Monthly Archives: February 2011

"Without You," Keith Urban

After nearly hitting number one with his previous single “Put You in A Song,” Keith Urban is returning to country radio with the second single off Get Closer, “Without You.” Does the sappy love song have what it takes to take Keith back to number one, where he hasn’t been since 2009?

It’s no secret that Keith Urban has become a different artist since he married Nicole Kidman in 2006. I’m not sure what exactly happened, but, in my opinion, the Urban pre-marriage was a better artist than the one he has become. Before 2006 he gave us two outstanding albums in Golden Road and Be Here, which gave us some of his best singles, but since then he’s delivered three less-than-mediocre albums in Love, Pain, and the Whole Crazy Thing, Defying Gravity, and Get Closer. His string of singles have also failed to impress and “Without You” is just another addition.

It’s obvious this song is inspired by his wife, which I’m in complete support of because after all country music is mostly about love songs. However, this could have been done better…way better. The lyrics – written by Dave Pahanish and Joe West – are extremely boring and lackluster, at best. They turn the song into one of those songs that takes a message that could easily be delivered in one or two sentences and tries to turn it into a complete set of lyrics with multiple verses and a chorus.

Keith delivers a fairly sincere vocal performance, but unfortunately it’s also one of his most boring. I know he means every word he’s singing, but I just feel like he could’ve infused more emotion into the song. I mean come on…he’s singing about his wife and daughter and how he his life wouldn’t mean anything without them, more emotion is required. The only bright spot in the song is it’s production with includes plenty of banjo and fiddle riffs that offer a great alternative to the loud productions currently taking over country radio.

I’ve always been a fan of Keith Urban’s, but he’s starting to lose my interest with his latest song choices. If his most boring hit, “Only You Could Love Me This Way,” can hit number one, then I’m sure “Without You” can do the same.

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"Live A Little," Kenny Chesney

After gaining top five hits with “The Boys of Fall” (which nabbed an ACM nomination) and “Somewhere With You,” Kenny Chesney is releasing a third song off his Hemingway’s Whiskey album, “Live A Little.” Is this country-rock ditty good enough to become another smash for this country superstar?

Ladies and gentlemen, the old Kenny Chesney has thankfully returned to country radio. After dabbling with the unattractive “island country” for the past few years, Chesney has returned to the country style that made him a superstar in the first place and it’s helping him get back to the top of the country world.

On “Live a Little,” Kenny delivers a fantastic country-rock production that begins with an excellent guitar intro before he kicks in with the lyrics. The uptempo ditty revolves around a mixture of bass, electric, and acoustic guitars as well as a killer drum beat that creates an awesome feel good song. With country radio preparing their summer playlists with uptempo summer songs, this song will definitely be one of the most played this season.

The lyrics revolve around forgetting the trials and tribulations of everyday life like paying rent and working in order to have fun and “live a little.” The verses don’t necessarily offer anything new, some are even a bit cliche like the final one: “step back, smell the rose, feel the sand between your toes, unplug, unwind, step out in the sunshine.” Most of the verses are actually on the verge of being cheesy.

The lyrics are certainly not the best to hit country radio, but that’s ok because Kenny’s energetic performance makes you forget what the song is about and allows you to just sing along. It’s been a long time since Chesney offered such a fun and vibrant vocal performance like this one.

 I’ve never been a big fan of Kenny’s, especially during his “beach bum” days, but he’s certainly changing my mind with his latest singles. This will no doubt become the singer’s next number one smash and may be good enough to entice me to buy his album.

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Billboard Chart Flash: Week of Feb. 7 – 13

This week’s Billboard country charts sees the debut of Thompson Square’s debut album as well as a change atop one of the charts. Find out who is number one on each chart as well as who rounds out the top five in this week’s Chart Flash.

After finally climbing to number one last week, Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party holds onto that position by selling another 34,900 copies this week bringing the album’s total to just over 853,000 copies. Following behind once again is Taylor Swift’s Speak Now which moves an additional 32,000 copies this week. On the heels of a top 15 single, “Are You gonna Kiss Me or Not?,” Thompson Square’s Thompson Square debuts at number three with sales of just over 30,000 copies. Experiencing a pre-Grammy sales increase is Lady Antebellum whose Need You Now comes in fourth after sales of just under 28,000 copies. Rounding out the top five is the Zac Brown Band with their latest album, You Get What You Give.

Next week should be an interesting one on the albums chart as the usual post-Grammy sales increases will be evident which could lead to a big shakeup, especially after Lady Antebellum took home five awards.

On the Hot Country Songs chart, Luke Bryan leaps up two spots to nab his third consecutive number one single with “Someone Else Calling You Baby.” This is Bryan’s third number one off his Doin’ My Thing album after “Rain is a Good Thing” and “Do I.” Also leaping up two spots is Blake Shelton’s “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking?” which jumps up to number two. Falling down two spots to number three is last week’s number one single from Chris Young, “Voices.” Sliding down to number four from number two is Kenny Chesney’s “Somewhere With You” while Brad Paisley’s “This Is Country Music” rounds out the top five singles.

Leading this week’s debut singles is Justin Moore with his latest single, “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away,” which comes in at number 46. Following Moore are singles from Walker Hayes (“Why Wait For Summer” at no. 53), Tim McGraw and Gwyneth Paltrow (“Me And Tennessee” at no. 57), and Chris Young (“Tomorrow” at no. 58).

Next week is going to be a battle for the number one spot on the singles chart as Blake Shelton continues to enjoy strong radio airplay of “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking?” while Luke Bryan is trying to hold on to the top spot for at least one more week. As usual, we’ll sort out all the movement on both charts for you in next week’s Chart Flash.

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"Tomorrow," Chris Young

Chris Young has seemingly become a country radio sensation in the past couple years. With “Voices” reaching number one last week, he’s now garnered three consecutive number one singles, all off his The Man I Want to Be album. Now he’s debuting a new song from an upcoming album called “Tomorrow.” Does the power ballad have what it takes to become the crooner’s fourth consecutive number one smash?

Country music…meet your next big superstar, Chris Young.

Before I begin talking about how amazing he sounds vocally on this song, I’m going to start with the fantastic execution when it comes to the song’s production. In a time where most country artists believe that a bigger sounding production is better, Chris provides this great slice of ear candy that manages to be big sounding without over-powering his soaring vocal performance as well as being mainstream without losing its country twang. The song begins with a fantastic steel guitar and string arrangement and continues by showcasing instruments from guitars to fantastic fiddle riffs. This is probably one of the best productions to hit country radio in recent years.

While the production is fantastic, this song is all about Young’s stellar vocal performance, which could be the best he’s delivered in his career so far. On previous singles, he usually delivers a more toned down vocal that shows off the lower range in his great baritone voice, but on “Tomorrow” he combines that lower range with a few power notes that take the song to a whole other level. He delivers the low range vocals on the song’s verses but during the chorus and the bridge he kicks it up a notch and shows us a higher range that not many knew he had. “Tomorrow” could be this talented crooner’s ticket to superstardom in years to come and will undoubtedly become the singer’s fourth consecutive number one single.

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Talkin’ About the Grammy’s: Country Music’s 2010 Summed Up in Three Words

Sunday night’s 53rd Annual Grammy awards proved that 2010 was undoubtedly the year of the lady…Lady Antebellum that is. The country trio owned the night with five, out of a possible six, wins including awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Find out what else Lady A took home as well as which other country artists received Grammys.

If we weren’t sure how to sum up the year 2010 in country music, then last night’s Grammys did for it us by using three simple words: “Need You Now.” The smash hit from Lady Antebellum claimed the all-genre Song of the Year and Record of the Year awards, beating favorites by Eminem, Cee Lo Green, and Jay-Z. In addition to those, the group also walked away with their second Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group trophy as they won for “Need You Now.” The smash also claimed Best Country Song honors while the group’s sophomore album, Need You Now, took home the Country Album of the Year award. The only award the group failed to win was the Album of the Year award which went to rock’s Arcade Fire for their album The Suburbs.

In other country categories, Miranda Lambert became a first time Grammy winner as she took home the Best Female Country Vocal Performance award for her brilliant performance of “The House That Built Me.” Keith Urban also nabbed his fourth Grammy by taking home the Best Male Country Vocal Performance for his hit “‘Til Summer Comes Around.” The Zac Brown Band also took home an award as their collaboration with Alan Jackson, “As She’s Walking Away,” upset favorite “Hillbilly Bone” for the Best Country Collaboration with Vocals award.

During the telecast, country was represented well with performances from Lambert and Lady A as well as Keith Urban, John Mayer, and Norah Jones offering a snippet of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” to honor the Grammy Lifetime Acheivement Award recipient. Martina McBride was also featured in an all-star tribute to Aretha Franklin. That’s a wrap on this year’s Grammy awards! We’ll be talking more about awards shows when this year’s ACM’s approach.

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"Let It Rain," David Nail

David Nail’s previous two singles have garnered awards nominations (“Red Light” scored an ACM nod last year while “Turning Home” is up for a Grammy this year) and both peaked inside the top 20 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. David now hopes to follow his previous successes with his new single “Let It Rain.” Is the single good enough to become his breakthrough hit?

On his previous single, “Turning Home,” David Nail showed how great of a vocalist he is by delivering a solid vocal performance that showed off his impressive range and control and he’s now demonstrating that once again on “Let It Rain.” Here Nail delivers the song about a man feeling the regret about cheating on his wife with such conviction and power that proves even further that he has what it takes to be one of country’s best male vocalists. His vocals soar during the chorus and then deliver a more controlled and subdued tone during the song’s verses. Nail’s vocal performance is by far the best aspect of the song.

Now, the lyrics and production on the other hand, aren’t as spectacular (though they aren’t necessarily bad). The story does a great job in making the listener actually have to listen to the lyrics to know what the song’s about. The writers never spell out that the man cheated, but one line says it all: “seven years of good can’t hide the one night I forgot to wear that ring,” which should set off alarms as to what the song is about. The chorus finds Nail pleading to let the guilt rain down on him because he knows it’s over between him and his wife. I like the concept of the song, but I don’t think the execution was as good as it could’ve been.

On “Turning Home,” I think David nailed the vocal performance, but the song’s production held the song back and kept it from reaching its full potential. I think “Let It Rain” falls victim to the same fate as the production often drowns out Nail’s exceptional vocal performance. The country-pop-rock production becomes fairly annoying pretty quickly as the drum beat in the beginning distracts from the vocals and lyrics. Once the song reaches the chorus the production becomes loud and nearly covers the soaring vocals from Nail and completely covers the background vocals which you can only hear if you listen close enough. It’s all a bit too much for my taste and takes away from the quality of the song.

Overall I think David Nail soars vocally on this extremely mediocre song. Does “Let It Rain” have what it takes to be his breakout hit? That remains to be seen but I have a feeling country radio and its listeners will warm up to this new single.

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Talking About the Grammy’s: Official Predictions

Music’s Biggest Night is set to happen this Sunday night with the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards. This year’s leading country nominee, Lady Antebellum, could be the night’s big winner as they could take home six awards including Album of the Year. However, they’ll have stiff competition from artists like Eminem, Jay-Z, and even Miranda Lambert. Find out who we think will walk away with a golden trophy in this year’s country categories.

Album of the Year

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

Early buzz has pointed to leading nominee Eminem’s album to take home this year’s coveted award but it’s going to be a battle between the rapper and country’s newest superstar, Lady Antebellum. However, I think it’ll be Eminem to sneak out the win.

Should Win: Recovery – Eminem
Who Will Win: Recovery – Eminem
Dark Horse: Need You Now – Lady Antebellum

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

This category, like the Album race, could boil down to the Eminem hit and Lady A’s massive smash, but so far all eyes are on Jay Z and Alicia Keys to take home the award. However, the Grammy’s haven’t been kind to Jay Z in this category so that could leave the door open for “Need You Now” to claim victory.

Who Should Win: “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum
Who Will Win: “Love The Way You Lie” – Eminem featuring Rihanna
Dark Horse: “Empire State of Mind” – Jay Z featuring Alicia Keys

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. However, it’s looking like all eyes will be on “Need You Now” to secure the win, although “The House That Built Me” should win this one.

Who Should Win: “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert (written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin)
Who Will Win: “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum (written by Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, and Hillary Scott)

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

Five great vocal performances from five of country’s best female vocalists. This essentially could come down to the Miranda Lambert classic and the Carrie Underwood masterpiece, as it should. However, with the song garnering a Song of the Year nomination, look to Miranda Lambert to be accepting her first, of many, Grammy of her career.

Who Should Win: “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert
Who Will Win: “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert
Dark Horse: “Temporary Home” – Carrie Underwood

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 vocal performance race is an interesting one that includes first time nominees Chris Young and David Nail. However, this looks like it’ll be an easy win for Keith Urban, who is the only nominee who has won a Grammy before.

Who Should Win: “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song)” – Chris Young
Who Will Win: “‘Til Summer Comes Around” – Keith Urban
Dark Horse: “Cryin’ for Me (Wayman’s Song)” – Toby Keith

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

With six nominations, three of which are in the all genre categories, it’s a for sure thing that Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” will sweep the country categories it’s nominated in, including this one. This is going to be the group’s second consecutive win in this category (they won last year for “I Run to You”).

Who Should Win: “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum
Who Will Win: “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum
Dark Horse: “Free” – Zac Brown Band

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

Tough category which is essentially a three way battle between chart smashes “As She’s Walking Away” and “Hillbilly Bone” and the brilliant “Bad Angel.” The Blake Shelton/Trace Adkins smash has won the CMA and ACM award, but it could be ignored in favor of “Bad Angel.” Should be interesting to see who will win.

Who Should Win: “Bad Angel” – Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, and Jamey Johnson
Who Will Win: “Hillbilly Bone” – Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins
Dark Horse: “As She’s Walking Away” – Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson

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 amazing country songs nabbed nominations in this year’s Best Country Song category but unfortunately it’s going to be a battle between the two songs that nabbed nominations in the overall Song of the Year category. In one corner you have the biggest country song of 2010, “Need You Now,” and in the other you have the most brilliant song to come around in year, “The House That Built Me.” I’m personally pulling for “House,” but “Need You Now” is the clear favorite.

Who Should Win: “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert (written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin)
Who Will Win: “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum (written by Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, and Hillary Scott)

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

Five great albums from five great artists. Just like the Best Country Song category, this is essentially a two-horse race between country’s best selling album of 2010, Need You Now, and the most critically acclaimed album of 2010, Revolution. And the outcome will most likely be the same as Need You Now is nominated in the all-genre Album of the Year category.

Who Should Win: Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
Who Will Win: Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
Dark Horse: Revolution – Miranda Lambert

There they are! Our official predictions for this Sunday’s Grammy Awards show. Make sure you tune in to the awards telecast airing live on CBS. Lady Antebellum and Miranda Lambert will among the night’s performers as well as possibly winning awards themselves. Check back on Monday for our Grammy wrap up to see how we did predicting.

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