100 Greatest Women, #100: Jennifer Nettles

100 Greatest Women


Jennifer Nettles (Sugarland)

One of the strongest female voices to emerge in the past few years was already a fixture on the local music scene in Atlanta, long before she broke through as the lead singer of Sugarland. Jennifer Nettles got her start back in college, when she was the lead singer for the band Soul Miner’s Daughter. They released two independent albums, leading to a slot performing at Lilith Fair back in 1999.

But it was when she teamed up with fellow Atlanta musicians Kristian Bush and Kristen Hall to form Sugarland that Nettles broke through. Then a trio, they quietly released their debut album Twice the Speed of Life. While their label was putting most of their effort behind Julie Roberts, their first single “Baby Girl” began a slow and steady climb to #2, finally reaching that peak after nearly a year.

Nettles’ fiery vocal on their next single, “Something More”, pushed their album sales through the roof. Kristen Hall exited the band as the spotlight began to focus more on Nettles. With Sugarland now a duo, Nettles and Bush began work on their sophomore album. But first, Nettles did a guest vocal on Bon Jovi’s Have a Nice Day album. Released as a single, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” was a #1 country hit, enough of a reason for Bon Jovi to think they could pull off a country album. Nettles won her first Grammy for the collaboration.

It was looking like their sophomore album, Enjoy the Ride, would be little more than a holding pattern, even though the first two singles – “Want To” and “Settlin'” became Sugarland’s first #1 hits. Sales were respectable, but they skyrocketed with the release of “Stay.” Featuring Nettles singing over a sparse acoustic guitar, her achingly vulnerable performance was accentuated by an intimate video that pulled no punches.

The duo ended up winning the CMA Vocal Duo of the Year award in 2007, their first year of eligibility. As a sign of Nettles’ increasingly visible versatility, they shared the American Music Awards stage a few days later with Beyoncé, singing a duet version of the R&B superstar’s signature hit, “Irreplaceable.”

As Sugarland prepares their third album, Nettles currently enjoys the status of one of country music’s most prominently successful female artists. Sugarland is already the most successful female-led duo country music has seen since The Judds, with her share of the talent comparable to Wynonna’s, it’s fair to say. As she is one of the faces of country music’s present and future, she’s the perfect lady to kick off this list.

Jennifer Nettles

Essential Singles

  • “Something More” (Sugarland) , 2005
  • “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” (Bon Jovi featuring Jennifer Nettles), 2005
  • “Want To” (Sugarland), 2006
  • “Stay” (Sugarland), 2007

Essential Album

  • Twice the Speed of Life (Sugarland), 2004 (2x platinum)

Industry Awards

  • ACM Top New Vocal Duet/Group, 2006
  • ACM Single of the Year (“Stay”), 2008
  • ACM Song of the Year (“Stay”), 2008
  • CMA Vocal Duo of The Year, 2007
  • Grammy, Best Country Vocal Collaboration, 2007

==> #99. Sugar (Dave & Sugar)

<== Introduction

100 Greatest Women: The Complete List


  1. Gonna take you forever to get it done like this, lol. Really cool addition though, should be interesting to see #1. I’m betting on Dolly or one of the ohter legend like Patsy Cline.

  2. Like you said it will never satisfy everyone but I hope some of my favorites make the list.

    My guess is Loretta Lynn or Dolly will top this list.

  3. Hey, don’t count out Kathy Mattea or Pam Tillis or Patty Lovless, Jordan. They may not top the list but I guess they’ll be Top 15. Wonder of Suzy Bogguss will be here?

    Great start, my friend.

  4. “Baby Girl” is certainly a Nettles essential single, probably moreso than “Want To” and “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” if not for the latter’s commercial success.

  5. I wouldn’t count out any of them, but I don’t think Kathy, Pam or Suzy will top the list. I’m also guess ing top 15 for Kathy and Pam, for Suzy I’m not too sure.

  6. Hopin’ on Jeannie C. Riley. Who could ever forget her singing Girl Most Likely in that mini skirt? I think I had my first boy/girl thing right about then! Heh! ;-)

    Man! I don’t envy you tackling this one. Whew! There are so many great women in Country. Look forward to your posts!

  7. I love that you decided to feature 100 great women. While I love the male country singers, the women have always been my favorite. I know a lot of readers will be introduced to a lot of great female artists they’ve never heard of!

    I’m not a Jennifer Nettles fan, but I recognize her talent. Do you or anyone think she’ll end up going solo? Every review I read seems to indicate that direction for her.

  8. Lynn,

    Jennifer doesn’t need to go solo. She’s known as she is and I don’t think going solo would really do anything for her except maybe get her ‘best female vocalist’ nominations (why couldn’t the CMA and ACM change rules to allow vocalists from groups be up for those types of awards?). Jennifer and Kristian are doing well in their partnership.

  9. jarhead,

    When Country Weekly ran a news item about my Fifty Best Debut Singles feature, the thing I was most pumped about was that they ran it with a picture of Jeannie C. Riley. I’m a huge fan of hers.

  10. I don’t know if she’d be higher than Lambert, but she’d definitely be up higher if I was starting the list today rather than five months ago, given the quality and impact of the third Sugarland album.

  11. Patsy Cline will be ANNOUNCED as NUMBER #1 ! Thats as it should be !anything else,i feel, would be ludicrous.Patsy Cline has done more for country than any other female artist in the entire history of country music ! She could ’emote’ a song greater than all the other ‘legends’ too ! Please remember :there is only one true ‘Queen’ of country music,and that is Patsy.there was a blue grass festival in NJ two weeks ago.a Patsy imitator came up and did three ‘terrific’ renditions of Patsy’s songs,and many people were crying ! Loretta is a darling,and should be way up in the low top ten,as should another great singer: Kitty Wells ! also,of course, Tammy Wynette. EmmyLou Harris,another lady i admire: should also make the top ten. but, there is only one Goddess (and i mean, Goddess) and that is the legendary ‘Cline !!! ‘

    Brad Savage —Lifelong Patsy fan and collector.

  12. Jennifer being the newest on this list, I find her placement at the bottom to be unfounded and she is bringing far more to the table then some above her at this point in her early career…. Jennifer’s voice is like that of Tanya Tuckers, rough, yet solid… I love LOVE Sugarland, and Jennifer will undoubtedly work her way up MUCH further in survey’s in the future if she continues on the track she is on currently…. It’s a group, but her vocal stylings is unmatched currently in country….. She plays the piano which we haven’t seen done since Terri Gibb, ( Somebody’s Knockin) and I find it refreshing to see a female performer do something besides JUST sing behind a mike or just BARELY pick a guitar….

  13. Lighten up Travis – this list is nearly three years old – at that time her impact was not yet as large as it is today. If the list were complied today Kevin would have her at least as high as #90, perhaps even higher

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