Country music is well represented in the major categories – numerically, at least – and the overall nominee list proves once again that NARAS voters have the widest, most diverse, and yes, best taste of all industry award voters.
Here are this year’s nominees in the big four and all country and country-related categories. It’s worth noting that because Miranda Lambert won Best Country Album last year for Platinum, nothing from that set was eligible in any of the Country categories.
“Little Toy Guns” Carrie Underwood Written by Chris DeStefano, Hillary Lindsey, and Carrie Underwood With her latest single, Carrie Underwood once again reaffirms that she is among the best and most compelling artists of modern country music. A depiction of verbal and emotional abuse on an epic scale, “Little Toy Guns” captures a truth not often talked about: that domestic violence can wound and scar without ever once raising a hand or breaking the skin, and can cause lasting collateral damage beyond even its intended target.
“Girl Crush” Little Big Town Written by Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, and Liz Rose Beyond their lush four-part harmonies and their incorporation of Fleetwood Mac’s influence into the country idiom, perhaps Little Big Town’s greatest talent is choosing singles that completely sabotage their momentum at radio. They’ve followed up a top 10 hit with another top 10 exactly twice in thirteen years, and it’s almost unfathomable that “Girl Crush,” the second single from Pain Killer, will receive a warm reception in the current radio climate. That’s a shame, really, since it’s one of the band’s strongest efforts.
“Shotgun Rider” Tim McGraw Written by Marv Green, Hillary Lindsey, and Troy Verges Tim McGraw’s been getting his groove back lately. Much of his new album, Sundown Heaven Town, recalls the sound of his biggest turn-of-the-century hits without sounding dated. “Shotgun Rider” is a great example of this, having that wistful, floating on air quality that made “Just to See You Smile” and “For a Little While” so infectious. Sure, he’s singing about riding around town in his truck with a pretty girl. Hardly groundbreaking lyrical territory these days.
Pretty Little Liars actress turned country newcomer Lucy Hale cites Shania Twain and Martina McBride as major musical influences, and to a degree it’s perceptible on her debut single “You Sound Good to Me.” The track begins with a light, airy fiddle hook, and segues into an effervescent uptempo pop-country love song with an atypically sparse production arrangement by country radio standards (murky background vocals aside).