Monthly Archives: November 2011

Luke Bryan, "I Don’t Want This Night to End"

Since his debut back in 2007, Luke Bryan has blossomed into one of country music’s brightest stars thanks to hits like “Do I,” “Rain Is A Good Thing,” and “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).” So it’s no surprise to his newest single, “I Don’t Want This Night to End,” quickly climbing up Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart. But, does the song live up to Bryan’s potential?

I’ve always enjoyed the fact that Luke has been able to keep his sound relatively mainstream yet distinctly country. However, that sound is no where to be found on his latest album Tailgates and Tanlines as well as the new single, “I Don’t Want This Night to End.”

The song has a pop production that resembles something The Fray would use in one of their songs. There’s hardly any country sounds other than a slight fiddle that can be heard throughout, but keyboards, electric guitars, and drums pretty much mask it to create a pop melody that is extremely catchy. I’m a little disappointed that Luke and producer Jeff Stevens chose to go down the pop road rather than stick to Bryan’s signature sound, especially since it’s helped him become a radio favorite.

Written by Bryan, Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins, and Ben Hayslip, the song tells the story of a guy who meets a girl and then proceeds to spend the entire night with her while wishing that the night’s end wasn’t inevitable. I’m really not sure what the lyrics in the verses are, but I sure as heck can’t stop singing the lines of the chorus. “You got your hands up, you’re rocking in my truck, you got the radio on, you’re singing every song, I’m set on cruise control, I’m slowly losing hold of everything I’ve got, you’re looking so damn hot…I don’t want this night to end.” The incredibly catchy hook and chorus is one of the few bright spots in this less-than-stellar single, but that’s what will make this another smash hit for Bryan. Not to mention, Bryan delivers a fantastic vocal performance that eclipses the mediocre production and lyrics.

Luke Bryan has made a career for himself by releasing songs that stick to who he is as an artist. Do I think this song follows that mold? Not necessarily, but I appreciate the idea that he’s trying out different sounds and styles of music. I just hope in the future he returns to the sounds we heard on his first two albums rather than the new pop-leaning productions found on this song.

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Toby Keith, "Red Solo Cup"

After scoring a number one with the first single off his newest album, Clancy’s Tavern, Toby Keith has released the follow up single to “Made in America.” “Red Solo Cup” can be best described, at least in my opinion, in two words…
 Epic. Fail.

This song is without a doubt the worst to hit country radio this year, and maybe even all time. It’s pointless fluff that shouldn’t be caught dead in the genre of country music. If this becomes another number one for Keith, then shame on country radio and its listeners. 

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CMA Awards 2011: Official Predictions

Well it’s that time of year again…when every country music fan sits down in front of the TV as country music takes over primetime television for one night. That’s right, Country Music’s Biggest Night has finally arrived! The 45th Annual CMA Awards will air live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on ABC tonight and once again ATC is going to offer its predictions of the night’s big winners.

This year finds four artists heading into the night as leading nominees. Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, and Taylor Swift each have five nominations, including Entertainer of the Year, and each have a chance to make 2011 the best year of their career. However, in order to do that, they’ll have to overcome some of the genre’s finest superstars in order to make the CMA’s their night as this year’s categories are some of the strongest we’ve seen in recent years. But it’s ATC’s task to attempt to predict how the night will turn out, so as usual you can read who we think should win versus who will win.

Entertainer of the Year

  • Jason Aldean
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton
  • Taylor Swift
  • Keith Urban

This year’s Entertainer field includes three previous winners and two first time nominees. CMA voters have a tough choice to make as to who has represented the genre the best in the past year. Do you go with an artist who has made a huge impact on the singles and albums charts all while representing an independent label like Jason Aldean? Do you go with one of the genre’s finest superstars who continues to draw huge crowds and be one of country’s best ambassadors like Brad Paisley? Do you go with the artist who has been everywhere from a judge on a TV show, to the front page of magazines for getting married like Blake Shelton? Or do you go with the genre’s biggest superstar, Taylor Swift?

Who Should Win: Taylor Swift
Who Will Win: Taylor Swift
Dark Horse: Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton

Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Jason Aldean
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton
  • Keith Urban

Last year the CMA surprised everyone by selecting Blake Shelton as its Male Vocalist winner. This year they could choose the superstar for a second year in a row, or they can go with the artist who has had the best year of the five, Jason Aldean. Aldean’s My Kinda Party is the best selling album of the year, and his singles have all peaked inside the top 2 on the charts. Not to mention he’s crossed over to the Adult Contemporary chart with his massive duet with Kelly Clarkson. After being overlooked for most of his career, this year is Jason’s year to snag his first CMA award.

Who Should Win: Jason Aldean
Who Will Win: Jason Aldean
Dark Horse: Blake Shelton

Female Vocalist of the Year

  • Sara Evans
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood

Only one of these five nominated ladies has made multiple appearances in the top five on the singles chart and has sold over one million copies of an album…in a single week. After stirring up controversy in 2009 after she won this award, Taylor Swift is actually going into the night as the most deserving of the nominees. However, I can’t help but hope that the CMA finally give a long and overdue look of acknowledgement to Sara Evans, who has had a big comeback year this year.

Who Should Win: Sara Evans
Who Will Win: Taylor Swift
Dark Horse: Miranda Lambert

Vocal Group of the Year

  • The Band Perry
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band

This is yet another competitive category. Last year Lady Antebellum was the clear favorite to win, but this year they have both The Band Perry and Zac Brown Band on their heels. TBP has had arguably one of the biggest country hits of the year with “If I Die Young” while ZBB remains to be a consistent force at radio and in sales. Since Lady A had a more quiet year, I think it’ll come down to The Band Perry and Zac Brown Band for the win.

Who Should Win: Zac Brown Band
Who Will Win: Zac Brown Band
Dark Horse: The Band Perry and Lady Antebellum

Vocal Duo of the Year

  • The Civil Wars
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Steel Magnolia
  • Sugarland
  • Thompson Square

First off thumbs up to the CMA for nominated little known The Civil Wars…kudos! But this is essentially a two horse race, though some might beg to differ. Sugarland has owned this category for the past few years, but after failing to make a dent on the singles chart with any of their The Incredible Machine singles, this year could see the duo lose to first time nominee, Thompson Square. Keifer and Shawna Thompson have had a huge year with their massive breakout hit, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?” which is one of the most played songs of the year.

Who Should Win: Thompson Square
Who Will Win: Sugarland
Dark Horse: Thompson Square

New Artist of the Year

  • The Band Perry
  • Luke Bryan
  • Eric Church
  • Thompson Square
  • Chris Young

It pains me to think that Luke Bryan and Chris Young most likely won’t get to win this award since this is their last year of eligibility after receiving nominations last year, though both are deserving of the award. This year’s New Artist is clearly going to be The Band Perry. With the success of “If I Die Young” and “You Lie,” the group has little competition from the four other nominees. But my personal preference is Chris Young who has one of the best voices in country music and is one of the few artists who appreciates the genre’s past.

Who Should Win: Chris Young
Who Will Win: The Band Perry
Dark Horse: Luke Bryan

Single of the Year

  • “A Little Bit Stronger” – Sara Evans
  • “Colder Weather” – Zac Brown Band
  • “Don’t You Wanna Stay” – Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson
  • “Honey Bee” – Blake Shelton
  • “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry

Four of these five songs all spent time atop the singles chart, with the Aldean/Clarkson duet peaking at number two. This could go to any of these songs, making this another highly competitive category. The Evans song is the only song by a female artist to spend multiple weeks at number one. The Band Perry tune has been certified triple platinum for over 3 million downloads. “Honey Bee” has been one of the most beloved songs by country fans of the past year. But, only one of those songs has hit number one on the Hot AC chart.

Who Should Win: “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry
Who Will Win: “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry
Dark Horse: “A Little Bit Stronger” – Sara Evans

Song of the Year

  • “Colder Weather” – Zac Brown Band (written by Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, Levi Lowrey, and Coy Bowles)
  • “Dirt Road Anthem” – Jason Aldean (written by Colt Ford and Brantley Gilbert)
  • “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry (written by Kimberly Perry)
  • “Mean” – Taylor Swift (written by Taylor Swift)
  • “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter (written by Matraca Berg and Deana Carter)

Whose bright idea was it to include “Dirt Road Anthem” over “Don’t You Wanna Stay” in this category?? Wasn’t a really good one considering “Anthem” is one of the worst songs to hit radio this year. But great job to the CMA for nominating one of the year’s best written songs, “You and Tequila,” which should win. However, The Band Perry’s genre-crossing smash was not only well written, but extremely successful. Look to Kimberly Perry to walk away with her first songwriting CMA.

Who Should Win: “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter (written by Matraca Berg and Deana Carter)
Who Will Win: “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry (written by Kimberly Perry)
Dark Horse: “Mean” – Taylor Swift (written by Taylor Swift)

Album of the Year

  • All About Tonight – Blake Shelton
  • My Kinda Party – Jason Aldean
  • Speak Now – Taylor Swift
  • This Is Country Music – Brad Paisley
  • You Get What You Give – Zac Brown Band

In terms of quality, this year’s lineup of nominees are some of the weakest this category has seen. However, it includes two of the genre’s best selling albums in the Jason Aldean and Taylor Swift sets. My personal favorite is the Jason Aldean album, but it’ll be hard to compete with an album that sold over one million copies in a week and as been certified triple platinum. Look to Swift to claim victory here.

Who Should Win: My Kinda Party – Jason Aldean
Who Will Win: Speak Now – Taylor Swift
Dark Horse: You Get What You Give – Zac Brown Band

Musical Event of the Year 

  • “As She’s Walking Away” – Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson
  • “Coal Miner’s Daughter” – Lorretta Lynn, Miranda Lambert, and Sheryl Crow
  • “Don’t You Wanna Stay” – Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson
  • “Old Alabama” – Brad Paisley featuring Alabama
  • “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter

It’s rare to have a Musical Event category filled with songs that have actually experienced success on the singles charts. Four of these songs peaked inside the top 2 on the charts, while the other has been a critical darling. My favorite of these five is the Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter song, but this will most likely go to “Don’t You Wanna Stay.”

Who Should Win: “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter
Who Will Win: “Don’t You Wanna Stay” – Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson
Dark Horse: “As She’s Walking Away” – Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson

Music Video of the Year

  • “Honey Bee” – Blake Shelton
  • “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry
  • “Mean” – Taylor Swift
  • “Old Alabama” – Brad Paisley featuring Alabama
  • “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter

My favorite video out of the five is the Kenny Chesney video, but this will probably go to either Shelton or Swift. The Swift video was creative and memorable, while the Shelton video is for one of the biggest hits of his career.

Who Should Win: “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter
Who Will Win: “Mean” – Taylor Swift
Dark Horse: “Honey Bee” – Blake Shelton

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Jason Aldean, "Tattoos on this Town"

After releasing “Dirt Road Anthem,” any song chosen for the follow up off My Kinda Party would seem like an artistic peak in five time CMA nominee, Jason Aldean’s career. It’s actually a bit of a coincidence that the new single, “Tattoos on this Town,” is possibly one of the album’s best.


Written by Michael Dulaney, Wendell Mobley, and Neil Thrasher, “Tattoos on this Town” could easily fall into the category of the typical “I’m proud of my hometown” songs that sporadically appear in country music. Surprisingly, this one isn’t one of those typical songs, but instead uses a fresh idea to differentiate itself.

“Town” finds the song’s narrator reminiscing about the memories he created in his hometown from the black marks on the road where they use to drag race to the old branch they used to swing off by the river. “It sure left its mark on us, we sure left our mark on it…we laid a lot of memories down, like tattoos on this town,” sings Aldean about how he feels about his small town. Is it one of the most influential songs to hit country music this year? Of course not, but by the standard that Jason has set for himself thus far in his career, it seems like a career milestone.

The production is just what we would expect from a Jason Aldean song: a loud anthem that brings country and rock together to form a southern rock leaning country song. An electric guitar intro leads right into a mix of bass and electric guitars and a heavy sounding drum beat. Though this type of production is getting a little old, it still suits Aldean and shows that he knows who he is as an artist, something I respect. I have to say that the vocal performance Jason delivers is one that could be one of the best so far in his career. The superstar delivers the song with just enough confidence and attitude that matches the production perfectly, a trait that he’s perfected on My Kinda Party.

After years of flying under the radar, Jason Aldean has finally joined the ranks of a country superstar. He continues to deliver hit after hit and has become a staple at country radio. “Tattoos on this Town” is another example of why listeners demand to hear Aldean. He continues to deliver songs that listeners can relate to. This will no doubt become another number one smash for the artist who should claim his first CMA Male Vocalist of the Year trophy come this year’s CMA Awards.

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Miranda Lambert, Four the Record

Since her debut album, Kerosene,hit the country music scene in 2005, Miranda Lambert hascontinued to grow and develop as an artist by rarely giving us the same albumtwice. Four the Record once againfinds the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year reinventing her sound and style todeliver one of the finest country albums of the year.  

The album kicks off with “All Kinds of Kinds,” a mid-temposong about the different types of people that make up the world we live in.With humorous lines about a cross-dressing Congressman with “closets full ofskeletons and dresses he wore on Friday nights” to a pharmacist who slips herfiddlin’ kids with Ritalin, this is a side of Miranda we rarely get to witness.

Following the opening track is the album’s lone disastroustrack, “Fine Tune.” I would comment on what the song is about, but the song isbarely audible considering the heavy use of a voice box that turns Lambert’sfantastic voice into something similar to that of Darth Vader. I appreciate thefact that Miranda is trying out different styles on this album, but this onedoes her absolutely no favors. The upside to this song is its groovy productionwhich resembles that of the album’s first single, “Baggage Claim.”

“Fastest Girl in Town” finds Miranda relishing all her sassand attitude into one of her signature country-rock power anthems. “Town” showcasesthe tough, “outlaw” persona songs like “Kerosene” and “Gunpowder and Lead” havebestowed upon the singer. “Mama’s Broken Heart” is another rocker featured onthe album, but deals with a completely different subject matter. The song is inthe same vein of “Only Prettier” in that it pokes a little fun of the “prim andproper” reputation that is expected to be upheld by “Southern belles.” On “Nobody’sFool,” Miranda recounts the regret she feels after a chance encounter with anex-boyfriend. Unfortunately, she’s regretting the fact that she left him andnow has to watch and stare as he flaunts his new single life in front of her.

On a much lighter note, this album finds the countrysongstress showing off more of a softer side which could be a result of hermarriage to fellow superstar, Blake Shelton. “Safe” was apparently written onthe road when Lambert was recalling how she felt about her relationship withShelton. “You make me feel like I’m the only girl in the whole wide world,”sings Lambert, “I wanna hold you like a handful of diamonds and pearls that Iguard with my life or die trying…I’ll keep you safe.” Though it does afantastic job at relaying the love the couple shares, the cheesy lyrics nearlyturn the song into a response to Shelton’s less-than-stellar hit, “God Gave MeYou.”

Two of the album’s strongest songs appear back-to-back onthe track listing. “Dear Diamond” is a fantastic, bittersweet ballad, writtenby Miranda, that tells the story of a married woman who has an affair anddecides to confide in her ring, rather than tell her husband. “Dear diamond…withthis ring I’ve said I do, I promised to never do what I’ve done, I’ve beenlying to someone, dear diamond,” sings Lambert during the song’s chorus. “Ipromise to keep this secret I have while he’s holding me,” she utters as shemakes the aching decision to not come clean. To make this song even morebrilliant is the addition of Patty Loveless’ phenomenal harmonies. The more Ihear it, the more it becomes the album’s highlight.

The very next track, “Same Ol You,” is another gem on thissuperb 14-track album. This Brandi Carlile penned ditty deals with a woman whoremains in a relationship with a man who’ll most likely never change. “It’s thesame old you in church on Sunday, getting high when the sun goes down…and Ithink I’m done with you, ‘cause until I get to leavin’ it’s just the same ol metoo,” Lambert delivers with plenty of attitude and vocal prowess much like thatof one of her influences, Loretta Lynn. What I love most about this song is thevintage acoustic guitar laden production that remains in the background whilethe vocals remain at the song’s forefront.

The album’s remaining tracks each offer something new anddifferent to an already unique-sounding production. “Easy Living” brings avintage bluesy sound while “Look at Miss Ohio” offers a haunting melody thatfeatures Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman as harmonyvocalists. “Oklahoma Sky” is a tender ballad that serves as an ode to the Texan’snew life in Oklahoma and features a production similar to one of Revolution’s album cuts, “Airstream Song.”

It’s not surprising that husband Blake Shelton appears twiceon the album, once as a co-writer and once in a duet. It’s also no surprisethat the songs Shelton appears in happen to be the most pop-leaning tracks onan otherwise country album. “Over You” was written by both Blake and Mirandaand deals with the grief one endures when they lose a loved one.  Though the song is good lyrically, the vocaldelivery seems a bit forced by Miranda who falls for the trick thatover-singing equals emotion. The same could be said about the couple’s duet, “Betterin the Long Run.” The song is well written (Charles Kelley, Ashley Monroe, andGordie Sampson penned the song), but the over-emoting from Lambert and Sheltonturn a great song into a rather mediocre recording.  

There isn’t much more that can be said about how influentialMiranda Lambert has become. She continues to push the envelope in moderncountry music while still sticking to and honoring the genre’s traditionalroots. Four the Record is justanother stellar example of why Miranda is one country’s finest artists. 
(Miranda’s Four the Record is one of the items included in our CMA Prize Pack Giveaway. Simply “Like” our Facebook page before November 9 to enter!)

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"Like" Us to Win a CMA Prize Pack!

It’s no secret the 45th Annual CMA Awards is a mere 8 days away, and ATC is kicking up the celebration a couple notches until then! We’ve already started reviews of some of our favorites nominees’ new music, and soon you’ll get to see the Official ATC Predictions of the night’s winners. ATC is also excited to launch its first giveaway contest!

The winner will receive a prize pack full of music and merchandise from some of the night’s big winners and nominees, including Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, and many more!

All you need to do is simply “Like” us on Facebook from now until the end of “Country’s Biggest Night” (12AM on Nov. 9). The winner will be randomly selected among all the “Likes” on our page and will be notified via Facebook message by November 13.

So…what are you waiting for?! “Like” us now!!

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Brad Paisley, "Camouflage"

It’s November 1st, which means we are just days away from the 45th Annual CMA Awards. So to get ready for Country’s Biggest Night, ATC will post reviews featuring the night’s nominees every day up until the big night of the show. There’s no better way to kick off our Countdown to the CMA’s with a new song from one of the night’s hosts, and five time nominee, Brad Paisley.

Though he’s one of my favorite male country artists, it’s frustrating to see Brad Paisley’s talent wasted on nonsense songs like his new single, “Camouflage.”

“Camouflage” is just another song revolving around a stereotype that country music probably shouldn’t be embracing. With lines about a camo-painted Cavalier “disappearing when it pulls out of the garage” and how the only visible part of a camo laced couple’s prom pictures are their faces and hands, this song is simply a lyrical disaster. However Brad, and fellow co-writers Chris DuBois and Kelley Lovelace, cleverly made sure the chorus was catchy by using a shout and answer technique by using backing vocals to answer Brad’s shouts of “camouflage.” That alone pretty much guarantees this song will be another smash for Paisley.Well and also the fact that country fans love to embrace stereotypes that belittle the genre (“This is Country Music,” “Dirt Road Anthem,” “Redneck Woman”).

Despite the wretched lyrics, the song’s production is one of the finest to come from Mr. Brad Paisley. It’s no secret that Brad is among the genre’s finest guitar players but I don’t think he’s showed it quite as brilliantly prior to this song. He shreds like he’s never shredded before during the vocal lines, but then lets it rip even more during the ending instrumental bars. Along with his fantastic guitar slashing are hints of steel guitar, keyboards, and fiddle, instruments that have all helped Brad become a staple in country music since his debut in the late 90s.

Considering the song has raced into the top 30 in just four weeks, “Camouflage” will no doubt join ranks of Brad’s previous humor laced number one songs. I have nothing but love for Paisley, but it’s just a little irritating to see one of country’s most loved ambassadors continuing to not live up to his artistic potential.

Now, please excuse me while I try to get the shouts of “camouflage” out of my head.

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