Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 9: #40-#21
“This Is Me You’re Talking To”
Flawless. Proof positive that the nineties formula at its best is better than anything on naughties radio. Perhaps they can’t play it too much for that reason. It’s not good for business to park a new Lexus in a used car lot of Ford Pintos. – Kevin Coyne
“Famous in a Small Town”
This is one of those slice-of-life songs that anyone from a small town can easily relate to. What sets it above the pack of songs of that ilk is the witty nugget of truth that “everybody dies famous in a small town.” The Springsteen-esque vibe of the production is pretty cool, too. – Leeann Ward (more…)
Category Decade in Review
Tags: Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton, Emerson Drive, Gary Allan, Kasey Chambers, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Old Crow Medicine Show, Radney Foster, Sara Evans, Shane Nicholson, Sheryl Crow, Transamerica, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill
Monday, February 9th, 2009
On Wednesday, February 11, the Academy of Country Music will unveil the nominees for their 44th annual awards ceremony. Last year, the usual suspects prevailed. Brad and Carrie repeated in the Vocalist categories, Brooks & Dunn claimed their 14th Vocal Duo prize and Kenny Chesney earned his fourth consecutive Entertainer of the Year award. As a prelude to the nominations announcement, here’s my projected slate for this year’s ceremony. (Favorites are in bold.)
Entertainer of the Year
- Kenny Chesney
- Brad Paisley
- Carrie Underwood
- Keith Urban
Prognosis: The “no girls allowed” edict will likely be lifted. Underwood is the genre’s most prominent ambassador, and Sugarland’s rise to the high ranks has both commercial and critical support.
Note of interest: “The winner shall be determined by a combination of votes from the membership of the ACM and viewer voting.”
Category ACM Awards
Tags: Alan Jackson, Ashton Shepherd, Big & Rich, Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, Emerson Drive, George Strait, Jake Owen, James Otto, Jamey Johnson, Joey + Rory, Keith Urban, Kellie Pickler, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Lee Ann Womack, Little Big Town, Mac McAnally, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire, Sarah Buxton, Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band
Friday, November 21st, 2008
In 2006, Emerson Drive hit the jackpot with “Moments,” a once-in-a-lifetime story song that stretched the boundaries of country radio in all the right directions. The band now resides with Valory Music Co., and their first single with the new label is “Belongs to You,” an excessively sentimental ballad that targets the “18-49 female” demographic that country radio courts with growing regularity.
The impact of lead singer Brad Mates rises and falls with the material he’s presented, and he’s unable to save this romantic song. It’s packed with standard-issue statements, with the narrator vowing that “every smile that lights (his) face” and “every single hidden place” is owned by his lady love. “Belongs to You” would blend in with the rest of radio’s saccharine love songs, but in releasing it as a single, the band settles for less than their best.
Written by Dave Berg, Rivers Rutherford & Tom Shapiro
Listen: Belongs to You
Wednesday, November 12th, 2008
This afternoon, the Country Universe staff is following up last night’s personal picks with our actual predictions about who will win tonight. Check back tonight at show time to join the live blog and mock us for our defective divinations. Less
than four hours until showtime!
- Kenny Chesney- Kevin, Leeann, Blake
- Brad Paisley – Dan
- George Strait
- Keith Urban
Kevin: BMG has to throw their weight behind either Chesney or Paisley. My hunch is they’ll back Chesney for Entertainer and Paisley for Male Vocalist.
Leeann: It’s been Chesney all this time and not much has changed to make me think it won’t be Kenny again this year.
Blake: Chesney remained steady on the concert trail and earned three #1 singles in the past year. This would be his fourth win, tying Garth Brooks for the most ever in the Entertainer lineup.
Dan: It seems somewhat foolish to bet against a Chesney repeat, but I just have a nagging feeling that the favor will be thrown in Paisley’s direction this year by voters looking to honor someone new.
Category CMA Awards
Tags: Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Big & Rich, Brad Paisley, Brent Mason, Brooks & Dunn, Carrie Underwood, Dann Huff, Eagles, Emerson Drive, George Strait, James Otto, Jason Aldean, Jerry Douglas, Josh Turner, Keith Urban, Kellie Pickler, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Mac McAnally, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, Paul Frainklin, Rascal Flatts, Rodney Atkins, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, The Wreckers, Trace Adkins, Trisha Yearwood
Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
As we gear up for tomorrow night’s CMA Awards Show, the staff of Country Universe share our personal picks in all categories. Check back tomorrow for our predictions in each category. Our third annual Live Blog will commence at the beginning of the show.
- Kenny Chesney- Blake
- Brad Paisley – Leeann, Lynn
- George Strait
- Sugarland – Kevin, Dan
- Keith Urban
Kevin: The only act in the running this year who has shown artistic, commercial and live performance growth is Sugarland, and they’ve grown by leaps and bounds. In a race with four other acts who have long since settled into their styles, they’re the only ones who are still charting new territory.
Leeann: While Paisley may not use explosions or other fancy tricks to entertain his crowds, much like Vince Gill, he keeps them mesmerized with his comedy, graphic creations, incredible guitar prowess and a catalog of engaging songs – in other words, natural talent.
Blake: Kenny Chesney is the most significant touring act in country music and a genre-crossing ambassador for both fans and fly-by-night followers.
Dan: They can’t claim Chesney’s utter domination of the road, but Sugarland have been consistent sellers in a time where the very idea of selling well feels antiquated. They’re probably the best mainstream ambassadors for the genre right now, too, with musical output that challenges commercial conventions (see “Stay”), at least sort of acknowledges country music’s traditions (again, see “Stay”), and draws creatively from other genres (see the Beyoncé duet, the high-profile covers of Dream Academy and Matt Nathanson, the mish-mashy new album).
Lynn: With natural talent, charm, good humor, humility, skills and grace, Paisley is my pick for Entertainer of the Year. He’s an asset to the genre, and manages to keep one foot in traditional country even as he branches out. Although he’s not as big of a touring act as Chesney, he’s still a huge draw, and despite all the gimmicks and gadgets in his concert, true to the genre, he keeps the music at the heart of his show.
- Kenny Chesney
- Alan Jackson – Leeann
- Brad Paisley - Blake
- George Strait – Kevin, Dan, Lynn
- Keith Urban
Leeann: With Paisley as my close second choice, Jackson has the clear, smooth voice that ultimately gets my vote. Like the man, his voice is simple but it is able to expertly capture each emotion that is needed for each song that he sings. Moreover, every note that he sings comes with incredible ease.
Blake: His attempts at humor miss the mark occasionally, and his vocal range compares little to the great voices of the genre, but Paisley, with his tremendous guitar playing and stellar songwriting executes well enough to win a second consecutive Male Vocalist honor.
Dan: They all kind of put me to sleep this year, but George did it with the strongest set of songs. Paisley will probably repeat, but I say “Strait ’08.”
Lynn: This is a tough category for me this year. I’m a fan of Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley and George Strait, but none of them really impressed me with their musical output. I’m going with Strait for keeping it country.
Kevin: All of these men have been repeatedly honored by the CMA. Collectively, they have 54 awards and 240 nominations to date. It’s been a decade since Strait took this one home, and he’s put out better music this year than both Jackson and Urban, the only other vocalists here that are in his league.
- Alison Krauss
- Miranda Lambert – Kevin, Leeann, Blake (tie), Dan, Lynn
- Martina McBride
- Taylor Swift
- Carrie Underwood – Blake (tie)
Blake: Underwood’s powerful pipes and positive contribution to the image of the genre deserve props. Likewise to Lambert’s intelligent songwriting, fearless stage attitude and feisty vocal firepower.
Dan: We’re all pretty big fans of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend here, so…yeah.
Lynn: Except for Swift, vocally this category is a toss-up, and could be decided solely on personal preference. However, if one considers the strength of material as well, this award goes to Miranda Lambert, hands down.
Kevin: Alison Krauss and Carrie Underwood are both worthy of the honor, but Miranda Lambert deserves it the most. She made the best music.
Leeann: Miranda has proven that she can sing a rocker with the necessary grit and energy to appropriate drive her up-tempo songs, but she has also demonstrated a lesser known ability to be able to sing with vulnerability and sensitivity when called upon to do so. Out of the female singers on this list, Lambert has the most interesting voice.
Category CMA Awards
Tags: Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Andy Griffith, Big & Rich, Brad Paisley, Brent Mason, Carrie Underwood, Dann Huff, Dixie Chicks, Eagles, Emerson Drive, George Strait, James Otto, Jason Aldean, Joey + Rory, Josh Turner, Keith Urban, Kellie Pickler, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, Paul Franklin, Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire, Rodney Atkins, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, The Wreckers, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill
Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
Country superstar Reba McEntire has ended her 25-year association with MCA Nashville and signed with the Valory Music Co. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The move reunites 2007 Billboard Woman of the Year McEntire with Scott Borchetta, now president & CEO of Big Machine Records and the Valory Music Co. Borchetta was senior VP of promotion at MCA Nashville during most of the ’90s.
“I am thrilled to be joining the Valory team,” McEntire says. “Scott and I worked together on some of the biggest singles of my career, and I am excited to renew our partnership.”
“It is as if a day hasn’t even passed,” Borchetta adds. “The toughest thing about leaving MCA Nashville again was leaving behind this relationship that I value so much.”
The announcement comes roughly a year after the launch of Valory. The label is home to Jewel, Emerson Drive and Jimmy Wayne, among others. Sister label Big Machine is home to Taylor Swift, Trisha Yearwood and Jack Ingram, among others. Both labels are distributed by Universal Music Distribution.
McEntire’s debut single on Valory will ship to country radio in early spring 2009, with her new studio album to follow later that summer. The artist crowned her MCA tenure with a three-disc boxed set, “50 Greatest Hits,” released late last month.
Perhaps what’s most surprising about this is that Reba’s coming off of her most successful album in years, the all-genre #1 Reba Duets. This isn’t quite on the scale of Madonna’s Live Nation deal, which also encompassed touring revenues, or Garth Brooks’ ‘take the masters with you’ approach, or even the start-your-own-label path of Toby Keith. But it’s certainly huge news that one of the biggest country stars of all-time is choosing to leave her label home of 25 years, all while still at the top of her game.
And what to say of MCA, the label that was once king of kings on Music Row? Trisha Yearwood already left, and now Reba McEntire has followed her out the door. Will George Strait and Vince Gill be far behind? Can Universal’s majors get by on Sugarland alone? What if Shania Twain crunches the numbers and realizes the label group needs her far more than she needs them, especially given their spotty record at getting her on the radio?
Perhaps the entire Music Row structure truly is the Titanic, and Sony BMG has all the first-class seats.
Tags: Emerson Drive, George Strait, Jack Ingram, Jewel, Reba McEntire, Scott Borchetta, Shania Twain, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill
Thursday, June 21st, 2007
Emerson Drive, “You Still Own Me”
So about six months ago, “Moments” was sent to radio, and after hearing it, I pretty much had to take back everything mean that I’d ever said about this band. The song blew me away, and it ended up pleasing radio as well, becoming their first #1 hit. Listening to their new single was the first time I ever spun a record by this band with anything that closely resembled expectations.
I won’t go as far as to say I’m disappointed, but there’s nothing too special going on here, either. It’s a standard mid-tempo radio-friendly country song, with a decent lyric and a satisfactory performance. In other words, acceptably pleasant filter. Given the fact that the biggest band on radio releases horrifyingly bad records in between their “moments” of brilliance, I won’t complain.
Listen: You Still Own Me
Buy: You Still Own Me