by Julian Spivey
I debated whether or not this should be an article prognosticating the Best Country Song field for Monday night’s (Feb. 15) GRAMMY Awards or whether I should just rank the nominees from what I consider to be most to least worthy. I quickly realized that prognosticating the award would be a waste of time, because it’s pretty obvious Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” written by Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose, is going to take home the honor. It’s obvious because the song is also nominated for the general category Song of the Year award at the ceremony.
So, “Girl Crush” will be Country Song of the Year, but here’s what I’d like to see …
1. “Chances Are” by Lee Ann Womack
I love Lee Ann Womack. I love songwriter Hayes Carll. I love the old school, throwback, traditional country music feel of “Chances Are.” This song has no chance in hell of winning this award. If I were to rank the songs as most likely to win this award this would come in at fifth place. It’s a miracle, and truly a win in itself that it was even nominated. Despite Womack’s flawless vocals on this song, to be honest, I’d rather have seen Carll’s own recording from his terrific 2011 album KMAG (YOYO) nominated, but again the fact that this truly underrated songwriter has gotten his due now is amazing.
2. “Traveller” by Chris Stapleton
If there is a song in this category that could upset “Girl Crush” it would be Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller,” the title track from his album that has him nominated overall for Album of the Year and essentially a lock for the Country Album of the Year win. Stapleton is a singer-songwriter who has brought back some of the traditional country sound to the genre. His traditionalism has seen him garner much critical acclaim and awards already over the last few months.
3. “Hold My Hand” by Brandy Clark
Brandy Clark has been one of Nashville’s best songwriters for a while now, but recently she’s become one of its best singers (though criminally underplayed on country radio), as well. She stunned everybody on last year’s GRAMMY telecast when she performed this song, with Dwight Yoakam backing her, from her GRAMMY nominated debut album 12 Stories (nominated last year). It’s also a traditional sounding country song showing great emotion.
4. “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” by Tim McGraw
Tim McGraw has undergone somewhat of a return to traditionalism recently after a little while of recording absolute crap like “Truck Yeah” in an effort to stay relevant on country radio. “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” was essentially the beginning of this switch in his music and is one of the countriest sounding tunes he’s ever recorded. The song, written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird and Jonathan Singleton, gets the emotion of hardcore country music down perfectly.
5. “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town
That’s right, I have the favorite and essential lock to win this award as my least favorite of the category. That’s not, in any way, saying “Girl Crush” is a bad song. This is a category filled with terrific songs, there’s not a loser in the bunch, it’s just that I find myself liking “Girl Crush” the least (and Little Big Town the least). “Girl Crush” sounds the least-country of any of the nominees in this category, and to me that’s important. The style in which Little Big Town performs the track is essentially more soulful and really pop-sounding to really appeal to my country-tuned ears.
by Aprille Hanson
Adele can be summed up in two words: predictable and brilliant. Predictable because 99 percent of her songs are focused on relationships -- heartbreak, love, lost love, etc. But, her ability to be relatable and draw every listener in with her powerhouse vocals on topics that are virtually the same is brilliant.
Her latest album 25, supposedly the last album to be named after her age, is a wonderful follow-up to 21, but not necessarily groundbreaking.
I will admit I have not heard much from 19, so I can only speak to her growth as an artist between her two latest albums. On 21, every song had to do with love and it absolutely was from a perspective of someone in their early 20s.
The key difference in the two albums is maturity. Sure, most of the songs are about love, but it’s from a place of understanding more about love than a young teenager or one that is in their early 20s.
The smash single “Hello” is similar in theme (not in sound) to “Someone Like You,” calling up an old lover and talking about the past and while I believe ‘Someone’ is better, “Hello” has more longing to it. She’s talking about how she “must have called a thousand times,” which makes it seem like it’s a conversation that’s played over in her head for so long. Anyone who has gone through a very hard break-up will understand. There’s more at stake in “Hello,” a need for peace and healing.
“Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” has masterful vocal choices and it’s delightfully catchy, probably the most catchy song on the album. There are a few standout songs that stretch Adele’s artistic vision more than her past work. “When We Were Young” has this build to it that just intensifies our understanding of growing up. The way she articulates the phrase, “My God this reminds me of when we were young,” is gritty and perfect, as well as the lyrics that start the chorus: “You look like a movie / you sound like a song.”
It could potentially be a good single for her. But then again, there are plenty of options, including “River Lea,” a haunting song that plays with Adele’s past, growing up near the River Lea, a tributary to the Thames River. But it’s more about how love has changed and her guilt with that through her life, but using the river imagery grips the listener, especially lyrics like, “My heart is a valley / it’s so shallow and manmade.” While the verses are steady as a river, the rapids hit at the chorus, with biting lines like “It’s in my blood and I stain every heart that I use to heal the pain.”
Another gem is “Million Years Ago” because it’s not about love and it’s unique. As secretive as Adele is about her life, this song is probably the best indication of how she personally has been affected by fame. It may be hard for the average person to feel sorry for someone who is famous, but the lack of privacy and the complete overhaul that comes with fame makes the listener truly feel for Adele. It almost sounds like a person who has committed some sort of crime has left jail and realizes how different their life is. Fame is somewhat a jail and that’s the feeling we get from this song, with no hint of sounding whiny about “rich people problems.”
“All I Ask” should be a single. With pop star Bruno Mars as a co-writer, Adele not only tugs at our emotions talking about two lovers parting ways one last time, but it’s her pleading and powerful voice that brings home lines like, “It matters how this ends / because what if I never love again.”
While there’s really not a misstep on the album, the best song by far is “Sweetest Devotion,” written about her 3-year-old son Angelo. At the beginning and end of the song, you can hear his voice, talking about wanting to swim and immediately, it’s bouncy and fun, like chasing after a toddler. You can tell the complete joy Adele has with motherhood that was unexpected, in lyrics like, “I wasn’t ready then, I’m ready now / I’m heading straight for you / you will only be eternally / the one that I belong to.” It’s a perfect way to end the 25 album because it chronicles love and heartbreak, but it’s summed up with the greatest love of her life in her son. It makes Adele singing these particular lyrics so beautiful for fans: “I find it funny that you’re the only one I never looked for / there is something in your loving that tears down my walls.”
Critics have pegged Adele as being boring for being almost too relatable, to the point where she only sings about love and does not take risks. It’s partially fair, in that I hope her next album stretches even further, but she has never been boring and 25 was a great next step for her as an artist.