Just kidding! No, as many a frustrated country fan would expect, the famed music magazine’s Best of 2008 lists adhere to same unspoken code that seems to have been in effect there for the past few years, whereby any country artists included typically fit one of the following “excusable” models:
- The Un-Ignorable and Somewhat Guilty-Pleasure-ish Commercial Wizard
- The Critically Adored Mainstream Act Who is Ignored or Otherwise Underappreciated by Mainstream Fans
- Lucinda Williams
You can probably guess how the three slots are filled out this year: Taylor Swift’s unapologetic teen pop slides into the first (Carrie Underwood found her way in last year with “Before He Cheats”), Jamey Johnson into the second (which was Miranda Lambert’s last year and the Dixie Chicks’ in 2006), and then there’s that third (which repeats itself from last year).
It’s a bit of a shame to see things so limited, really, since Rolling Stone remains (in my opinion and Blake’s, at least) one of the better sources out there for insightful reviews of just about any other genre. What little the magazine and others like it do say about country is pretty dang influential on public opinion of the genre, too; Chet Flippo got 70’s rock fans into the Outlaw Movement as a Rolling Stone senior editor, and you can bet that the well-studied non-country fan knows who Miranda Lambert is after seeing her name thrown around like a golden, cancer-curing frisbee over the past year-plus.
There is one semi-surprise among the Singles list, at least: Lee Ann Womack has been cited for “Last Call” at a surprisingly decent #52, with the staff even dubbing it an “instant classic.” Aww. Womack admittedly fits the second “model” mentioned above with Johnson, but given that her set didn’t receive nearly as much critical love as his this year, it’s a bit of a pleasant shock to see her represented at all.
Of course, it’s nothing too unexpected from there: Williams’, Johnson’s, and Swift’s latest studio offerings come in at #18, #32, and #39, respectively, on the 50-strong Albums list. Likewise, all three artists appear on the 100-strong Singles list (where “singles” appears to be something of a relative term, since only Williams’ was actually released as such), with Johnson clocking in at #38 with “High Cost of Living” (the sort of song, it should be said, Rolling Stone goes gaga for), Swift at #46 with “Fifteen,” and Williams at #95 with “Real Love.”