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
It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these, distracted as we’ve been by decade-end madness, but now seems like an appropriate day to jump back in, with a diverse bevy of MP3 albums being offered at Amazon for 5 bucks or better. As always, click on the box to listen to clips or to reach the album’s download page.
First up is the Daily Deal, the Avett Brothers’ excellent 2007 set Emotionalism, going today for $1.99. This group kind of defies genre classification, but they have enough of an earthy quality to their music to appeal to the Americana set. They’re building quite a following, too.
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 6: #100-81
Alison Krauss & Union Station
A shimmering moment of infatuation. Krauss is entangled in thoughts of her beloved, torn between the exhilaration of liking someone so intensely and the ache of not actually having the person. – Dan Milliken
#99 I’m Holdin’ On to Love (To Save My Life)
A terribly catchy slice of country-pop that, true to Twain, doesn’t sacrifice authenticity for appeal – Twain simply embodies the snappy energy that pulses through the song. – Tara Seetharam
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 3: #160-#141
#160 “Last Call”
Lee Ann Womack
Womack’s second-best Aughts song about late-night temptations is still better than a lot of people’s first-best songs about anything. Even in avoiding her drunken ex’s advances, she sounds positively heartbroken, suggesting she’d gladly make the other decision if she didn’t know better. – Dan Milliken
#159 “She’s Not Just a Pretty Face”
Her motivation for her music has always been escapism, but I love the personal touch she slips into this one. Her late mother is the one who she’s referring to when she sings “at night, she pumps gasoline.” – Kevin Coyne
Evidently, country artists in Nashville are damn proud to be from the country – so proud that they each feel the need to record a song proclaiming just this and, no less, release it to country radio. I’ve lost track of the number of these singles put out in the past year, a handful of which I’ve found to be borderline offensive. As a city girl with a heck of a lot of love for the spirit of country music, I’d rather not be made to feel like I’m being excluded from a members-only club.
Anthony Smith is likely better known as a songwriter than a recording artist. As a well established songwriter, he’s written songs for Trace Adkins”I’m Tryin’”, “Chrome”), George Strait (“Run”), Tim McGraw (“Kristofferson”), Montgomery Gentry (“What Do You Think About That”), Trisha Yearwood (“Who Reinvented the Wheel”), and countless other big name stars. As a recording artist he has struggled, releasing his 2002 If That Ain’t Country to some positive critical reception, but ultimately met with limited commercial success. In an attempt to revive the singing part of his career, Smith has recently signed with Stroudavarious Records, which has released the offbeat rocker, “Bringing Back the Sunshine”, as the upcoming album’s lead single.
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.
I was wary about reviewing this after hearing the gist, as I’ve become pretty sick of songs that remark on how awesome and fulfilling everyday life is. It’s not the theme itself that bothers me; it’s that most songs just gush about it, as though they have to really hype up the idea for you to buy in. It usually ends up sounding more defensive than celebratory, like an insecure person trying to brag – “What? All my friends just got raises? Well, I’ve got all I need, and it’s alright by me! I’m living in paradise! Yeah! So screw you guys!”
Not the case with “All I Ask For Anymore.” There is an understated, unassuming quality to this lyric that just makes it sound real, even as the verses cover a lot of well-trod ground. I suppose the key difference lies in the approach – he’s not straining to prove how great life with his wife and kids is; he’s just reflecting on how it’s changed him and leaving us to make our own judgments. Music for adults – nice.
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: