Monthly Archives: January 2011

For Your Consideration: ACM Album of the Year

ATC is continuing our For Your Consideration series with the ACM Album of the Year category. 2010 was a big year for albums and it’ll be interesting to see which five albums will land nominations in this elusive category. We won’t know until the nominations are announced February 1st, but here are the ones we feel deserve to be nominated.

Last year, Miranda Lambert claimed her second Album of the Year trophy as her fantastic album, Revolution, beat out albums from Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, Carrie Underwood, and Brad Paisley. 2010 saw big time releases from superstars like Lady A, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban, so the nominations for this category could be filled with superstars. Here are the five albums we think should land a nomination.

Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
This is a no-brainer nomination, if you ask me. Not only did the album yield three number one singles including the cross-over smash, “Need You Now,” but it was also 2010’s biggest selling country album with sales of over three million copies. The album is also up for Album of the Year at next month’s Grammy awards as well as the Country Album of the Year award. The album is a fantastic mix of country and pop and shows off the group’s vocals brilliantly. This is the current frontrunner to take home this award come awards night in April.

Up on the Ridge – Dierks Bentley
With nominations from the CMA and Grammy awards, this album is yet another no-brainer to lock a nomination at the ACM’s. This is Dierks’ best album to date and includes fantastic songs like the title track, as well as Bentley’s collaboration with Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson, “Bad Angel,” and the album’s second single, “Draw Me a Map.” Dierks took a risk when recording this album and I feel that it paid off…big time.

Easton Corbin – Easton Corbin
Usually, the Academy loves to throw in a dark horse nominee in the field and this year they could throw in Easton Corbin’s fantastic debut album. After scoring back-to-back number one singles with “A Little More Country Than That” and “Roll With It,” this talented newcomer has shown he has what it takes to become country’s next superstar. The album includes fantastic country songs like “Leavin’ a Lonely Town” and “Someday When I’m Old.” After landing on numerous “Best of 2010” lists, I think this album has a great chance at scoring a nomination.

Speak Now – Taylor Swift
Lately the ACM’s have included albums that have performed well commerically to vie for the Album of the Year prize and since it sold over a million copies in its first week, Taylor Swift could garner her third nomination in this category. In addition to the lead single, “Mine,” the album includes the fantastic “Back to December” as well as album cuts “Sparks Fly” and “Dear John.” If she lands a nomination, she could be Lady A’s biggest competition to win the coveted award.

The Guitar Song – Jamey Johnson
The ACM’s have always showered love on Jamey Johnson, even changing the eligibility requirements so his first album That Lonesome Song could garner a nomination. This year we could see Johnson score his second nomination in this category with his 2-disc, 25-song album. The album includes singles “Heartache,” and “Playing the Part.” What hurts Johnson’s chances is the fact that radio hasn’t exactly warmed up to his music lately, but it’s completely up to Academy voters to help him secure a nomination.

Bubbling Under
The Reason Why – Little Big Town
Hemingway’s Whiskey – Kenny Chesney
You Get What You Give – Zac Brown Band

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For Your Consideration: Carrie Underwood Single Edition

With her current single, “Mama’s Song,” peaking at number two on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, it’s seemingly time for Carrie Underwood to release a new single. If a fifth song from her third album, Play On, is going to be released, then here’s a review of the song we think should be sent to radio, “Someday When I Stop Loving You.”
Sometimes I feel artists can mistake delivering emotion with oversinging, which doesn’t necessarily work. I’ve always been a big Carrie Underwood fan and have always appreciated her explosive vocal performances, but I think she’s at her best when she avoids the belting and power notes. “Someday When I Stop Loving You” is the perfect example of that fact. On the heartbreaking song, Carrie keeps her vocal performance extremely subtle and tender, avoiding the huge, powerful notes. This type of vocal performance allows Carrie to connect to the lyrics and deliver the song with more emotion and allows the fantastic lyrics to remain at the song’s forefront.

The song – written by Hillary Lindsey, Steve McEwan, and Gordie Sampson – is a fantastic tale of the heartbreak that’s left behind when a once serious relationship ends and one person is left with the memories and pain of realizing they must move on. The chorus alone depicts a heartbreaking image: “I’ll move on baby just like you, when the desert floods and the grass turns blue, when a sailing ship don’t need her moon, it’ll break my heart but I’ll get through, someday when I stop loving you.”

The song also includes a fantastic, nearly acoustic production that adds to the emotional level of the song. Carrie is accompanied by a mixture of steel and acoustic guitars as well as a slight drum beat that results in one of the most traditional sounding songs on Play On. The toned down production matches the vocal performance delivered by Underwood and overall creates the best-sounding song on the album.

I’ve alway said Carrie Underwood is one of the finest vocalists in country music and she’s always at her best with more traditional, toned down songs. That’s why songs like “Temporary Home,” “Mama’s Song,” and “Look At Me” are all highlights on an otherwise average album in Play On. However, I think Carrie hits her artistic high with “Someday When I Stop Loving You.” This song, in my opinion, brought out the best of Carrie and I think it deserves to be heard by every country music fan.

So Carrie…if you’re reading this, please do us all a favor and send this brilliant song to country radio because we need a break from the country-pop fluff that’s taken over.

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Billboard Chart Flash: Week of Jan. 17 – 23

This week saw plenty of movement on both of Billboard’s country charts, but did last week’s champions, Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney, get booted from their number one positions? Find out in this week’s Chart Flash.

If you thought Taylor Swift’s Speak Now was dethroned on the albums chart, then you thought wrong. For another week, Taylor had the biggest selling country album of the week. This week she sold an additional 30,000 copies to remain at number one. Bouncing back into the number two position is Jason Aldean with his album, My Kinda Party, which sold 24,000 copies. Losing a bit of momentum this week is the soundtrack for Country Strong which fell one spot to number three. Storming back into the top five albums is Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now which comes in at number four. Rounding out this week’s top five albums is the Zac Brown Band’s sophomore release, You Get What You Give.

Over on the Hot Country Songs chart, Kenny Chesney’s “Somewhere With You” spends a second week atop the chart this week. Making a move into the number two spot is Keith Urban with his latest smash, “Put You In A Song.” Leapfrogging three spots from number six to number three is Luke Bryan with his recent single, “Someone Else Calling You Baby,” which could be the singer’s third straight top two single (after “Do I” and “Rain is a Good Thing”). Tumbling down two spots to number four is Tim McGraw’s multi-week number one smash, “Felt Good On My Lips.” For the third week in a row, Chris Young’s “Voices” rounds out the top five country songs.

This week saw the debut of three new songs led by Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” which comes in at no. 57. Other debuts were Aaron Lewis’ “Country Boy” (which features George Jones and Charlie Daniels) at no. 59 and Alabama’s “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” at no. 60. Reba’s “If I Were A Boy” is this week’s biggest jumper as it jumps up 15 spots from no. 60 to no. 45.

Next week we’ll see if Luke Bryan can continue his momentum at radio at jump into the number one spot on the singles chart with “Someone Else Calling You Baby” or if Kenny Chesney will notch another week atop the chart. See who comes out on top in next week’s Chart Flash.

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Single Review Blast: 2011’s Artists to Watch

In our first Single Review Blast of the new year, we’ll be focusing on artists we think have potential to have breakthrough years like Easton Corbin and The Band Perry did in 2010. The four artists we think could make names for themselves in 2011 are Sunny Sweeney, Thompson Square, The Harters, and Randy Montana. Continue reading to see our mini-reviews of each of their current singles gaining airplay at country radio.

“From A Table Away” – Sunny Sweeney
Sunny Sweeney isn’t exactly a “new” artist (she released her debut album in 2007), she’s finally gaining mainstream success with her current single, “From A Table Away.” The song tells the story about a mistress seeing her married man rekindle his marriage at a table in a bar. “So I guess that means that things are better, must not be so bad at home,” Sweeney seemingly asks the man, “and I heard you tell her you still love her, and it doesn’t matter what you say I saw it all from a table away.” The song could almost serve as a cousin to Sugarland’s “Stay.” The fantastic production is driven by guitar riffs as well as a great country beat throughout the song. The chorus is filled with plenty of steel guitar which clearly makes this a country song. This was one of the best songs of 2010 and there’s no doubt it’ll be a smash hit in 2011.

“Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?” – Thompson Square
Thompson Square is a new country duo comprised of husband and wife Keifer and Shawna Thompson who belong to Stoney Creek Records’ artist roster. They released their debut single early last year and it failed to take off. However, the follow up single is on its way to being the duo’s first top 20 hit and boy is it a good one. “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?” tells a couple’s love story detailing their first kiss, to their engagement, and ultimately to their wedding. What I love about the song is it’s creative use of the idea of the different milestones the couple shares a kiss. It’s, to me, a nice unique idea. The song’s production begins fairly quiet with a nice guitar background before it turns into a bit of a country rocker during the first chorus. The duo shows great chemistry and their vocals are spot on with Keifer taking the lead and Shawna providing harmony. This is a great song and I can’t wait to see how high this climbs on the charts.

“If I Run” – The Harters
The Harters are a new country trio who I think have huge potential to be a staple in country music. Each of their voices are great and blend nicely and they have great harmonies as a group. Unfortunately, those talents aren’t shown at their fullest on their current single, “If I Run.” The song’s lyrics are weak in telling the story of a woman asking her companion if he’d be there in the long run. Lines like “if i run will you run after me, if i walk will you wait patiently” are extremely cheesy and mediocre. The production is a bit over-the-top with the guitars and distracting drum beat during the chorus. I’m hoping this isn’t the best to come from the trio because they can do so much better than this song.

“1,000 Faces” – Randy Montana
I’ve always thought Randy Montana had one of the best voices in country music. His debut single, “Ain’t Much Left of Lovin’ You,” was one of my favorite songs released by a new artist last year and I expected big things from him. Unfortunately, Montana is hitting radio waves with “1,000 Faces” which takes cheesy love songs to a whole other level. “Love has a 1,000 faces but I see you, before I ever knew you, before I ever knew you, I dreamed of you, I dreamed of you” that is just one example of how cheesy the lyrics can get. The thing that bugs me the most about this song is that the production is actually fairly good. I love how it’s a toned down production, even though it gets overwhelming and distracting towards the end of the song. Had the lyrics been better, or even completely different, this could have had potential to be a big hit. Instead, it’ll probably only hit top 40, if that, before it falls off the charts. Like The Harters’ song, let’s hope there’s better material in Randy Montana.

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Billboard Chart Flash: Week of Jan. 10 – 16

For the last three weeks, Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw held the top spots on Billboard’s country charts. However, this week saw the debut of Steel Magnolia’s self-titled debut album which had a great chance to overtake the number one spot on the Country Albums chart while singles by Carrie Underwood and Kenny Chesney put pressure on Tim’s “Felt Good On My Lips.” Did one of the superstars fall from the top? Find out in this week’s Chart Flash!

Taylor Swift’s Speak Now was able to hold off the first ‘major’ album release of 2011 by selling an additional 35,000 copies to remain number one on the Country Albums chart. Still relishing from the wide release of Country Strong, the movie’s soundtrack moved up a spot to number two with sales of over 28,000 copies. Making their debut this week is Steel Magnolia’s Steel Magnolia which reached 28,300 homes in its first week, good enough to land at number three. Moving down a couple spots to number two is Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party which sold just over 25,000 copies. Rounding out the week’s top five albums is Country Strong: More Music from the Film, which is an extended soundtrack for the film, which moved 15,000 copies to finish at number five.

On the Hot Country Songs chart, Kenny Chesney leaps two spots to the number one position with his recent smash, “Somewhere With You,” which sends Tim McGraw’s “Felt Good on my Lips” down to number two. Keith Urban’s “Put You In A Song” rises up one spot to number three while Carrie Underwood tumbles down two spots to number four with “Mama’s Song.” Rounding out the week’s top five songs is once again Chris Young’s “Voices.”

There is only one debut song this week and that is Randy Montana’s “1,000 Faces” which makes its debut at number 56.

With no new major album releases this week, it’ll be a shocker if Taylor Swift vacates the top album spot so once again we’ll focus mainly on the movement of the singles chart. Can Kenny Chesney make it a multiple week stay at number one or will another song leap up into the top spot? Find out in next week’s Chart Flash.

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For Your Consideration: ACM Single and Song of the Year

It’s nearing the time when the annual Academy of Country Music awards announces their list of nominees for their annual awards show. Just like we did leading up to last year’s CMA awards, ATC will offer our input on who we think should score nominations in some of the big categories. We’ll begin our series with the Single and Song of the Year categories.

Last year Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” swept both the Single and Song of the Year categories beating out hits by Miranda Lambert, Billy Currington, Zac Brown Band, and David Nail in the Single of the Year category as well as hits by Lambert, Currington, Zac Brown Band, and Carrie Underwood for the Song of the Year prize. This year I think they’ll miss out on nominations in these categories in favor of hits by other artists. Here are the songs we think have a chance at landing nominations in one or both of these categories.

“The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert (Single and Song of the Year)
Last year Miranda Lambert’s smash hit, “White Liar,” scored nominations in both of these categories and it’ll be a huge shocker if the follow up single, “The House That Built Me,” doesn’t do the same this year. It’s topping nearly every list of Best of 2010 singles in country music and is nominated for the Song of the Year Grammy award. Not to mention the song picked up Song of the Year honors at last fall’s CMA awards. If When the song gets nominated in both categories, look for it to be the clear frontrunner to win.

“Roll With It” – Easton Corbin (Single of the Year)
Easton Corbin’s debut year included two number one singles with the second, “Roll With It,” becoming his early signature song. “Roll With It” was one of the top 10 songs of country music (according to Billboard) and became an instant summer classic. Corbin has a chance to be a multiple nominee this year as he’s also nominated in the Top New Solo Vocalist category and possibly the Top New Artist category.

“If I Die Young” – The Band Perry (Single and Song of the Year)
If there was one song in 2010 that helped put a newcomer on the map in a big way, this would be it. The Band Perry scored massive success with this number one smash single. “If I Die Young” became the group’s first chart topper as well as their first platinum single. The song also nabbed writer Kimberly Perry her first Grammy nomination for Best Country Song. It’ll be a surprise to see this song left off the list of nominations.

“As She’s Walking Away” – Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson (Single of the Year)
This number one smash brought together the Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson on this amazing song. The song nabbed a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration and would be a frontrunner in the ACM’s collaboration category if it scores a nomination. Prior to this single, I hadn’t gotten why ZBB was so successful because I never understood their songs, but this song made me a fan and I think it’ll score them a few nominations this year.

“Little White Church” – Little Big Town (Single and Song of the Year)
Every year it seems like the ACM’s like to throw in a surprise underdog. Last year it was David Nail’s top five hit that was the only song to not reach number one and this year Little Big Town’s comeback smash could take that spot. This top ten single brought LBT back to life and was one of the summer’s most fun and infectious songs. This would be a perfect selection for the final list of nominees in these categories.

Bubbling Under

“Temporary Home” – Carrie Underwood
This number one hit by Carrie Underwood could possibly sneak into one of these two categories based on Carrie’s fantastic vocal as well as the good songwriting.

“Stuck Like Glue” – Sugarland
This fun and boundary-pushing song from Sugarland is one of their finest singles. It’s catchy, infectious, and irresistible. This single has a chance to land among the nominees for Single of the Year.

“American Honey” – Lady Antebellum
If this supergroup was to score a nomination in either of these categories, I think it would be for “American Honey” which was another number one hit and was the better written song over “Our Kind of Love.”

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Talkin’ About the Grammy’s: The Nominees

The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards will hand out their annual golden gramophones to honor the biggest names in music. As has become the norm at ATC, we’ll be dissecting the nominees in the country categories as well as the all-genre categories that include country nominees. As the show gets closer, we’ll offer our official predictions for who we think will walk away winners.

Last year, Taylor Swift became a Grammy darling when she walked away with four awards including Album of the Year for her sophomore release, Fearless. When the 2009 nominations were announced, it was Swift who led the country nominees with a whopping 8 nominations. This year, Lady Antebellum finds themselves as the leading country nominee with 6 nominations including Album of the Year for Need You Now, as well as Record of the Year and Song of the Year for the album’s title track, “Need You Now.”

Miranda Lambert has been 2010’s awards darling by winning 3 ACM and CMA awards and has a chance to win three Grammys come February. Lambert scored nominations in the Best Female Country Vocal Performance category for “The House That Built Me,” Best Country Album for Revolution, and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for her part in Dierks Bentley’s “Bad Angel” (which also featured Jamey Johnson). Lambert’s “House” also earned songwriters Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin nominations in the Best Country Song and Song of the Year categories.

Here is the complete rundown of country nominees as well as our initial reaction to the nominees.

Album of the Year

  • The Suburbs – Arcade Fire
  • Recovery – Eminem
  • Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
  • The Fame Monster – Lady Gaga
  • Teenage Dream – Katy Perry

Lady Antebellum represents country music in this all-genre category and could pull off an upset come awards night. Early buzz is predicting leading nominee Eminem to walk away with this award with his comeback album, but no one is counting out Lady A.

Record of the Year

  • “Nothin’ on You” – B.O.B. featuring Bruno Mars
  • “Love The Way You Lie” – Eminem featuring Rihanna
  • “F*** You” – Cee Lo Green
  • “Empire State of Mind” – Jay Z featuring Alicia Keys
  • “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum

Once again, Lady Antebellum represents country music in this all-genre category, though they are once again considered the underdogs. All five songs had massive success on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart, but experts are once again leaning towards the Eminem/Rihanna smash hit. In fact, they are predicting an Eminem sweep in the big categories come awards night.

Song of the Year

  • “Beg Steal or Borrow” – Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs (written by Ray LaMontagne)
  • “F*** You” – Cee Lo Green (written by Brody Brown, Cee Lo Green, Ari Levine, Philip Lawrence & Bruno Mars)
  • “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert (Written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin)
  • “Love The Way You Lie” – Eminem featuring Rihanna (Written by Alexander Grant, Skylar Grey & Marshall Mathers)
  • “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum (Written by Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, and Hillary Scott)

For the first time since 2006 when the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready To Make Nice” and Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel” were nominated has there been two country songs nominated in the same year. This year, Lady A’s “Need You Now” and Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” both secured nominations. Personally, I’d love to see “House” take this award but because it might not have been heard by as many voters as “Need You Now,” it is the huge underdog. Experts predict a Lady A win here but it could go to “Love The Way You Lie.”

Best Female Country Vocal Performance

  • “Satisfied” – Jewel
  • “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert
  • “Swingin'” – Leann Rimes
  • “Temporary Home” – Carrie Underwood
  • “I’d Love to Be Your Last” – Gretchen Wilson

Such an interesting list of nominees which includes surprise nominees in Gretchen Wilson and Jewel. The Leann Rimes song is one of the best singles of her career and the same could be said for the Carrie Underwood single. However, those four pale in comparison to Miranda Lambert’s career defining smash, “The House That Built Me.” Look for Miranda to score her first Grammy win.

Best Male Country Vocal Performance

  • “Macon” – Jamey Johnson
  • “Cryin’ For Me (Wayman’s Song)” – Toby Keith
  • “Turning Home” – David Nail
  • “‘Til Summer Comes Around” – Keith Urban
  • “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song)” – Chris Young

This year’s male nominees include two first time nominees in David Nail and Chris Young. Toby Keith receives a surprise nomination for his moving tribute single to Wayman Tisdale. Jamey Johnson is once again nominated in this category for his song, “Macon.” The only Grammy winner present in this category is Keith Urban who is more than likely going to walk away with his fourth win in this category for his hit “‘Til Summer Comes Around.” It’s a bit of a surprise to see Brad Paisley left off this year’s list considering “Welcome to the Future” and “American Saturday Night” were among his best singles.

Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals

  • “Free” – Zac Brown Band
  • “Elizabeth” – Daily & Vincent
  • “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum
  • “Little White Church” – Little Big Town
  • “Where Rainbows Never Die” – The SteelDrivers

Last year Lady Antebellum won in this category for their hit “I Run to You” and considering it’s nominated in the all-genre Record of the Year category, look for the group to nab their second Grammy award in this category. It’s great to see the Little Big Town song receive some recognition it rightfully deserves.

Best Country Collaboration with Vocals

  • “Bad Angel” – Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, and Jamey Johnson
  • “Pride (In the Name of Love)” – Dierks Bentley, Del McCoury, and the Punch Brothers
  • “As She’s Walking Away” – Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson
  • “Hillbilly Bone” – Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins
  • “I Run to You” – Marty Stuart and Connie Smith

This category is a three horse between chart smashes “Hillbilly Bone” and “As She’s Walking Away” and the critically acclaimed “Bad Angel.” “Bone” won both the CMA and ACM awards for collaboration, but I have a feeling it’ll be ignored by the Recording Academy for “Bad Angel.”

Best Country Song

  • “The Breath You Take” – George Strait (written by Casey Beathard, Dean Dillon & Jessie Jo Dillon)
  • “Free” – Zac Brown Band (written by Zac Brown)
  • “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert (written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin)
  • “I’d Love to be Your Last” – Gretchen Wilson (written by Rivers Rutherford, Annie Tate & Sam Tate)
  • “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry (written by Kimberly Perry)
  • “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum (written by Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, and Hillary Scott)

Six of country’s best songs of the year snagged nominations in this category. Though it was one of George Strait’s finest songs, “The Breath You Take” can instantly be thrown out. It’s great to see Kimberly Perry receive a nomination here for The Band Perry’s fantastic smash hit, “If I Die Young.” This will no doubt come down to “Need You Now” and “The House That Built Me.” Both songs nabbed nominations in the overall Song of the Year category and Grammy voters could go either way. I’d love to see “House” take the win but because “Need You Now” reached over genres voters could go with “Need You Now.”

Country Album of the Year

  • Up on the Ridge – Dierks Bentley
  • You Get What You Give – Zac Brown Band
  • The Guitar Song – Jamey Johnson
  • Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
  • Revolution – Miranda Lambert

Three of these five albums were nominated in the CMA Album of the Year category with Miranda Lambert winning the award. Personally, I’d love to see Revolution win here but it’s the huge underdog compared to Lady A’s massive seller, Need You Now. The album has a great shot at winning Album of the Year so I think Lady Antebellum will nab the win here.

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Billboard Chart Flash: Week of Jan. 3 – Jan. 9

For a third week in a row Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw top Billboard’s country charts. Find out if there was any movement in throughout the charts in this week’s Chart Flash.

On the Country Albums chart, Taylor Swift’s Speak Now reigns supreme as it sells another 52,000 copies this week and passes the 3 million mark in just 11 weeks. Holding strong at number two is Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party which passes the 700,000 copies sold mark this week. Making a big-time leap into the top three is the Country Strong Soundtrack which sees a huge sales jump due to the film’s nation wide release. Coming in at number four is Lady Antebellum’s Christmas EP, A Merry Little Christmas, while their sophomore album, Need You Now, rounds out the top five.

Over on the Hot Country Songs chart, Tim McGraw’s “Felt Good On My Lips” continues to be the top country song country for a third straight week. Moving up to number 2 this week is Carrie Underwood with her latest smash hit, “Mama’s Song.” Coming in at number three is Kenny Chesney with his recent single, “Somewhere With You,” while Keith Urban moves up to number four with “Put You In a Song.” Rounding out the top five songs is Chris Young with his latest top five hit, “Voices.”

This week’s debut singles are led by Rascal Flatts’ latest release, “I Won’t Let Go,” which comes in at no. 45. Following the trio is Steve Holy with his recent single, “Love Don’t Run,” at no. 58 and Leann Rimes’ “Crazy Women” at no. 60.

This week we’ll see the numbers Steel Magnolia’s debut album posted in its first week of release which could knock off Taylor Swift’s Speak Now from the top of the albums chart. On the singles chart, early numbers look like Kenny Chesney could leap into the top spot. We’ll sort out all the drama in next week’s Chart Flash!

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Steel Magnolia, "Last Night Again"

Steel Magnolia has enjoyed great chart success with its first two singles. The duo reached the top five with “Keep On Loving You” and the top 25 with “Just By Being You.” Now they’re releasing their third single, “Last Night Again,” with hopes to repeat the success of their previous singles. Does the song have what it takes to become the duo’s first number one hit?

Ever since their run on CMT’s Can You Duet?, I’ve always thought Joshua Scott Jones and Meghan Linsey had an endless supply of potential to become the genre’s next super-duo. The duo showed off that potential on its debut single but nearly erased it all with the disastrous follow-up single, “Just By Being You.” Thankfully Steel Magnolia has recovered nicely with its third single, “Last Night Again.”

“Last Night Again” finds Jones and Linsey splitting the vocal leads on a song about turning a one-night stand into something more. “Don’t want to leave you here tonight so let’s do what we did last night…again” sings the duo as they realize that what happened the previous night could be something more. The conversational lyrics allows the real-life couple to show off their chemistry as they both offer solid solos during the verses as well as great harmonies during the chorus.

What I love most about this song is the unique production. It’s a fantastic percussion based production that gives the song a nice country-pop groove that is extremely catchy and instantly hooks the listener in. I personally love the mixture of guitars which give it an old-yet-modern sound that will give country radio a bit of shake-up that it needs. It’ll be interesting to see how well this song will perform on the charts and at country radio, but I think “Last Night Again” has the potential to be the duos next top five single.

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Brad Paisley, "This Is Country Music"

The 44th Annual CMA Awards turned out to be the night of Brad Paisley’s career. Not only did the superstar claim his first Entertainer of the Year trophy, but he also introduced his latest single, “This Is Country Music,” during the awards telecast. Does Brad have an artistic hit on his hands or is it yet another addition to his long list of novelty singles?

I want to like this song, I really do, because it has all the ingredients for a song that I should like. First off it’s performed by one of my all-time favorite artists who has rarely missed the mark in his career (though “Ticks” and “Online” were major misses) when it comes to song choices. On “This Is Country Music,” Brad delivers one of the most solid vocal performances of his career which includes an attempt at showing off his upper vocal range during the chorus (though he falls a bit flat).

Another thing the song has going for it is its brilliant production. The song begins with a fantastic banjo, fiddle, acoustic and steel guitar introduction that alone encompasses all the elements that make the song country. Once the song reaches the second verse, the song turns into a typical Paisley song as his electric guitar skills take over, but never does the production stray away from the original introduction. The production alone easily fulfills the song’s title which is why it should’ve just been an instrumental piece. Unfortunately, Brad added lyrics to the song which turns it into a bit of a mess.

Turns out country music is nothing but artists singing about cliches and stereotypes that surround the genre which range from singing about tractors and little towns to “telling folks Jesus is the answer.” To ensure that nearly every cliche is thrown in, Brad also delivers lines about supporting the “ol’ red, white, and blue” as well as singing about having a “cold one on the weekend.” I understand what Brad is trying to do with the song (tell the world how awesome country music is), but including titles of country classics like “Hello Darlin’,” “Mama Tried,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and “Stand By Your Man” isn’t the way to do that. After listening to the song, I’m always left thinking about what the song could’ve been had the lyrics been totally different.

This will undoubtedly be another smash for Brad. However, it’s unfortunate that an artist of his caliber isn’t living up to the artist potential that he’s shown on songs like “Whiskey Lullaby” and “Welcome to the Future.” Let’s hope this is just a small bump in the road for the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year.

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