“Mean to Me”
Written by Scooter Carusoe and Brett Eldredge
Winning a major award seems as good a time as any to pay closer attention to an artist. Brett Eldredge collected his New Artist award at last week’s CMA Awards while his current hit, “Mean to Me”, was already ascending the charts.
Let’s get real here. We know going in that nothing can happen in 3 minutes and 50 seconds to make us say, “Hey, he totally deserved to win over Brandy Clark.” But “Mean to Me” does indicate that he’s a lot closer to Dierks Bentley or Kip Moore than he is to any of the interchangeable C-list acts that are singing about drinking and girls with their bare feet on the dashboard.
The 2014 CMA Awards show had more great moments than any telecast in years, pulling off the rare feat of making the genre appear far healthier and more appealing than it actually is! Here is a complete list of winners, followed by a few thoughts on the show itself.
As always, share your own thoughts in the comments!
2014 CMA Winners
Despite the Grammys and even the ACM’s demonstrating more consistent taste over the past few years, the CMA’s remain the most significant industry awards that honor country music. This year’s slate of nominees gives the organization an opportunity to build on the credibility of last year’s George Strait victory. His win for Entertainer saved a dismal show in its closing minutes.
Here’s our take on this year’s contenders:
Entertainer of the Year
- Luke Bryan
- Miranda Lambert
- Blake Shelton
- George Strait – Kevin, Jonathan, Tara, Ben
- Keith Urban
- Luke Bryan
- Miranda Lambert
- Blake Shelton
- George Strait – Jonathan, Kevin, Tara, Ben
- Keith Urban
Kevin: I’d settle for a Miranda Lambert victory, as she had an amazing year. But my first choice is George Strait, who deserves a fourth trophy for that record-breaking final concert. The rest of these nominees have either won before or still seem to have their best days ahead of them. There will never be another George Strait again.
Jonathan: The appalling sense of entitlement Jason Aldean has shown in his seemingly endless campaign of adult temper-tantrums disguised as interviews since these nominees were announced makes it all the more satisfying that the voters didn’t exclusively consider commercial and touring stats when voting for this award. I think that will likely continue with the final ballots, giving Strait the win here as a final send-off– a win that, as Kevin said, Strait’s last concert fully justifies based on even Aldean’s logic.
Tara: I have a feeling I’ll be pulling for Lambert next year, but 20 months after seeing it, I’m still high on Strait’s phenomenal farewell show. He deserves this.
Ben: Why not? Miranda will have plenty more shots at it, but this could be our last chance to see George Strait accept a CMA Entertainer of the Year trophy. Let the cowboy ride away in style.
Florida Georgia Line
Written by Cary Barlowe, Sarah Buxton, Jesse Frasure, Tyler Hubbard, and Brian Kelley
Apparently, this is the real second single from Florida Georgia Line’s new album. “Anything Goes”, which we reviewed last month, was just a promotional single to preview the album.
I didn’t think it was possible for the real second single to be worse than that record.
“Sun Daze” is much, much worse than that record.
“Somewhere in My Car”
Written by J.T. Harding and Keith Urban
First off, let’s give Keith Urban a tremendous amount of credit for his sleight of hand song craft here.
The core of “Somewhere in My Car” is another one of those “drive out late night with a girl and get a little crazy” numbers that we’ve heard a million times before. But Urban uses a clever framing device, with the protagonist being a lonely man who doesn’t want to go home, because all that’s waiting for him are the memories of when he and she were…cue “drive out late night with a girl and get a little crazy” chorus.
Written by Brandy Clark, Bob DiPiero and Shane McAnally
The most successful records Toby Keith has had lately have been about drinking or about being American. It’s easy to see the title of “Drunk Americans” and assume that Keith is stitching the two themes together in an act of cynicism.
That assumption would be wrong. Shockingly wrong, actually. I dare say that “Drunk Americans” manages to elevate both the drinking song and the patriotic song by bringing the two together. It’s so sharply written that I planned to document all those great songs Toby Keith has written lately that never got sent to radio, but amazingly, he didn’t write this one.
“‘Til it’s Gone”
Written by Rodney Clawson, David Lee Murphy, and Jimmy Yeary
There were a lot of great singer-songwriters that didn’t quite make it to stardom in the nineties, especially once the market was saturated. It’s good to see that some of the best ones are having success as writers, like David Lee Murphy, who has a hand in the latest Kenny Chesney single.
“Prize Fighter” (with Kelly Clarkson)
Written by Jessi Alexander, Sarah Buxton, and Ross Copperman
Yes, it’s been more than seven years since Trisha Yearwood has released a proper single. Yes, it was worth the wait.
“Prize Fighter” is uplifting, inspirational, and powerful. It showcases Yearwood’s still flawless voice, an instrument that is effective at every setting between whisper and shout, and is always properly calibrated to the material it delivers. It’s a credit to Kelly Clarkson that she can even keep up with Yearwood, and her contributions to the track are complementary, if not entirely necessary.
Sundown Heaven Town
Tim McGraw returning to form is the musical equivalent of reconnecting with an old friend, where spending a little time with them suddenly reminds you why you were such good friends in the first place.
Sundown Heaven Town is McGraw’s strongest album in ten years, his best since 2004’s award-winning Live Like You Were Dying, which I still consider his strongest collection to date. In the years since that collection, he’s been chasing trends more than setting them. Each album had its strong moments, but always fewer than the previous one. His simple formula – find a great song, sing it with enthusiasm, and keep the clutter in check – got lost along the way.
It’s not a coincidence that all of his recent awards attention have been for collaborations, usually with artists who hit the scene well after him. He’s been chasing trends, not setting them.
“Something in the Water”
Written by Chris DeStefano, Brett James, and Carrie Underwood
If anybody’s going to sing a song about the power of the water to cleanse your soul, it should be Carrie Underwood. Her voice and her presence on record are enough to wash country listeners’ ears clean from all the dreck we’re being assaulted with these days.
Underwood previews her upcoming hits collection by revisiting a theme that she’s explored before, but with a wisdom and maturity that can only come from life experience. “Something in the Water” shifts the transformative experience of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” into the first person, a sign, along with her co-writing credit, of how much more personal ownership she now takes over her work. So as great as that first hit was, it’s the new release that throbs with urgency and intensity, moving the spiritual experience from something philosophical into something viscerally real.