And they’re back: The 2014 ACM Awards air live on Sunday at 7 p.m. CST, hosted by Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan. They’re sure to be enraging or amusing, depending on your bro-country meter. In the meantime, we’ve picked and predicted the awards below – chime in with your thoughts!
Entertainer of the Year
- Luke Bryan
- Miranda Lambert
- Blake Shelton
- George Strait – KJC, TS, BF
- Taylor Swift
- Luke Bryan – KJC, TS, BF, JK
- Miranda Lambert
- Blake Shelton
- George Strait
- Taylor Swift
If this year’s singles list leaves you with a familiar feeling, it’s not your imagination. For the first time in Country Universe history, an artist has topped the year end list for two years in a row, and there are plenty of repeat appearances from CU favorites. But there are some fresh faces too, including some promising new singer-songwriters and inspired collaborations from artists we already liked an awful lot by themselves.
As always, share your thoughts and personal favorites in the comments!
“Hangin’ Up My Heart”
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Individual rankings: #3 – Leeann; #20 – Kevin
What a way for Emmylou and Rodney to kick off their much anticipated duet project! The bouncy tune shows the power duo in fine form both in voice and spunk and signals what will turn out to be one of the finest albums of the year. – Leeann Ward
Something you probably already know about us here at Country Universe: We love country music. A lot. While truly great country music has become scarce on country radio, we are fortunate to live in an age in which modern technology has made great music more accessible than ever, regardless of whether Top 40 radio dares touch it.
At the close of each year we separate the grain from the chaff, and share the music we discovered over the past year that made us glad that we stuck with our genre of choice. We at Country Universe have put our heads together to create the following lists of favorite singles and albums of 2012.
The 11th Annual Country Music Critics’ Poll has just been published by Nashville Scene. It covers the 2010 year of country music. The participants of the poll consists of country music critics who spend their time listening to and analyzing stacks of music throughout the year in order to knowledgeably write about it for the purpose of either promoting excellent music or warning against the not so good stuff. Kevin, Dan and Tara are among these prestigious critics.
Each year, invited critics submit their ballots with their favorite music and artists in the appropriate categories. The poll includes the best albums, singles, male and female artists, reissues, live acts, duos and groups, songwriters, new acts, and the over all artists of the year. While the results include the usual suspects, they are mixed with some surprises or names that aren’t commonly associated with mainstream country.
Some of my favorite results include Raul Malo tied at #8 with Gary Allan for top males and Elizabeth Cook at #2 for top females, not to mention Sunny Sweeney’s “From A Table Away” landing at the #3 spot for singles. The most amusing result, however, is Jamey Johnson and Taylor Swift in the top two spots for songwriters.
How are country artists faring? Let’s take a look at cumulative sales for current albums. Sales are rounded to the nearest hundred.
Top Selling Current Country Albums
- Taylor Swift, Fearless: 6,233,900
- Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift: 4,955,000
- Lady Antebellum, Need You Now: 3,138,700
- Taylor Swift, Speak Now: 3,078,600
- Zac Brown Band, The Foundation: 2,489,200
He started off as a new traditionalist with only his raspy voice making him distinctive. But when he embraced his California country roots, he became one of the defining male vocalists of the early 21st Century.
Gary Allan Herzberg hails from California. He grew up in a musical family, and by age thirteen, he was playing honky-tonks at night with his father. His talent was evident even at that young age, and at age fifteen, he turned down his first opportunity at a major label record deal, opting to finish school instead.
He quickly became a big draw on the local concert scene, playing to overcrowded rooms but refusing to move up to bigger venues that wouldn’t allow him to play the traditional country covers that made up a big chunk of his set. He cut some demos in a small California studio in the early nineties, and the tape caught the interest of BNA Records in Nashville. But restructuring at the label prevented him from being signed.
When you build a song around what is essentially a pun, you have to do one of two things. Either sell the pun so well that it overcomes its inherent corniness, or build such a strong song around it that the pun doesn’t make a lasting impact.
“Kiss Me When I’m Down” tries to do both, and is mostly successful. Allan sings it so well that the focus is as much on the pain in his voice as it is on the lyrics he’s singing. Plus, the title is used so infrequently that it can’t really diminish the song as a whole. But it doesn’t elevate it, either.