Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Song review: Miranda Lambert's "Over You"

"Where words fail, music speaks."
     - Hans Christian Andersen

"Part of getting over it is knowing that you will never get over it."
      - Ann Finger

"He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man."
    - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life. The word is love."
   - Sophocles

Okay, so this is a pretty different kind of opening for me, I admit. I was listening to "Over You" on repeat as I do and was thinking about what the song is about and what it is and that gave me the idea to look up some quotes about love and loss and pain and music. There are so many great quotes out there that it was hard to narrow it down, but I'm pretty happy with what I chose. All of the above seem to apply to this song. Before you continue to my thoughts on the song, I'd like you to take a second or two and read them again. I invite you to take another second or so to think about what they mean. Go with me here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Power of the Fans: How We Help

All right, so as you may have guessed from the title, in this post I'm going to be talking about all the ways we help our artist(s). Like I said in the introduction post, I really don't believe that fans understand just how powerful they are. There are so many ways that we can help and support our artist and some of those ways are going to be extremely obvious, like those I've always mentioned. Namely the first way that we help our artist(s) is to buy their music. Go to their concerts and buy their merchandise whenever possible. I'm going to take a second to add that I know that sometimes we aren't able to support our artist(s) financially and that's okay. If anyone ever feels guilty over that fact, they shouldn't. The truth is that while those are the most obvious, they are just the beginning of how we help.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Song review: Chris Young's "Neon"

What's your favorite color?

It's a pretty straightforward question, isn't it? You don't have to answer, though I certainly won't mind if you do. For me, my favorite color has always been purple - more on the darker end of the spectrum. I don't know what your favorite colors are, but I would expect you to answer with, well, a color. Maybe, like me, you have a soft spot for purple. Or maybe you're more of a green sort of person or maybe you're a fan of red. Or maybe, just maybe, your favorite color is neon like the person in this song.

It's an interesting song concept and one I like. There's been a bunch of songs about the love people have for bars and "Neon" is among that group. But instead of focusing on the beer like most of these songs do, it focuses on the neon. Kind of a different take and if there's ever a way to make a subject feel new again, this is the way to do it.

Let's break this down...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Song review: "Banjo" by Rascal Flatts

It seems like most successful artists have a certain kind of tempo or groove or feel that is so incredibly them. It's when the band and artist are just cooking and where it seems like they are the most at home. That's what it's like; a home base. If you listen to any artist enough and start paying attention, you'll start to pick up on it. For an artist like Josh Turner, his sweet spot as I'll call it, is when he does songs like "Your Man". For Keith Urban, take something like "Put You In a Song". If it's Alan Jackson, it'll be something like "Chattahoochee" and if it's Kenny Chesney it'll be in songs like "Livin' In Fast Forward". I'm not sure I'm explaining this well or not, what I'm basically saying is that there's certain songs that you just know belong to the artist in question.

What does all of this have to do with Rascal Flatts? Easy. "Banjo" is like that; my very first thought about this song after I heard it for the first time was that it was such a quintessential Rascal Flatts song. "Banjo" is the lead off single from their upcoming album, Changed, which will be released on April 3rd and if you ask me, it just wouldn't be a Rascal Flatts album if they didn't have a song like this. 

You know what time it is, don't you? Time to go a little deeper.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Song review: James Wesley's "Walking Contradiction"

So, this next single comes to us from a guy who I have a feeling is going to end up being a subject in my ongoing artists to watch series. The first song I ever heard of his was "Real" and it was a solid, great, pure country song that could've easily been released by someone like George Strait or Alan Jackson. Totally in that vein. Then there was "Didn't I" which was another great choice for a single. It had a nice feel to it and while there's been a lot of songs about guys looking back on a past relationship that didn't work out, this one managed to sound fresh to me. Now James Wesley has released another single from his upcoming album and surprise, surprise: this guy can rock! Out of all the songs of his I've heard - these two plus two others - this is my favorite by far. And that's saying something given how strong the other songs are.

The first thing I like about this song is the title. The first time I saw it, it made me curious about the song. I thought it sounded interesting and as a person who feels like a walking contradiction most of the time, this was one I had to hear. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, maybe something a little more laid back. I don't know, but it certainly wasn't this. This is the kind of song that has me wanting to crank up the volume as soon as it starts and it's one that I imagine would be great to drive to with the windows down and the music blaring. I love songs like that.

As always, going to go in a little deeper...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Song review: David Nail's "The Sound of a Million Dreams"

Has their ever been an artist that you were aware of, but for whatever reason you never paid much attention to them? Maybe you liked the single they had out and bought it, maybe you even got the CD it was on, but you just never got around to really listening to it? Maybe you listened to it once, but not closely. I'm not convinced that I'm explaining this well; this kind of thing happens to me more often than I'd like to admit. I'll like an artist on a basic level, but for some reason they'll be more or less under the radar for me. I don't know why this happens and I'll be honest and say this was the case with me and David Nail.

I remember seeing someone tweeting about his song "Red Light" and was interested enough to go check it out. And I really liked it. It's a great song and it was enough to make me buy the album. I got to see him open for Jason Aldean, I guess a couple of years ago by now, and liked him. He put on a good show, had a solid set. But  even still, I never really listened to him all that much. That changed a bit when "Let It Rain" came out. Another great song and it had the bonus of having a great video which is always a major plus with me. I got his latest CD, The Sound of a Million Dreams, but he's kind of stayed under the radar for me. This is by no means any fault of his; I never disliked him or anything like that. He just never got my attention completely.

Now he's released the title track of that CD and I've been listening to it a lot to prepare for this review. And you know what? He has my attention now. Let's look at this further...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Power of the Fans: How we help and how we hurt our artists introduction

A few days from now they are going to open up the polls for ACM Entertainer and New Artist of the Year. No doubt fans will be doing whatever they can do to help their choices win; I've already seen posts and tweets from people urging their friends and followers to vote. More so from people campaigning for New Artist - not seeing too many people talking about Entertainer yet, but I'm sure that'll pick up. I have a bad feeling, however, that the race for New Artist is going to be a rough one. It's bums me out to see people trashing another artist as a way to promote their own. Saying that, I believe that the majority of fans will be perfectly respectful. It's just a small percentage that won't, but they'll probably be the most vocal. Or at least those kinds of posts always have a way of getting my attention.

So what does this have to do with my topic, you may or may not be asking yourself? Well it has me thinking about fan behavior and the amount of power fans have. In the years that I've been a country fan, I've been a member of all sorts of fan clubs and message boards and have met all kinds of fellow fans. I've always been interested in seeing what artists become crazy popular and which ones don't; which ones burn for a while and which ones never quite get the shot they deserve. There are so many reasons why an artist might fail or succeed, many of which don't involve the fans at all. Some of which I could never begin to understand. But while there's other variables at work, there's no denying that an artist cannot succeed without fans.

An artist can have the best band(s) in the world, be on a label that supports and cares about what they're doing. They can have the best management team in existence and the greatest lawyers. They can have the right people doing all of their art for their merchandise and CDs and they can have the most talented web designer in charge of their website. All of whom can do wonderful things for their career. But unless they have people buying their music and going to their shows, all of the above won't amount to anything. It only works with the fans. You'd be hard pressed to find an artist, especially a country artist, who would dispute that fact. Believe me when I say that they know they live or die by the fans. Fans have so much power. I believe that fans understand this.

But I do not believe that they understand just how much. In this series or whatever you want to call it I'm going to discuss all the ways that I feel the fans help or hurt their favorite artists. Some of these things are going to be very obvious. For example, we help our artists when we buy their music. We help them by buying their merchandise and we help them by going to see them in concert. These are the no brainers. But we help in other ways. And we have the power of hurting them in other ways - none of which I believe are done on purpose. This is not meant to make fans feel bad or guilty or whatever. This is not meant to be insulting in any way; rather, I want to try and make people aware of these things so that they can either keep doing them (if it helps) and try not to do them (if it hurts). My guess is that this'll end up being a three part series, including this post. I'll do one on the way we help and one on the ways we hurt.

So be on the lookout. Lots of other things on the horizon as well if I can get myself writing and posting them. I meant to have this one up a couple of days ago, but no matter. Comments are always welcomed, so if you have anything to say, go right ahead. Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Song review: Kellie Pickler's "100 Proof"

I know I've been doing a string of song reviews and this is going to be yet another one, but there's just so many new songs out there that I want to get to. 36 to be exact and it seems like every day I find out about another one. It's crazy; you know a lot of songs get put out around the same time, but until you start keeping track you have no idea. It brings home just how competitive the music business is - especially when you consider that the new songs make up a small fraction of the songs that get played on radio. I imagine some of the songs I review won't get much airplay at all and that's a sad thing in a way.

That said, I have a feeling that this one I'm talking about here won't be one of those. Why? Well, it's by Kellie Pickler who is obviously a pretty known artist and that never hurts. But aside from that, this is a pretty great song. Which means that my streak of reviewing songs I like is going to continue for the time being. Not a bad problem to have, really. I'm going to enjoy that while it lasts. In the meantime, let's get to my thoughts on "100 Proof".

Monday, March 5, 2012

Song review: Luke Bryan's "Drunk On You"

I've gotten lucky so far in that I've happened to like every song I've reviewed so far and I'm happy to say that that trend is continuing with this next one. Luke Bryan's Tailgates & Tanlines CD is the best CD he's put out in my opinion, so good that I feel like just about any song on it could be a single. That said, it was just a matter of time before he released "Drunk On You". I saw him perform this song in concert last summer and based on the fantastic response it got figured it'd be the follow up single to "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)" and was surprised when "I Don't Want This Night to End" came out instead. Of course, seeing as that song went all the way to #1 on the country charts, that was obviously a smart move.

Now it is finally "Drunk On You"'s time in the spotlight. You already know I like the song, so what else is there for me to say? Guess you'll just have to keep on reading to find out.

As always, I will divide this review into three parts starting with the lyrics, then the music itself and then the vocal. Once again I do not have my CD with me to verify, but an Internet search tells me that this song was written by Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins and Josh Kear. Lyrically speaking, this song could not be much more singable if it tried. The words all flow together so naturely and seamlessly. Very visual as well. The first couple of lines are probably my favorite, "The cotton wood falling like snow in July/Sunset, riverside, four wheel drive and a tail light circle". I just love that - great example of effective writing here. It's only two lines, but it sets the scene so perfectly. I can totally picture it in my mind.

Musically, the melody and lyrics seem to go together perfectly. Again, this song is just ridiculously singable. This is the first time I haven't been listening to the song as I'm writing the review for it and I still have to fight an urge to sing it. It's so catchy and memorable. I really like the playing here as well, it has a nice, relaxed feel to it. Very nicely produced too.

Vocally I feel like this song was recorded by exactly the right person. Luke's voice is the perfect fit for this song. I really don't have much else to say about it other than this is a really good and solid vocal.

Ultimately I feel like this is a very strong single choice for Luke Bryan. It gets a great response live and I'd expect that that response will only grow now from here as the song gets bigger. Which I feel it will. When you have a singer as hot as Luke Bryan is and a song as catchy as this one is, it's pretty much guaranteed to be a hit.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Song review: "Wanted" by Hunter Hayes

Ah, a love song that seems geared towards all the insecure girls out there. Actually I'm not sure if that was Hunter's intention or not, but that's the feel I get when I listen to this. This is a song about a guy who wants to make his girl feel wanted and rates fairly high on my newly invented aww-o-meter. As in my reaction to this song the first time I heard it was to "aww". I was curious to see what song would follow "Storm Warning" and this is an interesting choice. And a wise one in that it shows us another side of him, a more mature side perhaps. Hunter co-wrote this with Troy Verges and while I wouldn't call it best love song ever written, it's a solid one. There's a lot of good lines in here. The second verse, for example, "Anyone can tell you you're pretty (yeah)/You get that all the time, I know you do/but your beauty's deeper than the makeup/And I wanna show you what I see tonight". That and the verse/bridge after that, namely, "Better than your fairy tales/better than your best dreams/You're more than everything I need/you're all I ever wanted". There's such a sweetness about that that I like.

Musically speaking, it has a nice little energy to it, even for being a slower song. And cool when you consider that he played everything you're listening to. The music builds very nicely throughout that third verse and I love how it softens at the end of it to highlight his vocal there. My favorite moment musically. I also like the piano playing in the first part and the way the bass guitar comes in. There are a couple of moments at the end when the guitar feels oddly out of place and I'm not sure why that is. It's not enough to mess up the song, but I always notice it. Of course, now I find myself listening for it.

Hunter gives a nice and surprisingly sincere vocal in this. It's so obvious that he looks up to Gary LeVox from Rascal Flatts; there's certain things he does that are so Gary to me. For instance, the "I know you do". He'll need to make a point to develop his own style some more as he grows as an artist. He sounds so much like Gary at times and a lot of that's not his fault - they have a very similar tone to their voices and that won't change. I just want to see Hunter grow into his own sound instead of seeming like he's trying to sound like someone else. I'll give him a pass here since he's still pretty young; he has the talent, he just has to know how to build on it. This could very easily be a Rascal Flatts song and that makes me think that it should do pretty well. Solid single.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Song review: Jason Aldean's "Fly Over States"

I've dubbed Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party album the energizer bunny of albums because it's the album that just keeps going and going and going. It's not just that they've released a fifth single when most of the time they release four, though that's a part of it. It's more the fact that this album has been in the top five country album since it came out over a year ago. And as much as the people who don't like him would hate to admit it, that means something. Namely that this is a fantastic album that is well worth the money spent buying it. Yup, I am a fan, something that I've not exactly kept under wraps here. A fan of this album, yes, but also Jason himself. I remember seeing the "Hicktown" video and thinking the he was different in an interesting day and hoping that he'd do well. Think it's safe to say he ended up doing pretty well, eh?

I actually have a Jason story that I debated sharing, but chose not to for space purposes, but I might do a post about it another time. It's a story of the time I almost met Jason Aldean and still ended up with an autograph. We'll see if that ends up getting posted, but in the meantime, it's time for me to get to the focus of this post which is my thoughts about Jason's new single, "Fly Over States" which my iPad for some reason has listed as "Fly Over Town" which I find odd.

2012 ACMs Thoughts & Predictions Part 4

Nine categories down and three more to go! This time I'm going to take a look at New Artist of the Year, Video of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year to wrap up my ACM thoughts and predictions. But first I want to address my comments about Entertainer where I didn't really take into account the fact that it's fan-voted, even after posting the link where everyone will be able to vote come Noon on March 19th, right before talking about it. I was looking at it more like the non fan-voted categories. But I'm sticking with my prediction of Jason Aldean winning for all of the reasons I mentioned and the fact that I believe that his fans are as hungry for him to win as he is. I probably didn't need to clarify that point, but wanted to. So that's that.

Now it's time for me to focus on the final three categories. Here we go.

Friday, March 2, 2012

2012 ACMs Thoughts & Predictions Part 3

Up until this point, it's been about the artists themselves and now the focus shifts more to the songs and the people who write them. In country music it's all about the lyrics. Period. So let's take a look at the nominees for Single, Song and Songwriter of the Year:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

2012 ACM Thoughts & Predictions Part 2

All right, so I've talked about Entertainer and Male and Female Vocalist of the year and now it's time to focus on the Duos, the Groups, the Albums and Singles & Songs of the Year. Lots of ground to cover this time, so I'm going to jump right in: