Miranda Lambert, Brandy Clark, Margo Price, and Sturgill Simpson had the best albums of 2016, according to the annual Nashville Scene survey of country music critics. In addition to those Country Universe favorites, critics also embraced the Dixie Chicks, who charted high on the list of Best Duo/Group and Best Live Act, and ranked well among the year’s best singles for their “Daddy Lessons” collaboration with Beyoncé.
Country Universe writers Jonathan Keefe and Tara Seetharam voted in this year’s poll, and two of Keefe’s comments were showcased as well.
Here’s Keefe on “Different for Girls” and “Vice”:
“Different for Girls” is three embarrassing minutes’ worth of mansplaining in which J.T. Harding, Shane McAnally and Dierks Bentley try to prove their sensitivity and empathy by rattling off a list of antediluvian gender stereotypes that deny women’s agency. So, of course, it was a No. 1 hit while Miranda Lambert’s “Vice,” which plays out as a direct rebuttal, stalled at No. 11.
Did the popular press overstate the country influence on the version of “Daddy Lessons” from Lemonade? Certainly. Country signifiers figure into the song, but not as prominently as, say, Dixieland jazz. But the collaboration between Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks on both their live and studio versions of the track greatly magnifies its country influences, to the extent that it works flawlessly when they interpolate the bridge from “Long Time Gone,” the Dixie Chicks’ rootsiest and best single. Did Beyoncé deserve consideration for Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMAs based solely on “Daddy Lessons”? Absolutely not. But if the studio recording of the collaborative version of “Daddy Lessons” were to figure into the Grammy nominations in either the Country or American Roots fields, that would be well-deserved.
Also worth checking out is the cover story and interview with Brandy Clark:
“Right before I moved to Nashville, women were all over country radio,” Clark says. “Now, not so much. That was one of my favorite times in country music: when Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Kathy Mattea were all getting played. I don’t know how we went from that to just two women on the radio. There’s definitely a disparity there. But I feel we’re inching back to where we belong.
“All we can do as women is write the best possible song,” Clark says. “If it gets played on the radio, great. If it doesn’t, at least the critics will be flag-wavers for it. You guys are really helpful to someone like me. I’ve had some radio play, but not a lot. But now that all the year-end stuff is coming out, a big light is shining on the album. People see these year-end lists and say, ‘Maybe I should check that out.’ ”