Lionel Richie’s new country duets project, set for a March 27 release, sounds like the kind of thing that could either go very right (Jennifer Nettles, “Hello”) or very wrong (Rascal Flatts “Dancing On the Ceiling,” anyone?). We get a taste of the new project with this re-working of Richie’s classic pop duet with Diana Ross, “Endless Love,” sung this time as a duet with Shania Twain.
First, the bad news: It’s too long. The first three minutes sound lovely, but the song reaches an overdramatic climax that goes on longer than it should. Also, the pop-flavored backbeat sounds a bit gaudy – You get over it after a few listens, but the single would be better without it. Still, the biggest problem is swelling production that attempts to lend drama to the performance, but instead beats the listener over the head with needless distraction. The production problems are mostly confined to the final minute of the song, but they still lessen the song’s impact instead of adding to it.
Now the good news: Though filling the shoes of Diana Ross is certainly no easy task, Twain acquits herself more than adequately. Richie for his part still sounds great, but ultimately the star is Twain. Twain’s performance is colored with a deep sense of longing, recalling the finest love ballads of her own hitmaking heyday, such as “Forever and For Always,” with the two voices melding together beautifully on the harmonies.
The song had so much going in its favor. It’s extremely irritating that it’s bogged down by production that gets so stupidly loud and over-the-top. It would have been better if the production had stayed completely out of the way, and given the two vocalists more room to sell the song with their fanstastic performances. Overall, this is still an enjoyable duet, but considering they spend the latter part of the song just shouting to be heard, it does fall a degree short of reaching its full potential.
Is there anyone left in Nashville with a functioning memory of country music?
Trisha Yearwood put out “Georgia Rain” in 2005. This is almost the same song. The theme, storyline, geography, and even the weather are all identical.
The only differences? It’s not written as well or sung as well. Not even close.
Helpful hint to all aspiring female singers: Don’t get in the ring with Trisha Yearwood. The very best female vocalists on radio today – Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Jennifer Nettles – they shouldn’t get in the ring with Trisha Yearwood, unless they really are on the top of their game.
“Georgia Rain” isn’t even Trisha Yearwood at the top of her game. It’s one of her less notable singles. But wow, does it wipe the floor with Joanna Smith and her “Georgia Mud.”
Then again, if I’m the only one who even remembers “Georgia Rain”, Smith has nothing to worry about. With the tasteful arrangement that is identifiably country, she might even be hailed as a visionary. At least it’s not a rock record, right?
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 4: #140-#121
#140 “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”
Bon Jovi featuring Jennifer Nettles
Packed as country music has been lately with rocked-up little singalongs, perhaps it was only natural that one of the leading bands in rocked-up little singalongs should cross over for a bit to show everybody how it’s done. It was newcomer Nettles, though, who stole this show, driving Bon Jovi’s ditty home with an infectiously joyful performance. – Dan Milliken
“God’s Gonna Cut You Down”
Peak: Did not chart
The arrangement is cool enough, but it’s Cash’s stoic, slicing vocal performance that makes his version of this song so memorable. – Tara Seetharam (more…)
Carrie Underwood is the top winner of the inaugural Country Universe Reader’s Choice Awards, earning first place in all four of the races in which she was eligible. In addition to being named Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist, her #1 hit “Just a Dream” won for Single and Music Video.
Also popular with readers this past year were:
- Sugarland, who won Vocal Duo/Group by the widest margin of any of the winners, and placed second for Artist and Album. Additionally, lead singer Jennifer Nettles placed second for Songwriter.
- Jamey Johnson, who won for Songwriter, and placed second in the Male Vocalist race. His hit “In Color” came in third in both the Single and Music Video races, and he also placed third in the Artist race.
- Brad Paisley, who won easily for Male Vocalist and came in second for Music Video with “Waitin’ on a Woman.”
- Patty Loveless, who topped both Sugarland and Lee Ann Womack to finish first in the Album race.
Among up-and-comers, Lady Antebellum and Joey+ Rory proved most popular, finishing first and second in the Rising Star race and second and third in the Vocal Duo/Group Race. Lee Ann Womack and Trisha Yearwood also did well, with both women placing behind Underwood in the Female Vocalist race. Yearwood’s hit “This is Me You’re Talking To” placed second for Single, and Womack’s Call Me Crazy finished third behind Loveless and Sugarland for Album. And with wide disagreement in the Songwriter race beyond Johnson and Nettles, the red-hot Taylor Swift makes her only appearance on the list, placing third.
Our five winners of the Album Giveaway each received an Amazon Mp3 Gift Certificate for the cost of the album they chose from the various top ten lists of our writers. The winners, and the albums they selected:
Araceli Pinto Corrales – Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy
Andrew Lacy – Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights
Zachary Jodlowski – Joey + Rory, The Life of a Song
Michael Kattman – Reckless Kelly, Bulletproof
Laura Britton – Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, Rattlin’ Bones
Thanks to all of you who voted, and everyone else for your loyal readership! Read on for the winners, along with the editors’ choices in each category. Percentages reflect the total amount of points received, with the maximum possible percentage of 50%, which would require a first-place vote on every ballot.
If you didn’t submit a ballot this time around, share your preferences in the comments!
Although the question and ensuing discussion regarding whether a certain artist “is country enough” has generally gotten old, discussing “what is country music” has not…nor should it ever. In order for the genre to thrive, and indeed to survive, discussion about the history, significance and boundaries of the genre is important. (Hey, that’s why we’re here!)
I generally have a broad view of what encompasses country music. I believe all of the so-called sub-genres of country music (e.g., bluegrass, alt-country, red dirt music, pop-country, classic country, Bakersfield country, Texas country, americana, etc.), in their infinite variety, are not only within the boundaries of country music, but are extremely important. The genre needs to continue to stretch and grow and test its limits in order to stay, not only relevant, but interesting. Let’s be honest, as much as it pains me to say, there is such a thing as too much bluegrass. So, in between healthy doses of bluegrass, it’s good (and necessary) to throw in a pinch of rockin’ country from Texas, some tangy country from Bakersfield and some good old-fashioned wailin’ from the hills of Tennessee.
However, despite my country radar and inclusive nature, it’s not always so easy to determine the line between country and something entirely different. The idea for this particular discussion initially came to me when I was putting together my end-of-the-year lists for 2008. I definitely struggled this year with whether or not certain albums even fell into a sub-genre of country. Could I include them? I internally argued,”Well, this one has a banjo and fiddle; that lead singer has a southern accent; the songwriting on this one is phenomenal…they don’t do that in pop or rock.” I went round and round and eventually ended up rationalizing a lot of my picks. (If people can say Taylor Swift is country, then I can certainly say that Bob Dylan is country…right?)
So, I’m going to pick your brains and see what you think makes country music country. I’ve put together six videos from six well-known female singers. Disregarding preconceived notions about the artists themselves and the remainder of their work, here’s my question (in the vein of those truly awful multiple choice questions with no right or wrong answer):
Although they all obviously have a toe in country, which of the performances below do you consider the MOST country? And why? (Was it the voice, the song, the performance?)
10:57 If I was a petty man, I’d be gloating about out-predicting all of my co-writers at Country Universe. Wait a minute. I am a petty man. I won! Yes! I won! This country universe is mine. Y’all just live in it. Suckers. (Except for you Leeann. You didn’t get all up in my grill, talking smack before the throwdown. You’re cool.)
10:56 ENTERTAINER – Kenny Chesney
10:54 Standing O for Shania. Good God, she’s beautiful. Welcome home.
10:50 So the only artist I see live who charges Eagles prices is Madonna, and I have to say that if she just stood there and growled, I’d feel ripped off. Come on, guys. Slap on some heels. Throw in some synchronized dancing. Jump some rope. Rub up against something. You’re supposed to be legends.
10:49 Dan:Once again, a washed up rock act gives us one of the better performances of the night. I like the Eagles, but that’s sad.
10:48 You know it’s bad when you’re hoping that Shania’s the surprise guest because you want to see some real country stars.
10:46 Paisley’s right about that. The Eagles have a lot more to do with country music today than most seventies country stars.