100 Greatest Women, #52: Jennifer Nettles (Sugarland)

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition


Jennifer Nettles (Sugarland)

2008 Edition: #100 (+48)

Jennifer Nettles was already a fixture on the local music scene in Atlanta, long before she broke through as the lead singer of Sugarland. She 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.

Their sophomore album, Enjoy the Ride, made Sugarland the leading duo in country music. The first two singles – “Want To” and “Settlin’”  – became Sugarland’s first #1 hits. Sales skyrocketed with the release of the fourth single, “Stay.” Featuring Nettles singing over a sparse acoustic guitar, her achingly vulnerable performance was accentuated by an intimate video that pulled no punches.  In addition to winning Nettles Song of the Year at all the major awards shows, Sugarland won Vocal Duo for the first time at both the ACM and CMA Awards, as well as a Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Vocal Performance.

Their third album, Love On the Inside, became their first to top the all-genre Billboard 200 chart, and it earned the duo another trio of #1 country singles: “All I Want to Do, “Already Gone,” and “It Happens.” They followed this with a Wal-Mart exclusive live album, Live on the Inside, which showcased their covers of rock and R&B hits like “Irreplaceable,” “Love Shack,” and “Sex On Fire.” It went to #1 on both the country and all-genre album charts.

After a seasonal set, Gold and Green, Sugarland previewed their fourth studio album with their big hit, “Stuck Like Glue.”  The Incredible Machine was their third consecutive album to top both album charts, but aside from the lead single, the set struggled at country radio, and its platinum status fell short of the multi-platinum sales of their first three sets.  The duo took a break following its run, and Nettles emerged with a pair of solo albums, That Girl in 2014 and Playing With Fire in 2016.  Both sets sold respectably, and “Unlove You” from Playing With Fire became her highest charting solo hit, reaching #24 on the Hot Country Songs chart.

In addition to releasing a Christmas album in 2016, Nettles starred as Dolly Parton’s mother in two hit television films, Coat of Many Colors and Christmas of Many Colors.  Sugarland reunited in late 2017, releasing “Still the Same” and “Babe” to country radio, the latter single co-written by Taylor Swift and featuring her as a guest vocalist.  In 2018, the duo launched a comeback tour to support their fifth album, Bigger, which reached #2 on the country albums chart upon its release.

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
  • Already Gone (Sugarland), 2008
  • Stuck Like Glue (Sugarland), 2010

Essential Albums

  • Twice the Speed of Life (Sugarland), 2004
  • Love On the Inside (Sugarland), 2008
  • Live On the Inside (Sugarland), 2010
  • That Girl, 2014

Industry Awards

  • Academy of Country Music Awards
    • Milestone Award, 2009
    • Single of the Year
      • Stay, 2008
    • Song of the Year
      • Stay, 2008
    • Top New Vocal Duet/Group, 2006
    • Top Vocal Duo, 2009, 2011
  • Country Music Association Awards
    • Song of the Year
      • Stay, 2008
    • Vocal Duo of The Year, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
  • Grammy Awards
    • Best Country Collaboration With Vocals
      • Who Says You Can’t Go Home (with Bon Jovi), 2007
    • Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals
      • Stay, 2009
    • Best Country Song
      • Stay, 2009

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

Next: #51. Carlene Carter

Previous: #53: Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman (Little Big Town)


  1. Love Jennifer Nettles and Sugarland. Sugarland is one of the best country acts of the last decade. Jennifer has one of the best voices in country in the last decade and her personality is so likeable. Her performance on Stay still gives me goosebumps. Jennifer’s solo work has been great. Her That Girl album is outstanding.

  2. Agree with PC that ” Jennifer has one of the best voices in country in the last decade and her personality is so likeable.” I’ve enjoyed all her albums except “Incredible Machine”. Still love the bon jovi duet. Most frequently played Nettles song in my i-tunes library is “Me Without You” followed by “Very Last Country Song”. I haven’t gotten around to checking out the new album yet – not impressed with either of the first 2 singles.

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