2017 has, more than in most years, been a bit of a rollercoaster ride and it certainly has been a wild ride for Country music and it’s fans this year. Of course there has been some stand out moments for certain artists - records have been broken, charts have been topped and rings have been exchanged, however it wasn’t all roses as we lost some legends of the genre this year. So here’s nine points to summarise the year! Tell us what your highlights have been.
I love fun facts and record breakers make good fun fact quiz questions in years to come! So let me test you… who this year, became the first person ever to top all five billboard country charts simultaneously? Yes, Kane Brown who knocked Sam Hunt off his perch on top of the hot country songs chart with his song What Ifs, also topped the country airplay charts, country albums chart, streaming charts and digital sales charts all at the same time, that’s impressive right!? It certainly has been a wild ride for the 24 year old since his album was released back in December last year and it can only get better for him after this achievement, I’m not sure we’ll see something like that again for a long time!
So now we move on to the first negative, and it’s something we find ourselves saying every year. Yes it’s the age old question, are our female artists getting enough airplay? Are they getting the credit they deserve? Do they have to work harder than their male counterparts to get to the same place? Though it’s true every year gets a little better but Country music still has a long way to go and the charts reflect this. Until this past week not a single female topped the billboard hot country songs and only two topped the country airplay charts. How does this compare to previous years? Well in 2016 four songs by solo females went to number 1 on the airplay charts, two by Carrie Underwood and two by Kelsea Ballerini. In 2015 only one female went to number 1 on the airplay charts and that again was Kelsea Ballerini. This year Carly Pearce topped the chart with her debut single Every Little Thing and Lauren Alaina with Road Less Travelled so we’re starting to hear new names and of course Miranda, Carrie and Kelsea are not going anywhere so there’s a lot of potential for the situation to change.
Now Country purists will see this next point as a negative but it has been a big year for Sam Hunt both personally and professionally. His hit single Body Like A Backroad broke two records within a month of each other and the song ended up spending a total of 34 weeks at number 1, the longest a song has ever spent on the top spot. It seems fitting that Sam was knocked off by another record breaker Kane Brown.
The hardest thing the Country music community had to go through this year was the atrocities at the route 91 harvest festival in Las Vegas where 59 country music fans lost their lives and over 500 more were injured in America’s worst mass shooting. It rocked everyone involved in Country music, artists and fans alike and Vegas is still healing and we continue to keep all those affected by the tragedy in our thoughts. However the Country music community has come together. Artists played for the first responders in the weeks following and a benefit concert was held in Nashville featuring pretty much everyone in Country music right now. And artists continue to go back to vegas because music heals and they pay tribute to the victims in their own ways. One of the most touching tributes came from Maren Morris with her song Dear Hate.
Some of the Country stars have had success both on and off stage. There have been numerous engagements, weddings and babies so lets talk you through some of them. Most recently Kelsea Ballerini and Morgan Evans tied the knot in Mexico. Not long before that one of my favourite singers Kacey Musgraves married fellow country singer Ruston Kelly in Tennessee. Sam Hunt also got married early in 2017. Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman adopted a girl as did Thomas Rhett and his wife who also gave birth to baby Ada later in the year. Holly Williams welcomed her third child, first son back in May and Lee Brice welcomed his third child, first daughter in June. And one of my favourite artists Ashley Monroe also became a mum. Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott is expecting twins and band mate Dave Heywood’s wife is also expecting.
Unfortunately Country music has lost some legends this year especially in the second half of the year. Most notably on August 8th we lost the great Glen Campbell who was best known for hits such as Rhinestone Cowboy, Gentle On My Mind and Wichita Lineman. Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimers back in late 2010 and since then has embarked on a farewell tour which featured his three children, recorded and released a number of records including Adios which was released shortly before his death and made a documentary about his battle with Alzheimers. Exactly a month later we lost Don Williams and Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry on the same day. Don Williams who was known as the ‘Gentle Giant’ had in total 17 number 1 hits and was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame back in 2010. His songs have been recorded by the likes of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Alison Krauss to name a few, he was a very influential man within the Country music genre and was successful in numerous different countries. On the same day Troy Gentry was killed in a helicopter crash at only 50 years old. Montgomery Gentry had five number 1 singles and had 3 platinum studio albums and 1 Gold. A very beautiful and emotional tribute was paid to him at the CMA Awards this year by Eddie Montgomery, Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts.
Back to record breakers, Luke Bryan achieved quite the feat early in 2017 when he became the first Country artist in history to have six number 1’s off the same album when his song Fast reached number 1 on the Country Airplay charts on the 3rd April. The album debuted at number 1 and is now certified 2x Platinum in the States.
I have friends who watch the CMA awards that are not particularly Country music fans, I have friends who read about them, probably because of my influence but still, it reflects bad on the genre as a whole if Entertainer of the Year takes to the stage and mimes. Yes at first I didn’t think much of it, especially when it turned out that he had been scheduled to perform live but had been having trouble with his throat in the days leading up to the awards. However perhaps it would have been best to pull out of the performance entirely but maybe we still would have ended up having this conversation. I think the most embarrassing thing (which was out of Garth’s control) was when other stars of the genre began criticising him in the media which caused other stars to leap to his defence of course but all in all it went too far and the whole childish affair reflected badly on the genre.
Finally let’s talk about the UK for a moment, it’s potentially been the best year for the UK and Country music. I’m not talking just about our UK talent, of course we’ve seen lots of new homegrown talent come through the ranks and succeed such as Jade Helliwell and Darcy. However it’s also been a good year in terms of artists gracing us with their presence. It means we’re all a little poorer than we were this time last year because we’ve spent all our money on concerts but it’s fantastic that artists want to come to the UK and keep returning year after year!
Overall I think it’s been a turbulent year for Country Music but ultimately I think we’ve seen how Country music can bring people together. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings, there’s lots of promising talent coming through on both sides of the pond and I think more records will be broken next year.