There’s a term that has gathered strength over the past decade: the quarter-life crisis. It describes that phase in life where the idealism of what you thought your life would be collides with what reality has in store for you. Reconciling the two is needed to get beyond this point of life, and adulthood completely sets in once such reconciliation has been accomplished.
Here’s hoping you haven’t gotten completely burned out on countdowns yet. 2009 was hardly a favorite musical year for many of us, but amid each year’s glut of throwaway items, there’s always a good’un or two (or forty). The following is the first installment of our Best Singles of 2009 list, which will conclude tomorrow morning. Best Albums will follow next week.
As with the Singles of the Decade feature, this countdown has been compiled through combination of four equally weighed Top 20 lists by Kevin, Leeann, Tara and myself. An inverted point system was applied to the individual rankings (#1 on a list meant 20 points, while #20 on the list meant 1 point). The songs were then ranked together by number of total points, greatest to least. The final result is another rather stylistically diverse set.
As always, we hope you enjoy the countdown, and welcome all the feedback you can muster. Happy New Year!
Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
The trio puts a country spin on an old school pop sound, but without forsaking raw emotion. The highlight of the song is Hillary Scott’s smoky performance, which draws out all the anguish and regret you’d expect from a desperate, 1 AM lover’s call. – Tara Seetharam
Here are the top selling country albums of the calendar year 2009. The number in parentheses is the album’s rank on the overall list encompassing all genres. The totals are rounded to the nearest thousand:
- Taylor Swift, Fearless (1) – 3,157,000
- Zac Brown Band, Foundation (15) – 1,243,000
- Carrie Underwood, Play On (19) – 1,150,000
- Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable (21) – 1,123,000
- Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum (24) – 948,000
- Jason Aldean, Wide Open (27) – 940,000
- Darius Rucker, Learn to Live (31) – 849,000
- Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift (36) – 766,000
- Keith Urban, Defying Gravity (38) – 715,000
- Sugarland, Love On the Inside (41) – 678,000
Poor choices lead to a lack of cohesion on the latest Kellie Pickler release. There’s such an incongruity between the softly sung verses and the bombastic chorus that it’s hard to get a handle on how she’s asking the titular question. Is she angry? Sad? Disappointed? Disbelieving? Take any twenty seconds of the song, and you might get a different answer.
The song would’ve been more effective if they’d picked one approach. Simply removing the overwhelming backup singers in the chorus would’ve made a huge positive difference, as they destroyed the intimacy that Pickler’s performance had established in the first verse. Alternatively, they could’ve some backup singers or a tougher-edged production in the first verse to properly build up to the blowout chorus. Either approach would’ve been better than the confusing mishmash we’ve been given here.
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:
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.
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:
- 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
* 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
Entertainment Weekly included a song from Kellie Pickler among its selections for the Ultimate American Idol playlist. The title of the song – “Rocks Instead of Rice” – caught my attention. Take a listen: httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5habfvPIwcQ Here’s my question. Which of the following two songs does Pickler’s track rip off more: Dolly Parton’s “I Don’t Want to Throw Rice” httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg8VY2a0axo or Lee Ann Womack’s “I’ll Think of a Reason Later” httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhebAYI1Ydg I side with Parton, though that reference to her thoughts not being Christian sounds pretty darn similar to the chorus from Womack’s hit. While we’re on the subject, which song is the best of the three?
“Pride attaches undue importance to the superiority of one’s status in the eyes of others; And shame is fear of humiliation at one’s inferior status in the estimation of others. When one sets his heart on being highly esteemed, and achieves such rating, then he is automatically involved in fear of losing his status.” – Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher This week’s iPod challenge requires you to check your shame at the door. Too often, there is embarrassment associated with our favorite music. We worry about the cool factor. When I started Country Universe, I was determined to write honestly about what I like and dislike, regardless of how it might affect my credibility in the eyes of others. But I often keep mum about the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures. So with this iPod check, I’m hitting shuffle and listing the first twenty songs that I’d normally be too embarrassed Read More
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 Sugarland 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.”