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.

Review: Carrie Underwood’s “Something in the Water”

I distinctly remember the first time I ever heard Carrie Underwood sing. It was back when I was watching American Idol (that was a long time ago) and I heard her audition for the show. Soon as she was done singing I knew I had just heard a future star and I knew she was going to win the show that year without a doubt. Her powerful and dynamic voice, plus her charming looks make record executives see money falling from the skies. Her first record, Some Hearts, she put out was quite good and decidedly country. It was on the second album, Carnival Ride, when she really took off and became a huge star. Unfortunately when artists become big stars they lose their original sound as it starts to drift to whatever is popular in the mainstream at the moment. This is what has happened to Underwood as her music has become decidedly more pop sounding and less country sounding. Not only that, but the songwriting and themes have gotten progressively worse. I can’t listening to her songs like “Cowboy Casanova,” “Undo It,” “See You Again” and “Blown Away.” To me these songs are not a true representation of Underwood’s incredible talent, which is her fantastic voice. And then she made the horrible decision of teaming up with Miranda Lambert on “Somethin’ Bad,” although I understand the reason they did it. Women are struggling to make it onto radio right now, even though Underwood has it easier than Kacey Musgraves or Brandy Clark. So when she announced she’s releasing a greatest hits album, along with a new single titled “Something in the Water,” I was hopeful she returned to her original sound and it sounded somewhat country.

Does she return to her original sound with this new single? Actually she does. The song is about someone feeling reborn and changed after being baptized in a river. It’s an appropriate return to a Christian theme for Underwood considering she’s releasing her greatest hits album and her first big hit was “Jesus Take The Wheel,” a decidedly Christian-themed song. It’s also appropriate with Underwood due to have her first child soon, so obviously with her deeply held religious beliefs she’s quite thankful at the moment. The songwriting is actually quite good in this song, so kudos to Underwood, Chris DeStefano and Brett James who wrote this song (thank you Windmills Country for this information). The song is definitely pop country, but at least there’s a banjo present in the song mixed in with the contemporary sounding pop/rock sound you hear in modern country songs. So at least this isn’t a straight pop song. The energy and pace of this song is fast and exciting, which will surely catch many listeners’ attention.

With Underwood being one of the very few female country artists with enough star power to be a hit on radio and have crossover appeal, I understand why she doesn’t release straight country music. It isn’t marketable enough for her label or brand, aka not enough money. So all I ask from Underwood with her music now is to at least sound pop country, have good songwriting and most importantly let her voice shine front and center. I think “Something in the Water” hits all of these points, so this is the best you can expect from Underwood considering the situation she is in. Someday she’ll make a straight country album and it’ll be great, but that’s many years down the road when Underwood is older and her star power fades. Her vocals were absolutely stellar on this single and wasn’t overshadowed by the production, which was a little overproduced, but didn’t overshadow the vocals. I think it has a great chance of being a top ten song that gets a lot of radio play.

I’m glad Underwood went back to a theme that represents her and she’s allowing her vocals do the heavy lifting in the song. If you don’t like pop country, you won’t like this song. If you can appreciate well written pop country and Underwood’s amazing vocals, you’ll enjoy this song.

Grade: 8/10