Country Perspective’s 2016 Worst Album of the Year – Chris Lane’s ‘Girl Problems’

Fraud. What is fraud? Well according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, fraud is defined as the following:

intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right

an act of deceiving or misrepresenting

a person who is not what he or she pretends to be

In 2016 country music there was one artist and one album that embodied this word perfectly. The perfect representation of fraud. This fraud immediately presented itself as the clear-cut, easy choice to win one of Country Perspective’s most dishonorable year-end awards. So with great disdain, I present Country Perspective’s 2016 Worst Album of the Year award to Chris Lane’s Girl Problems.

chris-lane-girl-problems

Released back in August, it only took my one brutal listen to realize I had just listened to the worst “country” album of 2016. Sure there was Steven Tyler’s “country” album that had many horrible songs on it, but its lead single managed to be decent. Or you have a usual suspect like Cole Swindell, who at least reached mediocrity with his album. Jason Aldean’s new album was painstakingly boring, but still not as bad as Girl Problems. Kane Brown just released his debut album and it couldn’t manage to top Lane in awfulness because at least Brown has a good voice. No, you know why none of them released as bad of an album as Lane did? Because at least they strived in some way or fashion to be unique and at least attempted to bring their own flair to the table.

Chris Lane is nothing but an impostor, copy cat artist who rips off styles and sounds of other artists. There’s nothing distinctive nor special about his music. The entirety of Girl Problems is trend chasing, ripping off past due bro country, ripping off bad pop music and for some reason a Mario cover. You know the album you’re listening to is pretty damn bad when you would rather be listening to Florida Georgia Line. Speaking of that duo, half of the songs from Lane on this album sound like songs that were rejected for Florida Georgia Line’s 2014 album Anything Goes. By the way, for you new readers that album won our Worst Album of the Year award in 2014. When you’re releasing songs that sound like they don’t belong on an already bad album on your own album that’s not great, Bob! It’s fucking pathetic and transparently grabbing for an appeal that expired about two years ago. How sad is it that an artist releases not just bad music, but bad music from two years ago?

Of course this all wouldn’t have happened if the lead single for this album hadn’t become a #1 hit at country radio. Yes, you can blame country radio for this bullshit happening. You can assign them lots of blame. The lead single “Fix” is one of the biggest sham hits I’ve ever seen and the amount of gerrymandering and politicking by his label, along with country radio’s willingness to go along with the charade absolutely disgusts me. This song took 35 weeks to reach #1! It had no business even being a top ten hit and it took a lucky break just give it an opportunity for the label to push it to the top. I mean I don’t blame Big Loud Records from a business standpoint to push Lane hard because he’s their first artist to sniff success and is essentially their meal ticket. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that “Fix” is not country in any way, shape or form. It’s bad pop music with cheesy ass lines like “Walter White high” and relying on the beaten to death trope of love is my drug. But you know this song got the thrashing it deserved in its original review. Let’s look at the rest of this terrible album…

The sophomore single “For Her” sounds like the result of mashing up Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” with the dominant production of Chase Rice’s Ignite The Night. We also get to hear Lane’s falsetto voice, which is so damn dreadful that I liken it to screaming cats scratching a chalk board. “Let Me Love You” sounds like something Thomas Rhett would sing, making this a ripoff of a ripoff. The most laughable moment of the entire album and where the falsetto is thickest is “Who’s It Gonna Be.” Lane’s “falsetto” in the chorus sounds like Mickey Mouse overdosed on helium, complete with Alvin and The Chipmunks vocal layering. How in God’s green Earth can anyone find this enjoyable? He sounds so awful that I almost feel bad for him.

Lane attempts to appear considerate and understanding on “Back to Me,” where he white knights himself for being such a noble man to allow his woman to leave him. In one breath he says he wants to her find what she’s looking for and the next says he hopes she runs back to him. What? Oh so you’re basically saying she doesn’t know what she wants and that really once she sows her wild oats she needs to come back to you, who will be waiting with open arms. This isn’t being a nice guy. You’re being a douche. But that’s self-appointed nice guys for you. “Maybe” sounds like another Florida Georgia Line song. Oh did I mention that Joey Moi is producing this album? He’s the same one who has produced all of Florida Georgia Line’s albums. I haven’t even gotten to the worst song of the album, “Her Own Kind of Beautiful.” Just look at the lyrics for the first part of the song:

Ball cap to the flip flop
A toe ring to the tip top
From Haggard to the Hip-Hop
She can play either side of a bad cop, good cop

From a sun dress to her Sunday best
A cover girl type or just a hot mess
Oh my my yeah
She’s the girl that got my heart beatin’ out of my chest

She’s a blue jean roll sweet supermodel
Like a stained glass rain from a broken bottle
Make ya promise she won’t
But she knows she gonna
Yeah, she’s her own kind of beautiful
She’s a roman candle, she’s a tin revival
She’s a needle dancin’ on classic vinyl
She’s a sunset wish with a ten mill smile
Her own kind of beautiful
Beautiful

Stop invoking Merle Haggard in shitty pop music pretending to be country! You’re not fucking country for name-dropping Haggard! There’s a reason he dismissed the majority of modern country before he passed away and it’s shit like this he was disgusted with. The rest of this is just garbage straight from the Dallas Davidson handbook, who surprisingly makes no appearances on this album. No, the writers for this song are Rodney Clawson, Barry Dean and Matt Dragstrem. Their songwriting credentials should be revoked for passing off shit like this as serious music. If you don’t have a headache by this point of the album, I would be shocked.

I could keep reviewing the rest of this album, but it isn’t worth wasting anymore time on it. It’s just the same old crap in the first parts of the album I just went over. And hey Chris Lane does go back to this roots…when he auditioned on American Idol with his twin brother as hip hop artists. I’m not shitting you. If you want some quality car crash entertainment, click here. Once again another reason why Chris Lane, country artist is just a giant fraud. He does whatever makes him money. Except you can’t even say that about this album. Girl Problems sold a paltry 6,200 copies in its first week. (Insert prominent indie country artist here) sells more than this in their first week. And this guy got a #1 hit at country radio! It gets worse because as of September 2016 there’s only been 11,100 copies of Girl Problems sold. To put this terrible sales number into perspective: Cody Jinks, an artist who is completely ignored by the mainstream, released his new album I’m Not The Devil a week later than Lane. In the first week alone 11,300 copies were sold. Jinks sold more albums in the first week than Lane has sold in total.

I think it’s perfectly clear: Chris Lane’s Girl Problems is horrible no matter what way you want to slice it. And that made it the slam dunk choice to win Country Perspective’s 2016 Worst Album of the Year.

Country Perspective’s 2016 Song of the Year Nominees

You can find many good songs. You can find a good bit of great songs. But finding truly excellent songs that grasp your mind, heart and soul is something that is no easy task. It takes a true artist pouring blood, sweat and tears into their music. It takes guts and honesty to create something truly lasting and spectacular. Of course it’s not just fantastic, soul-reaching songwriting. It’s the perfect instrumentation to complement it and an artist’s voice to truly connect with the music at hand. This is the criteria it takes to win Country Perspective’s 2016 Song of the Year award.

In addition other factors taken into consideration are impact and the way it relates to the current year’s events and happenings. I will ultimately determine which song will win, but I also want to hear from you the readers who is deserving of the award. Your comments will be considered for determining what wins and you could possibly sway what should be the winner. So be sure to sound off in the comments! Without further ado the nominees for Country Perspective’s 2016 Song of the Year (in no particular order):

Lori McKenna – “Old Men Young Women”

Many probably expected another Lori McKenna song to land here, but this was by far the best song on her album The Bird & The Rifle in my mind. McKenna ruthlessly picks apart the dynamics of an older man and younger woman dating, speaking from the point of view someone who’s dated the older man before and the hell she went through in the process.

Margo Price – “Hands of Time”

Margo Price opens her debut album with an absolute bang, “Hands of Time,” and it’s stuck with me ever since. As she grows older with each year she learns the cruel lesson of father time while fighting the everyday obstacles of life and trying to fulfill the lofty goal of restoring the former family farm to its rightful owner.

Turnpike Troubadours – “Come As You Are”

They didn’t even release a new album this year and yet the Turnpike Troubadours land a Song of the Year nomination for a second straight year. This one comes courtesy of The New Waltz series and co-written by Felker, the song is about a man admitting his reckless and drunken lifestyle is hurting him and everyone around him. In typical TT fashion, it’s quite biting.

Parker Millsap – “Heaven Sent”

Perhaps one of the most overlooked songs of the year from an overlooked artist. Parker Millsap delivered a fine album in The Very Last Day, but “Heaven Sent” is the shining jewel of the record. The song is from the point of view a gay man who has come out to his father and desperately seeks for him to love him like he did when he thought he was straight. It’s a very cutting and emotional song on a subject that’s not common in country music.

Sturgill Simpson – “Call to Arms”

Sturgill landed here two years ago with “Turtles All The Way Down” and it was the only award he didn’t win of the three he was nominated for. Once again he has three nominations and lands here with perhaps the most visceral song he’s ever recorded, “Call to Arms.” Fueled by anger and conviction, Simpson rips the systems of society from the war on drugs to actual war to the everyday bullshit in media. It was certainly an ear-catching exclamation point to A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.

Brandy Clark – “I Cried”

Brandy Clark released a pretty good album in Big Day in a Small Town. There were many good songs on that album, but it was her appearance on Southern Family that caught my eye the most. Heartbreak is what Clark excels at and “I Cry” fits her like a glove. The song is about watching a grandparent lose their significant other and the heart-wrenching pain one goes through as you not only watch someone go through it, but experience your own emotions. Clark nails it.

BJ Barham – “Unfortunate Kind”

Sticking with heart-wrenching, BJ Barham released the darkest and most depressing album I heard all year. But its brilliant at the same time. I thought reader Brett summed it up well a few days ago in the comments: “strong writing, but makes you wanna drink yourself to a comma.” Well this song is the center-piece of this fantastic tragedy, as Barham sings about a husband and wife falling in love, only for one day the wife to die tragically young and leaving the husband in pieces.

Karen Jonas – “The Garden”

I didn’t think Karen Jonas could top her fantastic debut Oklahoma Lottery, but she somehow did with Country Songs. The album is chockfull of great music, but the absolute standout to my ears was “The Garden.” The most dynamic song of her young career so far, it’s about a mysterious falling out of forbidden love amongst young lovers and the woman looking back on it years later. If the songwriting isn’t enough to impress you, the song goes even further with absolute killer instrumentation in the bridge you have to hear for yourself.

Lydia Loveless – “Real”

Lydia Loveless is anything but conventional and her newest album Real really proves this. With out any care in the world for genre lines, Loveless delivers honestly great music and deep lyrics. But it’s the album’s title track and final song that really delivers. It explores the mindset of a young woman and the helpless they can feel when it comes to love. It’s one of the most real love songs you’ll hear all year.

Kelsey Waldon – “All By Myself”

Kelsey Waldon really broke out this year with the release of her sophomore album I’ve Got A Way and was one of the best I heard all year. It’s pure country music throughout with even better lyrics to accompany it. It can be hard to pick the best song on an album like this one, but I found the one that really shined the most was “All By Myself.” It’s empowering anthem that’s lesson to the listener is you should follow the beat of your own drum, particularly women. You should only be yourself and nobody else’s.

Zac Brown – “Grandma’s Garden”

Who’d thunk Zac Brown of all people would land a nominee for Song of the Year? This comes a year after Zac Brown Band nearly walked away with Worst Song of the Year for the dreadful “Beautiful Drug.” I guess this speaks to the magic of Dave Cobb, as he brings out the absolute best in Brown here with the perfect song choice for him. It’s a tear-jerker of a song about a man who grew up helping his grandma with the garden and the life lessons she bestowed upon him. Eventually she passes away and the man realizes at her funeral what an impact she made on him. On an album full of great music, it’s speak to how great this song is.

Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules – “Leave Me to Bleed”

I would have to say that 2016 has probably been a pretty good year for Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules. They were not only chosen to open up for Sturgill Simpson on a European swing of his tour, but released a really good album too. Let Me off at the Bottom is probably one of the most under-talked albums of the year and it shouldn’t because this group is as good as almost any other in the genre. The group really excels at making fun and engaging music, but here they show they’re just as good at making darker music. This song is about a man finding his bride committed suicide right before they were to wed and being left to live with survivor’s guilt. It’s even darker than it sounds.

Breelan Angel – “Rhinestone World”

This song was one of the early song of the year contenders and I can confidently say it’s held up well. Breelan Angel is an up and comer in the Texas scene that immediately caught my attention upon hearing this song. We’ve had a lot of protest songs in country music the past few years, even ones concerning women in the genre. But “Rhinestone World” addresses the latter in the best way, calling out sexist perverts in the industry and the emphasis placed on looks over music when it comes to women. The song shouts out pioneering women like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn who experienced the same. I think those legends would be awfully proud of a song like this one.

Miranda Lambert – “To Learn Her”

Miranda Lambert absolutely delivers in spades on her new double album The Weight of These Wings. As I said in my review, it’s the crown jewel of her career so far and that’s in big part to the raw and honest songwriting throughout it. There were many standouts you could pick on this album, but to me the one I’ll probably never forget and the best on the album is “To Learn Her.” First off it sounds like a classic country song with the thick pedal steel guitar. Then you get to the song itself, which is about how you can never truly learn someone just by asking how they are. There’s so much honesty in the lyrics and Lambert sings them with conviction.

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [Nov. 28]

Florida Georgia Line Roots

Each week we take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” +1 (Up 1)
  2. Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” -2 (Up 1)
  3. Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” -3 (Up 2)
  4. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” (Up 2)
  5. Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” (Down 4)
  6. Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” -4 (Up 1)
  7. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” -2 (Down 3)
  8. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” +3 (Up 1)
  9. Luke Bryan – “Move” -4 (Down 1)
  10. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry” 
  11. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Up 1)
  12. Granger Dibbles Jr. – “If The Boots Fits” -4 (Down 1)
  13. Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” -3 
  14. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” -1 
  15. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 [Best Song] 
  16. Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5 
  17. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2
  18. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 
  19. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” +3 (Up 1)
  20. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Down 1)
  21. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Up 2)
  22. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 [Worst Song]
  23. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 (Down 2)
  24. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5
  25. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1
  26. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Up 1)
  27. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (Up 1)
  28. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 (Up 1)
  29. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” 0 (Up 1)
  30. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -30

The pulse drops one spot this week. 

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer” +2 (I’m surprised it held on for so long. But on the other hand this should have done much better. Country radio dropped the ball on this one)

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” – Up 3 from #33 to #30
  • Little Big Town – “Better Man” – Up 2 from #23 to #21
  • Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” – Up 2 from #5 to #3

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” – Down 4 from #1 to #5
  • Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” – Down 3 from #4 to #7

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” (Maybe. It could get the same treatment the song below has gotten and stick around)
  • Luke Bryan – “Move” (How is this is still here? FFS!)

On The Hot Seat:

  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” (Made small gains this week and is surrounded by fast-rising songs. Not good. This song is in a really bad spot and needs help quick if it wants to stick around. I don’t see it happening.)
  • Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” (Made better gains this week, but has same problem as “80s Mercedes.” It just isn’t in as bad of shape. Yet.)
  • Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Picked up more steam, but I’m still not convinced it has staying power. I’m guessing his team is doing all they can to get it to last until the freeze.)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” (This actually has a nice path in front of it and I’m feeling optimistic)
  • Dierks Bentley – “Black”
  • RaeLynn – “Love Triangle” (Hmm….)
  • Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends”

Special Note: Jerrod Niemann and Lee Brice’s “A Little More Love” is finally dead and dropped off the chart. It’s a Christmas miracle! Like a blind squirrel finds an acorn occasionally, country radio gets it right here.

Programming Note: There will be no Current Pulse of Texas Country Radio this week due to the fact there were zero changes in the chart positioning, as it appears there wasn’t any reporting for it Thanksgiving week.

 

As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s Pulse in the comments below. 

Review – Trent Harmon’s “There’s A Girl”

trent-harmon-theres-a-girl

So it turns out Trent Harmon was the final winner of American Idol. Who knew? I stopped paying attention to that show once Simon Cowell left (even those final few seasons I was drifting off). Since I assume most others did the same, here’s a primer for those who don’t know Harmon. Originally he tried out on The Voice and was rejected. So with one music show rejection down, he turned to American Idol, where originally he auditioned and came off as an R&B/pop artist. Oh boy. As the show went on he started to perform some country and by country I mean a couple of Chris Stapleton songs. The rest of the songs he performed were soul, R&B and pop. The winning song he performed was called “Falling.” It was written by Keith Urban, Brett James and Dallas Davidson (ugh). Naturally Big Machine Records President and Idol adviser that season Scott Borchetta signs him to be a country artist because of course Borchetta would do this. It’s said that Harmon’s debut album will be country with indie-soul influences. When Borchetta was asked about it, he said it would be like the country album Justin Timberlake plans to make. Now I don’t know about you, but I see some red flags here. Based on these facts, it sounds like Harmon is just another pop artist cashing-in on country music.

Nevertheless I did my best to keep an open mind as I dug into Harmon’s debut label single, “There’s A Girl.” And after listening to it multiple times, it’s actually not terrible as I expected it to be. I was expecting heavy R&B and little to no country. Instead there’s actually some pedal steel guitar in the song. An actual pleasant surprise! Don’t get too excited though because there’s definitely some pop influence within the song too. But it’s not overbearing though and works for the most part. The light, up beat acoustics work well blended with the steel guitar. The song itself is about how guys are driven by girls and how they drive guys to do things they normally wouldn’t do like drive hundreds of miles to see them, clean up their vehicles and spend money they don’t have. On the surface you could look at this cynically, saying the song paints guys as being controlled by their dicks. But I really don’t see the song this way and the song doesn’t really indicate these intentions. It’s more a light-hearted look at the age old phrase of “love makes you do crazy things” and this is quite true. As far as first impressions of Harmon’s voice, it’s solid, yet unspectacular.

Overall Trent Harmon’s “There’s A Girl” isn’t half bad. You could do much worse for debut singles that’s for sure. Hell I think this song actually has some chance to stand out and be remembered by listeners. I wouldn’t call the song good either, but then again most debut singles usually aren’t because most play it on the safe side. You just hope for something decent and taking this song for what it is, that’s what you get with “There’s A Girl.”

Grade: 6/10

 

Recommend? – Sure it’s worth one listen, especially if you like pop country


Written by Trent Harmon, Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz

Country Perspective’s 2016 Female Artist of the Year Nominees

Throughout 2016 we saw many talented female country and Americana artists put out great music. Determining who will win Country Perspective’s 2016 Female Artist of the Year award will be no easy feat. The main guidelines for determining who should win are the following: the quality of music (album/singles) they’ve released in 2016, the impact they have made on the genre over the course of the year and the amount of growth they made as an individual artist.

I will ultimately determine which artist will win, but I also want to hear from you the readers who is deserving of the award. Your comments will be considered for determining who wins and you could possibly sway who should be the winner. It’s going to be especially important for this one, as this is by far the most competitive awards category this year. I had a very tough time just narrowing it down to seven artists. So be sure to sound off in the comments! One thing about the comments too: Just putting the artist’s name in the comments does nothing to sway me. It turned into a giant vote off in this category last year and I don’t want that again. Give actual, objective reasons for why you think a certain artist should win, not because they’re your favorite. So without further ado the nominees for Country Perspective’s 2016 Female Artist of Year (in alphabetical order):

Dori Freeman

Dori Freeman

Without a doubt Dori Freeman turned in one of the most surprisingly great debuts in country music this year. Her self-titled album was a great listen from start to finish and for many is one of the best of the year. I’ll reiterate what I said in my review:

This debut album from Freeman blew me away upon the very first listen. In fact I had to play it several times over because only hearing it once wasn’t enough. Freeman’s vocals are crisp, pure and undeniably Appalachian. She was born to sing and very few possess her talent. The songwriting is top-notch and I couldn’t pick out a flaw in the instrumentation and production choices. This album excels and thrives in every area.

Karen Jonas

karen-jonas-country-songs

This is the second time Karen Jonas has been nominated for Female Artist of the Year, after she was nominated and won the award in 2014, splitting it with Lee Ann Womack. Her debut album Oklahoma Lottery was one of my top five country/Americana albums of 2014 and had me thrilled to hear what she would release next. Well this year we got what was next, her sophomore album Country Songs and it did not disappoint. She once again returned with compelling songwriting, pure country production and some new wrinkles that helped the album shine too. I’m shocked more people still aren’t familiar with her music, as she’s one of the best in the genre today.

Kelsey Waldon

Kelsey Waldon I've Got A Way

Just like Jonas above, Waldon impressed many with her debut album and many eagerly anticipated her sophomore album. It lived up to expectations, as I’ve Got A Way has gotten near universal praise from country critics and fans. There’s plenty of twangy steel guitar and brutally honest songwriting from start to finish on the album and once again proves Waldon is another talent every country fan should be familiar with.

It’s an amazing album that is 110% country goodness. You simply have to hear it for yourself. This album has no bells or whistles about it. It doesn’t rely on trends and clichés in its songwriting. This is three chords and the truth right here. The instrumentation and production couldn’t be more well-arranged on each song and Waldon just belts it on each track. The songwriting is forthright, honest and cutting.

Lori McKenna

lori-mckenna-bird-and-the-rifle

Lori McKenna has been around the country music industry for quite some time, but this year many who weren’t familiar with her work are now quite well aware of her. She’s spent most of her career as a songwriter, helping pen hits for some of the biggest names in the genre. Last year she helped write Little Big Town’s polarizing smash hit “Girl Crush” and this year she solely wrote Tim McGraw’s #1 song “Humble and Kind,” which went on to win CMA Song of the Year. But you shouldn’t also overlook the fact that McKenna released a pretty stunning album of her own in The Bird & The Rifle. Featuring her own rendition of “Humble and Kind,” the album has compelling songs on love, heartbreak and life. After the year McKenna has had I don’t think anyone is going to be overlooking her anymore and they shouldn’t because she’s a phenomenal talent.

Lydia Loveless

lydia-loveless-real

Out of all the nominees, Lydia Loveless definitely released the most polarizing album. That’s probably because it’s such a strong contrast to her previous material. Yet her new album Real is arguably her best work yet. Up until this point Loveless has solidly occupied a spot in the alt-country area, but in this new album it’s mixed with glam pop and rock to create a infectious sound. But don’t let this more polished and upbeat sound fool you. The songwriting from Loveless on Real is still just as hard-hitting and deep as her previous material. While it’s fair to argue she’s not really country anymore, she always belong more in the Americana area anyway. She’s unpredictably honest and that makes for some damn fine music.

Margo Price

Margo Price Midwest Farmer's Daughter

Margo Price has been one of the most critically-buzzed country artists in 2016 hands-down. I frequent many different music forums and music critic areas and her name constantly comes up when not just discussing the best country albums of the year, but best albums period. While Midwest Farmer’s Daughter was her debut album, she’s certainly isn’t new and has been around country music for a while. It’s just now people are finally starting to take notice, as she performed on Saturday Night Live earlier this year, as well as performing in other high-profile spots. The old school, honest, honky tonk style of her music is easily appealing to music fans and she’s bound to get even bigger with the release of her next album (think Sturgill Simpson/Kacey Musgraves-like breakout). Regardless her debut album is one many will remember for a while.

Miranda Lambert

miranda-lambert-the-weight-of-these-wings

When I started this blog I knew one day Miranda Lambert would find her way onto my year-end award lists. If you asked me after her last album Platinum though, I would have been pretty skeptical her next release would be the one because I was not a fan of that album. But then Lambert went through a high-profile divorce and from all accounts has seem to go through an emotional hell the last couple of years. This emotion though would fuel her new album The Weight of These Wings and it resulted in some of the best music of her entire career. She recruited some of the best songwriters in country today to help and she did some fine writing herself too. It’s the most raw and emotional she’s ever produced and finally in my eyes she’s reaching her full potential after years of flirting with it. She’s reached a creative apex and has grown a lot with this album. In addition, while her new album wasn’t quite album of the year material, she did take a big part in Country Perspective’s 2016 Album of the Year contender Southern Family, performing one of the best songs on the album “Sweet By and By.”