Quantcast
Advertisement
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)

FANS WILLING AND ABEL TO RALLY ROUND THE WEEKND
Dept. of unintended consequences (12/1a)
VAUGHN'S FIRST MOVE: MATTERA TO THE TOWER
A company with no corner offices (12/1a)
U.K. MEET THE MANAGERS
Who's hot in Blighty? (12/1a)
RON PERRY: SUPERCHARGING THE BIG RED MACHINE
Hoodie man doin' work (12/2a)
SPOTIFY GIFT-WRAPS
THE YEAR IN MUSIC
How Swede it is. (12/2a)
RAINMAKERS 2020
Bring your umbrella.
GRAMMY OUTLIERS
Mulling possible surprises.
ZOOM THANKSGIVING
We're virtually stuffing ourselves.
TRUMP'S LAWSUITS
He's lost 25 out of 26, and so tired of winning!
Music City
HOLLY GLEASON'S ACM OVERVIEW
3/6/20

Working on a tight print deadline just before the final balloting for the 2020 Academy of Country Music Awards (3/3-9) could make writing about the nominations seem like shooting blindfolded, or it could conversely create an opportunity to write about a truth that hardly anyone seems to be grasping: The future is here.

Yes, while Country radio needs to play more women, the presence of Ingrid Andress, Runaway June, Gabby Barrett, Mickey Guyton, Caylee Hammock, Walker County, Avenue Beat, Maddie & Tae, Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde and more at the Country Radio Seminar is extremely encouraging. These singular artists are in the vanguard of a wave of rising young females who have obliterated the Barbie stereotypes, and they’ll hopefully kick open the door that Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood have been pushing on so forcefully.

That said, for all the hand-wringing, the actual 2019 ACM and CMA Awards winners amount to a harbinger of a golden future. If there was a Bro Country clog, it’s been dissolved by a group of emerging stars who have remade country music on their own terms.

Start with Luke Combs, a chunky songwriter who revels in the truth of his life. Not only are the co-writers on “Hurricane,” “One Number Away,” “When It Rains It Pours,” “She Got the Best of Me” all first-time chart-toppers, the ACM 2019 Best New Male—who’s selling out arenas everywhere he plays—also won the CMA’s Male Vocalist and Song of the Year for “Beautiful Crazy.”

Power pop-country force Dan + Shay—who have logged their “10,000 Hours” according to Justin Bieber—went straight from their 2019 Grammy wins and jaw-dropping performance into an ACM trifecta of Song and Single for “Tequila” with a chaser of Vocal Duo. The CMA Duo trophy was almost an afterthought. But between being on call for Bieber/Hailey Baldwin life events and a headlining arena/amphitheater tour, they still haven’t tapped what’s ultimately possible in terms of their skyrocketing career.

To that end, Jason OwensSandbox Entertainment took the long way ’round with critics, fans and Grammy favorite Kacey Musgraves. Touring with Harry Styles and Katy Perry turned the rainbow unicorn songwriter into an SRO arena-selling superstar with nominal investment from Country radio. But it didn’t stop the CMA from crowning her Female Vocalist and Video of the Year winner for “Rainbow,” while the ACM proffered the coveted Album of the Year for Golden Hour, which the long, lithe Texan had scored at the 2018 CMAs.

Promisingly, “Old Town Road” gave Lil Nas X, along with Billy Ray Cyrus, a CMA Award for Vocal Event. Who knows whether the biggest single in ages will find itself on the ACM ballot? But if the tilt holds, don’t be surprised.

Yes, Garth won CMA Entertainer of the Year again, and Keith Urban took Entertainer at the ACMs, while Blake Shelton’s CMA Single victory for “God’s Country” put the affable judge of The Voice back in the thick of things.

If Old Dominion, who repeated as Group at both the CMAs and ACMs, and Thomas Rhett, who took home the ACM’s Top Male, are now considered old guard, the argument could be made that it’s not just new artists in the winners’ circle. But both these acts have emerged during the last half decade, which by country standards is pretty new.

In some ways, Urban, cred/commercial juggler Dierks Bentley, icon George Strait and stadium-sized Kenny Chesney—all of whom continue to put out records that drive Country radio—will always have a place in the chase, as will Lady A, Brothers Osborne, Florida Georgia Line, Chris Stapleton, Little Big Town, Luke Combs, Jason Aldean and Eric Church.

Just as importantly, relative newcomers Midland, LANCO, Ashley McBryde, Kane Brown, Runaway June, Michael Ray and Morgan Wallen are all in play this year. That’s intriguing because, after several years of artists who seemed virtually interchangeable, each of these acts is its own kind of country.