Discussion: Artist of the Decade?

Earlier today, the Academy of Country Music announced that George Strait would be its Artist of the Decade. Only four other acts have been honored as artist of the decade: Marty Robbins in 1969, Loretta Lynn in 1979, Alabama in 1988 and Garth Brooks in 1998. The annual ACM Awards show is scheduled for Sunday, April 5, with Reba McEntire hosting for the 11th time.

Long live King George, of course, whose popularity has now encompassed three decades. His consistent chart success and critically-acclaimed work satisfies Strait’s more mature fans while also capturing the attention of the genre’s newer audience. I have a hard time arguing with the choice of Strait, although I would lean towards Alan Jackson instead. The highlights in Jackson’s decade include a number of contemporary classics (“Where Were You,” “Drive,” “Remember When,” “Monday Morning Church,” “Small Town Southern Man”), a trophy cabinet full of awards (nine CMA awards, seven ACM awards and a Grammy), a popular touring schedule and even detours into gospel (Precious Memories and sophisticated country-pop (Like Red on a Rose). Meanwhile, he stands as the ambassador for what many feel that country music is and should be.

Who is your artist of the decade and why?


  1. I’d have to go with the Dixie Chicks. No other mainstream act has grown as much artistically this decade. Granted no other artist has had as much artistic ammo. I think the backlash has all been discussed to death, but I can’t think of another artist who has had a bigger impact musically or otherwise.

  2. I’d say its a tie between Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood…

    All kidding aside, I think that while it is a nice gesture toward the winner, deciding who was the “best” artist over a span of ten years neglects the contributions of far too many others.

    I am somewhat of an outlier in the world of country music fans, but I honestly can’t name a George Strait song off the top of my head. I’m sure thats a reflection on me as much as Strait, but I can’t see him as more impactful over the past 10 years than the aforementioned Jackson, The Dixie Chicks, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Trisha, Shania…etc.

    I don’t recall an entertainer of the year for Strait, or a Grammy, and besides record sales and longevity, I can’t really see the argument for him.

  3. Also, I think Strait’s last male vocalist of the year was in 1998, and Urban, Tim, and Alan have all won multiple times since then.

  4. I’d probably go with Alan too; Kenny Chesney’s rise has probably been the big story of the decade, but I don’t like most of his music. I personally don’t get why they picked Strait, unless they were looking to honor his consistency. He’s been a solid hitmaker, sure, but artist of the decade?

  5. Strait last won the CMA in ’98. McGraw prevailed in ’99-’00, Toby Keith in ’01, Jackson in ’02-’03, Urban in ’04-’06 and Paisley last year.

    The award seems fairly limiting, and any number of artists could claim at least a piece of the prize. Kenny Chesney is the most dominant touring act of the period, but his musical output doesn’t carry as much artistic weight as Strait’s or Jackson’s. Urban and Paisley would also be key contenders.

    Unfortunately, no dominant female appears, with McBride and Underwood being the most dominant commercially. Shania Twain had one album in the period, Trisha Yearwood’s radio and sales stats are lacking and the Dixie Chicks weren’t consistently present on the scene.

  6. Unlike Garth in the 90s, I don’t feel like there is one true “artist of the decade”. The George Strait nod seems more like a lifetime achievement award to me. The difference between all of the other folks you’ve mentioned and George is that in some way, they helped bring Country a little more to the mainstream. While it’s controversial, I’d agree with Tony C on the Chicks.

  7. I’m going to say Tim McGraw. Artistically engaging, commercially successful, a good ambassador from country music to the outside world and by all appearances possessed of actual integrity.

  8. McGraw would be my runner-up. To me, both Jackson and McGraw both embody those elements that you mentioned better than anybody else. I just feel Jackson’s been a little more artistically compelling this decade, which gives him the slight edge in my book.

    Where are the Carrie and Shania defenders?

  9. I would go with Alan Jackson as well. Not only did he sell well and chart hits, but he took creative chances like releasing his gospel album “Precious Memories” and his non-traditional “Like Red On a Rose”.

    I think huge stars should use their stature to create opportunity for all artists to make music that is not necessarily the normal fare. No one even thought of making a gospel album till Alan made one and it was successful.

    George is great, but he does not branch into such projects. I hope George decides to do so soon, because he could make some great music especially an album of all western swing music.

  10. My question is ‘Why is the ACM impatient?’. Surely they could wait until the end of 2009 to decide.

    Carrie: 7 #1’s, 6 ACMs, 4 CMAs, 9 million plus sales, increasing touring popularity, two fairly strong albums artistically. Without knowing what ’09 holds, I’d venture that her decade still surpasses any of the other women, even though she’s only been around since ’05.

    Healthy case made, not that the CMA voters in the Entertainer category would know.

  11. I think we had this conversation over in the9513 forums and the best suggestion I saw was Johnny Cash.

    He’s really the only artist who was produced material of historic value while maintaining a strong commercial presence.

    I mean, are yet-unborn country music fans really going to be like “man, you gotta pick up like George Strait’s 2000’s stuff, it’s essential!”. (or any other mainstream country music artist’s for that matter)

    And once you figure in Cash’s movie, bestselling autobiography, and credibility to basically all sets of music fans, he’s been country music’s greatest ambassador of the decade while releasing essential music.

    He didn’t, however, get significant airplay at country radio, so those who think country is a “radio format” rather than an art tradition will protest. However, I’m of the opinion that country radio’s refusal to play Cash is more a commentary on how bankrupt they are than how irrelevant he is, and the ACM’s naming him artist of the decade may have done a lot to help re-legitimize the genre.

  12. George would come in at like #5 on any list I tried to make. I’d put The Chicks, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, even Carrie Underwood above him.

  13. Great take on the subject, Ben. Again, the award seems limited, and it’s hard comparing the careers of the cream of the crop in the genre. The past winners were staples on the radio, but I believe other criteria are present (although a quick search of the ACM website isn’t clear on the details). Interesting to see that the media coverage is playing this as a career achievement award rather than an acknowledge of a decade’s worth of work.

    On that note, Cash has been significant in this decade, but I believe most of that appreciation has been for his past accomplishments and not for his presence in this decade. I agree, though, that Cash’s music is essential and that he’s a great ambassador for the art of country music, regardless of decade.

  14. Damn,There should be only one recipient,y,know three mommies from texas… there’s not even a discussion! The impact they had on country music is enormous,not to say defining.

  15. mine would be narrowed down to three:
    1. Dixie Chicks
    because of their amazing albums, songs, and vocals. They have great staying power too, even though they are resented by some. They were the best group act of the decade.

    2. Shania Twain
    why the hell not? She really had great songs within the time span and again she is another artist with great staying power.

    3. Reba McEntire
    really her “artist of the decade” is part of the 90’s. Anyways, she makes great music, had a great comeback in 2003, and again in 2007. We cant seem to shake this redhead off the charts xD

    those were mine.

  16. im a huge carrie fan but she is been out there ust 3 years i dont think she is quite ready for that award but in a few years she could get it easily

  17. I agree with the Academy’s choice. George Strait is a country music legend and he deserves such esteemed titles as “Artist of the Decade.” I think one of the major reasons he was chosen is because of his 2006 Country Music Hall of Fame induction. As far as I know, Alan Jackson has yet to make his mark on country music through that venture.

  18. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d like to know the criteria for Artist Of The Decade, because many people have factored in sales and being in the mainstream, and I just want to know if that’s how the ACM’s factor their choice.

    Either way, for me it’s the Dixie Chicks. They released Fly and Home, both masterpieces and commercially successful. Taking The Long Way still had commercial success with “Not Ready To Make Nice” and was one of the best artistic albums of the decade, even if it was a less country album, it was country at heart.

    The runner up for me would be Trisha Yearwood, she had less commercial success but her last two studio albums have been her best yet.

  19. This is just the ACMs way of getting the elusive George on stage…They make a big deal out of the artist of the decade, but looking back at the previous winners, how much does the ACMs really care about them? Not too much room for ol’ Loretta or Alabama on the show these days…this is all about ratings…not that George doesen’t deserve every award there is, but like someone said before, a lifetime acheivement would be more appropriate – and it wouldn’t kill them to give the little blonde firecracker from East Tennessee a lifetime acheivement award while they are at it…Im starting to sound like a cranky old man now…

  20. Right you are, Kevin. I remember expecting to see Loretta on the CMAs in 2004, and she wasn’t there …

    I’ve always thought the ACMs were the more in-touch of the two major country music organizations. They seem to consistently award the artists I feel should be awarded anyway … Maybe being based on the west coast away from the stigma that is Nashville sometimes is what gives them the edge. Either way, I am thrilled for George Strait.

    Someone said over on the9513 site that the best thing about George Strait being named Entertainer of the Decade is that it means Kenny Chesney or Toby Keith won’t be. I couldn’t agree more.

    And while I have to jump on board your Alan Jackson theory, I’ll still attest that Strait is the best choice – if only on the basis of his longetivity alone. He was most definitely a contender in the 80s and the 90s too, something possibly only Reba (on a much smaller scale this past decade) has matched. More #1s than anybody, more gold and platinum than any other country artist, 25 years of packed houses, etc.

    Yep, George Strait = the man for the job.

  21. I think its between George Strait, Aln Jackson, Brad Paisley and Shania Twain with Shania’s long absences eliminating her.

    Between the other three it’s a toss-up so I’ll go with the rider who has been in the saddle the longest, Cowboy George

  22. You are right Kevin – and I was thinking of her singing “Miss being Mrs” that night – when it comes down to it, both CMA and ACM could treat the older artists with a little more reverence – On the Grammy’s, the legends open the show, on the ACM/CMA they might be lucky enough to announce Entertainer. It all boils down to ratings – that really is the bottom line.

  23. I have to agree with everything J.R said! George has had a tremendous career…one which every artist would love to have. He’s a great ambassador for country music and he’s probably the only guy (besides Alan) who can score a top 5 hit with a more traditional sounding single. He deserves the award!!

    Plus, I agree that there are several other artists who are contenders. My favorite out of them, besides King George, are the Dixie Chicks.

  24. What is George Strait’s defining album/song during this period?

    Would any of the above commenters rate any single song/album, or his body of work as a whole as the “best”?

  25. I don’t know…It Just Comes Natural?

    I agree with Blake though; I would have loved to see Alan win this decade award for all the reasons that he lists, including a great Christmas album.:)

  26. George Strait was the best (and only) choice that they could’ve made! There is no fighting over is he country or not and he has the sales and #1’s on his resume. Also, the voice!

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. charlie ward

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.