Predictions For The 2015 ACM Awards: The Winners, The Losers & Maybe Some Country Music?

2015 ACM Awards

Well here we are; another country music awards show is here. The 50th ACM Awards show has arrived. Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan will once again host the show, which will air on Sunday on CBS at 8 pm ET from Dallas. It’ll be held in Cowboys Stadium, aka Jerry Jones’ Death Star. Also with Bryan and Shelton hosting again we are guaranteed to have some stupid moments/sketches that further embarrass country music. Aren’t awards shows great? There really isn’t a lot in my opinion to be excited about with this year’s ACM Awards, unlike last year where everyone tuned in to see if George Strait or Luke Bryan would in Entertainer of the Year. No, I’m more interested in ACM Presents: Superstar Duets where we get to see Cole Swindell try to sing alongside Alan Jackson. The train wreck factor is sky-high and I love to watch a good train wreck. But sadly that won’t be airing until May, as it’s only being taped this weekend. Don’t worry I’ll be live blogging that one too.

Back to this year’s ACM Awards, which look pretty predictable on paper. Miranda Lambert leads all artists in nominations with nine, which shocks nobody. Dierks Bentley follows with seven nominations and Florida Georgia Line after that with five nominations. Miranda will once again rack up a lot of hardware. That’s inevitable. I’m hoping for some sort of surprise so I don’t go crazy watching this show. I’ll be posting live results here on Sunday night, as we do on every awards show. You can follow along and react together right here on Country Perspective. And I’ll be live tweeting my thoughts too. One way or another I’m going to find a way to make this show entertaining because ACM surely isn’t. So without further ado let’s take a look at the 2015 ACM Awards:

Entertainer of the Year

  • Garth Brooks
  • Jason Aldean
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line

Who I Think Wins: Luke Bryan because he got “snubbed” last year according to this camp. Whatever. Garth Brooks and his camp have been pushing hard, but I have yet to be convinced that Garth has the same sway and power he did in his heyday. He has done nothing on radio upon his return due to the fact that he picked the worst single choices possible. I have no idea what the hell his team was thinking by choosing “People Loving People” and “Mom” as singles. Garth’s comeback has been nothing but a giant yawn. But hey he still sells out stadiums and arenas.

Who I Would Pick to Win: None. Sturgill Simpson is better than all of the above artists and would be my pick to win.

Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Blake Shelton
  • Brad Paisley
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Eric Church
  • Jason Aldean
  • Luke Bryan

Who I Think Wins: Jason Aldean has won this award two years in a row. Blake Shelton won in 2011. I think it comes down to these two on who wins. I’ll go with Aldean just because he whined about the CMA Awards snubbing him and the ACM Awards seem to like him. Plus Aldean has had more success with his newest album and singles.

Who I Would Pick to Win: Dierks Bentley because he was the only one of those six above to put out a good album in 2014. Bentley’s singles also performed well across the board. I still don’t understand how Brad Paisley got nominated and Tim McGraw didn’t.

Female Vocalist of the Year

  • Brandy Clark
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Martina McBride
  • Miranda Lambert

Who I Think Wins: Miranda Lambert. You can take this one to the bank.

Who I Would Pick to Win: Carrie Underwood because she arguably released the best single in mainstream country music in 2014. Her newest single “Little Toy Guns” will also be one of the best singles in mainstream country music in 2015. I’d think Carrie would get tired of losing to Miranda, but many Carrie fans would point out former Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton would be to blame. We’ll have to wait and see if the new CEO helps Carrie on the next round of awards shows.

Vocal Duo of the Year

  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae
  • The Swon Brothers

Who I Think Wins: Florida Georgia Line. Maddie & Tae aren’t ready to compete with them yet. The rest of the candidates are laughable.

Who I Would Pick to Win: None. I would pick First Aid Kit, winner of Country Perspective’s 2014 Group of the Year award.

Vocal Group of the Year

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • The Band Perry
  • Zac Brown Band

Who I Think Wins: Little Big Town because they by far have gotten the most acclaim and attention in the last year. The recent buzz about “Girl Crush” guarantee they win this award. Zac Brown Band will be the favorites next year since they’re releasing a new album this year. The Band Perry and Rascal Flatts are just filling spots. Lady Antebellum is irrelevant.

Who I Would Pick to Win: None. Write-in Old Crow Medicine Show.

New Artist of the Year

  • Sam Hunt
  • Cole Swindell
  • Thomas Rhett

Who I Think Wins: Shoot me. You know my thoughts on these three nominees. All three get their asses kissed pretty hard by Music Row and country radio, but out of the three Hunt is the most prized asshole. He’ll win this one and be declared the new face of country music while I contemplate throwing stuff.

Who I Would Pick to Win: None of these three, that’s for damn sure. If it was up to me I would give New Artist of the Year to Karen Jonas. If I had to pick a mainstream artist, it would be Eric Paslay.

Album of the Year

  • Jason Aldean – Old Boots, New Dirt
  • Little Big Town – Pain Killer
  • Miranda Lambert – Platinum
  • Dierks Bentley – Riser
  • Eric Church – The Outsiders

Who I Think Wins: Conventional wisdom says to pick Miranda to win, so I’m going to pick Platinum to win. I thought about picking Church’s The Outsiders, but then I remembered Lambert won a Grammy for best country album. If you’re going against Miranda in a category, you’re screwed. Sorry Church fans.

Who I Would Pick to Win: Once again, none of these nominees. Sure Dierks Bentley’s Riser album was good, but it’s not album of the year good. I’d go with Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, our 2014 Album of the Year winner.

Single Record of the Year

  • “American Kids” – Kenny Chesney
  • “Automatic” – Miranda Lambert
  • “Dirt” – Florida Georgia Line
  • “Drunk on a Plane” – Dierks Bentley
  • “I Don’t Dance” – Lee Brice

Who I Think Wins: Remember when I said above if you go against Miranda in an award category, you’re screwed? Well I would like to add an addendum. If you’re Florida Georgia Line you have a chance. Those are the two it will come down to here. It’s a real tossup, but I think Florida Georgia Line will pull off the minor upset. “Dirt” was a much more popular song than “Automatic” last year.

Who I Would Pick to Win: Not only do I think “Dirt” will win, but I would also pick it. Listen, these two tools do a lot of stuff wrong and we picked their 2014 album Anything Goes as the winner of Country Perspective’s 2014 Worst Album of the Year. But they deserve to be recognized for finally getting a song right. As they say a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then, so it wouldn’t be fair to rob blind squirrels.

Song of the Year

  • “American Kids” – Kenny Chesney
  • “Automatic” – Miranda Lambert
  • “Drink A Beer” – Luke Bryan
  • “Follow Your Arrow” – Kacey Musgraves
  • “Give Me Back My Hometown” – Eric Church
  • “I Hold On” – Dierks Bentley

Who I Think Wins: This is by far the most wide open award this year. Each song has some sort of case to win. I’ve decided to pick Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow” to win for two reasons. First the song has already won numerous awards, so giving it another one wouldn’t look out of the ordinary. The second reason and this is the most important is because of the recent incident with “Girl Crush.” A lot of cries of homophobia in country music was echoed by people across the country with this incident and giving “Follow Your Arrow” song of the year would help country music’s image and silence some vocal opponents.

Who I Would Pick to Win: I’d give Song of the Year to Dierks Bentley’s “I Hold On” because it was an underrated song and arguably one of Dierks’ best singles of his career. People wonder why Dierks releases stupid songs like “Drunk on a Plane” and the reason why is because he never gets enough credit for his more substantial singles.

Video of the Year

  • “American Kids” – Kenny Chesney
  • “Cop Car” – Keith Urban
  • “Drunk on a Plane” – Dierks Bentley
  • “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” – Glen Campbell
  • “Somethin’ Bad” – Carrie Underwood & Miranda Lambert

Who I Think Wins: Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert’s “Somethin’ Bad” because it gives Carrie an award and Miranda another one.

Who I Would Pick To Win: I don’t care about this at all.

Vocal Event of the Year

  • “Lonely Tonight” – Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe
  • “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” – Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
  • “Somethin’ Bad” – Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood
  • “This Is How We Roll” – Florida Georgia Line & Luke Bryan
  • “The South” – The Cadillac Three, Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley & Mike Eli

Who I Think Wins: “This Is How We Roll” because it’s the collaboration of country music’s two biggest cash cows. It experienced some cross-over appeal too. I’m just glad this is the last we’ll hear of this song on an awards show. By the way I have to ask: Have any of you even heard “The South”? I’m guessing no. And if you’re wondering why it’s here it’s because of politics.

Who I Would Pick to Win: “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” because McGraw deserves some kind of award for his good 2014 album Sundown Heaven Town. If I’m a McGraw fan, I’m pretty angry about the ACMs practically shutting him out. We’ll see if they give him anything.

That’s all of this year’s major awards at the ACMs. Who are your picks to win? Do you have much interest at all in this year’s show? Weigh-in below!

Initial Thoughts on the 2015 ACM Award Nominations

2015 ACM Awards

Due to Winter Storm Juno, the 2015 ACM Award nominations were pushed back from Tuesday this past week to yesterday morning (much to the chagrin of country music outlets looking for stuff to write about). There aren’t a lot of surprises for the 50th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards show. Miranda Lambert leads all artists in nominations with nine, which shocks nobody. Dierks Bentley follows with seven nominations and Florida Georgia Line after that with five nominations. Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan will once again host the show, which will air on Sunday, April 19 on CBS at 8 pm ET. Without further ado let’s take a look at the nominations.

Entertainer of the Year

  • Garth Brooks
  • Jason Aldean
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line

In a fair world Sturgill Simpson wins this awards hands down. None of these nominations really impressed me in 2014. Garth has bombed at radio, but his concert sales top everyone. Regardless I think everyone knows this is Luke Bryan’s to lose. It would be nice to see Garth pull off the upset, but I would be surprised.

Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Blake Shelton
  • Brad Paisley
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Eric Church
  • Jason Aldean
  • Luke Bryan

Due to a tie we get six nominations here. How the hell does Brad Paisley get nominated and not Tim McGraw? McGraw’s album was not only much better, but his singles performed better too. McGraw is also nominated for a Grammy. Even though it’s a joke Paisley is nominated, he has a snowball’s chance of hell in winning so it’s not worth getting too upset about. Bryan is the front-runner to win this too, but if they’re giving him Entertainer of the Year then maybe somebody else will probably win. If that’s the case I see Blake winning.

Female Vocalist of the Year

  • Brandy Clark
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Martina McBride
  • Miranda Lambert

I’m 99.9% sure Miranda is winning this one. Martina McBride is just there to fill the fifth spot. Personally I would choose Carrie Underwood to win this, but her case isn’t strong enough to overcome Miranda. Brandy Clark being nominated is a nice gesture. Musgraves will have a much better chance to win next year after releasing her second album this year.

Vocal Duo of the Year

  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae
  • The Swon Brothers

AKA the Florida Georgia Line award. Maybe Maddie & Tae have a shot next year, but they have no chance of overthrowing the bros yet. Florida Georgia Line wins and I continue to listen to way more talented country duos.

Vocal Group of the Year

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • The Band Perry
  • Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown Band has more talent than the other four combined, but they didn’t release an album last year so they have no chance of winning. The Band Perry put out an awesome Glen Campbell cover, but they’re just here to fill a spot. Rascal Flatts still make music? This will come down to Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town, but I think the latter is the favorite to win. Their album has received an unusually high amount of praise for its blatant pop rock music.

Album of the Year

  • Jason Aldean – Old Boots, New Dirt
  • Little Big Town – Pain Killer
  • Miranda Lambert – Platinum
  • Dierks Bentley – Riser
  • Eric Church – The Outsiders

Every single 2014 Country Perspective Album of the Year candidate is light-years better than these nominations. I mean sure Dierks Bentley’s Riser is good, but it’s not album of the year worthy. It also has no chance of winning. My gut tells me Eric Church should win this one, but I think Miranda and Aldean have a good shot to win too. I’ll need to think about my prediction for this award.

Single Record of the Year

  • “American Kids” – Kenny Chesney
  • “Automatic” – Miranda Lambert
  • “Dirt” – Florida Georgia Line
  • “Drunk on a Plane” – Dierks Bentley
  • “I Don’t Dance” – Lee Brice

This is another award for Miranda to lose. But you may surprised who I think should win and that is “Dirt.” It’s clearly the best song of this bunch and Florida Georgia Line actually put out a song of substance for once. So for once I think Florida Georgia Line should win for doing something good. I’ll wait and see on this.

Song of the Year

  • “American Kids” – Kenny Chesney
  • “Automatic” – Miranda Lambert
  • “Drink A Beer” – Luke Bryan
  • “Follow Your Arrow” – Kacey Musgraves
  • “Give Me Back My Hometown” – Eric Church
  • “I Hold On” – Dierks Bentley

Just like Male Vocalist of the Year we have six nominations for Song of the Year due to a tie. It’s not a very impressive field of songs though. Once again Dierks has a good nomination, but it’s not worthy of the award. I hate this Eric Church song. “Follow Your Arrow” is probably one of the weakest songs on her album, but it has a great message and has already won numerous awards. Luke and Miranda’s offerings are lukewarm to me and “American Kids” gets way too much credit. This one is a toss-up.

Video of the Year

  • “American Kids” – Kenny Chesney
  • “Cop Car” – Keith Urban
  • “Drunk on a Plane” – Dierks Bentley
  • “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” – Glen Campbell
  • “Somethin’ Bad” – Carrie Underwood & Miranda Lambert

I really don’t care about this award, but I hope Glen Campbell wins. He probably will as a thank you for his career. He’s certainly the most deserving of these five.

Vocal Event of the Year

  • “Lonely Tonight” – Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe
  • “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” – Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
  • “Somethin’ Bad” – Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood
  • “This Is How We Roll” – Florida Georgia Line & Luke Bryan
  • “The South” – The Cadillac Three, Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley & Mike Eli

If you’re saying “what the hell?” to the last nomination, you’re not alone. There’s only one thing to explain it: politics. I think the first four nominations all have a shot of winning. It’s really a tossup. If I had to choose between them, I would go with “Lonely Tonight” just because I would like to see Monroe get some damn recognition for once. We would also have to swallow Blake winning, but it would be worth it in my mind.

Songwriter of the Year

  • Ashley Gorley
  • Chris Tompkins
  • Josh Osborne
  • Luke Laird
  • Rodney Clawson

No Dallas Davidson! That’s what I was happy about with these nominations. These writers have pretty much written all of the hits you hear on radio in the last year and are only nominated on this basis. It’s a shame the truly great songwriters aren’t recognized here.

So what do you think of the nominations? Be sure to weigh in below! 

Review – Craig Wayne Boyd’s “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face”

CWB

In 2014 it became pretty obvious that country music is the most popular genre in music. The popularity of bro country shot it into mainstream and the incorporation of pop elements has allowed the genre to remain in the mainstream conscious. Why else do you think Jason Aldean and Sam Hunt had such big years last year? Another thing that has benefitted from the increase of popularity of country music is music talent shows. Whether it was American Idol, The Voice or that new music show on ABC that I’ve completely forgotten about with Brad Paisley, country music artists have done pretty good on it in recent years. Just look at all of The Voice alumni I’ve reviewed on the site (Gwen Sebastian, RaeLynn, The Swon Brothers, etc).

One problem though that everyone notices is that after the show these artists drops off the face of the earth. One minute they’re in the spotlight and next they’re just another artist struggling to make it. I thought these shows are supposed to make stars? Other than Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, almost all of the other winners disappear after the show. Several months after finishing runner-up on season six of The Voice, Jake Worthington has yet to release any new music. How is this show beneficial to him again? Well the people at The Voice finally wised up for season seven as the finalists all performed and released an original song at the end of the show’s season. This is great for the artists, as it will help them springboard into the “real world” of music.

Today I take a look at season seven winner Craig Wayne Boyd’s single “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face.” Now I no longer watch The Voice, but I do monitor it just to make sure I don’t miss anyone interesting. It’s a good thing too because Boyd is certainly interesting. Just like Worthington he played a lot of traditional country music throughout the season (Cash, Haggard, Strait) and also paid tribute to fallen outlaw singer Wayne Mills (who mentored both Boyd and Blake Shelton early in their careers). Boyd isn’t some fresh face either. He has toured around the country and opened for big acts such as Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and Brantley Gilbert. So don’t worry, Boyd has “paid his dues.”

Boyd’s new single “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face” isn’t terrible nor is it great. The instrumentation is certainly solid. It plays right into Boyd’s wheelhouse of a rock country feel (with a few fiddles thrown in) while also being friendly enough for soccer moms. It goes perfectly with the radio friendly, upbeat lyrics that are borderline milquetoast. This song is very safe and doesn’t take any chances. It’s definitely going for a universal feel that appeals to a wide swath of listeners. I’m neither offended nor impressed, although after a few listens it makes me sleepy. It’s just another song to me.

While this will have no bearing on the grade, I have to say something about the music video. Specifically I want to bring up the casting of the woman in it. She looks like she’s around my age and yet she is supposed to be Boyd’s “baby” in it. For reference, Boyd is in his mid-30s. She passes more for his daughter than girlfriend/wife. This comes off as a little creepy and off-putting, a sentiment shared by many in the videos’ comments too.

Nevertheless this song is doing what it’s supposed to do and that’s get Boyd noticed by the country music audience. It shot up to #1 on the Billboard Hot Country chart in the first week of January. It has since fallen out of the top 25 completely, but still not many artists can claim to have a #1 song and I’m sure it brought him some new fans in the process. I think Boyd is capable of producing great music that is certainly much higher in quality than this single. “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face” is just an average showing that I’ll probably forget about a month from now.

Grade: 4.5/10

Country Perspective’s 2014 Song of The Year Nominees

Sturgillguitar

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.  Despite the piles of garbage thrown out to radio this year, there were many great, downright spectacular country songs released for music fans.  More times than not, one had to dig deep into the realms of independent country, or even search international lands for great country song. And surprisingly, a few mainstream artists popped out few tunes this year worthy to be nominated by Country Perspective for Song of Year.

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! Best Song of the Year may be one of the toughest categories to choose. There are several songs we have listed that could all reasonably be crowned this award. Due to the extensive nature of our list, I’ll give a short-short blurb about each song to keep this post reasonable.

Tami_Neilson-4

Without further ado, and in no particular order, your 2014 Country Song of the Year Nominees:

  • Cry Over You” by Tami Neilson – A timeless, 1950s style country song with a spine-tingling vocal delivery from Tami. Great production behind the vocals, and lyrics about heartbreak. This song is everything that makes country music great. Full review of Dynamite! here.
  • Liberty Bell” by Matt Woods – Great acoustic instrumentation that builds to a roaring middle. Woods’ voice carries this song about getting through life’s hardships with hope and perseverance. Full review of With Love From Brushy Mountain here.
  • Find Me” by Sunny Sweeney – On an album with 3 or 4 worthy nominees, “Find Me” stands out for one main reason: Sunny’s emotional delivery of a song about a soul longing for the one. The instrumentation is perfect and builds appropriately behind brilliant lyrics. Full review of Provoked here.
  • What We Ain’t Got” by Jake Owen – This just might be Jake Owen’s best song ever recorded. His voice sells this heartbreaking piano ballad. Owen straight knocks this one out of the park. This song is about as real as life gets. Full song review here.
  • Turtles All the Way Down” by Sturgill Simpson – A song that brilliantly combines the pure, classic sounds of country with modern influences. A song that challenges faith, drugs, and love. This song is Metamodern in the truest sense, and best encapsulates what Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is all about. Full review here.
  • Oklahoma Lottery” by Karen Jonas – A dark, heartbreaking song about struggling through a hard spell of life: Droughts on the farm, faith challenged, and heading West for a better life. Karen Jonas’s voice fluctuates perfectly with the story, and the simple instrumentation is perfect behind the lyrics. Full review of Oklahoma Lottery here.
  • Dearly Departed Friend” by Old Crow Medicine Show – A song discussing the hardships of war: lamenting the loss of a soldier, and touching on topics of PTSD. The folk instrumentation fits with the topic, and shows OCMS’s strength. Full review of Remedy here.
  • Cedar Lane” by First Aid Kit – Beautiful melodies, subdued instrumentation, and deep, thoughtful lyrics about a long-lost of love. This Swedish duo delivers on this impressive song. Full review of Stay Gold here.
  • Baby, The Rain Must Fall” by BlackHawk – Love ends bitterly in this heartbreak song. A simple, acoustic instrumentation with wonderful vocal deliveries and harmonies. Full review of Brothers of the Southland here.
  • I Thank God” by Rich O’Toole – Born out of a surprise pregnancy in an affair, Rich reflects on how he might not have been here if his Mom had gotten an abortion. The lyrics show depth and understanding on the situation. It’s just a beautiful song.  Full review of Jaded here.
  • Liars & Fools” by Jason Eady – Eady sings about trying it out, and giving it your all here. Simple, pure country instrumentation and a heartfelt vocal delivery. Full review of Daylight & Dark here.
  • When I Come Around” by Lee Ann Womack – A great song from the long-awaited release from Lee Ann Womack. Beautiful vocals from Lee Ann about searching for a man she once knew. “When I Come Around” has wonderful country instrumentation to top it off. Full review of The Way I’m Livin here.
  • She Don’t Love You” by Eric Paslay – A heartbroken girl is in a new relationship. Paslay comments to the new man about her brokenness, only for us to learn that Paslay may be one who broke this woman. Simple, honest lyrics that tell a heartbreaking story, and Eric Paslay sings the song with a voice that perfectly compliments the material. A great modern representation of country music. Full review of Eric Paslay here.
  • Walk Alone” by Moot Davis – An uptempo song about getting over a relationship. A fun, upbeat country melody, and Davis’ voice is nothing short of fantastic. We have no official review for the song or album, but both have been featured on Country Perspective’s midyear “Best Of” lists.
  • River Rising” by Lucette – A more subdued track, and one of the best from the brilliant Black is the Color. Lucette’s lyrics are full of mystery and require careful listen to grasp the story. I think this is a song about dying due to this line, “so let the river carry me home.” Lucette’s vocals are beautiful here. Full review of Black is the Color here.
  • Coping Mechanism” by Shovels & Rope – This song is about finding a better way to cope with a broken heart. Cary Ann’s vocal delivery is powerful here, with Michael harmonizing perfectly behind her. The instrumentation is upbeat, intense, and fits like a glove behind the vocals. As Josh wrote, “this song has the total package.” Full review of Swimmin’ Time here.
  • West Texas Rain” by Wade Bowen – Wade Bowen might just have the best modern country sound. This song about recognizing one’s imperfections is well written with a roaring vocal delivery from Bowen to cap it off. Full review of Wade Bowen here.
  • There’s No Country Here” by Melody Williamson – In the year of anti bro-country, YouTube sensation Melody Williamson has the best of them all. Written as heartbreaking disappointment over the direction of modern country, Melody’s voice captures the emotions with every note. A song of the year dark horse if there ever was one.
  • This Side of Heaven” by The Swon Brothers – I think we were all shocked that this duo from The Voice has a song like this. A great offering off an otherwise rocky, back and forth album. Life can be tough, but we have heaven to look forward to. A wonderful, heartbreaking song of faith. And let’s not forget Carrie Underwood’s harmonies that only help this song soar. Full review of The Swon Brothers here.
  • Here On Earth” by Dierks Bentley – Cowritten by Bentley, and we have to imagine this song is an expression of his confusion and hurt in response to his father’s passing. This song captures the thoughts most have after a loss like that, and still keeps hope alive within life’s darkest moments.

That’s far from the end of possibilities, but we had to cap our selections at some point. Please share your thoughts and help us decide what to crown as the best country song of 2014. This is one of the hardest categories to choose as many of them have a legitimate argument to be chosen, so your comments and votes will definitely help. 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 worst song of 2014.

 

Ranking Mainstream Country Music Artists: Grade C

Two weeks ago I began the task of ranking all of the artists in mainstream country music. Handing out grade A and grade B rankings was quite easy because people don’t get angry when you’re positive. Today however is when the ranking begin to take a negative turn. To see the artists I considered Grade A, click here. To see the artists I considered Grade B, click here.

Keep in mind these rankings were entirely compiled by yours truly. It’s only my opinion. The only artists I’m considering in these rankings is mainstream country artists that are on major labels and/or still get radio time. I’m also including legends and acts that are too big to be considered independent artists. The way I determine these rankings is by looking at the overall body of work of the artist, as well as taking into account the most recent offerings from them. So bro country artists that have been churning out hit after hit will be lower on the list. If an artist made bad music in the past, but is now putting out better music lately that will help them. But that bad music won’t be forgotten either. One more thing: attitude and respect for the genre will be considered. The rankings will be determined by grade. Now I’ll take a look at part three of this series, the artists I feel are worthy of a C grade.

Grade C

Today’s artists I would consider to be middle-of-the-road or average in the world of mainstream country music. A lot of these artists have released good music and bad music, which explains why they’re in the middle. Some simply haven’t done enough yet to garner a higher or lower grade. I consider this the most polarizing grading of the series because there will be an artist or two you feel should be higher or lower. In fact I’ll start with the most polarizing choice of the most polarizing grade…

Miranda_Lambert

Miranda Lambert – Unlike other traditional country fans who monitor mainstream country music, I haven’t been as impressed as them with Lambert’s body of work. Yes she’s done good work with the Pistol Annies, which has promoted two talented A-grade artists in Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. She has also released a few good songs (“House That Built Me” and “Only Prettier”). However I’m going to point out what no one else points out enough. All of her songs are about passive aggressive violence against men who do women wrong or caddy, sarcastic vulgarity against people who do wrong (Kerosene, Gun Powder & Lead, White Liar, Baggage Claim, etc.). Her excessive twang has also annoyed me and I know several other country fans who don’t listen to her for the same reason. In my mind she’s pretty average compared to some of the best female artists in the independent and Americana scenes. Sorry Miranda fans, but she just doesn’t impress me.

Blake Shelton – I feel like I’m being generous with Miranda’s husband. I will never forget the monstrosity that was “Boys ‘Round Here.” I consider it one of the worst country songs of all-time. I think what saves Blake in my mind from being lower in my rankings is the early half of his career. I enjoyed a lot of his early work and I will occasionally listen to a few of these songs. There’s no doubt he has talent as an artist, but his terrible attitude and his pandering to corporate country demands makes it hard to like him at times. If you just disagree with him or write a bad review about him, he’ll send his army of sheep fans after you on Twitter. Shelton just can’t take criticism and to me that has been his ultimate downfall into the embarrassment he is today.

Eric Church – You can pretty much take what I just said what was the worst about Miranda and the worst about Blake, combine them together and that is what my problem is with Eric Church. He’s another average artist who panders to fans who want traditional country music back on radio and are completely unaware of the country music world outside of the mainstream realm. His whole “outsider,” “outlaw” image makes me want to puke and his ego seems to be growing bigger with each album. Just like Blake, his early material is great. But with each album his music has steadily gotten worse. I didn’t get a chance to review The Outsiders album, but I did listen to it and I found it be quite mediocre. But hey according to Church he did invent beer and truck related songs.

Keith Urban – The Australian pop country artist has always been about average to me. I’ve never been really angry at him for a song or something he has said, yet I have never thoroughly enjoyed one of his songs. I view him as the Switzerland of country music and that’s probably one of the safest spots to be in the genre.

Big & Rich – I’ll just repeat what I said in my review of their album Gravity: “The country duo of John Rich and Big Kenny of Big & Rich have always been interesting. They’ve proven they can make quality music (“8th of November” and “Lost in This Moment”), but also stupid novelty music (“Save A Horse” and “Comin’ To Your City”). So there are times when you want to applaud them and then other times where you’re just flat-out embarrassed for them. One thing about their dumber music though is they’re willing to admit up front they’re not being serious with it, unlike bro country where their dumb music is actually trying to be serious when it’s the furthest thing from serious.”

Jake Owen – I went back and forth on Jake Owen’s placement in my rankings. He released one of the worst country songs of 2014 in “Beachin’.” However his bro country music isn’t as offensive as the other bro country music on radio. Owen is also a pretty nice guy and has said in interviews he wants to make more serious music. He’s started to back this up by releasing “What We Ain’t Got,” a great single with substance. We’ll see what his next album is like because that will determine if he moves up or down in the rankings.

The Eli Young Band – The Texas band is in a pretty unique position. They’re still beloved in the Texas country music scene and get radio play too. Ever since they went mainstream though I haven’t enjoyed their music as much. Nothing really stands out about this band.

800px-Gretchen_Wilson,_2009

Gretchen WilsonThe precursor artist to Miranda Lambert. Really Wilson laid the blueprint to Lambert’s career. Go back and listen to Wilson’s songs like “Redneck Woman” and you could easily picture Lambert singing these songs. Wilson has shown she is capable of producing great music, but like Lambert the amount of twang in her voice sounds almost fake. I’m sure it isn’t, but nevertheless it’s annoying. Despite their similarities though I would take Wilson over Lambert. In fact Wilson might be having the success Lambert is having right now, but Wilson peaked too late and she didn’t marry a loudmouthed tool shed another country star.

The Band Perry – This is another group that just doesn’t stand out much to me. Their singles on radio have irritated me because the hooks of those songs were quite annoying. They did improve some in my eyes recently when they performed a beautiful cover of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind” on the 2014 CMA Awards, proving they could perform real country music. I hope this performance opened up their minds and convinced them to make more traditional country music.

The Swon Brothers, Danielle Bradbery, Cassadee Pope, Gwen Sebastian – I felt it was appropriate to group all of The Voice alumni together. They all impressed me more on the show than they have with their careers after the show. Blake Shelton endorsements on Twitter don’t sell a lot of albums nor impress critics like me.

Tyler Farr – “Redneck Crazy” is horrible and a song I wish I could destroy with a sledgehammer. It was creepy, in poor taste and probably one of the worst song choices I have ever heard for an artist to start their career out with. “Whiskey in My Water” was nothing special. However I did enjoy “A Guy Walks Into a Bar” and found it to be a solid song. I also thought he did a good job with his cover on The Doobie Brothers tribute album. It feels like to me that his career is stalling out and it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if he left Nashville. He could actually be a great artist if he went out on his own. We’ll wait and see.

Brett Eldredge, Casey James, Frankie Ballard, Kristian Bush, Kelleigh Bannen – Meh.¯\_(ツ)_/¯

That’s all for part three. Be sure to check back for part four where I breakdown the D grade artists.