The country boy as fish out of the water in Los Angeles. Or New York. Or Detroit. It’s a pretty common theme in country music. Jamey Johnson does his own spin on this theme with his new single, “Playing the Part.” It’s not terribly bad, but it’s not terribly good, either. “Big City” certainly doesn’t have to worry about losing its slot on the Waffle House Jukebox.
As Dan observed in his single review of “Up on the Ridge”, there was a noticeable decline in Dierks Bentley’s music after his well received Long Trip Alone album. It is purely speculative to suggest, but one can’t help but wonder if Bentley himself felt staleness creeping into his music as well. It’s not farfetched for the idea to be true, since Dierks has proven himself to be an astute artist in the past. So, why wouldn’t he notice if there was, indeed, a shift?
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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?
Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”
Teen-pop perfection, bursting with personality and unshakable hooks. – Dan Milliken
Keith Urban, “‘Til Summer Comes Around”
There’s nothing quite as lonely as a carnival that has shut down, except for being alone at a carnival, surrounded by everyone but the love who has left you behind. – Kevin Coyne
Lady Antebellum, “I Run to You”
Sheer passion and pulsing energy from start to finish. – Tara Seetharam
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:
- Taylor Swift, Fearless (1) – 3,157,000
- Zac Brown Band, Foundation (15) – 1,243,000
- Carrie Underwood, Play On (19) – 1,150,000
- Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable (21) – 1,123,000
- Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum (24) – 948,000
- Jason Aldean, Wide Open (27) – 940,000
- Darius Rucker, Learn to Live (31) – 849,000
- Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift (36) – 766,000
- Keith Urban, Defying Gravity (38) – 715,000
- Sugarland, Love On the Inside (41) – 678,000
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161
It’s the pairing of aching nostalgia and all the power that comes with a Flatts country-pop ballad that makes this song so potent. – Tara Seetharam
“Takin’ Off This Pain”
Like a fiery-eyed hybrid of Loretta Lynn and Jennifer Nettles, Shepherd burst onto the scene snapping her newly ring-free fingers at the clueless sap not treating her right. Next Decade, please take note: you’ve got a star in waiting. – Dan Milliken