Tag Archives: Country Music Association

“Who the Hell is Chris Stapleton?”: Answering the Question in the Minds of Millions of Sam Hunt Fans

Who is Chris Stapleton? This is a question on millions of Google searches and in the minds of Sam Hunt fans everywhere since Wednesday night (November 4th), when their beloved Sam Hunt was shut out at the CMA’s by this guy they’d never heard of. It was a huge upset when Stapleton beat out Hunt, Thomas Rhett, Kelsea Ballerini, and Maddie & Tae for New Artist of the Year. But then he went on to win Album of the Year for Traveller, so the Sam Hunt fans were forced to admit this Chris Stapleton might be a name worth knowing. Later, he even won the Male Vocalist of the Year award, breaking Blake Shelton’s five-year winning streak and causing Luke Bryan’s Entertainer of the Year win to look at best like an afterthought and at worst completely comical. Eric Church, predicted to be a front runner for the top awards, was shut out except for a joint win with Keith Urban for Event of the Year for “Raise ’em Up.” Little Big Town’s three wins looked unimportant compared to Chris Stapleton’s sweep. Both Luke Bryan and Miranda Lambert thanked Stapleton in their acceptance speeches, and Luke noted that seeing Stapleton “have this night is so uplifting.” To add to all of this, Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake took the stage for what was undoubtedly the best performance of the evening, singing “Tennessee Whiskey” and “Drink You Away.”

So naturally, the million-dollar question among the masses is, “Who the bloody hell is Chris Stapleton?”

In an effort to answer this for themselves, the country community has launched Chris’s only album, Traveller, straight to the top of the iTunes chart. He has never had a hit crack the top 40 on Billboard Country Airplay, but that could all soon change. Chris Stapleton will now be a household name. Traditionalists everywhere are dancing in the streets, some even calling Chris Stapleton our “country music savior”–rest assured that Country Exclusive does not hold this view–but this will certainly change Chris Stapleton’s life forever.

So aside from the 2015 CMA’s making Chris Stapleton an overnight superstar, what has this actually done for our beloved country music?

The sweep of Chris Stapleton has finally begun to put mainstream artists and independent artists on equal footing, in terms of recognition. Stapleton is widely respected in the industry for writing others’ hits, both traditional and otherwise–in fact, on many traditionalist blogs, Chris Stapleton is often ridiculed for having taken part in such pieces of shit as Thomas Rhett’s “South Side.” Although Traveller is his debut album, Chris Stapleton is a name that has been around Nashville for many years, and the news that he was making an album was welcome and long overdue to many dedicated fans. The CMA took notice of all this. It didn’t matter that Stapleton has had little to no commercial success. If there was ever a time when the comments of Gary Overton–“If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist”–rang false, it was Wednesday night. This is a statement that radio cannot ignore. Country radio is no longer the only way to gain attention and recognition–in fact, radio-supported Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett, and Kelsea Ballerini left the CMA’s empty-handed. It may be that country radio will take notice of this and start to play artists like Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves–album sales and declining radio ratings in 2015 have suggested country radio’s loss of relevancy, and this was the ultimate indicator. Country music may look back on this day in its history and find that the victories of Chris Stapleton, traditional country, and music of substance marked the beginning of the returning of country to its roots. Chris Stapleton is no “savior”–country cannot be saved overnight. His music blends country, blues, and soul, and so many have been quick to complain that he is not “strictly” country, so we should not be so excited about this victory. But we are music fans first, and Chris Stapleton has brought a huge victory, both for country music and for music in general, and for this we should all be forever grateful.

The 49th Annual CMA Awards: Predictions and Live Blog

Well, it is time. Tonight, at 8 PM EST, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood will host the 49th annual CMA Awards on ABC. It is sure to be a night mostly filled with bad pop music and little hope for country, but as fans of country music and of music in general, we will be there together to watch it and cheer for the signs of hope. For a preview and my predictions, you can
Click Here

I will be updating this post throughout the night with thoughts, the results, and probably some pop country bashing.

2015 CMA Awards Live Results

Musician of the Year: Mac McAnally
Music Video of the Year: Maddie & Tae–“Girl in a Country Song”
Event of the Year: Keith Urban featuring Eric Church–“Raise ’em Up”
Vocal Duo of the Year: Florida Georgia Line
Vocal Group of the Year: Little Big Town
New Artist of the Year: Chris Stapleton
Single of the Year: Little Big Town–“Girl Crush”
Song of the Year: “Girl Crush”–Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, and Hillary Lindsey
Album of the Year: Chris Stapleton–Traveller
Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert
Male Vocalist of the Year: CHRIS STAPLETON!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Entertainer of the Year: Luke Bryan

Live Commentary

7:11–Hank Williams JR. singing “Are You Ready for the Country?”–the most ironic opener in CMA history. and I didn’t know it was possible to hate Keith Urban’s “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” worse, but after that, I was wrong.
7:17–Have to love Brad Paisley making fun of Sam Hunt for rapping in his songs and then starting to sing “for no apparent reason.” And “Luke Stagefaller.” Brilliant.
7:24–and the Single of the Year goes to “Girl Crush.” Thank the good Lord for this!
7:31–oh Zac Brown, the traitor of country music…
7:32–Seriously, Zac, you don’t even sound like yourself…
7:34–I have no idea how this Kenny Chesney song spent three weeks at #1…it’s just so boring…then again I would almost welcome even Luke Bryan’s entire discography after having my heart ripped out by my former friend Zac Brown.
7:37–oh look, it’s Aubrey Peeples from Nashville, an actual talented artist forced to announce that Sam Hunt is up next…the irony.
7:42–And here he is, come to rap some and then start singing for no apparent reason…if this piece of shit song somehow wins Song of the Year…
7:44–If he doesn’t stop soon, I shall wish I was deaf…
7:46–And the Song of the Year goes to “Girl Crush.” Thank the Lord and all that is holy that it was not Sam Hunt.
7:51–Country Exclusive Alternative Song of the Year

7:57–And the New Artist of the Year is Chris Stapleton! Pleasantly shocked. No Sam Hunt, no Kelsea Ballerini, no Thomas Rhett. Beautiful!
7:59–Ok, if you’re listening to Carrie Underwood sing “Smoke Break” right now, you cannot tell me she’s not doing a Miranda Lambert impression. no Carrie, I want Carrie, not Miranda.
8:09–Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake sing “Tennessee Whiskey.”…what a strange pair.
8:14–Justin Timberlake is far from the worst thing we’ve seen or will see tonight.
8:19–Back to Chris Stapleton…this was a huge win, and he’s still up for two more!
8:20–Back to reality with Florida Georgia Line…they are so 2013…
8:24–And the Vocal Duo of the Year is, of course, Florida Georgia Line.
8:27–Eric Church sings “Mr. Misunderstood.” I actually really like this.
8:31–Country Exclusive Alternative Duo of the Year: Maddie & Tae

8:35–Thomas Rhett and Fallout Boy…I don’t even have a smartass comment for this…it just writes itself…
8:38–Can we get Justin Timberlake back? Seriously…
8:42–and the Album of the Year goes to…Chris Stapleton’s Traveller! Excellent!
8:44–This is huge for both Chris Stapleton and Dave Cobb…Dave Cobb produced such excellent albums as Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free and Lindi Ortega’s Faded Gloryville as well. This is a huge step for Cobb, Stapleton, and traditionalists.
8:47–I really can’t stand Kelsea Ballerini, but I did notice it was the female performance they cut short for announcing the radio station nominees. But as I said, I can’t stand her, so…
8:52–Brad Paisley sings “Country Nation”–an average song made worse by shamelessly using college football to promote it.
8:56–This Blake Shelton song is not that good and I have never liked it much, but I just heard a fiddle…yes Sam Hunt that thing is called a fiddle.
8:58–This is Maddie & Tae’s way of saying they really are traditional…by playing “Girl in a Country Song” in a stripped-down fashion…I love these ladies!!!
9:00–Also, Maddie & Tae were cut off too…women, if you’re not named Miranda Lambert or Carrie Underwood, start expecting this. It doesn’t matter if you’re traditional Madison Marlow and Taylor Dye or fake pop princess Kelsea Ballerini, country radio and country award shows don’t want you.
9:04–Here comes Luke “stagefaller” Bryan, or as I call him, “Douchebag”…oh please can he fall?
9:05–“I wanna drop this cell phone out” is the stupidest line I have ever heard–because women everywhere are so turned on by men damaging high-dollar electronics in their efforts to “strip it down.”
9:10–And the Vocal Group of the Year is, of course, Little Big Town.
9:12–Also, did I just hear Pentatonics sing an Oak Ridge Boys song? Don’t know what to say to this…
9:13–I like Miranda Lambert’s “Bathroom Sink.” Will this be a single?
9:17–Country Exclusive Alternative Group of the Year: Turnpike Troubadours

9:20–Oh look, it’s the best friend of “Douchebag,” Jason Aldean…aka “Arrogant Asshole.”…
9:25–Thank you, Kacey Musgraves, for being the first non-Miranda or Carrie female to grace the stage with a complete song…and save us from Jason Aldean.
9:27–Seriously, Kacey, this “Dime Store Cowgirl” is the most country bit I’ve seen all night.
9:34–Marry me, Dierks Bentley. “Riser” is amazing!
9:37–And the Female Vocalist of the Year, is, of course, Miranda Lambert.
9:43–Country Exclusive Alternative Female Vocalist of the Year: Ashley Monroe

9:46–Brooks & Dunn and Reba–can we get more of that??!!
9:47–Yes, Ronnie Dunn, I agree, “Play something country…crank up the band, play the steel guitar.”…
9:50–Do y’all realize what just happened here???!!! Chris Stapleton, Male Vocalist of the Year!!!!!!!!!
9:51–And no awards for Sam Hunt…good Lord, this is ridiculously good news!!!
9:52–To all those who didn’t watch…there’s hope!!!!!! Hope for country music, in the form of Chris Stapleton!!!
9:54–And in case y’all were unsure…holy shit, this is a big deal for country music…..
9:56–I hope this isn’t spoiled by a Luke Bryan win for Entertainer…
9:57–But of course it is…come on now Luke…fall please…
9:58–Luke Bryan says, “Watching Chris Stapleton have this night is so uplifting.” I like this from Luke…however, Chris is fighting against douchebags like you with douche music.
10:00–I don’t even care that much…Chris Stapleton had three wins, and a shutout for Sam Hunt…yes!!!

Final Thoughts

Well, it was certainly an interesting night for country music. We were treated to inevitable terrible performances from the likes of Luke Bryan, FGL, and Sam Hunt. However, there were also many glaring signs of hope. Sam Hunt didn’t take home any awards, and Chris Stapleton took home all three for which he was nominated. It is huge for traditionalists that he took even one…but to take New Artist, Album of the Year, and especially Male Vocalist of the Year…this is hope like we have not seen in years. Dave Cobb getting to stand there and accept a CMA was unreal. The lack of women was still disturbing, especially after the CMA talk of more representation for females…Maddie & Tae and Kelsea Ballerini were both cut off in the middle of their performances. The only female besides Miranda and Carrie to be granted a full song was Kacey Musgraves. The biggest surprise of the night–aside from the astronomically shocking wins of Stapleton–was, at least for me, the performance by Stapleton and Timberlake. I’d have rather heard Timberlake than many of the “country” performances I heard. All in all, as performances went, the night was pretty boring and lacked anything especially amazing. There were certainly horrid moments tonight, but we should all celebrate the huge victories of Chris Stapleton and traditional country music. This was not just a token nomination to appease traditionalists like us…it was unprecedented change. Overall, tonight’s CMA awards have promised hope for our beloved country music.

The 49th Annual CMA Award Nominees, With Commentary

The nominees are in, after
the CMA flipped off the entire genre by allowing Steven Tyler and Kelsea Ballerini to announce them this morning on Good Morning America. Here are the nominees, predictions, and some personal commentary.

Musician of the Year

Sam Bush (mandolin) [yes, apparently mandolins are still in country music somewhere, who knew?]
Jerry Douglas (dobro)
Paul Franklin (steel guitar) [see above comment about mandolin]
Dan Huff (guitar)
Mac McAnally (guitar)
Prediction: Mac McAnally–He has won for the past seven years, and I doubt many artists voting have much of an idea what a “mandolin,” “steel guitar,” or “dobro,” is, so Dan Huff is the only one with a shot of defeating him.
Preference: none

Music Video of the Year

Interestingly, this category is female-dominated…I guess in videos, females are okay.

“Biscuits”–Kacey Musgraves, directed by Marc Klasfeld
“Girl Crush”–Little Big Town, directed by Karla Welch and Matthew Welch
“Girl in a Country Song”–Maddie & Tae, directed by TK McKamy
“Little Red Wagon”–Miranda Lambert, directed by Trey Vanjoy
“Something in the Water”–Carrie Underwood, directed by Raj Kapoor
Prediction: “Girl in a Country Song”
Preference: “Girl in a Country Song”

Event of the Year

Django and Jimmie–Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, Legacy Recordings [excellent]
“Lonely Tonight”–Blake Shelton featuring Ashley Monroe, Warner Bros./Warner Music Nashville [again, good job]
“Raise ’em Up”–Keith Urban featuring Eric Church, Hit Red Records/Capitol Records Nashville [decent]
“Smokin’ and Drinkin'”–Miranda Lambert featuring Little Big Town, RCA Nashville [no]
“Wild Child”–Kenny Chesney with Grace Potter, Blue Chair Records/Columbia Nashville [good]
Prediction: “Lonely Tonight”
Preference: Willie and Merle’s album would be a cool winner, but I’d be fine with “Lonely Tonight” as well.

Vocal Duo of the Year

Brothers Osborne [meh]
Dan + Shay [no]
Florida Georgia Line [God no]
Maddie & Tae [yes]
Thompson Square [no]
Prediction: Florida Georgia Line
Preference: Maddie and Tae
Note: This is FGL’s only nomination…bro country really has taken a hit. Too bad that the Sam Hunt style has come behind it.

Vocal Group of the Year

Lady Antebellum [no]
Little Big Town [meh]
Rascal Flatts [no]
The Band Perry [God no]
Zac Brown Band [not bad]
Prediction: Little Big Town
Preference: Blackberry Smoke? Out of these, I suppose Little Big Town will have to do.

New Artist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini [no]
Sam Hunt [if he wins, I will never watch the CMA Awards again, I swear to you all]
Maddie & Tae [good]
Thomas Rhett [God no]
Chris Stapleton [shocking and good]
Prediction: Sam Hunt
Preference: Maddie & Tae or Chris Stapleton
Notes: Glad to see Stapleton with a nomination here, but if Sam Hunt wins this, as he undoubtedly will, my days of watching the CMA’s are done indefinitely.

Single of the Year

“American Kids”–Kenny Chesney, produced by Buddy Cannon and Kenny Chesney, Blue Chair Records/Columbia Nashville
“Girl Crush”–Little Big Town, produced by Jay Joyce, Capitol Records Nashville
“I Don’t Dance”–Lee Bryce, produced by Lee Bryce, Curb Records
“Take Your Time”–Sam Hunt, produced by Zach Crowell and Shane McAnally, MCA Nashville
“Talladega”–Eric Church, produced by Arturo Buenahora, EMI Nashville
Prediction: “Girl Crush” or “Take Your Time”
Preference: “Girl Crush”
Note: If “Take Your Time” wins here, while it would be insulting to country in general, at least it would be for commercial success. This is the one award that Sam Hunt could win that wouldn’t make me immediately throw up.

Song of the Year

“American Kids”–Rodney Klawson, Luke Laird, and Shane McAnally [no]
“Girl Crush”–Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, and Hillary Lindsey [ok]
“Like a Cowboy”–Randy Houser and Brice Long [no]
“Like a Wrecking Ball”–Eric Church and Kasey Beathard [hell no]
“Take Your Time”–Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne [for the love of all that is holy]
Prediction: “Girl Crush”
Preference: Out of these, “Girl Crush” hands down. While I like all of them except “Take Your Time”–if that wins, above Sam Hunt rules apply–I could have thrown a rock and hit better Song of the Year nominees. Jason Isbell, Alan Jackson, Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe, shall I go on?

Album of the Year

Old Boots, New Dirt–Jason Aldean, produced by Michael Knox, Broken Bow [no]
Pageant Material–Kacey Musgraves, produced by Kacey Musgraves, Luke Laird, and Shane McAnally, Mercury Nashville [excellent]
Painkiller–Little Big Town, produced by Jay Joyce, Capitol Records Nashville [no]
The Big Revival–Kenny Chesney, produced by Buddy Cannon and Kenny Chesney, Blue Chair Records/Columbia Nashville [no]
Traveller–Chris Stapleton, produced by Dave Cobb and Chris Stapleton, Mercury Nashville [excellent]
Prediction: Painkiller or Pageant Material
Preference: Pageant Material or Traveller
Note: Again, good to see Stapleton with a nomination, as well as Dave Cobb, who produced Jason Isbell and Lindi Ortega’s remarkable albums as well. The CMA might actually get it right here and vote in Pageant Material which would be a great selection, although there are other albums that deserve to be nominated along with it besides these.

Female Vocalist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini [no]
Miranda Lambert [duh]
Kacey Musgraves [good]
Carrie Underwood [good]
LeeAnn Womack [lol]
Prediction: Miranda Lambert–I’m not an idiot.
Preference: Carrie Underwood
Note: Ashley Monroe should have at least a nomination here, especially if LeeAnn Womack is going to be name-dropped in here to fill a quota.

Male Vocalist of the Year

Dierks Bentley [great job CMA]
Eric Church [ok]
Luke Bryan [at this point, at least Sam Hunt wasn’t here]
Blake Shelton [ok]
Chris Stapleton [interesting]
Prediction: Luke Bryan or Dierks Bentley
Preference: Dierks Bentley–if he won this, I might actually be able to watch the CMA’s again even if Sam Hunt won something.

Entertainer of the Year

Garth Brooks [good]
Luke Bryan [to be expected]
Kenny Chesney [ok]
Eric Church [good]
Miranda Lambert [but she’s 20% of the category, so won’t the viewing audience drop drastically?]
Prediction: Luke Bryan or Garth Brooks
Preference: Garth Brooks

Steven Tyler and Kelsea Ballerini To Reveal CMA Award Nominees

I don’t know which of these names is more telling: Steven Tyler, the Aerosmith frontman who recently followed the trend of rockers “going country” with his single “Love is Your Name,” or Kelsea Ballerini, the label-made singer of straight pop “Love Me Like You Mean It” and female-bro-country single “Dibs.” Together, these two names perfectly sum up the current state of country music, and these two have been chosen by the Country Music Association to reveal the 2015 nominees for country music’s most prestigious honor. Tyler and Ballerini will announce the nominees in five categories live on Wednesday, September 9th, in New York City. The announcements will air on ABC’s Good Morning America, and Steven Tyler will perform the aforementioned “Love is Your Name.”

“When I was asked to announce the nominees for the ever-so-prestigious CMA Awards this year, I actually whispered, ‘They really want me?’ I’m just humbled by the open arms of the Country community and am honored to take part in this BIG moment,” said Tyler.

“I’ve grown up watching the CMA Awards and am such a fan of everything CMA does and represents,” said Ballerini. “To be able to announce the nominations for the Awards this year with THE Steven Tyler makes me beyond excited.”

First of all, Steven Tyler is right: it’s ever-so-prestigious, and having one country single should hardly qualify him for this. Secondly, I wonder if Kelsea Ballerini would be just as excited if she were to announce the nominees with THE George Strait…but I digress. The 49th annual CMA Awards will air live on ABC on Wednesday, November 4th.