Merle Haggard passed away on April 6th, and it has taken just about 20 days for people to try to politicize his death.
As with the similar CMA category of Single of the Year, looking over the history of this category is the quickest way to get a snapshot of country music in a given year. There is a quite a bt of consensus among the two organizations here, and it is very rare for the winner at one show to not at least be nominated at the other. The winners list here would make a great 2-disc set of country classics, at least for those who don’t mind a little pop in their country. The ACM definitely has more of a taste for crossover than its CMA counterpart, and the organizations have only agreed on 17 singles in the past four decades and change.
As always, we start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back to 1968.
- Zac Brown Band, “Toes”
- Billy Currington, “People Are Crazy”
- Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
- Miranda Lambert, “White Liar”
- David Nail, “Red Light”
There’s usually a “Huh?” nominee among the ACM list in recent years. This year, it’s David Nail. Good for him! Currington hasn’t won yet for this hit, even though he got himself a Grammy nomination for it. With Lady Antebellum reaching the upper ranks of the country and pop charts with “Need You Now”, my guess is that they’re the presumptive favorites. Then again, Miranda Lambert is a nominee for the third straight year, and she’s up for her biggest radio hit.
- Trace Adkins, “You’re Gonna Miss This”
- Jamey Johnson, “In Color”
- Miranda Lambert, “Gunpowder & Lead”
- Heidi Newfield, “Johnny and June”
- Brad Paisley, “Waitin’ On a Woman”
Adkins has been a fairly regular fixture on country radio since 1996, but this was his first major industry award. He also won the ACM for Top New Male Vocalist in 1997.
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 4: #140-#121
“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
Former Lonestar frontman Richie McDonald caused a stir when he left the band. His former bandmates vented in the media, sharing their frustration that McDonald had insisted they move in the direction of domestic songs like “My Front Porch Looking In” and “Mr. Mom.”
To be fair, those songs were huge hits, and there’s always been a place for such records in country music, as Donna Fargo and Barbara Fairchild could easily attest.
“Six-Foot Teddy Bear” continues in the same vein as those Lonestar hits. It’s the tale of a man who leads with his chest at work, a Harley-driving tough guy who turns into a mush once he gets home. He wonders what the guys at work would think of him if they knew that he let his little girls outfit him in Mickey Mouse ears and paint his toenails red.
McDonald’s performance is a mixed bag. He’s never fully convincing as the tough guy, but he’s fully believable as the family man who puts his children’s enjoyment before his own dignity. It’s a pretty realistic portrait of modern day fatherhood, and his joy in playing the role is palpable.