Tag Archives: Shane McAnally

Sorry, but I Don’t hate Keith Urban’s “Female”

Rating: 5/10

I tweeted during the CMA’s that Keith Urban’s latest single, titled “Female,” was “quite a good song actually.” I didn’t say it was country, and I’d like to make two things clear here–one, Urban’s forsaking of his guitar talent to produce pop/adult contemporary stuff like this irks me beyond any semblance of reason, especially as a proud owner of his first six records, (you know, when he actually tried), and two, after being forced to hear this from virtually everywhere this past week, my opinion of the song has gone down some. Now it’s just there for me. It just exists. But apparently the fashion among everyone is to hate it with all vehemence and even, for some, to find it offensive. And as a woman, I’d like to add some equilibrium to that argument.

Even among people who hate this with all passion, there is a consensus that Keith’s heart was in the right place trying to say something and speak out about the recent rash of sexual assault claims and the systematic discrimination of women in general. And let me tell you, we need men to speak out about this. I keep seeing people say versions of, “well, the industry would make more of a statement by actually playing more women,” and I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment that this becomes an empty gesture if it’s not backed up by the actual inclusion of more women in say, the very industry in which Keith Urban makes his living. But having said that, if only women write about this and speak about this, nothing will change because in many cases, it’s mostly women who will listen. We need men to be up front about this, and I applaud Keith Urban for showing the leadership to do that, not to mention for recording this and releasing it in a timely manner when mainstream Nashville notoriously takes forever to transition songs from a pen and paper to the final product.

Keith Urban’s colossal mistake? Not actually writing the song himself, but recording a song penned in part by Shane McAnally. The verses in this song are actually quite good, and they address real, specific issues like how people say women deserved what they got because they wore tight skirts, or how many Christian men excuse their behavior toward their wives and other women because God made Adam first. The problem is that listastic thing characteristic of writers like McAnally and so many others who write by committee, coming out in full force to infect the chorus by throwing out a bunch of descriptors of women…oh, and some words like “suit of armor” and “river wild” that have absolutely nothing to do with women at all. It’s hearing this all week that has taken the song down for me, and yet it’s that part which will probably give this song its only fighting chance at radio. Still, it can’t be denied that country radio, an industry undeniably rampant with sexism, will hesitate to play this, and again, the fact that Keith Urban doesn’t give a shit about that should be commended. But it’s the efforts of McAnally and his cowriters to still make this song radio-friendly that deprive it of any substance, or at least that make the parts with substance somehow matter less.

So, I could take or leave this song when it comes down to it. It’s there, it exists, it stands at a 5 rating, and i daresay it’d be a 6 if it in any way, shape, or form resembled country. I don’t hate it. I don’t find it offensive, as some people have, for its use of the word “female,” although I understand how this can be offensive in certain contexts and by certain people. I don’t find the descriptors in the chorus stereotypical so much as lazy; it’s just a list of words thrown in there to, like I say, try to make this work on radio. So, it’s a great effort by Keith Urban, and it falls short in the writing, and ultimately, a song that could have said a lot, and indeed does manage to say something worthwhile in its verses, doesn’t really execute all the way through. That said, the vitriol this song is receiving is unnecessary. It’s forgettable, and perhaps a missed opportunity by Keith Urban, but it’s not the horrific mess some would claim it to be, at least not for this listener.

Written by: Shane McAnally, Nicolle Galyon, Ross Copperman

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

Female Fridays: Featuring Brandy Clark

Brandy Clark is known more for her songwriting, but she is also a talented singer who has received much critical acclaim. I am excited to feature her on this Female Friday.

How You Might Know Brandy

She’s known for her songwriting, often in connection with Kacey Musgraves and Shane McAnally. These three have co-written many of Kacey’s songs, but perhaps their most notable success is the Miranda Lambert hit “Mama’s Broken Heart.”

Bio

From Brandy Clark’s Web site:

“I get my inspiration from real people who are just surviving their life and getting through their day. That’s who I write songs for,” Clark explains. “I want to write songs for somebody who is working at a bank — if that person could write a song, what they would write. That’s my goal.”

Brandy Clark (born October 9, 1977, from Morton, Washington), was interested in music at an early age. She grew up with and was influenced by the music of Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and Merle Haggard. After college, she began taking her music career more seriously. She enrolled at Belmont University in 1998 and studied commercial music. After graduation from Belmont, Brandy got a job with Leadership Music and eventually received a publishing deal.

Brandy has written many notable songs over the years. I already mentioned “Mama’s Broken Heart,” but she also co-wrote The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two,” and Kacey Musgraves’s “Follow Your Arrow.” Brandy is cited on songs by Reba McEntire, Keith Urban, Wade Bowen, and Sunny Sweeney, just to name a few. In fact, it is worth noting that Brandy was a co-writer of Sunny Sweeney’s “Bad Girl Phase,” which I mentioned in Sunny’s
Female Friday as being the first #1 single by a female artist on the Texas Music Chart. Since this column is about promoting females, it is also worth mentioning that Brandy Clark and Kacey Musgraves became two of only fourteen women to win a CMA for Song of the Year when “Follow Your Arrow” received this distinction in 2014. in Between all the writing for others, Brandy wrote several songs that eventually turned into an EP in 2012 and later into her debut album, 12 Stories, in 2013.

“I was just writing songs. But with titles like ‘Take a Little Pill’ and ‘Day She Got Divorced,’ artists wouldn’t cut those songs. However, they are some of my favorites and, artistically, I fit them,” says Clark , who decided to record her own album after playing “Get High” for her songwriting partner Shane McAnally. “Shane said that I could write a whole record of songs from that woman’s perspective and make an album that no one has ever made. That’s kind of what we did.”

And that’s what her debut album is–an album no one else would make, full of real “stories” of real people. 12 Stories was named by many critics as 2013’s best album–in fact, there are many who would argue that Brandy Clark deserves more recognition than her friend Kacey Musgraves (I am not touching that debate.) Brandy Clark is currently working on her second album; it is due out in 2016.

Why Brandy Belongs on Country Radio

She belongs there for the same reason that Kacey Musgraves does–she’s singing and writing real, relatable songs, and she’s not afraid of the truth. Radio won’t play Kacey for all of these reasons, and also she is too “country.” Brandy is too “country” for country radio too, and the fact that I have to even write this sentence is ridiculous. Brandy Clark was partly responsible for “Mama’s Broken Heart,” “Better Dig Two,” and “Follow Your Arrow,” but country radio can’t give her own music a fair chance? I don’t even know how to explain why she belongs on country radio–because in a world where country radio played country songs, Brandy Clark would be on the radio and making #1 hits.

Tracks I Recommend

I hesitate to pick apart what many consider to be the best album of 2013, but these are my personal favorites.

1. What’ll Keep Me Out of Heaven–12 Stories
2. Hold my Hand–12 Stories
3. Pray to Jesus–12 Stories
4. Stripes–12 Stories
5. Hungover–12 Stories

Listen to 12 Stories

The song that made me a fan of Brandy Clark.