Category Archives: BEST OF

BEST OF 2011: Newsmakers

2011 brought many news stories to the country music world.  Whether it was good or bad, stars made an impact either with marriages, an awards sweep or personal happenings.  I’ve recapped some of the news stories this year in this blog, but check out my list of the top stories to 2011 to catch you up on what went down this year.

5. Award Show Dominations

Some of this year’s big winners include Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum and Jason Aldean…they each had a HUGE year.

Taylor Swift…she won ACM and CMA Entertainer of the Year.  Plus was named Artist of the Year at the AMA Awards and was named Billboard Music’s Woman of the Year.  It really doesn’t get much better than that…top honors at almost all the music award shows sums up a fabulous year.  In total, Taylor took home 11 awards this year.  Plus, topped the list of tours by country artists for her Speak Now World Tour. 
Lady Antebellum…cleaned house at this year’s Grammy Awards.  The massive crossover hit “Need You Now” helped the group take home five trophies.  They swept the country categories and the tune won Song and Record of the Year in the all-genre categories. 
Jason Aldean…stepped into the spotlight with big wins at the CMA and ACA Awards.  He took home a top honor of Album of the Year for My Kinda Party and for Musical Event of the Year for the very successful duet with Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Wanna Stay.”  Then he hit it big at the ACA being named Artist of the Year.  He took home five other awards that night.

4. Wedding of the Year

Two stars collided when Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert tied the knot this year.  The May 14 nuptials included a who’s-who of the music industry.  Miranda wore her mother’s dress and the wedding make their five year relationship official.  Besides getting married this year, both Blake and Miranda had a great year professionally…being  named Male and Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA’s.  Blake also took on the role of a judge on the popular music competition show, The Voice and they both will be headlining tours in 2012.  As of 2011, the pair is offically country music’s newest power couple.

3. New Country ‘Idols’

Country music fans were introduced to two new faces this year via the hit show American Idol.  The show and its southern competitors brought country to the forefront and made it look cool.  At the May 25 season finale, the fans voted Scotty McCreery the winner and Lauren Alaina runner-up.  Both of the finalists are teenagers and were welcomed with open arms to the country music industry.  They both are doing tremendously well with their debut albums…Scotty’s album, Clear As Day, was certified gold and Lauren will be opening for Jason Aldean in 2012 on his My Kinda Party Tour.  Listen for Scotty’s single “The Trouble With Girls” and Lauren’s “Georgia Peaches” on the radio.

2. Shania & Faith Announce Return

This might be the best news I’ve heard this year.  We got a glimpse of Shania’s return in her documentary television series Why Not? With Shania Twain, which chronicled her return to music.  Plus this year she announced her residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas begining in December 2012.  Also, in the seven years she’s been away, she focused on her family but divorced a few years ago and then married her new husband on New Year’s Day 2011.  So you can be sure to see more of Shania in the new year.
There were rumors of Faith’s return to music for a while now but with her CMA performance of “Come Home” and a scheduled release date for new music in February, we now know that it’s the real deal.  She’ll probably be all over the talk show circuit in the new year promoting the new album.  It’s been six years since her last album, Fireflies, and I think I speak for everyone when I say I can’ t wait to hear more.

1. Stage Collapse at Sugarland show

One of the biggest stories to come out of Music City was the events that occurred at the Sugarland show in Indianapolis.  The August 13 stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair happened after wind gusts of 60 miles per hour toppled the stage scaffolding and sent equipment falling into the crowd.  The horrible accident will forever live with Jennifer Nettle sand Kristian Bush.  To show the town its sentiments they held a free concert for those who were at the show and raised more than a million dollars for the victims.  In all seven people were killed and many others injured.  Some of the survivors and family of some of those killed are suing the band, the show’s producers and stage crew for an undisclosed amount.  And to top it off, two women were arrested for claiming to be victim’s and lying about their injuries.  The two are facing forgery, attempted theft and perjury charges.  They submitted faked hopsital records to steal more than $22,000 a piece from funds meant for actual victims.

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BEST OF 2011: Red Carpet Look

Not only is the music this year top notch, but everyone was looking good too.  Whether at an awards show or other special event, there were a few stars who stood out.  I picked a male, female and group winner as my Best Red Carpet Look this year.  Let me know if you agree.

BEST FEMALE: CARRIE UNDERWOOD

Carrie didn’t release any new music this year or have a tour, but the girl knows how to look good.  She made her first appearance with husband Mike Fisher at the 2011 Grammy Awards.

Plus, she switched up colors and length with dresses at the…
ACM’s

 CMA’s

ACA’s

BEST MALE: KEITH URBAN

Much like Carrie, Keith has a great companion in wife Nicole Kidman to accompany him at most, if not all, his public appearances.  Keith always looks sharp and most might think it’s easy dressing for red carpets as a man, but not all guys can pull it off.  Here’s Keith and Nicole looking great at the Golden Globes, where Nicole was nominated.

Plus, he dressed up nice for other events, all pics include Nicole, it’s pretty hard to find a shot of him on the red carpet without her.

 

BEST GROUP: LADY ANTEBELLUM

The fashion of Lady A has certainly gotten better over the last couple of years.  Hillary has made some good choices lately and the boys are taking her lead.  The band does tend to wear black…a lot…but it works, so why change something that looks so good.  One of my favorites this year was the trio at the Grammy Awards.

There were other events where the band wore black…looking good.

 HONORABLE MENTION:

– Taylor Swift –

– Jake Owen –

– Pistol Annies –

BEST OF 2011: Country Songs

Along with the top country albums this year comes top country songs.  My list is clearly personal and by no means is determined like lists posted through Billboard.com or any other year-end lists…but I’d like to think that my choices are some of the songs that you liked listening to this year too.  So check out what songs I appreciated this year and let me know your thoughts.


–Brad Paisley/Carrie Underwood “Remind Me”
When this song came out I got very excited when I found out Carrie was on it.  She doesn’t sing on the song right away so you wouldn’t know it until the chorus comes around.  The song received more hype when the video came out.  It featured Carrie and Brad on the desert.  Knowing their comedic relationship, it was weird seeing them singing a romantic song…with Carrie’s dress practically blowing off her body and Brad looking good strumming his guitar…but the two made it work.  It got even better seeing them perform it live on this year’s CMA Awards.

–Luke Bryan “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)”
This song became a favorite of mine really quickly and it even convinced me to buy the album.  I can proudly say that I’m am hooked on Luke and will listen to him constantly.  I first starting liking him with “All My Friends Say” and I completely fell in love after his hot performance on this year’s CMT Awards.  There are a couple other songs off Tailgates & Tanlines…but this song sets the tone and has really catapulted Luke’s career.

–Thompson Square “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”
The husband and wife duo really took off running with their debut single.  The song picked up a few trophies at this year’s ACA’s and the they are also up for two Grammy Awards for the song.  It’s a great tune that peaked at number one and is a great starting point.  I think their voices mesh really well together and they have a style and swagger that is very appealing.  Other songs from Thompson Square include one of my favorites “I Got You” and I look foward to seeing what this duo does in 2012.

–Blake Shelton “Honeybee”
If you didn’t know who Blake was before 2011, you sure do now…he’s everywhere.  Considering he is very blunt and sarcastic, it’s very refreshing to hear him sing a song like “Honeybee.”  I don’t see many other artists getting away with singing a song about flowers and sunshine.  However, he does so magnificently and everytime I heard the song on the radio I turned it up.  The number one song boosted the album to number one and ended 2011 for Blake on a high note.

–Jake Owen “Barefoot Bluejean Night”
The song became Jake’s first number one.  He’s had a lot of great hits in the past few years, but this certainly is one of those songs that will age with him…a true career song.  It was released at the right time…over the summer…and was very relatable.  There’s nothing better than a fun, upbeat song to get you through the hot summer months.  His heartthrob status was confirmed in a great video that captured his personality perfectly.

–Kenny Chesney/Grace Potter “You And Tequila”
One of my favorite Kenny songs came in this tune.  His move to include a female voice on this song was genius and even moreso when he chose Grace.  The song didn’t reach number one on the charts, but it’s a number one song in my books.  The CMA’s agreed too, because the song was awarded Best Music Video Of The Year.  It captured Kenny’s beach mentality and will forever be one of my go-to songs.

–Eli Young Band “Crazy Girl”
This band has been around for a couple years and caught my attention with their album Jet Black & Jealous…but didn’t start getting attention until this year.  With the release of Life At Best, the band is finally getting recognized especially with the number one song “Crazy Girl” which helped the album to Platinum status.  I suggest checking them out because big things are going to happen for the Eli Young Band in the future.

–David Nail “Let It Rain”
I don’t think I spent a single commute to and from work without hearing this song the last couple months.  He has a very distinct voice and no matter what he sings, I am mesmerized.  I loved “Red Light,” “I’m About To Come Alive,” and “Turning Home” from his previous album so I was excited when we started hearing new stuff on the radio.  This song hasn’t charted higher than number four or earned any award nominations but I really think this song is guiding him in the right direction.  Keep it up!

–Taylor Swift “Mean”
This is the third single from Speak Now and is definitely a departure from her usual fluffy, love songs.  I definitely wasn’t in love with this song off the bat, but I have become much more appreciative of it over time.  Her ode to those who have criticized her is refreshing and is a lot more pleasant to hearing in song than in verbal complaints.  The song itself has two nominations at the Grammy Awards…plus the record has one.  She also cleaned up at the award shows this year…highlighted by being named Entertainer of the Year at the CMA’s and ACM’s.  Not a bad year…

–The Band Perry “If I Die Young”
We found out this year that Kimberly Perry is a fantastic songwriter after winning both Single and Song of the Year for “If I Die Young” at the CMA Awards.  She penned the number one tune and opened our eyes to the new side of country music.  The newcomers also earned their first Grammy nomination.  After being out on tour all year, part of the year with Tim McGraw, they are set to start 2012 on the road with Brad Paisley…but not before appearing on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.  The band has been making appearances on many talk shows and holiday specials, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing even more of this sibling band in 2012.

BEST OF 2011: Nominated Band Of The Year

There have been bands that rise to the top with a single song and there are bands that are around for a long time without any recognition…year after year.  I’ve seen many artists pay their dues, putting out great album after great album until one song flings them into super stardom.  Case in point…Miranda Lambert.  I’ve been a fan for years, and one song (“The House That Built Me”) not only garnered song recognition but she is practically a house-hold name.  I think Dierks Bentley is one of these artists still scratching at the door and the band that is just inches away from taking over country music is Zac Brown Band.

ZBB produced four records, the two most notable include The Foundation and You Get What You Give.   The two albums racked up eight number one singles which were recognized by numerous nominations, but no significant wins.  Fans adored the hit single “Chicken Fried” a few years ago and the band was nominated for and won the Best New Artist statues at the CMA and the ACM Awards.  Considering the slew of great songs that reached number one, including “Chicken Fried,” “Toes,” “Highway 20 Ride,” “Free,” “As She’s Walking Away,” “Colder Weather,” “Knee Deep,” and “Keep Me In Mind” the band hasn’t won for the tremendous songwriting or overall album recognition. 

The nominations were there this year, but much like groups such as Little Big Town or Montgomery Gentry, they fall to the side by trio Lady Antebellum or a great duo like Sugarland or solo artists like Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift…and newcomers The Band Perry.  It really is a shame because people want real country and the songwriting that comes out of ZBB is spot on…the instrumentalists that make up the band are real professionals.  I haven’t seen the band live yet but from what I’ve seen on award shows and concert DVD’s, they put on a show that is quite the experience.  I think as long as they keep chugging along, doing what they’re doing, 2012 can be a big year for ZBB.  Hopefully we’ll get a new album later next year.  And there’s rumors of a joint tour with Jimmy Buffett…which could be awesome.

So…the tune “Whatever It Is” is the only single that didn’t reach number one…it reached number two…

A favorite performance from the CMA Awards in 2009…

BEST OF 2011: Country Albums

There must have been something in the Nashville water because there was a lot of great music released this year.  Whether you like to real-deal or the pop-infused country music, there was something for everyone.  I also found myself buying more albums and downloading more songs than ever this year, so I decided to recap what I consider the BEST ALBUMS OF 2011.


–Sunny Sweeney Concrete
If you’ve never heard of Sunny, consider this your wake up call…go out and buy some of her music.  She comes off as a pretty looking girl’s girl that might remind you of Faith Hill or Deana Carter but once you hear that voice, she ranks with the likes of JoDee Messina or Miranda Lambert.  Her tough as nails personality comes out in her songs and she is finally shining in her latest album.  She caught my attention with her previous album Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame.  I saw her live and met her in Nashville…and her vibe is country cool and she manages to make old school sound new.  Check out “Next Big Nothing” or “Here Lately.”  After listening to Concrete I definitely noticed some changes, in vocals and production quality.  Sunny sounds better than ever and her producers did a tremendous job on this album.  The album spawned her first three charted songs, “From A Table Away,” “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving,” and “Drink Myself Single.”  Sunny even married her long time boyfriend in 2011…appropriately on 11-11-11.


–Luke Bryan Tailgates & Tanlines
Luke is finally hitting his stride with this latest album.  It only took him three albums, but Luke is finally starting to get recognized.  He started out in the business as a songwriter, having written hit songs like Billy Currington’s “Directions,” but he hit it big with another song co-written with members of Lady Antebellum.  The song “Do I,” written with Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley of Lady A, peaked at number two and came from his sophomore album Doin’ My Thing.  Luke continued with the radio friendly “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” off Tailgates & Tanlines.  He performed the up-tempo tune on the CMT Awards and received nominations at the same show, the Teen Choice Awards and the American Country Awards.  Other great songs off the album is the current single “I Don’t Want This Night To End”…plus “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” and one of my favorites “Drunk On You.”  He sings a great fast song and knows how to slow it down, plus the tight jeans help!


–Miranda Lambert Four The Record
Miranda has hit the big time and in a big way…there was so much anticipation and importance put on this record and boy did she deliver.  After all the success and accolades she received for Revolution, creating a follow-up record had to be tough.  This album might not be quite as huge as her previous record but if being consistent is a sign of success than she reached it.  All four of Miranda’s albums have debuted at number one and this album hasn’t produced any number one songs yet, but it’s still early.  “Baggage Claim” hit the radio in mid-2011 and reached number three and “Over You” is set to be released in 2012.  Miranda is also the reigning ACM and CMA Female Vocalist of the Year and she married fellow country star Blake Shelton in May.  She’ll be back on the road in 2012, so don’t miss her!


–Lady Antebellum Own The Night
I am completely partial to anything that Lady A sings, but this is definitely a must-have album.  Need You Now is one of my all-time favorite albums, but the group definitely provided a solid third album this year.  If you’re still skeptical, listen to “Dancin’ Away With My Heart,” “Cold As Stone,” or “Heart Of The World.”  The band certainly knows how to nail a ballad and croon to an up-tempo song, so if you’re already hooked to Lady A then this album is a no-brainer.  What’s even better, is if you get the chance to see them live, don’t miss it.  Lady A’s live concerts have gotten so good with their current “Own The Night Tour.”  Plus, if that doesn’t convince you, they are consistently all over the awards shows, whether they’re collecting a group of the year statue or awards for songs.  They’re even up for a Grammy this year.  It always seems that whenever Lady A comes out with an album I am anxiously awaiting their next one!


–Sara Evans Stronger
I’ve been awaiting some of my favorite 90’s female artists to come back with some great music and Sara Evans is one that I’m glad is putting new music out.  Her last album, Real Fine Place, came out in 2005 which makes this her newest full album in nearly six years.  In between we’ve seen a greatest hits album and random releases, but nothing this complete.  She was also on Dancing With The Stars a few seasons ago and got divorced and married again…so she’s still been busy.  Stronger took me back to some of my favorite Sara Evans songs, like ones from her hit album Born To Fly.  That was her break out album, back in 2000, and with tunes co-written by Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott on songs like “A Little Bit Stronger” and other tunes like “My Heart Can’t Tell You No” or “Desperately”…there’s a song on this new album for everyone.  She’s also out on tour in 2012 with Rascal Flatts, so make sure you check that out.


–Pistol Annies Hell On Heels
The country super group made up of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley was formed by Miranda and for a while was just an awesome rumor going around.  Nobody had heard their music or seen them perform until the ACM Girls Night Out: Superstar Women of Country special aired in April.  The record was then released a few months later to fans who were waiting to hear what this new group was all about.  If you love Miranda, you’ll love their music.  The first single “Hell On Heels” is an edgy tune about sugardaddies and deals with the devil…but don’t get held up on just this song, the trio nails it with “Beige,” “Boys From The South,” and “Trailer For Rent.”  If you’re looking for some down-home country, this is it.  Personally, I’m glad to hear Ashley Monroe again…this is a perfect outlet for her, she is country music.  You can catch the Pistol Annies on the road occasionally with Miranda.


–Eric Church Chief
It boggles my mind that people still consider Eric “new.”  He’s made three albums but is nominated in categories like Best New Artist or the Horizon Award.  Anyways, Eric’s latest album Chief is by far the best album of the year in my books.  “Drink In My Hand” is out on the radio now and is one of my favorites…plus “Creepin’,” “Over When It’s Over,” or “Jack Daniels” are must hears as well.  Plus, the first single “Homeboy” helped the album peak at number one on the charts.  Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of Eric in the future, I predict some more award show nominations in 2012.  Plus, Eric will be headlining his “Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour” with Brantley Gilbert, Blackberry Smoke, Sonia Leigh, Jon Pardi, the Cadillac Black, and Drake White being featured on various dates throughout the tour.  Check him out!