garth Brooks has made his triumphant comeback. Garth is the only other artist that can sell more albums than Swift in music right now. After all Garth is one of the most popular selling artists of all-time right alongside the Beatles and Elvis. Regardless of what I think or anyone else thinks of Man Against Machine, this album will be the second and only other album to be certified platinum in 2014.

Sometimes I’m right on with my predictions. This time I was wrong. Man Against Machine has achieved platinum status, but it took longer than anyone predicted and Taylor Swift outsold Garth by a lot. As of April 29, there have been 626,100 copies of Garth’s comeback album sold. Originally industry insiders predicted that 250,000-300,000 copies would be sold in the first week. Instead only 119,000 copies of the album were sold. Pretty disappointing numbers for an artist some hold in the same regard as Elvis and Michael Jackson. His sales are good compared to the average, as Man Against Machine was one of the top ten highest selling albums in country music in 2014. But that really isn’t saying much considering we’re talking about Garth Brooks and the current state of country music sales is in the dumps.

For the majority of 2014 radio struggled to find substance to put on the radio and many felt Garth could solve this problem. He was the king of country radio in the 90s after all. Instead Garth has been non-existent at country radio since his return. If you’re a country music fan, who for some reason only keeps up with the genre through radio you would have no idea Garth even returned. The first single, “People Loving People,” peaked at #19 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. The followup single, “Mom,” did even worse, as it peaked at #32 on the Airplay chart. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Brooks told the outlet that he doesn’t know when his next single is coming out. Garth says he is uncertain because of the shakeup in leadership at Sony Music Nashville, as now former CEO Gary Overton has left.

Nobody wants to say it, although many are thinking it. I have no problem saying it though: 2015 Garth Brooks is completely out of touch with the music industry. He may have been a brilliant marketer and entertainer in the 90s, but it’s a completely different game in 2015. There are so many things Garth has done wrong since his return I don’t know where to begin. Let’s start with his singles. First off his reasoning for holding off on a third single because of a leadership shakeup at Sony Music Nashville is complete bullshit. Chris Young just released a new single and he’s on the same label as Garth. Miranda Lambert and Jake Owen are both set to release new singles within the next month. Garth doesn’t want to admit that he completely botched the first two single choices. Man Against Machine certainly wasn’t a great album, but it was solid and contained a few fine single choices to release to radio.

Garth blindly thought he could make “People Loving People” another “We Shall Be Free” and this blew up in his face. “People Loving People” is even more generic and bland than “We Shall Be Free.” “Mom” is even more milquetoast and vanilla. Everyone knew this single was dead on radio at arrival. It was maddening to see him choose these as singles, as they’re arguably the two worst songs on the album. I think the album’s title track, “Midnight Train” and “Cold Like That” would all be great single choices. The album’s title track could especially do well at radio with its working class theme and catchy rhythm. It’s also more rock than country sounding. This should easily be the third single choice, but instead he’ll probably choose the cheesy and cliché “All-American Kid,” which is way too country for the current radio environment to succeed.

As bad as his single choices have been and the poor radio performance to show for it, there’s something hurting him even more than his lack of radio presence. It’s his refusal to embrace streaming and YouTube. Every other artist out there releases their music to YouTube because it’s smart and how many people find music nowadays. Every other artist also has their music available on Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Google Play and Amazon because once again it’s just the right thing to do. This how most people consume music nowadays. I bet 95% of my readers get their music through these outlets. As admirable as Garth’s crusade is to preserve the concept of albums and selling music in this way, it’s really hurting him. Singles are the new albums. Artists today focus on making great singles over great albums because it’s easier to pull off. Even though I buy the bulk of my music as an entire album, I know I’m in the minority.

Back to the YouTube subject, some artists get big mostly through this outlet. A non-country example is the a cappella group Pentatonix. Their brilliant covers of hit songs helped many people discover them. Another non-country example is hip-hop artist Lunchmoney Lewis, as his video for his hit single “Bills” has gotten over 10 million views as of this writing. Lewis was a complete unknown coming into 2015 and now he has a hit single, mostly thanks to YouTube. Garth is cutting off an entire outlet that could not only boost his single sales and radio airplay, but introduce him to a whole new generation of listeners. Many younger listeners have no idea who Garth Brooks is and really don’t care. Garth isn’t on YouTube or iTunes, so he’s completely off the radar in their minds. You can’t buy just his singles, so there’s another turnoff. Throw in the fact you can’t stream his music at all before listening and it perfectly explains why Brooks is in the situation he’s in. His GhostTune store is the Zune to Apple’s iPod.

Garth is trying to do things his own way in 2015 and it simply isn’t going to work his way. Most people are no longer driving to Walmart to buy a CD and instead purchasing their music online digitally. Digital is the name of the game. Garth said this himself in an interview with CMT. Why aren’t you following your own words, Garth? It’s pretty simple: ditch GhostTunes, join iTunes, make your music available for streaming, allow your music to be sold individually instead of as a whole album, and pick better singles. Brooks can still be a factor in 2015 and make the impact on country music we all envisioned he could. But he needs to make changes quickly. They say an old dog can’t learn new tricks, but Garth better if he wants to be relevant again.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Whitey Morgan is releasing his much-anticipated Sonic Ranch album to the public next Tuesday. I’ve had an early copy for months and I’ve been dying to review it here on the site. This is an album you do not want to miss out on, so stay tuned for my review on it next week.
  • Jon Pardi is releasing an EP next week titled The B-Sides, 2011-2014. These are songs I’m assuming didn’t make the cut for his debut album Write You A Song. We haven’t heard a new single from him for a while, so I’m guessing there will at least be one new single from this EP. We’ll definitely a review on this.
  • Kelsea Ballerini is releasing her debut album The First Time next Tuesday. Based on what I’ve heard and seen from Ballerini, I’m not that excited about it. She’s proven to be the female equivalent of Sam Hunt to this point with her brand of pop music being marketed as country music.
  • Mickey Guyton announced this week that she’s releasing a self-titled EP on May 26. Unlike Ballerini, I’m excited to hear new music from Guyton. In a perfect world her single “Better Than You Left Me” is on the cusp of the top ten instead of “Love Me Like You Mean It.” This one will definitely get reviewed.
  • Luke Bryan is releasing his new single from his new upcoming album next Tuesday. As everyone speculated, it’s called “Kick The Dust Up,” a Dallas Davidson co-written song. I can only imagine how bad this song is going to be.
  • Chris Young just released his new single “I’m Comin’ Over,” which is the first track of his new upcoming album set to be released this fall. You’ll see my review on it soon.
  • Toby Keith’s new album is coming out on June 26 and it’s titled 35 MPH Town. I wonder if he acts like a grumpy old Baby Boomer throughout it like the album’s title track?
  • Steven Tyler just released his first country song, “Love Is Your Name.” Believe it or not, it’s actually not terrible. We’ll have a review on it soon.
  • Kid Rock is releasing a single to country radio titled “First Kiss,” off of his new album. This is nothing new, as a few years ago “All Summer Long” was a big hit on country radio and Kid Rock knows how to make money. I’m curious to see how well this does on the Airplay chart.

Throwback Thursday Song

Alan Jackson – “Chattahoochee” – The warm weather is coming and summer is just around the corner, so I thought why not choose one my favorite summer country songs. Fun and traditional don’t have to be mutually exclusive, bro country artists. Plus there’s no other video where you can see Alan Jackson on water skis!

Non-Country Song of the Week

Adele – “Take It All” – After having a great conversation with Noah in the comments section of last week’s Hodgepodge about Adele and the impact she could have in country music, I went back and listened to her 21 album. It’s as good as I remembered and instead of pointing out one of her great singles, I instead chose to point out a great album cut, “Take It All.” The piano play is top-notch and Adele’s voice is just awesome.

Tweet of the Week

You want to know what else didn’t make me excited about Ballerini’s album? When this was brought to my attention. Kudos to Windmills for pointing this out.

An iTunes Review That Will Make You Face Palm

Hunt Idiot #150

It’s another comment left under Sam Hunt’s Montevallo album. We’re now at the point that Hunt fans are using Brantley Gilbert quotes to defend him. Oy.

That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments! 

My Five Favorite Non-Country Albums of 2014

Here at Country Perspective we talk about country music of course. We review it, analyze it, present it and listen to it. Except today we make an exception. I’m going to talk about what I considered the best outside of country music. Contrarian person: “But this is country blog! I don’t care about non-country music!” Okay that’s cool. Don’t read this. If you’re still here thank you. Now let me ask you a question: Do you only eat one type of pie? No you don’t because that’s stupid. I enjoy eating a variety of different pies. Chocolate, apple, cherry you name it. Even though I love country music, I would go insane if I just listened to one type of music. I listen to all types and I’m not exaggerating. Now keep in mind too my “rules” for country music aren’t the same for other genres. For example, vulgarity is a much bigger part of hip-hop than other genres. But one universal rule for all genres in order to have good music: great lyrics with meaning and depth. So without further ado my five favorite non-country albums of 2014.

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

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Where has this hip-hop duo been all of my life? I never heard their first album and still haven’t. I heard a lot of hype about them on social media, so out of the blue I gave their album a listen. From the first listen I was absolutely blown away. This album hits you in the face from the first song and keeps throwing flurries in your face until the album ends. After all the album starts out with the ear grabbing shout of, “I’m going to bang this bitch the fuck out!” It’s vulgar, offensive, controversial and I absolutely love it. It’s definitely NSFW. El-P and Killer Mike were meant to make music together. My favorite track on the album would have to be “Blockbuster Night Part 1” because everything in this song works perfectly together. The final lyrics of the song really put an exclamation point on it.

This is really an album you have to hear for yourself because there is just so much to breakdown in it. This album tied with two other albums as my favorite of the year (the next album I’m getting ready to talk about and the other one you’ll know on Monday). Not only that, but this is probably my favorite hip-hop album I’ve ever listened to. It’s a damn shame this wasn’t nominated for a Grammy because it’s better than all of the Grammy nominations for Best Rap album.

The War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream

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The Philadelphia-based band composed of lead singer Adam Granduciel, David Hartley, Robbie Bennett, Charlie Hall, Joe Natchez and Anthony LaMarca have dazzled critics and fans everywhere with this album. Unless your name is Mark Kozelek, then you’ll probably love this album. Granduciel shows that he’s a musical genius with such a deep and complex album like Lost In The Dream. I mean who starts an album off with a nearly nine minute song? Most of the songs on this album are over five minutes long. It’s going to take you a while to listen to it, but trust me it is well worth it. Don’t listen to it in chunks either because this album is a journey and is meant to be listened to in full from start to finish.

As for my favorite track, it would be a toss-up between “Red Eyes” and “An Ocean in Between The Waves.” It really depends on my mood. I will say though my favorite line is in “An Ocean in Between The Waves.” It’s the brilliant line of “In my finest hour, can I be more than just a fool?” It’s such a simple line, yet it means so much. I will admit it can be hard to pay attention to the lyrics at times because the instrumentation is just so damn good. The amount of detail and thought behind each sound is unbelievable. This is the kind of album you put on right before you go for a long drive.

Rival Sons – Great Western Valkyrie 

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Along with The War on Drugs, Rival Sons proved to me that rock music isn’t dead. Behind country music, I would say rock music is my favorite. But in recent years I drifted away from the genre just like I did with country music. When I came across this group’s album and listened to it, they made me believe in rock music again. They also taught me that you can’t rely on the mainstream to guide you to the best rock music (just like country music). Great Western Valkyrie is the perfect blend of the classic rock throwback sound and modern rock influences. The album opens hot with “Electric Man” and really sets the tone for this album. There are several highlights on this album, from the loud and in your face “Open My Eyes” to the more subdued and tender “Belle Star.”

I was really surprised that very few “best of” albums list didn’t mention this because to me it’s easily one of the best rock albums I’ve heard in the last five years. This album was also shorted by the Grammys, but hey the Grammys suck most years and at least they stayed consistent. I know I appreciate Rival Sons’ Great Western Valkyrie and many other do too. Thank you Rival Sons for also restoring my faith in rock!

Weird Al Yankovic – Mandatory Fun

If you don’t like Weird Al Yankovic, you don’t like to laugh. In a world full of too much political correctness and super serious people, Weird Al is here to remind us it’s okay to laugh while listening to music. I not only got plenty of laughs from Mandatory Fun, but I was impressed by Weird Al’s lyrics and style choices. He also took a unique approach in promoting the album, as he released eight music videos over eight days all in different places the week he released the album. The music videos make the songs even better of course. One song in particular where the video makes it even better is “Foil,” which goes from talking about keeping food fresh to conspiracy theorists and aliens (that reminds me that Sturgill Simpson and Weird Al should make a song together).

My two favorites though on the album are “Word Crimes” and “Jackson Park Express.” The first, “Word Crimes,” is a song the world didn’t know it needed until they heard it. It blows the song it parodies, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” out of the water in terms of lyrics and content. It sends a message that many people need (how to write like a human being) and it also takes a nice little jab at prima donna Prince. “Jackson Park Express” is a nine-minute, bizarre journey on a bus (sounds like an episode of Seinfeld) where a man goes from irrational to just plain creepy with his thoughts about a woman sitting across from him. It’s one of Weird Al’s best original songs ever.

Who would’ve thought when Weird Al started his musical career in 1976 that we would still making music after all these years? Keeping being awesome Weird Al and congrats on your first #1 album!

Pentatonix – PTX, Vol. III

A capella music! I told you I listen to everything. When I discovered Pentatonix last year I was enamored by them. How could they be so damn good while using zero instruments? Keep this in mind when listening to their music. If you had some unknown person off the street who had never heard this group’s music before they would have no idea there is no instrumentation involved because they do such a great job replicating the sounds with their mouths. And when they bring in instruments (usually the great Lindsey Stirling with her violin), they still knock it out of the park.

I usually like their covers of songs even better than the original versions of those songs. That’s the case again with their covers of “La La Latch” and “Rather Be” on PTX, Vol. III. The harmonies on “Rather Be” really blow me away, as you’ll find after listening to their music that harmonies are their biggest strength. Their original music doesn’t impress me as much as their covers yet, but they’re slowing getting there I think. My favorite original song off the album is “Standing By,” which shows off the group’s softer side. I think this A capella group will only get better with time.

Honorable Mentions:

Lindsey Stirling – Shatter Me 

The Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways 

Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron

(12/23) Late Addition: Hozier’s Self-Titled Debut Album