Jennifer Nettles (Sugarland)
One of the strongest female voices to emerge in the past few years was already a fixture on the local music scene in Atlanta, long before she broke through as the lead singer of Sugarland. Jennifer Nettles got her start back in college, when she was the lead singer for the band Soul Miner’s Daughter. They released two independent albums, leading to a slot performing at Lilith Fair back in 1999.
But it was when she teamed up with fellow Atlanta musicians Kristian Bush and Kristen Hall to form Sugarland that Nettles broke through. Then a trio, they quietly released their debut album Twice the Speed of Life. While their label was putting most of their effort behind Julie Roberts, their first single “Baby Girl” began a slow and steady climb to #2, finally reaching that peak after nearly a year.
Nettles’ fiery vocal on their next single, “Something More”, pushed their album sales through the roof. Kristen Hall exited the band as the spotlight began to focus more on Nettles. With Sugarland now a duo, Nettles and Bush began work on their sophomore album. But first, Nettles did a guest vocal on Bon Jovi’s Have a Nice Day album. Released as a single, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” was a #1 country hit, enough of a reason for Bon Jovi to think they could pull off a country album. Nettles won her first Grammy for the collaboration.
It was looking like their sophomore album, Enjoy the Ride, would be little more than a holding pattern, even though the first two singles – “Want To” and “Settlin'” became Sugarland’s first #1 hits. Sales were respectable, but they skyrocketed with the release of “Stay.” Featuring Nettles singing over a sparse acoustic guitar, her achingly vulnerable performance was accentuated by an intimate video that pulled no punches.
The duo ended up winning the CMA Vocal Duo of the Year award in 2007, their first year of eligibility. As a sign of Nettles’ increasingly visible versatility, they shared the American Music Awards stage a few days later with Beyoncé, singing a duet version of the R&B superstar’s signature hit, “Irreplaceable.”
As Sugarland prepares their third album, Nettles currently enjoys the status of one of country music’s most prominently successful female artists. Sugarland is already the most successful female-led duo country music has seen since The Judds, with her share of the talent comparable to Wynonna’s, it’s fair to say. As she is one of the faces of country music’s present and future, she’s the perfect lady to kick off this list.
- “Something More” (Sugarland) , 2005
- “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” (Bon Jovi featuring Jennifer Nettles), 2005
- “Want To” (Sugarland), 2006
- “Stay” (Sugarland), 2007
- Twice the Speed of Life (Sugarland), 2004 (2x platinum)
- ACM Top New Vocal Duet/Group, 2006
- ACM Single of the Year (“Stay”), 2008
- ACM Song of the Year (“Stay”), 2008
- CMA Vocal Duo of The Year, 2007
- Grammy, Best Country Vocal Collaboration, 2007