One of country music’s finest journalist has a new outlet for his talents. Chris Willman has written for Entertainment Weekly for many years and he also wrote the essential book Rednecks and Bluenecks, which explored the history of politics in country music.
One of Willman’s gifts as a writer is his ability to get artists to speak more deeply and more candidly about their craft. Thus, even an interview with an artist like John Rich, who I generally find insufferable, is still interesting. The article closes with tidbits about upcoming Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley songs, too.
The Huffington Post isn’t for everybody, so thankfully I can link directly to Chris Willman’s index page, avoiding the tabloid politics entirely. Since the man wrote my favorite line ever in a music review*, I’ll be checking it regularly for updates.
* His 2002 Shania Twain review -”Up! is like Abba Gold without all the melancholy.”
Next Tuesday will be “Grand Ole Opry” week on American Idol, and they’re bringing out the big guns. The guest mentor will be country music legend Randy Travis, who will also perform on the show. This year’s homecoming theme will also continue, as Carrie Underwood returns to perform.
This is the latest in a string of connections between Travis and Underwood. In addition to Travis inviting Underwood to join the Opry, she is currently moving quickly up the charts with a cover of “I Told You So”, a #1 hit both performed and penned by Travis.
Warner Bros. will release I Told You So, a 2-cd collection of Randy Travis hits, later this month.
You read that right. This week, the highly praised and Grammy-nominated LeAnn Rimes single “What I Cannot Change” finally reached #1 – on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart.
While the song’s admirers most certainly would have preferred it to be a #1 country single, at least the song’s being heard somewhere. Rimes is the first country artist in the chart’s history to score a #1 single. She breaks Reba McEntire’s 13-year hold on the highest charting country remix in the chart’s history. McEntire scored a #2 hit with a cover of The Supremes classic “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”
Perhaps Johnny Cash will be the next country star to top the chart.
Only three country acts are among the past year’s top moneymakers in music:
If anyone had any doubt that touring is where the money is in the music business, a quick look at the top Moneymakers for 2008 should hammer the point home.
Regardless of genre, retail sales or radio play, each of the 20 acts on Billboard’s Moneymakers list toured in 2008. (Taylor Swift mostly opened for Brad Paisley but doesn’t get credit for that revenue). For almost all of them, touring generated the most revenue. And in a year when recorded-music sales declined yet again, many earned more at the box office than ever before.
1. Madonna: $242,176,466
2. Bon Jovi: $157,177,766
3. Bruce Springsteen: $156,327,964
4. The Police: $109,976,894
5. Celine Dion: $99,171,237 6. Kenny Chesney: $90,823,990
7. Neil Diamond: $82,174,000 8. Rascal Flatts: $63,522,160
9. Jonas Brothers: $62,638,814
10. Coldplay: $62,175,555
11. The Eagles: $61,132,213
12. Lil Wayne: $57,441,334
13. AC/DC: $56,505,296
14. Michael Buble: $50,257,364
15. Miley Cyrus: $48,920,806 16. Taylor Swift: $45,588,730
17. Journey: $44,787,328
18. Billy Joel: $44,581,010
19. Mary J. Blige: $43,472,850
20. Kanye West: $42,552,402
The top five Moneymakers are also the five acts that earned the most on tour, and in the same order, according to Billboard Boxscore. Eight of the top 10 Moneymakers are in the Boxscore top 10.
I’m not surprised to see touring becoming increasingly significant as a moneymaker, but I am curious to see if any of our readers actually caught one of the shows above. I went to one, but I would’ve enjoyed seeing a few others. Just not any of the country acts.
A Peter Cooper article in today’s edition of theTennessean:
The album of the year nominees are … as yet unannounced. That’s because the Academy re-thought its prerequisite that album contenders sell at least 300,000 copies. Several of last year’s most acclaimed country albums, including Jamey Johnson’sThat Lonesome Song, did not meet the sales requirement, and ACM officials held a board meeting, waved the prerequisite and mandated a re-vote. Results of the re-vote will be announced in March.
Album rule was outdated
Romeo said it became clear during the voting process that the sales requirement in the album category had become antiquated due to changes in the way people consume music. The ACM normally uses an initial vote to take the field of album nominees down to 20, from which five finalists will be chosen. But only nine albums this year survived the 300,000 minimum.
“Does this mean country music isn’t doing business?” Romeo asked rhetorically. “No. But it means that the kind of business we’re doing is changing. It may not be albums anymore; it may be singles downloads and ring tones.”
There had been ongoing discussion and dissention centering around the ACM’s album category rules, with many holding upThat Lonesome Songas a case in point. Though it has not been a slam-dunk sales success, the album helped Johnson to two Grammy nominations, and it was Music Row’s most critically acclaimed album of 2008. Thus, Johnson’s record company argued, the album would appear to merit consideration.
“We want to be inclusive and fair, and I think this change shows that if we feel something’s not right, we’re not afraid to change it,” Romeo said.
The Academy of Country Music membership clearly made the right decision. In the last two years, the academy has shown a willingness to look beyond the charts in the Single of the Year category. Miranda Lambert’s “Famous in a Small Town,” which peaked at No. 14 in November 2007, was a losing nominee in last year’s race; this year, two No. 1 singles (“Waitin’ on a Woman” and “You’re Gonna Miss This”) are matched with Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” (No. 7), Jamey Johnson’s “In Color” (No. 10) and Heidi Newfield’s “Johnny & June” (No. 11). The Album of the Year category should recognize the most essential album released during the year, and a little technicality shouldn’t squash an album’s chance of being nominated. With the current buzz building around his career, expect Johnson to be celebrating a gold record sometime in 2009.
The Academy of Country Music announced nominees for their 44th annual awards ceremony this morning at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Julianne Hough, Kellie Pickler, Leann Rimes and Jessica Simpson were on hand to present this year’s nominees. More analysis to follow.
Two of country music’s most critically-acclaimed artists are scheduled to release new discs later this year.
While the gold-certified Crazy-Ex Girlfriend continues a formidable chart run, Miranda Lambert is finishing her third album in Nashville, tentatively set for a September release. Lambert hopes to complete recording before embarking on Kenny Chesney’s Sun City Carnival tour, where she’ll serve as an opening act starting in April. Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke return as co-producers.
Rosanne Cash is planning a fall release for her first album on Manhattan Records. Based on her father’s list of 100 essential country songs, the aptly-named The List will include a series of classics culled from his distinctive roster.
Per Cash’s website:
“…it is so liberating and so affirming of everything I’ve written and recorded to this point. You might not think that would be the case, as I am a songwriter, and have defined myself that way for my entire adult life, but this project ties all the threads together—past and future, legacy and youth, tradition, timelessness and the pull of the unknown.”
Cash’s last collection, 2006′s Black Cadillac, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Her 11 No.1 singles include “Seven Year Ache,” “Runaway Train” and the Grammy-winning “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me.”
The nominations for this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards will be announced on Wednesday, February 11, and Country Universe will have a preview next week. As announced yesterday, the blond brigade of Julianne Hough, Leann Rimes, Jessica Simpson and Kellie Pickler will read the nominations from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Academy of Country Music, Dick Clark productions and Great American Country (GAC) announced today that for the first time ever, the three newcomer categories for the Academy of Country Music Awards—Top New Female Vocalist, Top New Male Vocalist and Top New Vocal Duo or Group—will be opened up to interactive fan voting through GACTV.com. The 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards will be broadcast LIVE from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas Sunday, April 5, 2009 at 8:00 PM live ET/delayed PT on the CBS Television Network.
Fan voting for these three categories will begin at GACTV.com on Friday, February 13, and will close on Thursday, March 5. The winner in each of the three categories will be announced March 9, and will move on to compete in a brand new Academy of Country Music Awards category, Top New Artist. Voting for the Top New Artist category will begin on March 16, and will close on April 5, with the winner being announced live during the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.
The official website is cryptic regarding the validity of voting procedures. Under the Best New Artist categories, the Board of Directors state that winners will be determined by a vote of members and/or viewer voting, so the Academy could possibly have a hand in the voting in case inconsistencies arise.
The Academy’s voting criteria was called into question last year when the Entertainer of the Year award was a fan-voted affair, and today’s announcement continues the questionable practice of allowing the general public to voice their opinions for one of the industry’s highest honors. This year, the rules do explicitly state that Entertainer of the Year will be awarded based on both membership vote and fan participation.
Critics’ fave Jamey Johnson also suffers from the academy’s shortsighted criteria. Due to an absolutely archaic rule, Jamey Johnson’s That Lonesome Song (current sales: 270k at 26 weeks) is ineligible for the Album of the Year category.
The Album must have attained minimum sales of 300,000 units and/or maintained an average of 20,000 unit sales per week since release as reflected by SoundScan during the qualification period. Any album commercially released prior to the preceding calendar year, but achieving its highest charted position in any accepted country music industry publication chart and greatest commercial success during the calendar year, is eligible unless it has appeared on a final ACM ballot in this category.
Conceivably, Johnson can be nominated for Album of the Year next year. By that time, That Lonesome Song will have sold over 300,000 copies and could sneak above its current chart peak in 2009 (it debuted at No.6 in August and now rests at No. 7 on the weekly chart). Understood? With record sales dwindling due to the economy and the current technological shift within the music industry, the criteria must be changed. Unless the rule is amended, only ten albums are eligible (the latest releases from Kenny Chesney,Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum, James Otto, Darius Rucker, Sugarland, George Strait, Taylor Swift and Zac Brown Band). This is a small pool from which to determine the genre’s best album of the year. The current slate of criteria for the ACM only serves to dilute a meaningful country music milestone and forgo artistic value in favor of commercial prowess and internet savvy.
Fun fact: In its final week of eligibility for last year’s ACM Awards, Miranda Lambert’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend sold 7,894 copies for a total of 304,999 since its May 1, 2007 debut. Lambert’s sophomore set went on to best platinum-selling albums from Kenny Chesney, Rodney Atkins, Taylor Swift and Brad Paisley to claim the ACM award for Album of the Year.As of February 7, 2009, the album has sold 679,391 copies and remains the second-oldest album on the Country Albums chart (Taylor Swift’s Taylor Swift).
Roy Clark, Barbara Mandrell and legendary session musician Charlie McCoy are the newest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame, as announced this morning in a press conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
Roy Clark, one of country music’s greatest ambassadors, served as the co-host of the popular syndicated show, Hee Haw and regularly appeared on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show and numerous other television programs. The 1973 CMA Entertainer of the Year and a 1987 Grand Ole Opry inductee, Clark’s hits include “I Never Picked Cotton,” “Tips of My Fingers” and “Yesterday When I Was Young.” In 1983, he opened the first theatre in Branson, Mo., firmly establishing the Midwest town as an entertainment mecca.
Barbara Mandrell also starred on the small screen with her early-80s variety show Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters, a showcase for her glitzy, glamorous performing style. A two-time CMA female vocalist of the year, Mandrell was only the third female artist to win the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year award (1980). Her hits include “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed,” “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” and “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right.”
A member of Nashville’s “A Team” of studio musicians, Grammy-winning Charlie McCoy is Music City’s most-recorded harmonica player, with credits including Tom T. Hall’s “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and Mandrell’s “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” He served as a musical producer on Hee Haw and a studio musician for Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson cleaned up at the 37th CMAA Country Music Awards of Australia this past week. The couple acquired five Golden Guitar trophies, winning Album of the Year (Rattlin’ Bones), APRA Song of the Year, Video Clip of the Year, Single of the Year (“Rattlin’ Bones”) and Top Selling Album of the Year.
Other winners include Melinda Schneider & Paul Kelly for Vocal Collaboration of the Year (“Still Here”), the sisterly trio The McClymonts for Group or Duo of the Year, Adam Brand for Male Vocalist of the Year and Catherine Britt for Female Vocalist of the Year.