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Biggest Country Albums of The Year

Posted on 03 January 2013 by Bill West

Taylor Swift Red2012 was another big year for country music.   The Billboard Year End Rankings just came out and although Adele’s 21 grabbed the best selling number one slot for the second year in a row (a record feat) the top ten was chock full of Nashville brewed country.

Taylor Swift makes the cut at number two with Red.  Swift has made the year end list three other times in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

One Direction, Mumford and Sons and Justin Bieber round out the top six (One Direction has 2 albums in the mix) but the rest of the top ten is all country.

Arista Records

Arista Records

Carrie Underwood continues to “blow away” sales numbers with her latest effort which ends 2012 with 1.2 million units in sales, followed by Luke Bryan’s Tailgates and Tanlines, and the underrated “Tuskeegee” collection of duets from Lionel Richie with 1.07 million.  Jason Aldean’s recent release of Night Train took only a few months to sneak into the number ten slot with 1.2 million in sales.

night trainThis was a significant showing for country according to Billboard.com.  They state that previously the country genre has only claimed up to four slots and you have to go back to 2002 and 1992 for those successes.

Taylor Swift starts the new year with a number one week with Red topping the Billboard 200 all genres Album chart.

The full year end stats are available at Billboard.com

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Country Songs – 2012′s Best and Worst

Posted on 30 December 2012 by Bill West

Pontoon LBTBest and worst of 2012? In the past year many songs were both.  It was more case of who’s the most polarizing. Little Big Town’s Pontoon, Taylor Swift’s” We Are Never Getting Back Together” and Jason Aldean’s “The Only Way I Know” cover both extremes.

Little Big Town scored the song of the year with an unlikely song about boating’.  After lukewarm success with initial hits like “Boondocks” followed by a dry spell and then “Little White Church” and then more quiet some industry insiders had left LBT for dead.  Still, everyone seemed to like the group.   So when “Pontoon” came along it planted their eight feet back on the path to the A list.

Some immediately hated the song.   Others were smitten, and – like all the songs on our polarizing list – airplay was undeniable.  For a moment Country music was pop culture.

In fact “Pontoon” written by Natalie Hemby, Luke Laird and Barry Dean, went on to win the 2012 CMA Single of the year award at the Country Music Association Awards.   The song hit number one on the radio and is the band’s first Platinum selling single.

LBT is keeping up the momentum by launching The Tornado Tour with David Nail and Kacey Musgraves in the new year.

Taylor Swift RedIn a different twist, Taylor swift came to radio with an obvious pop song that was instantly memorable.  Despite producing a “Country Mix” that was nearly identical to the pop mix (both super bubblegum) hundreds of country and pop stations jumped on the launch of the- then mystery- single’s world premiere.  In an evening YouTube live release Swift played the song to a room full of teenage girls and disclosed “Never Getting Back Together” as the first single and the album art and title (RED).   Clear Channel issued every hour airplay on hundreds of stations.  Many listeners complained about the repetition with dislike. Clearly many others were humming along with a smile as “We Are Never Getting Back Together” became an instant number one on iTunes and helped propel the full release of “Red” to epic sales numbers.   Records include the first artist to sustain 6 weeks at #1 on the Billboard album charts with three consecutive albums.   Also she is one of the first artists since Garth Brooks to hold a number one slot the week before TWO Christmas Holidays (with 2 different albums).

night trainJason Aldean has never played it safe. In 2012 he released a unique “event” song called That’s The Only Way I Know where he teams up with fast rising country stars and tour mates Eric Church and Luke Bryan.
It was another bold step towards infusing rap into mainstream country on the radio. Aldean has been the only one to succeed with the spoken word delivery in the past so it was a daring move but proof that he can pull it off as more than just a novelty. There could be more of e sound to come as a future track on Night Train called 1994 gives us a hilarious Joe Diffie tribute is rumored for a 2013 radio single choice.

Pontoon, Never Getting Back, and The Only Way I Know are songs that may not receive continued strong airplay(or GOLD as it’s called)  on the radio due to their polarizing nature, but – love ‘em or hate ‘em – there is no doubt they’ve left their mark on 2012.

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Tim McGraw Partners Up with a New Blonde

Posted on 14 December 2012 by Bill West


tim_mcgrawTim McGraw has been experimenting lately.  It’s not that McGraw needed to reinvent himself.  He’s the biggest country star of the last fifteen years.  But he has had some legal tussles with the record label that brought him to the table so he has branched out recently with unique collaborations that allowed him to record under different umbrellas.   His last full studio album on Curb records was a long time in the making and it was released as Emotional Traffic in 2012 to solid acceptance despite McGraw feeling it was long overdue for release.

Next up for McGraw is a new studio album on a new home, Big Machine Records.  Big Machine is also the home to superstar Taylor Swift so it may be no surprise to some that she appears on a special new cut on the album along with Keith Urban called Highway Don’t Care.

The new album, along with a “deluxe” version that includes a live performance of his recent hit “Truck Yeah” is set for a February 5th 2013 release.

Tim McGraw ‘Two Lanes of Freedom’ Track Listing:

Tim Mcgraw album1. ‘Two Lanes of Freedom’
2. ‘One of Those Nights’
3. ‘Friend of a Friend’
4. ‘Southern Girl’
5. ‘Truck Yeah’
6. ‘Nashville Without You’
7. ‘Book of John’
8. ‘Mexicoma’
9. ‘Number 37405′
10. ‘It’s Your World’
13. ‘Highway Don’t Care’ (Feat. Taylor Swift and Keith Urban)

Deluxe Version Includes:

14. ‘Annie I Owe You a Dance’
15. ‘Tinted Windows’
16. ‘Let Me Love It Out of You’
17. ‘Truck Yeah’ Live

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Toby Kenny and Taylor Join an Elite Club

Posted on 29 November 2012 by Bill West

Chesney Live 2011

Toby Kenny and Taylor are now together in quite a club.   It’s the Forbes Magazine  List of 25  highest-paid musicians. In 2010 they made a similar list with Forbes Country stars.  No surprise Taylor Swift from Big Machine Label Group  placed No. 8, tied (right in there with a Beatle –  Paul McCartney’s $57 million), Show Dog-Universal’s Toby Keith at No. 10 with 55 Million and Kenny Chesney ranked No. 17 with $44 million. See the full STORY HERE from Forbes and see how Justin Bieber is expanding his horizons below.  BTW Dr. Dre topped the list at $110 million.

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2012 CMA Jawdropper Winners

Posted on 01 November 2012 by Bill West

Blake Shelton

The 2012 Country Music Awards (CMA Awards) were handed out on Nashville and there were more than a few surprises including a biggie for Blake Shelton who rose to the top of the heap thanks to Network TV exposure.   Shelton also grabbed trophys for Male Vocalist and an emotional Song Of The Year.   Little Big Town won the Group Award and Taylor Swift walked away empty handed (but gracious).  Check out the complete list of winners below.

Entertainer of the year: Blake Shelton

Female vocalist of the year: Miranda Lambert

Male vocalist of the year: Blake Shelton

New artist of the year: Hunter Hayes

Vocal group of the year: Little Big Town

Vocal duo of the year: Thompson Square

Single of the year: “Pontoon” – Little Big Town

Album of the year: “Chief” – Eric Church

Song of the year: Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton – “Over You”

Musical event of the year: Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw – “Feel Like a Rock Star”

Music video of the year: Toby Keith – “Red Solo Cup”

Musician of the year: Mac McAnally

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Five New Stars Of Country Music – Is Your Favorite One?

Posted on 01 November 2012 by Bill West


Longtime country music fans remember the day when the songs were traditional and the big names were super familiar. It changes with the time. In 1989 there was a new “class” that launched a NEW COUNTRY movement. Names like Clint Black, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, and Mary Chapin Carpenter were all breakthrough artists that year. Interestingly it was they year one of our new leaders, Taylor Swift, was born.

Now, almost like the circle of life, country music is ushering in a new class of stars. These days the genre is casting away stars like Alan Jackson and George Strait to make room for these new names.

Lately radio play and country song single sales have been all bout five newbies. Taylor Swift, Zac Brown, Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, and Jason Aldean.

Jason Aldean is on top of the mountain as a male vocalist with new country songs spiking to number one at radio and online with downloads and album sales. His 2012 album “Night Train” surprised critics with another instant jump to number one on the all genres Billboard Top 200. His ascent to the pinnacle was clinched with his signature song “Dirt Road Anthem” that blended a modern rap vibe with real country lyrics. His latest releases promise rabid fans that there’s more to come.

Taylor Swift is a somewhat polarizing leader in the new team. Her country songs are undeniably pop leaning, but over one million albums sold in one week (she’s achieved those sales twice) can not be ignored. She is, in fact, bigger than country music now. Still she carries the torch for the country genre and is almost always introduced as a COUNTRY superstar. Swift hit her pinnacle with her most country sounding song so far. The fan favorite “Mean.” It’s hard to tell just how high her star will rise but there’s now doubt she is a good influence for younger fans.

Lady Antebellum is a trio primarily from Georgia (like Aldean). They launched in 2006 with a self titled album and have not slowed down since. The trio broke through to mainstream audiences with the powerful ballad “Need You Now.” That went on to garner pop and mainstream airplay. Three members Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood, and Charles Kelly (brother to singer Josh Kelly) came up with the unique name after noting some of their early press photos had a very “antebellum” feel. Fans often shorten the name to just “Lady A.”

The Zac Brown Band is another game changing group. Lead singer Zac Brown (again, from Georgia) set the table for early success by building a strong jam band following in smaller clubs in the South East. Shortly after number one airplay of “Chicken Fried” they were playing arenas, then stadiums and creating their own music festivals. The unconventional and organic approach struck a chord with all music fans winning them a Grammy Award for best new artist and a non stop string of number one songs.   The ZBB album “Uncaged” was one of the groups strongest sets to date.

Eric Church is perhaps the freshest face in this line up. After years of struggling to get significant airplay he has seemed to lock into his fan base and his sound. He built his base of followers with dynamic live shows and party songs like “Smoke A Little Smoke.” Watch for mainstream music industry and critics to really start to pay attention to Church as his concert tickets continue to sell out (and bigger rooms keep filling) and his album sales sell more and more. Church’s sound (with help from “Pontoon” producer Jay Joyce) has a gritty experimental vibe to it but his vocal twang is almost as country as Willie Nelson.

A few that almost made the list include Blake Shelton (starting to peak with Network TV exposure), Miranda Lambert, Scotty McCreery (radio has not caught up to his massive record sales and fan base yet) and Hootie front man Darius Rucker. These new voices are leading the way to a new country revolution.

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Swift Announces 2013 Tour

Posted on 27 October 2012 by editor

Three nights in Nashville… BIG Stadiums… a Washington DC run. Taylor Swift announced to Katie Couric on ABC that she will be heading out on a 2013 Tour. The Red tour will accompany the smash CD/album by the same name.

It’s not a huge surprise but it is a highly anticipated announcements as the tickets will hit the box offices on November 16th.

Her biggest challenge is to live up to her stellar Speak Now Tour that wowed fans and critics alike.

Taylor Swift 2013 Red Tour Dates:

3/13 – Omaha, Neb.
3/14 – Omaha, Neb.
3/18 – St. Louis, MO.
3/19 – St. Louis, MO.
3/22 – Charlotte, N.C.
3/23 – Columbia, S.C
3/27 – Newark, N.J.
3/28 – Newark, N.J.
3/29 – Newark, N.J.
4/10 – Miami, Fla.
4/11 – Orlando, Fla.
4/12 – Orlando, Fla.
4/18 – Atlanta, Ga.
4/19 – Atlanta, Ga.
4/20 – Tampa, Fla.
4/25 – Cleveland, Ohio
4/26 – Indianapolis, Ind.
4/27 – Lexington, KY
5/4 – Detroit, Mich.
5/7 – Louisville, KY
5/ 8 – Columbus, Ohio
5/11 – Washington, D.C.
5/12 – Washington, D.C.
5/16 – Houston, TX
5/21 – Austin, TX
5/22 – San Antonio, TX
5/25 – Dallas, TX
5/28 – Glendale, Ariz.
5/29 – Glendale, Ariz.
6/1 – Salt Lake City, Utah
6/2 – Denver, CO
6/15 – Toronto, Ontario
6/22 – Winnipeg, MA
6/29 – Vancouver, B.C.
7/6 – Pittsburgh, PA
7/20 – Philadelphia, PA
7/27 – Foxborough, Mass.
8/1 – Des Moines, Iowa
8/2 – Kansas City, MO
8/3 – Kansas City, MO
8/6 – Wichita, KS
8/7 – Tulsa, Okla.
8/10 – Chicago, Ill.
8/15 – San Diego, Calif.
8/19 – Los Angeles, Calif.
8/20 – Los Angeles, Calif.
8/27 – Sacramento, Calif.
8/30 – Portland, OR
8/31 – Tacoma, Wash.
9/6 – Fargo, ND
9/7 – St. Paul, MN
9/8 – St. Paul, MN
9/12 – Greensboro, N.C.
9/13 – Raleigh, N.C.
9/14 – Charlottesville, VA
9/19 – Nashville, Tenn.
9/20 – Nashville, Tenn.
9/21 – Nashville, Tenn.

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Swift Video – Begin Again

Posted on 26 October 2012 by editor

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Taylor Swifts Secrets of Success

Posted on 22 October 2012 by Bill West


Swift On Tour

 

Taylor Swift has sometimes been seen as an overnight success.   From pre-teen to CMA Award winner.  To music industry followers that assumption is relative.  Her first radio single (Tim McGraw) was released in 2006 and there was a lot of planning and set up years before that.

Swift, like all artists and superstars, has had her fair share of luck.  But Swift has parlayed those breaks into a multimedia success story and lifestyle brand that is as strong as Disney.

Swift attached herself to other great brands.   Country music was just a start.  She quickly release one of her first singles as almost an homage to “Tim McGraw.”  The song did well but more importantly it gave other country stars something to attach to.  Plus she shrewdly made the connection an event when she  performed the song on the Country Music Awards with McGraw in the front row.   On Network television she wrapped up the performance square in front of the star on the theatre floor and extended a humle introductio, “Hi I’m Taylor.”   It was not only a bold move, even risky, but it also created water cooler talk for days.    Showmanship at it’s best.   Swift was also an early opener on a George Strait tour that would put her front and center before some traditional country fans.   Later, on her 2012 “Speak Now” Tour she enlisted A-list stars like Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Ronnie Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, and Darius Rucker to further attach herself to other superstars (granted by 2012 her star was shining brighter than even her guests).

Swift has always made it a point to write what she knows.   Life as a teen and young adult was not a common theme in country music.  Still isn’t.  But the combination of honest lyrics and hooky arrangements made her someone everyone wanted to hear and relate to.

Taylor Swift RedShe is a total tease.   Yes, she admits her songs are about real breakups, relationships, and – gasp – celebrity boys.  But she won’t divulge the names or the details.  Fans get to comb over the lyrics and try to piece together the storyline.  It’s pop culture crack for a TMZ generation.  John Mayer, Taylor Laughtner,  Her latest Kennedy family romance (with Conor Kennedy) is the latest in her water cooler marketing happenings.  It has helped fuel pre launch interest in 2012′s “Red” album.

Swift is a social media maven.  She was an early adopter of MySpace and  Twitter where she cultivated a fanbase of millions. Almost 20 million Twitter followers at last count.

There is no secret recipe to Swifts success other than writing and composing important songs that stand the test of time.  That she has revealed as a gift to fans and has proven to be the most important tool in her pink tool box.

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Red Means GO for Taylor Swift

Posted on 22 October 2012 by Bill West

Taylor Swift

This is a big day for Taylor Swift fans.  Her highly anticipated fourth studio album is released Today and Taylor has a huge lineup of appearances:

First she takes her Facebook and Twitter ‘followers’ and allows a few to literally ‘follow’ her around New York during release week. In exchange, the lucky fans will post live updates to their social sites.

Also watch for her live on ABC’s Good Morning America. Then she’s BACK at GMA on October 23 and will also be the first guest and perform on David Letterman. The next day she visits The View and on the 25, Taylor returns to the always hysterical Ellen DeGeneres Show.

The roadshow continues on October 26 Taylor will be a guest on Katie with Katie Couric and that same night at 8p|7c, fans can catch part two of Taylor’s interview withGreat American Country. One hour later at 9p|8c, Taylor, and other stars, will appear on ABC’s All Access Nashville with Katie Couric.

There’s more…. it will also be “Taylor Swift Week” on Entertainment Tonight. Access Hollywood, E! News and Extra will air interviews with Taylor during release week as well.

Plus, she’ll sit down for a live Q&A session with an audience at the SiriusXM studios in New York City on October 22 at 2p|1c for SiriusXM’s “Town Hall with Taylor Swift.” She’ll also visit Scholastic’s New York headquarters to take part in a special literacy event for the company’s “Read Every Day” campaign.

Once Taylor wraps her New York media events, she’ll return to Nashville for the “Taylor Swift Worldwide Radio Remote” presented by Papa John’s on October 26 with 72 stations broadcasting live from Music City, including stations from South Africa and New Zealand.

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