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OSCAR LOVE FOR GAGA, STAR, RHAPSODY
The Oscars and Grammys will have lots in common this year. (1/23a)
THE BRITISH
ARE COMING
New music on the 2019 schedule. (1/23a)
GREIN ON GRAMMYS: SONGWRITING BY COMMITTEE
Tunesmithing becomes a team sport. (1/22a)
A FUTURISTIC TOP 20
WIZRD is a true star. (1/23a)
ARIANA GETS INTO ALBUM MODE
Grande sets a date: 2/8. (1/23a)
THE NEW PUB WORLD
Serious musical chairs.
CURATING GRAMMY PERFORMANCES
The calculus of awards, ratings and moments.
THE FIRST BIG RELEASE OF 2019
...is not what you'd expect.
THE NEW SUPERSTARS
The old pop rules just don't apply.
Music City
CARLTON ANDERSON: KEEPING COUNTRY "BEAUTIFUL"
1/18/19

By Holly Gleason

He looks like so many of today’s young country singers: light brown hair swept back, basic scruffy beard, deep set eyes. But when Arista Nashville’s Carlton Anderson sings, the voice that flows out is qual parts hickory smoke and sunset. Warm, easy and comforting, it’s an old friend you know by heart. It’s also a voice that’s lonesome like the miles of Texas flatlands and country in its unabashed honesty.

At a time when country is as pop-leaning as it’s been in more than a decade, Anderson is a stone country artist. Raised on Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash (courtesy of his grandfather) and George Strait and Keith Whitley (from his mother), he only wants to make that kind of music. With deep roots in Texas’ oil refining and military workforce, he lived the life working in repair shops for oil rigs, grocery stores and oil fields around Cypress, Texas before trying his hand at singing.

Anderson headed to Nashville and started singing in dive bars on Lower Broad, committed to making the country he felt in his heart. “Keep Abilene Beautiful,” written with songwriting legends Tom Douglas (“The House That Built Me,” “Drunk Girl”) and Tony Lane (“A Little Past Little Rock,” “Run”), captures the isolation of being too far from home, chasing things that don’t matter as much as you thought.

When he performed the song during his Grand Ole Opry debut at the Ryman, the notoriously prickly Larry Gatlin marched Anderson back onstage to take a proper standing ovation, saying he’d not seen anything like him since Randy Travis 30 years before. The deeply sincere Texan’s authenticity and reverence for classic country songwriting slices through the high-gloss production and pumped-up beats driving the genre currently, touching people in a very real place. To understand the naked power of Anderson’s gift, watch the pensive young man stripped down to just an acoustic guitar at a songwriters’ round.

“Keep Abilene Beautiful” lands in the realm of Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman,” Kenny Chesney’s “What I Need to Do,” Ronnie Milsap’s “Smoky Mountain Rain” and Strait’s “Run.” Not just lamenting an empty dream, it honors the foundation that created him.

At a time when country feels poised for a major musical shift, Anderson walks the line between commercial accessibility and what hard country has always embodied. Like Travis, whose resonant baritone Anderson evokes, the dignity he gives his unwavering sense of icehouse country may make him the guy who changes everything. If I were a betting woman, I’d bet on him.

GONE WEST, YOUNG BAND
1/18/19

The members of Gone West, a singer/songwriter quartet featuring Colbie Caillat, prepare to ink their recording pact with Triple Tigers. Later, Bruce Kalmick gently broke it to the band (who just dropped their debut EP, Tides) that there were no actual tigers on the premises. Seen scouting for wildlife are (back, l-r) Kevin Herring, David Macias, Norbert Nix, Chad Jensen, Kalmick and George Couri and (front, l-r) Caillat, Justin Kawika Young, Nelly Joy and Jason Reeves.

"GIRL," UNINTERRUPTED
1/17/19

By Holly Gleason

In a world where country radio had a week with no woman on the charts, Maren Morris’ “GIRL” drops as a siren song and a cry of truth for anyone engulfed in the tacit messaging their voice doesn’t matter. With a sinewy electric guitar that defies genre, Morris’ whispery vocal sweeps in with a hint of angst, a touch of disorientation and a whole lot of confessional inner-voice vulnerability.

If this seems like muscular Joni Mitchell with modern production, it’s not. There’s tension strung between those electric guitar notes, the sweeping beat and Morris’ revelatory “I don’t like myself right now.” That’s when Morris’ higher truth kicks in: acknowledging life conspires to inspire self-loathing, she commands, “Pick yourself up off the kitchen floor/Whatchu waiting for?”

In classic Morris take-charge mode, she pivots and elevates. The “My Church” singer digs in and lifts, sweeping aside the brokered “who you’re supposed to be” ethos used to sell women insecurity; but in this baller world, the reality’s more far-reaching. That inculcated sense of “less-than” affects every scrawny kid, not-quite-out LGBTQ person, non-baller male, heavy-set or sensitive soul—and anyone else unsure of their place in the world.

Like Ariana Grande, Morris empowers and emboldens with her strength. Unafraid to acknowledge the stumbles and built-in trip wires, she’s more concerned—as the chorus builds like the singer’s own reserve—with the self-comfort required: “Girl, won’t you stop your crying/I know that you’re trying/Everything’s gonna be okay,” as well as the “note to self” we all need: “Don’t you hang your head low/Don’t you lose your halo…”

The groove is almost erotic; the side-to-side slink pulls listeners in. Then the lyric wraps itself around you. If the first verse skewers (“If vanity’s my vitamin/I don’t feel the difference”), the second is a direct hit on the trap of comparisons and competition. In a world where there’s always a faster gun, Morris’ fortified-brandy voice takes on a wide-open gospel tone to exhort, “Draw your comparisons, trying to find who’s lesser than/I don’t wanna wear your crown, there’s enough to go around.”

Not quite Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet, this note to self reflects all of us. By the time Morris vamps and ruminates on the second half of the chorus across the turnaround, the track moves from a hush to a full “Up With People” moment that’s pure euphoria. Celebrating the same snowflake notion that everyone is beautiful that's been central to P!nkAlicia Keys, Janelle Monáe and Christina Aguilera’s potency, the Texas-born songstress transcends genres with a statement that unifies.

Just listen.

 

CMT AND APPLE MUSIC JOINT-PREMIERE JADEN MICHAELS' "BEHAVE"
1/16/19

Apple Music and CMT have joined forces to exclusively debut breakout Country singer/songwriter Jaden Michaels' music video for "Behave." Having been featured on Apple Music's influential A-List Country and Country Caffeine playlists, Michaels' debut single has amassed nearly 2m streams to date and continues to rank on "Best Of The Week" and Ones to Watch" lists. 

Stream the video on Apple Music here

CMT will premiere "Behave" through their multi-platform CMT Artist Discovery campaign and the video will be eligible for CMT Music's 12-Pack Countdown, where fans vote for their favorite videos each week. 

 

 

 

BEATHARD'S NEW BEAT
1/16/19


A recording deal has been inked between singer/songwriter and rock-tinged country artist Tucker Beathard and Warner Music Nashville. This development follows the arrival of his double album's independently released and acclaimed first installment. The debut full-length, titled Nobody's Everything, will see its second part drop via Warner Nashville in the coming months.

“To quote Tucker’s song, when we first heard this music, it was clear that he had ‘somethin' to say,’” said WMN SVP A&R Cris Lacy. “That’s the hallmark of true artist. You couple that with the raw depth of his lyrics, some brilliant musicianship, and that old soul voice, and it was a no brainer. Tucker HAD to be part of the Warner Music family.”

“It was really important to me during this album-making process, that I didn’t immediately rush into signing a record deal,” said Beathard, who's already celebrated having a Top 5 Country radio breakout (with single "Rock On" in 2016) and has toured with the likes of Dierks Bentley and Brantley Gilbert. “With everything I’ve learned during this journey, I wanted to be sure whenever I add a new layer into the fold it’s the right fit and that it’s always about the music. The first time I met with the team at Warner, I knew they were the right ones to help get more of my music out into the world."

Seen above before forming a celebratory mosh pit are SVP Radio & Streaming Kristen Williams, Chairman & CEO John Esposito, Lacy, Beathard, SVP Artist Development Shane Tarleton and COO Matt Signore.

LITTLE KIDS ROCK OUT WITH PANDORA
1/16/19

Pandora CEO Roger Lynch has announced a newly expanded partnership with Little Kids Rock, an organization that supports and complements the work of public school music teachers, to bring their innovative “Modern Band” program to more schools and students across the country this year. A supporter since 2015, Pandora has partnered with Little Kids Rock to offer music education programs to schools in Chicago, L.A., New York and Oakland.

The expansion will bring the “Modern Band” program to 12 new schools in Nashville, Atlanta and California's Bay Area, concentrating on improvisation, composition, and making music that inspires the students. Lynch writes, “We’re looking forward to a fantastic year with Little Kids Rock and will continue to share updates on our work together.” To learn more or join the cause, click here.

DOWNTOWN CELEBRATES ANDY ALBERT'S FIRST #1
1/15/19

Downtown Music Publishing songwriter Andy Albert earned his first #1 song this week with Dustin Lynch's "Good Girl," co-written with Lynch and Justin Ebach. Albert's chart-topper continues Downtown Nashville's recent string of country #1s, including Marc Beeson's "Hometown Girl," performed by Josh Turner, and two by Kelly Archer: "Sleep Without You" performed by Brett Young and "Somebody Else Will" performed by Justin Moore

Pictured above celebrating Albert's #1 (L-R): Caylan Hays, Kyle Coker, Katie Roth, Matt Turner, Andy Albert, SVP A&R Steve Markland, Natalie Osborne, Garrett Stephenson and Emily Stephenson

 

LORETTA'S BIRTHDAY BASH
1/14/19

Loretta Lynn, whose Wouldn’t It Be Great was released in September by Sony Legacy,  will celebrate her 87th birthday with a once-in-a-lifetime music event featuring Garth Brooks,  Jack WhiteKacey MusgravesKeith UrbanLittle Big TownMargo PriceMiranda Lambert and others.

Loretta Lynn: An All-Star Birthday Celebration Concert will be held 4/1 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, produced by AEG Presents. Dave Cobb will serve as musical director for the evening; net proceeds will benefit the Opry Trust Fund and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

“My birthday wish has come true,” Lynn says. “The only other wish I have is that Keith Urban jumps out of my birthday cake."

Tickets go on sale Friday.