Tag Archives: Julianne Hough

Producing the CMAs

This is a guest contribution by regular commenter, Michael Hawkins, who posts as Highwayman3.

CMAThe movies have the Oscars, the world of music has the Grammys, and that world subdivided into the country genre has the CM’s—the annual extravaganza that we fans look forward to every year. We see our favorites perform, win awards and lose with smiling gracious faces, or not [insert the inevitable Faith Hill reference here]. Everyone picks their favorites in each category as to who they’d like to win. But what about the show itself, the backdrop for which these prestigious awards are presented?

Recently, there have been posts at both The 9513 and on this site where people have been weighing in on their favorite moments from these awards. It occurred to me that none of those moments have happened in the last few years. The awards have slid into mediocrity, which is a fitting representation of the current state of country music. I understand producing these awards must be tough because you have to be everything to everyone, and acknowledge the traditional country, the Disney country, the old and new alike, and bring in people who don’t belong for the sake of ratings.

What’s wrong with the show?

The awards themselves seem like an after thought, filler in between all the endless performances. The main suspense isn’t who wins, but rather, how many performances the producers can fit in 3 hours. Also, it’s become an award show that is ashamed of its roots, barely mentioning who is inducted into the Hall of Fame. Any artist with the slightest sign of a wrinkle, regardless of their legend status is shunned and hidden in the audience next to seat fillers and radio contest winners. It’s an award show with self esteem issues, not cool enough to stand on its own. You can bet the main attraction used to promote this year’s show will be a non-country performer like Kid Rock, The Eagles of last year, and Jamie Foxx of two years ago.

What can be done?

Well, the first order of business would be for the Sommet Center to take out a one day restraining order from Miley Cyrus on November 11, 2009, or better yet, the whole Cyrus family, Billy Ray, Noah, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Yes, she’ll bring in ratings, but we’ve gotten along fine without her for 40 plus years.

The CMA’s need to take a cue from  the Grammy awards, or even the American Idol finale. There are so many surprises, legends, moving moments, coming at you, left right and center, you don’t know what’s coming next, all you know is you’re in for the ride, you’re loving every second and you’re talking about it the next day. Last year, the biggest surprise was Shania Twain presenting Entertainer of the Year, which she has done at least 3 times before, and to those who keep up on country news, it was hardly a surprise at all.

What can possibly be done to make the night more entertaining?

How about taking a cue from this yearis Academy Awards and only announce a handful of performers, leaving the rest a mystery? Don’t tell us who and what everyone’s performing, which leaves more room for surprises. Also, like the Oscars, don’t announce who is presenting, and before each award have a mini-montage of past winners. Then at the end, the curtain opens and a surprise past winner comes out and shares insights on their winning experience. Instead of the otherwise cheesy dialogue or weird presenter pairings, it would make more sense if they just brought out Trisha Yearwood for Female Vocalist, Vince for Male, The Judds for Duo, Alabama forGroup, and hand it off to the winner like an Olympic torch or rite of passage. This way of thinking would work out great for the Entertainer of the Year category, in bringing out past winners, Roy Clark, and Barbara Mandrell, who also happen to be this year’s Hall of Fame inductees.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, I would prefer it if it went back to how it used to be with a taped bio and artists performing a medley of hits. But even that is too much to ask. If they are going to cut it out entirely, the least they could do is show 3 separate 30-60 second bios of each of the inductees at different times as they are going to commercial and have them wave from the audience. Or, from the paragraph above, show a taped piece just before Barbara and Roy present Entertainer.

The most boring parts of the show are seeing full performances from all the mundane hits of the past year. Was it necessary for Darius Rucker to perform “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” last year when he wasn’t nominated? Yes, it’s necessary for the biggest hits to be performed, but does every top 5 hit of the past year have to be sung? Instead, encourage them to sing unique songs, like Alan Jackson in 2005 performing, “Wonderful Tonight”, songs you’ll actually remember more than 5 minutes after they are performed. Another idea, which the Grammys have down pat, is pairing people up. Think of the Al Green, Keith Urban, Justin Timberlake and Boys 2 Men grouping of earlier this year. For the CMA’s, this would be a perfect year to acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the hat act boom of 89. Why not bring out Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Garth Brooks, and Travis Tritt for a small medley?

Instead of each of the new artist nominees performing their full songs – do we really want to see Julianne Hough performing a full version of her song this year? –  it would be great if they stole from the ACM’s all-star opener this year, and did the same thing with the 5 nominees. Lady Antebellum can be the ring leader like Brooks & Dunn were at the ACMs, and they all can perform a small portion of their hits. To wrap it up, Lady Antebellum can present the award. This will allow more time for the Collaboration and Video of the year awards to be back on the telecast.

If you ran the CMAs, thinking creatively but realistically, which special moments would you create that could go down in history and make country’s biggest night more fun to watch? How would you make George Strait’s performance less predictable? And how would you measure that Miley restraining order? In inches, feet, yards, or miles?

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Filed under CMA Awards, Guest Commentary

Picking the CMA Nominees: Female Vocalist

As I work my way through these categories, it’s becoming apparent to me that this was a very weak year for country music. I’m struggling to come up with a list of five women who actually made a musical impact over the twelve months that make up the eligibility period.

Only two women have made any serious commercial impact this year, so I’m filling up the category with the women who put out solid music that also did reasonably well:

Patty Loveless

If the Grammys can acknowledge her, I don’t see why the CMA should overlook her. She made an excellent covers album that has sold as well as several major label efforts.  She was a surprise nominee in 2003 on the strength of Mountain Soul, and it would be nice to see the CMA show such good judgment again.

Dolly Parton

Also a surprise nominee in 2003, and very worthy of returning to the lineup this year. Not only did she sell out venues across Europe, she also earned a Tony nomination for Best Score.

Oh, and that independent album she released on her own label last year? It’s sold twice as much as the latest albums from Martina McBride and Lee Ann Womack, and outsold the albums of such radio staples as Trace Adkins, Montgomery Gentry, and Blake Shelton.

Taylor Swift

Let’s just say it now so we can be spared it being said over and over again in the comments:

Taylor Swift shouldn’t win a vocalist award because she can’t sing!

I understand this argument. After all, the same is true for Kenny Chesney and Shania Twain, who won Entertainer of the Year but not their respective vocalist awards. But they were still nominated, and rightfully so. You can’t tell the story of women in country music in 2009 without including Taylor Swift.

Carrie Underwood

Does she deserve to join the illustrious ranks of four-time winners in this category? You betcha. Given that Underwood’s a happy medium between Reba McEntire’s country-pop and Martina McBride’s power balladeering, she seems to fit in perfectly.

Oh, and if it seems too soon for Underwood to be in the same league as McEntire, remember that Reba wasn’t a superstar when she won those four trophies. She didn’t even earn a platinum album until two years after her winning streak ended.

Lee Ann Womack

Why Lee Ann Womack, and not Miranda Lambert? Each had a moody single go top twenty this year, but Lambert’s was off of an album released during the 2007 eligibility period.

Why Lee Ann Womack, and not Martina McBride?  Their albums have sold in similar numbers, but Womack’s was a good deal better.

Why Lee Ann Womack and not Julianne Hough or Kellie Pickler? If you’re asking that question, you must be new to Country Universe.

What five women do you think should be nominated for Female Vocalist this year?

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Filed under CMA Awards

Album Sales Update: July 2009

It’s time for an album sales update, our first since May 23.   Brad Paisley is off to a strong start with American Saturday Night, selling 130k in its first week. That’s about 70k less than his previous two studio albums – Time Well Wasted and 5th Gear – opened with, but not a terrible drop-off, considering the state of the music market.

Meanwhile, the new studio albums by Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban are slowing down considerably, now being outpaced on a weekly basis by 2008 releases by Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band, Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum.

Among younger acts with a new album in 2009, the most impressive sales are coming from Jason Aldean, while 2008 releases from Kellie Pickler, Billy Currington, and Randy Houser are showing new signs of life.

Biggest disappointments? It’s hard not to look in the direction of Martina McBride, who has barely cleared the 100k mark on her new studio set.  Lee Ann Womack’s 2008 set just made it over that mark, too.  Then again, one only needs to have sold 455 copies to make the chart this week, with the anchor position going to Wynonna with that total. Her covers album Sing – Chapter 1 has sold 41k to date.

Here are the latest totals for albums released over the past three years that are still charting:

2009

  • Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable – 842,000
  • Keith Urban, Defying Gravity – 452,000
  • Jason Aldean, Wide Open – 384,000
  • Kenny Chesney, Greatest Hits II – 281,000
  • Dierks Bentley, Feel That Fire – 219,000
  • Martina McBride, Shine – 104,000
  • John Rich, Son of a Preacher Man – 103,000
  • Eric Church, Carolina – 94,000
  • Rodney Atkins, It’s America – 88,000
  • Jake Owen, Easy Does It – 81,000
  • Randy Travis, I Told You So: Ultimate Hits – 78,000
  • Montgomery Gentry, For Our Heroes – 64,000
  • Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel, Willie & The Wheel – 56,000
  • Steve Earle, Townes – 47,000
  • Colt Ford, Ride Through the Country – 45,000
  • Jason Michael Carroll, Growing Up is Getting Old – 45,000
  • Wynonna, Sing – Chapter 1 – 41,000
  • Hank Williams Jr. – 127 Rose Avenue – 34,000
  • Ryan Bingham, Roadhouse Sun – 15,000
  • Tracy Lawrence, Rock – 11,000
  • Darryl Worley, Sounds Like Life – 8,000
  • Holly Williams, Here With Me – 5,000
  • Charlie Robison, Beautiful Day – 3,000
  • Tanya Tucker, My Turn – 3,000

2008

  • Taylor Swift, Fearless – 3,464,000
  • Sugarland, Love on the Inside – 1,683,000
  • George Strait, Troubadour – 914,000
  • Alan Jackson, Good Time – 869,000
  • Darius Rucker, Learn to Live – 754,000
  • Kenny Chesney, Lucky Old Sun – 721,000
  • Zac Brown Band, Foundation – 681,000
  • Rascal Flatts, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 – 680,000
  • Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum – 674,000
  • Toby Keith, 35 Biggest Hits – 652,000
  • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – 509,000
  • Toby Keith, That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy – 403,000
  • James Otto, Sunset Man – 374,000
  • Julianne Hough, Julianne Hough – 314,000
  • Kellie Pickler, Kellie Pickler – 261,000
  • Dierks Bentley, Greatest Hits – 255,000
  • Brad Paisley, Play – 247,000
  • Dolly Parton, Backwoods Barbie – 208,000
  • Tim McGraw, Greatest Hits Vol. 3 – 206,000
  • Billy Currington, Little Bit of Everything – 191,000
  • Trace Adkins, X – 185,000
  • Montgomery Gentry, Back When I Knew it All – 184,000
  • Joey + Rory, Life of a Song – 167,000
  • Blake Shelton, Startin’ Fires – 165,000
  • Eli Young Band, Jet Black and Jealous – 108,000
  • Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy – 102,000
  • Craig Morgan, Greatest Hits – 81,000
  • Hank Williams III, Damn Right Rebel Proud – 80,000
  • Randy Houser, Anything Goes – 79,000
  • Lost Trailers, Holler Back – 69,000

2006-2007

  • Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift – 4,129,000
  • Carrie Underwood, Carnival Ride – 2,918,000

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Filed under Crunching the Numbers, News

Album Sales Update

Here are the latest totals for albums released over the past three years that are still charting:

2009

  • Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable – 669,000
  • Keith Urban, Defying Gravity – 349,000
  • Jason Aldean, Wide Open – 241,000
  • Dierks Bentley, Feel That Fire – 189,000
  • Martina McBride, Shine – 89,000
  • John Rich, Son of a Preacher Man – 89,000
  • Rodney Atkins, It’s America – 72,000
  • Jake Owen, Easy Does It – 70,000
  • Eric Church, Carolina – 66,000
  • Randy Travis, I Told You So: Ultimate Hits – 59,000
  • Randy Rogers Band, Randy Rogers Band – 57,000
  • Pat Green, What I’m For – 54,000
  • Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel, Willie & The Wheel – 50,000
  • Billy Ray Cyrus, Back to Tennessee – 29,000
  • Jason Michael Carroll, Growing Up is Getting Old – 26,000
  • Dean Brody, Dean Brody – 5,000

2008

  • Taylor Swift, Fearless – 3,220,000
  • Sugarland, Love on the Inside – 1,594,000
  • George Strait, Troubadour – 860,000
  • Alan Jackson, Good Time – 803,000
  • Keith Urban, Greatest Hits – 737,000
  • Kenny Chesney, Lucky Old Sun – 696,000
  • Darius Rucker, Learn to Live – 642,000
  • Rascal Flatts, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 – 642,000
  • Toby Keith, 35 Biggest Hits – 630,000
  • Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum – 572,000
  • Zac Brown Band, Foundation – 511,000
  • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – 438,000
  • Toby Keith, That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy – 384,000
  • James Otto, Sunset Man – 368,000
  • Julianne Hough, Julianne Hough – 309,000
  • Dierks Bentley, Greatest Hits – 244,000
  • Brad Paisley, Play – 238,000
  • Jewel, Perfectly Clear – 226,000
  • Kellie Pickler, Kellie Pickler – 216,000
  • Dolly Parton, Backwoods Barbie – 199,000
  • Heidi Newfield, What am I Waiting For? – 197,000
  • Tim McGraw, Greatest Hits Vol. 3 – 196,000
  • Trace Adkins, X – 174,000
  • Montgomery Gentry, Back When I Knew it All – 173,000
  • Blake Shelton, Startin’ Fires – 152,000
  • Joey + Rory, Life of a Song – 152,000
  • Billy Currington, Little Bit of Everything – 133,000
  • Chuck Wicks, Starting Now – 129,000
  • Jimmy Wayne, Do You Believe Me Now – 127,000
  • Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy – 94,000
  • Eli Young Band, Jet Black and Jealous – 92,000
  • Hank Williams III, Damn Right Rebel Proud – 76,000
  • Craig Morgan, Greatest Hits – 73,000
  • Lost Trailers, Holler Back – 65,000
  • Randy Houser, Anything Goes – 58,000

2006-2007

  • Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift – 4,129,000
  • Carrie Underwood, Carnival Ride – 2,852,000
  • Trace Adkins, Greatest Hits Vol. 2 – 627,000

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Filed under Crunching the Numbers

ACM Winners and Live Blog

acm-awards

WINNERS:

ENTERTAINER: Carrie Underwood

ALBUM: Taylor Swift, Fearless

SINGLE: “You’re Gonna Miss This” – Trace Adkins

FEMALE VOCALIST: Carrie Underwood

MALE VOCALIST: Brad Paisley

VOCAL DUO: Sugarland

TOP NEW ARTIST: Julianne Hough

VOCAL GROUP: Rascal Flatts

SONG: “In Color” – Jamey Johnson

LIVE BLOG:

11:00 Wonderful ending to a pretty good night!

10:59 ENTERTAINER: Carrie Underwood!!!

10:57 Matt and Jamie Foxx should co-host next year.

10:56 Matthew M. was the “Walkaway Joe” in Trisha’s video from 1992.

10:54 The show got better as it went on. I’ve really enjoyed most of the later performances.

10:49 This is the best I’ve heard Rascal Flatts in a very long time. I would buy this song arranged and performed like this.

10:47 Not much in the way of multiple winners tonight, at least in the marquee categories. Brad Paisley has 3 (Male, Video, Vocal Event), Julianne Hough has 2 (New Artist, New Female Artist.)

10:45 ALBUM: Taylor Swift, Fearless (Leeann has to be far ahead by now)

10:42 Blake got Brad Paisley’s slot, I think. Good to hear him. I like this song.

10:36 Who will win Female Vocalist? You need a better teaser than that. Who’s in charge of the clips here?

10:35 SINGLE: “You’re Gonna Miss This” – Trace Adkins  (His first industry award since winning ACM Top New Male Vocalist twelve years ago.)

10:34 Anybody else lose sound?

10:33 She’s getting a Crystal Milestone award for winning an award last year? Really?

10:30 I really need to see them live. If they’re this good on award shows, they must be amazing with their own audience.

10:29 Jennifer Nettles attended Keith Urban’s charisma workshop.

10:28 Reba just said “Any-hoo.”

10:22 The contrast in phrasing between Adkins and the choir is jarring. But Good Lord, this is the best song of the night.

10:19 Amazing how war songs are timeless, even when they describe wars from long ago.

10:15 FEMALE VOCALIST: Carrie Underwood

10:13 She’s getting lost in the mix, but from what I can hear, it’s like “For My Broken Heart” with a brighter morning.

10: 12 New Reba. Good so far.

10:07 Little Jimmy Dickens got served.

10:05 MALE VOCALIST: Brad Paisley

10:04 None of these guys are really at the top of their game.

10:02 She really does put everyone else to shame. This is better than the record.

10:01 Carrie saw it in the window and she just had to have it.

9:54 It’s been 34 minutes since the last award. Yeesh.

9:53 “Hell Yeah”, Part II. Among country recycled grooves, I dig MG’s the least.

9:51 Ladies and gentlemen, Anita Cochran on lead guitar!

9:50 Then again, I’m not sure she’s singing live. Anybody heard the record?

9:49 Alright, I’ll say it. She’s got better vocal chops than most of the people on tonight’s show. I’d like to swap teen idols with pop music right about now.

9:47 Perhaps one of the reasons it’s been such a wild ride for both you and Miley is that you won’t get off her horse.

9:45 Random aside: Is anyone else seeing the Gene Simmons commercial for Cherry Dr. Pepper? Why doesn’t Cherry Coke Zero get such a big promotional push???

9:42 Coming up…Miley Cyrus and Carrie Underwood. Why not?

9:41 This live blog brought to you from New York City. We’re not part of the real world, but thankfully the internet can beam us to those of you who live in it.

9:40 Good to know some tools are still made in America.

9:39 A rundown of working class anthems should’ve included Aaron Tippin.

9:37 I didn’t realize LeAnn Rimes did so much humanitarian work. I guess she has nothin’ better to do.

9:35 She dances like Natalie Maines. Heh.

9:34 I like the imagery. She’s quite the songwriter, assuming that she wrote this.

9:33 Am I the only one who can’t help but think about Mindy McCready’s “Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now” with these lyrics?

9:32 New Miranda Lambert song. Can’t wait to hear it.

9:26 Urban reminds me just how much the new artists lack charisma. He should give workshops on charisma.

9:23 Of all the country superstar recycled grooves, Urban’s is my favorite.

9:21 If Nettles had turned quickly at an angle, this show would be on tape delay next year.

9:20 VOCAL DUO: Sugarland (Finally! First time B&D ever lost a pure Vocal Duo race at the ACM’s!)

9:19 I think we may have peaked for the evening. Sigh.

9:17 So far, this is the only performance of the night that I can say improves on the recorded performance.

9:15 Lee Ann Womack is doing “Solitary Thinkin’.” One of the better tracks from Call Me Crazy.

9:10 Lady Antebellum sounds very generic.

9:06 She gets a crystal milestone award for her incredible record sales? Her albums combined haven’t matched the sales of Underwood’s first album, the first three Dixie Chicks albums, three Shania Twain albums.  Why didn’t Rascal Flatts get this award? John Michael Montgomery? Toby Keith? Kenny Chesney? I’m just confused.

9:05 This reminds me of the Brooke White girl from Idol last year.

9:03 David Copperfield did not, in the end, pull an auto-tuner out of his hat.

8:54 Standing O? Wow, the value of those have plummeted. Must be the economy.

8:53 TOP NEW ARTIST: Julianne Hough

8:52 We like to blame the sound mix for less than par performances. But notice how George Strait still sounds great  – and mark my words, Carrie Underwood will, too.

8:51 I love this song. “Troubadour” couldn’t be a better fit for him.

8:50 I wonder how many of the new artists knew that was a George Strait song.

8:49 He could do a sketch as Wanda the Ugly Girl trying to out-dress Carrie Underwood.

8:48 Seriously, he’s killing. Please let him host next year.

8:47 Jamie Foxx. I’d love to see him host the show next year.

8:43 Poor Nashville viewers had to deal with storm warnings during the Johnson performance. How cool would it have been if those popped up last year during Taylor Swift’s performance of “Should’ve Said No”?

8:41 As for the actual performance, he sounds good. Still overwhelmed by the backing track, but that seems inevitable on these shows. I’m surprised they didn’t do a stripped-down performance a la “Stay.” Those are the only ones that ever sound good on these shows.

8:40 So I get the whole conceit here, but give me a break. There weren’t huge projection screens in the days of black-and-white photographs. Or TV for that matter. This is way too pretentious for my tastes.

8:39 Oh dear God. It’s in black and white. I didn’t see that coming.

8:38 Here comes Jamey Johnson. I suspect we’ll see it in color.

8:36 I wonder if McGraw’s production differences had something to do with those screens behind the artists?

8:35 Toby Keith’s best recent performance wasn’t on a country music award show. Check out his roast of Larry the Cable Guy.

8:29 I’m excited for Toby Keith, though he always seems to do rave-ups. Shame, since he’s such a great balladeer.

8:27 VOCAL GROUP: Rascal Flatts (There goes my lead)

8:26 I wonder if next year she’ll be back singing “Amy and Vince” or “Tim and Faith.”

8:23 I feel bad that Heidi Newfield has nearly no chance despite five nominations. A bit weird to see her dolled up. She was Gretchen Wilson before Gretchen Wilson was Gretchen Wilson.

8:22 Home Depot has been a big friend to this show. They supply the wooden performances.

8:17 Methinks that Jamey Johnson would look better out of color. Yikes.

8:16 SONG: “In Color” – Jamey Johnson  (I called this one, y’all – he’ll repeat at the CMA’s)

8:15 J Love is a huge fan of country music. I’m a huge fan of the Ghost Whisperer. Cool.

8:14 Random pics in the back of young college-age girls partying. Weird.

8:12 Anyone in the comments want to explain the appeal of Chesney playing live? What are his shows like? I’ve never been.

8:11 First time in a long time there’s been a woman in there. I think the Dixie Chicks were the last ones.

8:10 Who’s on the couch with Brad Paisley and Little Jimmy Dickens?

8:09 A gay joke? Really?

8:09 George Strait is indeed the man himself.

8:08 Please say Rascal Flatts from the behind of a cow.

8:07 That was interesting, but I wonder how much cooler it could’ve been if it was done later in the show, and was built around ballads with “Very Last Country Song” being the framework.

8:06 I do not want to hang with you and your gang.

8:05 I think they’ve run through all of country’s multi-platinum acts.

8:04 Love me some Carrie Underwood. Hope she has a big night.

8:03 Sugarland, I wouldn’t mind hearing the full song. At least Leeann got a bit of “It Happens.”

8:02 Wow, George Strait snarled at his reference until he noticed the camera was on.

8:01 Taylor Swift doing “Picture to Burn.” Is this a medley of annoying songs performed poorly?

8:00 We’re starting with some sort of jam beginning with Brooks & Dunn. “Play Something Country” still annoys me. The melody is ripped off from “Shut Up and Kiss Me.”

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Filed under ACM Awards, Live Blog

ACM Awards: Predicted Winners

As we gear up for the 2009 Academy of Country Music Awards, the writing staff of Country Universe have prepared our predicted winners among this year’s nominees. Check out our Personal Picks as well, and share your own predictions in the comments. As always, we’ll be live-blogging the festivities this Sunday, starting at 8 EST.

ACM 2009: Country Universe Predicts the Winners

Entertainer of the Year

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • George Strait
  • Carrie Underwood – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Lynn
  • Keith Urban

Kevin: For as much as the industry favors male acts, it’s the female acts who really post the big numbers.  I think that the fans having a say will put Underwood over the top, though the industry is certainly behind her, too.  The depth and breadth of her appeal warrants the win.

Leeann: I know how zealous Carrie Underwood fans are.  So, I’d be shocked if she doesn’t win it.  I like the way Lynn said it though.

Dan: You know, I really have no idea. It’s not going to be George Strait, and I probably wouldn’t anticipate a win for Keith Urban this year. At first I was going with Chesney by default, but the arguments for Underwood’s win are too good to ignore, so I’m changing to her.

Lynn: If the fans are truly allowed to have their say…Ms. Underwood, please watch your step on the way up to receive your first Entertainer of the Year award.

Top Male Vocalist

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Toby Keith
  • Brad Paisley – Leeann, Dan, Lynn, Kevin
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Leeann: I can’t decide between Chesney or Paisley.  If I had to choose, I’d guess Paisley, since he’s gotten used to winning this one.

Dan: Tough call. I’ll put it between Paisley and Chesney, and I’ll give Paisley the edge.

Lynn: Paisley by default. Yes, his last album was an instrumental, but he was easily the most visible of these artists over the past year.

Kevin: I could see Strait sneaking in there, but I don’t see how things have shifted in a meaningful enough way to end Paisley’s run.

Top Female Vocalist

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Heidi Newfield
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood – Dan, Lynn, Kevin, Leeann
  • Lee Ann Womack

Dan: There’s always that chance of a Miranda or Taylor upset, but I think Carrie’s still got this.

Lynn: Given a choice among these ladies over the course of the past year, I can’t imagine this award not going to Underwood.

Kevin: It’s a race between Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, and it’s hard for me to imagine Underwood losing a vocalist race to Swift.

Leeann: I’d be an idiot to predict anyone other than Underwood.

Top Vocal Group

  • Lady Antebellum – Lynn, Kevin
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts – Leeann, Dan
  • Randy Rogers Band
  • The Lost Trailers

Lynn: With previous ACM and CMA wins under their belts, and a big Grammy nod earlier this year, I wouldn’t bet against Lady A for the win. I could be wrong, but I think Nashville is dying to hand this award to a band other than Rascal Flatts, and Lady A is visible, popular and photogenic.

Kevin:
I think that voters have finally found an alternative to Rascal Flatts, who have dominated this race for so many years.

Leeann: Lady A could take this one.  However, if I want to be safe, I should just predict Rascal Flatts.

Dan: If Lady A hadn’t released such a sluggish second single, they could be posing a serious threat by now. They’ve definitely got a shot, but I’d guess the Flatts still have it.

Top Vocal Duo

  • Big & Rich
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Joey + Rory
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Sugarland – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Lynn


Kevin:
This must finally be the year that Brooks & Dunn loses, right? Sugarland is long overdue.

Leeann: Sugarland.  They’re clearly the hottest duo right now.

Dan: Sugarland, although Brooks & Dunn could still keep it.

Lynn: Sugarland has the momentum.

Top New Artist

  • Julianne Hough- Leeann, Lynn, Kevin
  • Jake Owen
  • Zac Brown Band - Dan

Leeann: Hough will get this one, because I have a feeling she’s got the strongest and most organized fan base, thanks to a popular television show.

Dan: Fan voting = I have no idea. But just for the sake of having a bet, I’ll say Zac Brown Band. They’re well-liked by audiences; maybe their grassroots support will push them over.

Lynn: Fan voting = Julianne Hough (= Dancing With the Stars = 20 million viewers per week = Lots of Free Publicity).

Kevin: I also think Hough will win because of the nature of her fan base.

Album of the Year

  • Back When I Knew It All – Montgomery Gentry
  • Carnival Ride – Carrie Underwood
  • Fearless – Taylor Swift – Leeann
  • That Lonesome Song – Jamey Johnson
  • Troubadour – George Strait  – Dan, Lynn, Kevin
Dan: I can kind of see anyone but Montgomery Gentry winning here, but at the end of the day, Strait is probably the best all-around bet.

Lynn: Ditto Dan.

Kevin:
The Single/Album races just seem to be going Strait’s way lately.

Leeann:
I’ll go out on a limb and predict Taylor Swift.  I’m sure the industry wants to give her an award and this is the most plausible way to do it.

Single Record of the Year

  • “Gunpowder & Lead” – Miranda Lambert
  • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson
  • “Johnny And June” – Heidi Newfield
  • “Waitin’ On A Woman” – Brad Paisley – Dan
  • “You’re Gonna Miss This” – Trace Adkins – Lynn, Kevin, Leeann

Lynn: I might have to go with Trace Adkins’ “You’re Gonna Miss This.” Admittedly, I have a poor track record when it comes to predicting country music awards shows, but I’d be willing to wager at least…nope, can’t do it, I really am bad at this. Second choice is “Gunpowder & Lead” (although it came out 1 single and a year ago!)

Kevin: I’m torn between Paisley and Adkins. The ACM likes to go with the biggest hit, and I guess that’s “You’re Gonna Miss This.”

Leeann: I guess I predict Trace Adkins.  It’s the dullest song of the choices, but the one that seems to tug the hardest on the heartstrings of the assumed average country music listener.

Dan: Paisley’s sentimental hit seems like the strongest bet to me, although I feel a little sheepish with everyone else pulling for Adkins.

Song of the Year

  • I Saw God Today – Leeann, Dan, Lynn
    George Strait
    Composers:  Rodney Clawson, Monty Criswell, Wade Kirby
  • In Color – Kevin
    Jamey Johnson
    Composers:  Jamey Johnson, Lee Thomas Miller, James Otto
  • Johnny And June
    Heidi Newfield
    Composers:  Deanna Bryant, Heidi Newfield, Stephony Smith
  • Waitin’ On A Woman
    Brad Paisley
    Composers:  Don Sampson, Wynn Varble
  • You’re Gonna Miss This
    Trace Adkins
    Composers:  Ashley Gorley and Lee Thomas Miller

Kevin: I’m guessing “In Color” or “I Saw God Today.” It doesn’t help that when Strait won this award, he shared it with Johnson for “Give it Away.” I’ll say “In Color”, though it might result in my defeat in the final tally.

Leeann:
I can’t see why “I Saw God Today” won’t win, even if it makes me cringe a little.

Dan: If I had to guess, it’s a race between “Waitin’ on a Woman” and “I Saw God Today,” with “In Color” playing dark horse. I guess I’ll say “I Saw God Today.”

Lynn: I think Strait will pick up an ACM trophy to go with his CMA one for “I Saw God Today.”

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ACM Awards: Personal Picks

As we gear up for the 2009 Academy of Country Music Awards, the writing staff of Country Universe have prepared our personal picks among this year’s nominees. Check out our Predicted Winners as well, and share your own personal picks in the comments. As always, we’ll be live-blogging the festivities this Sunday, starting at 8 EST.

ACM 2009: Country Universe’s Personal Picks

Entertainer of the Year

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley – Leeann
  • George Strait – Lynn
  • Carrie Underwood – Kevin, Dan
  • Keith Urban

Kevin: I haven’t been as happy with the standard-bearing superstar of country music since the heyday of the Dixie Chicks, so I’m definitely pulling for Carrie Underwood. She strikes the perfect balance of contemporary relevance and reverence for tradition.

Leeann: I’m always pulling for Paisley to win an Entertainer award, but I’d be happy to see a female win it as well, especially since Underwood’s not undeserving at this point.

Dan: None of these artists has impressed me recently from an artistic standpoint, although Strait has been less grating than the rest. But I think I’m going to say Carrie Underwood, simply because it’d be cool to see a woman win, and I think it might give her the freedom to take more artistic risks (if she chooses).

Lynn: I’m pulling for Strait to win this year. The ACMs put out a promo the other day that was essentially a glamour magazine photo shoot with three cute blonde singers. I’ll be honest…I didn’t want to watch the show after seeing that. Maybe I’m the odd one out, but I’d be more interested in watching the show if the promo had Strait sitting in a chair singing one of his classic tunes. I’m tired of the promotion of style over substance. Paisley, Underwood and Urban aren’t necessarily guilty of this, but I hope Strait wins just to remind everyone to keep it real.

Top Male Vocalist

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Toby Keith
  • Brad Paisley – Leeann
  • George Strait – Dan, Lynn, Kevin
  • Keith Urban

Leeann: This is a tough one.  I have not been impressed with any of these artists in the last year.  So, I’m going to have to choose by voice alone, which gives Paisley the slight edge over the others as far as my taste runs.

Dan: The big-hitters have had a lame year. Strait was the only one who didn’t let me down too bad, although I can’t say I’m a big fan of “River of Love”, either.

Lynn: I noted in a discussion the other day that Strait’s album is no longer on my iPod. But…it at least made it to my iPod. Which is more than I can say for Urban, Paisley, Keith and Chesney’s most recent outings.

Kevin: There’s a cyclical process I go through that includes taking George Strait for granted and then suddenly realizing just how good he is again. I’m in the latter part of the cycle again.

Top Female Vocalist

  • Miranda Lambert – Dan, Lynn, Leeann
  • Heidi Newfield
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Lee Ann Womack – Kevin

Dan: Miranda Lambert released arguably the two riskiest singles of the past year (“Gunpowder & Lead” and “More Like Her”), and she somehow got radio to play them both. There isn’t a more inspiring mainstream artist out there right now, at least for my money.

Lynn: M I R A N D A   L A M B E R T ! ! (Was that subtle enough? :P )

Kevin: I’d be happy to see Underwood or Lambert win, but since Womack has never won before, she’s my personal pick this year.

Leeann: I hate to be so predictable, but Miranda Lambert is my clear pick.  I choose her with Lynn’s exuberance and Dan’s reasoning.

Top Vocal Group

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town – Lynn, Dan
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Randy Rogers Band- Kevin, Leeann
  • The Lost Trailers

Lynn: If those are my only choices, I’m pulling for Little Big Town. It’s too bad we can’t write-in nominations…

Kevin:
I’m with Leeann on this one.

Leeann: My personal vote goes to the Randy Rogers Band.  I love Rogers’ voice and dig their music in general.

Dan: I love me some Randy Rogers Band and am thrilled to see them nominated, but I like Little Big Town’s current album better than theirs, so I’ll side with LBT.

Top Vocal Duo

  • Big & Rich
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Joey + Rory – Leeann, Lynn
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Sugarland – Kevin, Dan


Kevin:
I don’t understand why Sugarland isn’t all over this ballot. They’re one of the best acts in country music today.

Leeann: Out of all of the nominations in all of the categories for the ACMs, I’m rooting for Joey + Rory most enthusiastically this year.

Dan: Sugarland is injecting pop-country with some much-needed personality, plus they don’t concern themselves with trivial things like “postmodern Appalachia,” right, Kristian Bush? :) On a side note, it’s great to see Joey + Rory here. They’re a bit too new for me to pick them right now, but I hope they become regular contenders for this award.

Lynn: Joey + Rory are my favorites to win here simply because they stepped into the Nashville limelight with class and character, bringing a certain genuine spirit, candor and down home realness along with good music.

Top New Artist

  • Julianne Hough
  • Jake Owen
  • Zac Brown Band – Leeann, Dan, Lynn, Kevin

Leeann: Zac Brown Band has a cool vibe about them that is hard to ignore.  While I’m not personally sold on them yet, they are clearly the most unique act out of the nominees here.

Dan: I still don’t care for “Chicken Fried,” but Zac Brown Band is one of the freshest acts to break at radio in recent memory. They’ve been playing around forever (it shows), have a number of solid songs on their current album, and seem like genuinely nice guys, too. Mainstream country needs more acts like them.

Lynn: I’m at a loss here. I listened to Zac Brown Band’s album for the first time the other day. It was part hokey and part cool. I truly didn’t know what to make of it, but I am curious to see where they head next, and that has to be worth something.

Kevin: I was going to go with Jake Owen, but then I realized I had him confused with Luke Bryan, who made the “Country Boy” video I like so much. So I’ll go with Zac Brown Band instead.

Album of the Year

  • Back When I Knew It All – Montgomery Gentry
  • Carnival Ride – Carrie Underwood
  • Fearless – Taylor Swift
  • That Lonesome Song – Jamey Johnson  – Dan, Lynn, Leeann
  • Troubadour – George Strait – Kevin
Dan: As it happens, I really like both Johnson’s and Swift’s. Despite their vast differences, both albums are fully-realized artistic expressions that convey a believable sense of who their creators are and how they view the world, even if we as listeners can’t always relate to the particular subject matter (hard drugs, divorce, Joe Jonas, etc.). That said, I think Music Row needs more Johnson than Swift right now. So I’m pulling for That Lonesome Song.
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Lynn: Ditto Dan (although I’m not quite as enamored with Swift’s album).
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Kevin: Underwood’s album has grown on me with time, but the only album of these five that I really enjoy from start to finish is George Strait’s Troubadour.
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Leeann: Jamey Johnson clearly has the most interesting album here, though I’ll give Swift some credit too.  It’s odd that any of us would put Johnson and Swift in the same category, but one thing I can say about their efforts as opposed to the others is that it’s obvious that their albums were labors of love for them while the other albums seemed more thrown together.

Single Record of the Year

  • “Gunpowder & Lead” – Miranda Lambert – Lynn, Kevin, Leeann, Dan
  • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson
  • “Johnny And June” – Heidi Newfield
  • “Waitin’ On A Woman” – Brad Paisley
  • “You’re Gonna Miss This” – Trace Adkins

Lynn: I was impressed with “In Color,” but this is an easy call: “Gunpowder & Lead” kicked arse!

Kevin: I’m splitting my vote between Single and Song, with the edge going to Miranda Lambert here.

Leeann: I just enjoy “Gunpowder And Lead” the most out of these choices.  I like “In Color”, but the appeal really hasn’t stuck with me over time. I still crank “Gunpowder And Lead” when given the chance, however.

Dan: Catch me on another day and I might say “In Color,” but I think “Gunpowder & Lead” is destined to become a classic, even if it’s more southern rock than country.

Song of the Year

  • I Saw God Today
    George Strait
    Composers:  Rodney Clawson, Monty Criswell, Wade Kirby
  • In Color – Leeann, Dan, Lynn
    Jamey Johnson
    Composers:  Jamey Johnson, Lee Thomas Miller, James Otto
  • Johnny And June
    Heidi Newfield
    Composers:  Deanna Bryant, Heidi Newfield, Stephony Smith
  • Waitin’ On A Woman – Kevin
    Brad Paisley
    Composers:  Don Sampson, Wynn Varble
  • You’re Gonna Miss This
    Trace Adkins
    Composers:  Ashley Gorley and Lee Thomas Miller

Kevin: The final verse of “Waitin’ on a Woman” gets me every time. It’s easily my favorite Paisley song since “Whiskey Lullaby.”

Leeann:
“In Color” is the best and most intricately written song out of the bunch.

Dan: “In Color” is the only one of the bunch that really engrossed me the first time I heard it, which is kind of my litmus test for song quality.

Lynn: “In Color” is the most interesting song of the group (with “Johnny and June” actually being one of my least favorite big singles in recent years).

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ACM Top New Artist Winners

header_acm-awards1The winners have been announced for three of the Top New Artist categories at this year’s ACM Awards:

  • Top New Male Vocalist: Jake Owen
  • Top New Female Vocalist: Julianne Hough
  • Top New Vocal Duo or Group: Zac Brown Band

Jake Owen’s victory is something of an upset, as he was nominated against James Otto and Jamey Johnson, two men who received multiple Grammy nominations. Johnson still has a shot at some ACM awards this year, as he’s nominated in three other categories: Single, Song and Album of the Year. Owen is nominated for Vocal Event for his part in Sugarland’s multi-artist “Life in a Northern Town.”

Julianne Hough was chosen over Sarah Buxton and Ashton Shepherd, while Zac Brown Band won over the Eli Young Band and the Lost Trailers.

Owen, Hough and Zac Brown Band will compete for the Top New Artist award during the three-hour telecast on Sunday, April 5. We’ll be live-blogging, of course. Look for our predictions and personal picks later this week.

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The 44th Annual ACM Awards Reaction, Part One

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The Academy of Country Music revealed its nominees for the 44th annual awards show slated for Sunday, April 5. Album of the Year nominations will be announced in March, likely to coincide with the presentation of the Best New Artist nominees.

Brad Paisley- Paisley is the leader of the pack with six nominations. His video clip, “Waitin’ on a Woman,” (with legendary television star, Andy Griffith) is Paisley’s bid at a fourth Video of the Year victory. “Waitin'” is also in the running for Single and Song of the Year, and Paisley is a considerable threat to dethrone four-time champion Chesney for Entertainer of the Year.

George Strait- In a separate ceremony, Strait will be recognized as the Academy of Country Music’s Artist of the Decade, but his support runs deep even in the present day. He will bid for Entertainer of the Year and Top Male Vocalist, as well as Video of the Year for “Troubadour,” his first clip since 2006’s “The Seashores of Old Mexico.”

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44th Annual ACM Awards Nominations Announcement

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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.

Entertainer of the Year

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • George Strait
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban

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