Rascal Flatts

ACM Flashback: Single Record of the Year

April 3, 2010 // 11 Comments

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.

ACM Flashback: Album of the Year

March 28, 2010 // 16 Comments

The ACM Awards has traditionally been overshadowed by the CMA Awards, despite its longer existence. This is for several reasons. First, the ACM originally existed to emphasize the West Coast country music scene, whereas the CMA Awards represented Nashville from the start. The ACM has also been more commercially-oriented from the beginning, as the history of this category proves. Eighteen of the last twenty winners in this ACM category are multi-platinum sellers, and the organization allowed greatest hits albums to compete for more than a decade.
Still, the ACM category has bragging rights of its own. Critically-acclaimed albums like Storms of Life, Trio, Killin’ Time and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend won at the ACMs but were overlooked by the CMAs. Additionally, women have also been far more successful at this ceremony. Only five women have ever won the CMA Album trophy, and one of them was Sissy Spacek! At the ACMs, women have dominated the category for the past three years, and the category has honored everyone from Loretta Lynn and Donna Fargo to K.T. Oslin and Shania Twain.

A special note about ACM flashbacks. Like the Grammys, the ACMs issue their award for a given year the following year, so the awards for 2009, for example, are given out in 2010. For the purposes of the flashbacks, Country Universe notes the year the award is presented. While the ACM first presented awards in 1966, the Album category wasn’t introduced until 1968.

As with other flashbacks, we begin with a look at this year’s nominees:


  • Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum
  • Miranda Lambert, Revolution
  • Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night
  • Carrie Underwood, Play On
  • Zac Brown Band, The Foundation

Three previous winners – Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, and Carrie Underwood – compete against the debut albums of two hot bands. Lady Antebellum and Zac Brown Band each picked up a Grammy this year and are well represented on the rest of the ACM ballot. This is a very competitive race. Even the sales-friendly nature of the ACMs doesn’t help much here, as four of these albums are platinum and Lambert’s just went gold.


  • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song
  • Montgomery Gentry, Back When I Knew It All
  • George Strait, Troubadour
  • Taylor Swift, Fearless
  • Carrie Underwood, Carnival Ride

Taylor Swift became the third consecutive female artist to win in this category, a feat that would’ve seemed unthinkable earlier in the middle part of the decade, when country radio all but exiled women from radio.

2010 ACM Nominations

March 2, 2010 // 38 Comments

You know the drill. For each of the categories, we’ll look at who’s broken in since last year, who’s been excused, and then make a totally judgy statement about what it all means.

Single Review: James Otto, “Groovy Little Summer Song”

February 17, 2010 // 9 Comments

There’s been many a discussion this past month about what makes an artist most effective: is it vocal nuance or personal connection? Is it songs with explicit absolute truth or implicit absolute emotion? They’re interesting topics to explore, but somewhere in between the analyses, we’ve lost sight of –and perhaps even appreciation of– the artists who have the potential to make our analyses futile. Because some artists actually have it all.

Let’s be real: “Groovy Little Summer Song” isn’t near James Otto’s most memorable, well-written material. It’s not as infectious as his mega-hit, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You,” nor as impassioned as the lesser-known “For You,” and his soulful phrasing seems to eat up some of the words. But “Groovy Little Summer Song” is an incredibly refreshing re-introduction to an artist who can deliver both rich, distinctive vocals and pure, raw sentiment. Otto may be simply asking a DJ to crank up a cool summer tune, but he still manages to color his performance with shades of believable soul, technical substance (the falsetto is a treat) and authentic summer bliss.

Grammy 2010 Staff Picks & Predictions

January 31, 2010 // 7 Comments

Even in Grammy’s darkest hours, CU brings its picking powers!

– Superhero television show about our blog from the 50’s.

Share your own picks and predictions in the comments, and be sure to check back for our live blog! The awards telecast starts at 8 pm Eastern, and I imagine there will be some red carpet action in the hour prior.

Record of the Year


  • Beyonce, “Halo” – Kevin
  • Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
  • Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody” – Tara
  • Lady GaGa, “Poker Face” – Dan
  • Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”


  • Beyonce, “Halo”
  • Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
  • Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody” – Kevin, Dan, Tara
  • Lady GaGa, “Poker Face”
  • Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”

Kevin: Am I wrong for preferring Eric Cartman’s rendition of “Poker Face” over the original? This is a pretty lightweight slate of contenders. I really like “Halo”, but I suspect Kings of Leon will win, simply because it’s the only rock song in a lineup of pop hits.

Dan: “Poker Face” just feels very representative of popular music in 2009. I wouldn’t whine if it got passed over so that “Bad Romance” could take this award next year, though.

Tara: I would’ve pulled for “Single Ladies” in a heartbeat had it been submitted, but “Use Somebody” is just as deserving of this award. It’s a fantastic song even outside the context of its moment in pop culture, and it’s the kind of larger-than-life song that the voters have picked to win in the past.

My Grammy Wish List: 2010 Edition

January 28, 2010 // 24 Comments

Since this was a solo blog, doing a Grammy Wish List has been an annual tradition. I’m not too excited about this year’s Grammys, to be honest. 2009 was a weak year in my opinion, and the shortened 11-month eligibility period didn’t help matters. But a tradition is a tradition, so here are my picks in the eleven categories that I care about this year:

* denotes my personal wish:

Record of the Year

  • Beyoncé, “Halo” *
  • The Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
  • Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody”
  • Lady Gaga, “Poker Face”
  • Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”

It’s always nice to see a country radio hit in there, but I honestly can’t stand “You Belong With Me.” I dig the Kings of Leon song, but the record that I enjoy the most here is “Halo.” Some pundits have suggested that Beyoncé threw her chances at this trophy by submitting “Halo” instead of “Single Ladies”, but I like that song even less than “You Belong With Me.” Love “Halo”, though.

Song of the Year

  • Lady Gaga & RedOne, “Poker Face”
  • Hod David & Musze, “Pretty Wings”
  • Thaddis Harrell, Beyoncé Knowles, Terius Nash & Christopher Stewart, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”
  • Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill & Nathan Followill, “Use Somebody” *
  • Liz Rose & Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”

Great to see Liz Rose in there, too, but I still can’t stand the song. I think “Use Somebody” is a great composition that could easily be a hit in other formats if the right artist covered it. Are you listening, Sugarland?

Review: Lady Antebellum, “American Honey”

January 13, 2010 // 61 Comments

When did being able to sing reasonably well cease to be a requirement for country music?

Nashville mythology claims it all comes down to the song, but the singer and the production have always been just as important components in great country records. Generally speaking, country singers have always been able to…sing. Even the ones that weren’t distinctive or sounded like the latest George Strait clone were able to carry a tune.

With all due respect to Lady Antebellum, I’m tired of this nonsense. This song isn’t sung well, and it’s certainly not interesting enough to warrant suffering through the painful mediocrity of the lead vocal. As for the harmonies? Give them all the Vocal Group trophies you want – heck, Rascal Flatts has five of them – it doesn’t change the fact that there’s no discernible difference between this band and a faceless group of backup singers helping a solo artist out in the chorus. The metaphor that the entire song is built around is applied to so many different things as to render it meaningless.

Top-Selling Country Albums of 2009

January 4, 2010 // 16 Comments

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:

  1. Taylor Swift, Fearless (1) – 3,157,000
  2. Zac Brown Band, Foundation (15) – 1,243,000
  3. Carrie Underwood, Play On (19) – 1,150,000
  4. Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable (21) – 1,123,000
  5. Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum (24) – 948,000
  6. Jason Aldean, Wide Open (27) – 940,000
  7. Darius Rucker, Learn to Live (31) – 849,000
  8. Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift (36) – 766,000
  9. Keith Urban, Defying Gravity (38) – 715,000
  10. Sugarland, Love On the Inside (41) – 678,000

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Conclusion: #20-#1

December 24, 2009 // 61 Comments

“Not Ready to Make Nice”
Dixie Chicks
Peak: #36

It’s easy to label this as a transitory response of a song, whose quality is stamped by context and time, but to do so is to undermine its carefully crafted layers of universal emotion. Anger is only the outer coating of the song – beneath it lies a tender-to-the-touch complex of feelings: pain and disgust, confusion and resolve, stubbornness and defeat. “Not Ready to Make Nice” may always recall a certain unfortunate episode in country music history, but its theme – that there’s a price to pay for standing up for what you believe – is timeless. – Tara Seetharam

“Probably Wouldn’t Be this Way”
LeAnn Rimes
Peak: #3

A striking portrait of grief that alternates between phases of desolation, disillusionment and gratitude. Rimes’ interpretation of the lyrics is chillingly precise. – TS

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 5: #120-#101

December 18, 2009 // 44 Comments

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 5: #120-#101

120 Keith Urban Be Here

“Tonight I Wanna Cry”
Keith Urban
Peak: #2

A chillingly frank portrait of loneliness, awkward reference to “All By Myself” notwithstanding. Few mainstream vocalists today could pull off something this intense. – Dan Milliken

119 Loretta Van Lear Rose

“Portland, Oregon”
Loretta Lynn with Jack White
Peak: Did not chart

If you can take a healthy dose of dirty rock ‘n’ roll in your country, this is one of the coolest-sounding records of the decade, a classic one-night-stand duet. That it’s a very cross-generational pairing singing it would be creepy if not for the goofy smiles shining through Lynn’s and White’s performances. – DM

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