The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 7: #80-#61
“When Somebody Loves You”
A treasure of a love song. Contrasted stunningly with modest accompaniment and vocals, the song’s message is that of love’s sublime ability to transform one’s life and bring light to dark. – Tara Seetharam
#79 “Separate Ways”
“Separate Ways” is an instructive narrative of a couple who did everything together, but “the last thing they did together was go their separate ways.” Fortunately, the song’s narrator learns from his parents’ divorce and wisely applies its valuable lesson to his own relationship. – Leeann Ward (more…)
I don’t think any artist this decade has frustrated me more than Pat Green. Here’s a man endowed of a wonderfully expressive voice, a solid songwriting gift, an army of adoring Texans, and what does he do with them? He hires Dann Huff to blare them out so he can score a few hits.
I guess you can’t fully blame him, on one hand. Green is a first-class performer of his type, worthy of the national audience he seeks, and in a just world, he would have gotten it back when he was still ripping into “Me and Billy the Kid.” And he probably knows that.
But that’s not the way it happened, and he wouldn’t settle for less. So here we are now, ten years and six albums later, listening to Green tick off Things He Believes In like they’re on some kind of grocery list of acceptable country radio themes. Listening to Green have a shouting match with an electric guitar. Listening to a skeleton fight to keep one last bit of meat on its bones.
And to some extent, it works. Green can’t help but bring a little character to every performance, and this generic list-song almost sounds like a generic list-song with a cohesive message and soul to it. There’s almost enough promise here to balance all the compromise, the way there was with “Wave On Wave,” with “Dixie Lullaby,” heck, with “Feels Just Like It Should.”
But in the end, the soul and promise just feel too restrained by the strict, shallow songwriting template, the mad attention to saying nothing too provocative or unusual, to doing whatever it takes to fit in snugly with everybody else.
Too bad Green didn’t notice “everybody else” has kind of sucked recently.
What can I say? Pat Green’s “Country Star” is gimmicky, bland and altogether misses the mark. It shamelessly namechecks artists such as Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and alludes to a Toby Keith song with not even so much as a gesture toward originality. Along with its vapid lyrics, the production is unbearably stale.
The progressive decay of Pat Green’s once quality and fresh-sounding material is overtly purposeful, so it is impossible to feel sorry for him. It, nevertheless, is depressing to witness all the same.
To completely sell out, as Green has no doubt done, is a sad price to pay, all for the sake of being a “country star.”
Coming from a seemingly endless string of Texas singer-songwriters, Pat Green spent the late ’90s racking up regional hits and filling college-town arenas across the Lone Star state. When “Wave on Wave” became a top five single and earned a Grammy nod in 2003, he’d finally transitioned from roots-country king to nationally-known troubadour. Green continues to plow this middle ground to seduce new fans while suiting his devout followers. Produced by Music Row maven Dan Huff, What I’m For scrapes the bottom of the trough for tired concepts and warmed-over heartland rock.
First single, “Let Me” rips phrases from the Conway Twitty songbook, and the title track rattles off a laundry list of things Green stands for (leaving grudges behind, loving stray dogs and learning the Gettysburg Address, among other random oddities). Meanwhile, the hard-charging “Country Star” namedrops Nashville’s rich-and-famous (Tim and Faith are featured in the surprisingly humorless rocker), but on What I’m For, Pat Green seems leagues away from the career level their talents have afforded them.
While the Grammys have honored country music from the very first ceremony in 1959, they did not begin honoring by gender until 1965, when the country categories were expanded along with the other genre categories. This year, the 45th trophy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance will be awarded.
In a continuation of our Grammy Flashback series, here is a rundown of the Best Country Vocal Performance, Male category. It was first awarded in 1965, and included singles competing with albums until the Best Country Album category was added in 1995. When an album is nominated, it is in italics, and a single track is in quotation marks.
As usual, we start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back. Be sure to vote in My Kind of Country’sBest Male Country Vocal Performance poll and let your preference for this year’s race be known!
Trace Adkins, “You’re Gonna Miss This”
Jamey Johnson, “In Color”
James Otto, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You”
Brad Paisley, “Letter to Me”
George Strait, “Troubadour”
As with the album race, this year’s contenders for Best Male Country Vocal Performance are a combination of unrecognized veterans and promising newcomers. In fact, none of this year’s nominees have won in this category, and only one of them – Brad Paisley – has a Grammy at all.
First, the veterans. Paisley has numerous ACM and CMA victories to his credit, including two each for Male Vocalist. Although he’s been nominated for this award twice before, this is the first time he’s contended with a cut that can’t be dismissed as a novelty number. The touching self-penned “Letter to Me” is his best shot yet at taking this home.
Trace Adkins has been at this a bit longer than Paisley, but this is his first Grammy nomination. His crossover exposure from Celebrity Apprentice might help him out here, along with the fact that the song was considered strong enough by voters to earn a nomination of its own.
But the real veteran to watch out for is George Strait. After being nominated only twice for this category in the first 25 years of his career, voters have now given him three consecutive nominations. This is one of four nods he’s earned for the 2009 ceremony, and “Troubadour” is essentially the story of his epic career distilled into a radio-length song. It would be the perfect way to honor the man and his music in one fell swoop.
However, there’s a newcomer that might be a Grammy favorite already. We just haven’t found out yet. Not James Otto, of course, who is nominated for his charming romantic romp “Just Got Started Lovin’ You”, but rather, Jamey Johnson. The recent Nashville Scene critics’ poll further confirmed the depth of his support among tastemakers, and his nominations for Best Country Song and Best Country Album indicate that he’s very much on the academy’s radar. It helps that he has the most substantial track of the five, and it’s the obvious choice for traditionalists, who have little reason to split their votes in this category. If voters aren’t considering legacy when making their selections, he has a great shot at this.
Dierks Bentley, “Long Trip Alone”
Alan Jackson, “A Woman’s Love”
Tim McGraw, “If You’re Reading This”
George Strait, “Give it Away”
Keith Urban, “Stupid Boy”
The often offbeat Grammy voters have been surprisingly mainstream in this category for the past three years, a trend best exemplified by this lineup, which was the first in more than a decade to feature only top ten radio hits. Tim McGraw and Keith Urban were the only two who had won this before, and it was Urban who emerged victorious. “Stupid Boy” was a highlight of his fourth studio album, and this was the only major award that the impressive collection would win.
Dierks Bentley, “Every Mile a Memory”
Vince Gill, “The Reason Why”
George Strait, “The Seashores of Old Mexico”
Josh Turner, “Would You Go With Me”
Keith Urban, “Once in a Lifetime”
Vince Gill returned to win in this category for a ninth time with “The Reason Why.” Not only is he, by far, the most honored artist in this category, his wins here account for nine of the nineteen Grammys currently on his mantle.
George Jones, “Funny How Time Slips Away”
Toby Keith, “As Good As I Once Was”
Delbert McClinton, “Midnight Communion”
Willie Nelson, “Good Ol’ Boys”
Brad Paisley, “Alcohol”
Keith Urban, “You’ll Think of Me”
Urban’s biggest and probably best hit launched his second album to triple platinum and established him as a crossover artist. He gave a killer performance of the song on the show. Toby Keith was a first-time nominee here, and while he publicly groused that the Grammys put too little emphasis on commercial success in picking their nominations, he lost to the only track that was a bigger hit than his own.