Country Music’s Biggest Winners & Losers in 2014
2014 has been a year of great flux in country music, with some legendary successes by independent artists and new mainstream artists, and the shuffling out of other artists and the fumbling of what once were legendary, high flying careers. Here’s a run down of the five biggest winners and losers in the greater country music world in 2014.
PLEASE NOTE: Calling someone either a “winner” or a “loser” in no way should be taken as a ringing endorsement or an absolute admonishment of any artist, organization, or the music they are a part of. It’s simply meant to illustrate the trends they’ve been a party to, and the decisions they have made in the last calendar year.
WINNER – Scott Borchetta
The only question now is what slows Scott Borchetta down? It’s his Music Row-based independent label that is responsible for the biggest blockbuster album not just released in 2014, but in the last decade plus in Taylor Swift’s 1989, and that doesn’t even delve into the rousing success of Brantley Gilbert, Florida Georgia Line, and lot of his other artists in his expanding empire which now accounts for five total imprints and a ridiculous roster of commercially-successful talent. Add on top his recent partnership with American Idol which will bring Borchetta out of the shadows to become a prominent figure in pop culture, and we may be looking at the most powerful man in the recording industry, if not now than in the coming years.
WINNER – Sturgill Simpson
What can be said about Sturgill Simpson that hasn’t already been said before? The man has been on an absolute tirade in 2014, defying all the odds for an independent artist. After releasing what has become one of the most universally critically-acclaimed albums in recently memory in Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Sturgill played Letterman and Conan, was picked up on the Zac Brown Band tour, won Emerging Artist of the Year from the Americana Music Association, and now has been nominated for a Grammy. On his current headlining club tour, he’s selling out every single night and causing incredible local buzz. His next tour will have to graduate to the theater level, and we may even she Sturgill on a major label moving ahead, whether he wants to or not, simply to accommodate the demand. He’s still many steps from being a household name or receiving mainstream radio play, but he’s captured the imaginations of many fans as an artist who can take the independent spirit to a mainstream-caliber level.
WINNER – Brandy Clark
The reason Brandy Clark’s ascent is even more spectacular and promising than Sturgill Simpson’s is because she’s doing it within the Music Row mainstream system. She’s now signed to a major label, and is being named as a nominee for major industry awards like Song of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA Awards, and Best Album at the Grammy Awards. What she doesn’t have as of yet that fellow songwriter and critical darling Kacey Musgraves has is a presence on mainstream country radio. But with a major label now behind any future projects, this becomes even more of a possibility. And wherever you stand on the contentious “gays in country” issue, you can’t help but give Clark credit for integrating the format in the most passive and respectful way. And even more promising is that you get the feel Brandy Clark has years of upside potential ahead of her in the industry.
WINNER – Brantley Gilbert
What has Brantley Gilbert done right in 2014? Why would this Bro-Country knucklehead be characterized as a “winner”? Because while you weren’t looking he quietly has amassed the most loyal fan base in mainstream country music this side of Carrie Underwood, and has the towering sales numbers to prove it in an environment where such sales numbers were thought to be in the past for a second-tier country star. Brantley’s Just As I Am has sold over 640,000 copies. That’s more than the recent albums from Florida Georgia Line and Blake Shelton combined, or more than the albums of Keith Urban and Brad Paisley combined. Gilbert has sold nearly twice as many albums as Florida Georgia Line’s Anything Goes, 3x the amount of Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley’s recent releases, and 4x the amount of Brad Paisley’s. Many gave sideways glances at their televisions when Brantley Gilbert was given the American Music Award for “Favorite Country Album,” but by definition, it was deserved. Brantley is the mainstream star with grassroots support, and with that kind of structure, he’s become country music’s great underrated commercial powerhouse.
WINNER – Sam Hunt
In an industry where launching a female artist seems nearly impossible these days, country music’s rising male talent faces the opposite problem of an overcrowded field at the top. But songwriter Sam Hunt, who decided to saddle up with Shane McAnally and attempt to become country music’s EDM superstar has done just that with the mega single “Leave The Night On” and surprising sales for his debut album Montevallo. Where another, more-established country artist in Jerrod Niemann attempted to go EDM with and have a very successful #1 single in “Drink To That All Night” to back it up, Niemann still only garnered album sales of 14,000 for his latest release. Meanwhile Sam Hunt saw a debut week of 70,000 sales, and subsequently has seen strong reception for his country/EDM concept, including surprisingly from many critics. A charmer who can actually speak well for himself who hit on an idea that however vomit-inducing for country music’s traditional listeners has resonated with the wider public, Sam Hunt has revealed himself right out of the gate as a long-haul country star we’ll be hearing about for years, like it or not.
LOSER – Garth Brooks
Without question Garth Brooks has proved his touring muscle did not atrophy one bit during his nearly 15-year retirement. But what was supposed to be the biggest comeback in country music history has fallen completely flat in regards to album sales, radio play, and overall cultural impact. The selection of singles and the rollout of Garth’s new album was critical, and the momentum and intrigue surrounding his comeback couldn’t have been fumbled any more, resulting in sort of a “ho hum” reception from consumers. He can still sell out five consecutive concert dates in 30 minutes, but without any radio support for his new music, and his insistence on attempting to create his own trends instead of catering to the new era of media, he’s put himself at a distinct disadvantage. Take out the touring success, and right now it is “Machine” one – “Man” zero.
LOSER – Jerrod Niemann
If you want a cautionary tale of what not to do with your country music career, look no further than this once critically-lauded artist who decided to go all techno and appears to be paying the price for his country music transgressions. When the EDM-landen single “Drink To That All Night” was cresting #1 on country radio’s Airplay Chart on its way to certified platinum status, it was all high fives in the Niemann camp. But since the release of the second single from his latest album High Noon called “Donkey,” Niemann has been hard to find. Where “Drink To That All Night” apparently walked right up to the line and titillated the country music public enough to become successful, “Donkey” crossed over it, and now the question is if Jerrod Niemann will ever be able to recover. His latest dreckish single “Buzz Back Girl” doesn’t appear to be making any buzz at all, stalling at #35 on Country Airplay. All the attention for “Drink To That All Night,” and the album High Noon only sold 14,000 copies upon its release. Those are Sturgill Simpson-like numbers with no major label, no name recognition, and no radio play. Subsequently High Noon has only sold around 60,000 copies at last count. Meanwhile the high-production video for “Donkey” apparently showing Niemann awe-struck by the size of his own genitals remains on the shelf.
LOSER – Blake Shelton
Forget that NBC’s The Voice most prominent judge has won the CMA Award for Male Vocalist of the Year for now five years straight, there has never been an artist who has been so quizzically ensconced as the face of the genre who has delivered so little in regards to commercial or critical success, or cultural impact. Shelton’s 2014 album Bringing Back The Sunshine might go down as the biggest dud of the year. As of this moment, it has only sold just shy of 208,000 copies. Compare this with Brantley Gilbert, who has never even been nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year, and has sold upwards of 640,000 copies of his latest release. And because of his commitments to The Voice, Blake Shelton’s touring revenue is also paltry compared to his peers. At this point, Blake Shelton is more famous for being famous, not for country music.
LOSER – The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA)
Bluegrass. Sweet, wholesome bluegrass. One of the most inspiring, inclusive, sustainable scenes in not just country, but in the greater music world, with festivals, children’s workshops, prestigious awards, and worldwide appreciation for the artform. But somehow in 2014, this environment of togetherness and organization has been shattered by unbelievable turmoil in the IBMA’s Board of Directors. The not-for-profit first showed signs of problems when the board gave their Executive Director Nancy Cardwell a vote of “NO Confidence” and moved to replace her the very week after what appeared on the outside to be a very successful 2014 IBMA Awards and World of Bluegrass gathering in Raleigh, North Carolina in October. Now there has been multiple resignations from the Board, many open letters back and forth to and from IBMA members as the drama that can fester in a music “scene” emerges for all the public to see in all of its confusing ugliness.
Bluegrass, and even the IBMA will be fine in the long-term, and maybe there were some systemic issues that needed to be addressed in the recent and ongoing turmoil. But from of all places, the bluegrass world gave us an example of what can happen when behind-the-scenes drama overrides the passion for the music.
LOSER – Brad Paisley
Every artist faces that moment where their commercial relevancy begins to slip through their fingers, and 2014 was that year for Brad Paisley, and in a big way. Earlier in the year saw Paisley touring around with no name for his tour, no designs on the sides of his buses and semi’s, in a symbolic marker of his lack of direction in his undeniably-successful, but twilighting career. He came out of the gate with his new album Moonshine in the Trunk already complaining that of all things, the flack he received for the song “Accidental Racist” had somehow torpedoed his career, and the sense of bitterness from what is supposed to be mainstream country’s happy go luck superstar tarnished the sentiment of a man that won the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year just four short years ago. Sales for Moonshine In The Truck have been abominable for an established, mainstream star, coming in at 107,000 at last count. Every artist faces the eventual fall from prominence, but Brad Paisley’s has been especially precipitous.
December 10, 2014 @ 11:57 am
I didn’t realize how low the sales were for BS Brad and Sam. With all the buzz about Sam’s horrible album I thought he would have sold more than 70,000 copies first week. I mean LBT sold more than that.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:05 pm
But Sam Hunt is a brand new artist that nobody has heard of whose music trends towards EDM whose fans usually stream albums and don’t purchase them. Yes, compared to established artists, that’s low. But for a debut, those numbers are shockingly high in my opinion, especailly when you compare them with Jerrod Niemann.
December 11, 2014 @ 1:36 am
Little Big Town’s album sold 42K first week.
December 11, 2014 @ 10:20 am
I consider 70k great for a relatively unknown singer, with only one single under his belt. In fact known singers have struggled to match that. I believe Lady A was in the 70 range, Dierks in the 80s and I know Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney weren’t much higher than that.
December 11, 2014 @ 10:31 am
His singles also sell proportionately well given his airplay.
As did his album. I believe Brett Eldredge was named one of–if not the biggest–country radio stars (from an airplay standpoint) this past year, and he’s a similarly good-looking, charming guy with catchy songs, and his album didn’t do 70K first week. His Don’t Ya and Beat of the Music were, arguably, both bigger SONGS than Leave the Night On was.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:04 pm
I’m surprised Taylor Swift didn’t make the list as a winner.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:50 pm
She officially switched formats, from country to pop.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:51 pm
Taylor Swift is a winner. But she’s not country, or part of the country industry. At least hypothetically she isn’t. That didn’t stop me from reviewing her album, but you have to draw the line somewhere. In my opinion, country media needs to take Taylor’s divorce decree more seriously.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:09 pm
If where being nice to mainstream acts such as Sam Hunt and Brantley. I would also put Miranda Lambert as winner and *gag Jason Aldean. He did manage to get the only platinum country record of the year and more #1s.sigh…though I don’t know Miranda’s sales but I figure she is not to far from that herself. Not a traditional country album, its more mainstream pop but I actually like it. The more I listen to it the more I like it. I always have had a soft spot for Miranda. I feel like the best is yet to come from her.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:47 pm
I think it’s fair to call both Miranda and Jason Aldean winners. I guess the reason I didn’t feel the need to highlight therm here is because this was nothing unexpected. These are top tier artists who remained there in 2014.
December 10, 2014 @ 1:04 pm
I thought Jason Aldean was a loser this year – got shut out of the CMA nominations, was still wheeling from his affair. I’m not sure what exactly his album or touring numbers were, but I thought he kind of symbolized the beginning of the end of the bro-country movement. But I can be wrong – I’m watching from a very far distance.
Otherwise, everything is very spot on. It can’t be underestimated how much any success of Garth’s return is reflective of his past success. People are nostalgic today, but probably won’t care for another 20 years soon.
December 10, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
Yep it’s beginning to look like Garth is in that McCartney, U2 stage where they can sell out stadiums without having any new material musical impact.
The problem with that though is that is great for Garth’s wallet but it really does very little for the greater country genre.
December 10, 2014 @ 9:41 pm
But could he sell so many concerts out at McCartney/U2 price levels?
Realistically speaking his current concerts are very cheap, that’s why he sells so many, I guess he is just trying to set records at the venues he plays at.
December 10, 2014 @ 1:22 pm
Jason Aldean was just named the only platinum-selling artist in country music in 2014. His sales are quite brisk. Yes, he had some setbacks in 2014, but he appears to be doing just fine despite them. As Scotty J pointed out above, Florida Georgia Line is the one we should be on the watch for in 2015 as the Bro-Country burnout. As much as Aldean is a stain on country music, his content might be diverse enough to weather the Bro-Country backlash.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:13 pm
Thanks for exposing the IBMA woes to the readers here that don’t follow Bluegrass. I hope things work out.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:26 pm
Pretty much agree with most of these.
The only one I’d somewhat challenge is Brad Paisley. I think Paisley was a loser in 2013 due to the “Accidental Racist” shellacking but this year, despite continued declines in opening week sales, he has more flatlined overall in 2014. In Paisley’s favor, he has rebounded as far as airplay is concerned with a lead single that barely missed #1 and a current secondary single that seems primed for #1. And even when it comes to the subject of record sales, it has been a brutal year for almost all top artists of the format: with Garth Brooks, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Blake Shelton and others entering the season with higher sales projections that were vastly lowered entering their debut weeks. So, when considering the bigger picture, Brad Paisley is in familiar company and he has held his own with singles that are actually outpacing the sales of those from “Wheelhouse”.
I agree with Scott Borchetta surely. What I’m curious to see in the coming year is how the revitalization of Dot Records holds up. Maddie & Tae’s early success is a most promising first sign, but if “Fly” struggles, it may be challenging for them to rebound. The only other act signed with them thus far is Drake White, who has yet to release a single under this label. And while Borchetta’s overall batting average remains solid (especially Valory Music Co.)……..there does appear to be signs of concern with Republic Nashville. Of its acts, Florida Georgia Line is the only one to have enjoyed consistent success throughout this past year, but even they might be showing signs of wear with “Sun Daze” not exactly tearing up the iTunes composite chart like their previous singles did, and moderate album sales. Meanwhile, The Band Perry have underperformed with their two most recent singles, the Eli Young Band missed the Top Ten with “Dust”, and Cassadee Pope followed a Top Ten with a single that didn’t even make the Top Thirty. So the weather outlook may be cloudier at Republic Nashville, while it remains sunny at Valory Music Co. and partly cloudy among Big Machine’s roster.
I know your case on Brantley Gilbert is going to be met with derision, but I wholeheartedly agree Brantley Gilbert’s success this year has been eyebrow-raising. Especially considering “Small Town Throwdown” underachieved as a second single, and yet hasn’t slowed the staying power of his sales. I will add that all is not necessarily harmonious in Gilbert’s camp, considering many fans expressed displeasure at the heavy supply of softer material on this album as opposed to white-knuckle rockers in the vein of “Kick It In The Sticks” and “Take It Outside”………but time will tell the actual story whether that will ultimately erode his passionate fanbase. In the meantime, Gilbert is the entertainer many corporate acts envy from a commercial standpoint.
I’m predicting, after “Lonely Tonight” peaks at #1, that Shelton’s hot streak of #1 country airplay singles is going to snap sometime 2015. Especially if he has the audacity to release “Buzzin'” as the third single.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:43 pm
In my opinion, the blowback for “Accidental Racist” was marginal, if not irrelevant, but the Brad Paisley camp has used it as the sacrificial cow to absolve any and all issues Brad Paisley’s career might have henceforth. It’s like the US embargo on Cuba. Anything wrong in Cuba, they can just blame the embargo, and they’re scott free.
All that said, I had similar feelings that Paisley’s downfall is probably more the responsibility of 2013, but seeing the “Moonshine in the Trunk” sales, I felt it had to be mentioned here.
December 10, 2014 @ 1:09 pm
Yeah it is kind of interesting to see the sales of the new FGL album and ‘Sun Daze’ underperform. This is a very bad sign for them long term if they are already seeing signs of burn two singles into their second record. I’m not saying they are going to disappear but I do think we may be seeing that the strategy of doubling down on the bro crap is going to be a loser for them.
December 13, 2014 @ 1:57 pm
As for the sales predictions and actual numbers, I’d have to agree. Even AC/DC has been affected by high predictions and low real sales. I was shocked that their newest album Rock or Bust only moved 140,000 given how popular the band is, how well its predecessor did in 2008 (different circumstances notwithstanding) and that predictions placed it around 250K-300K.
December 13, 2014 @ 2:19 pm
At the time of the release of “Moonshine in the Trunk”, I’d have to agree the sales results were sobering and can understand how one would instantaneously state his career is in a fiery tailspin downward.
However, every week since then aside fro Taylor Swift’s utterly impressive debut for her first album promoted as pop, most every other top mainstream artist is reporting the same era-to-era collapse. Worse still, countless artists had higher projected numbers by industry forecasters preceding the release of their albums but, once their weeks of release came around, they were sharply reduced………….and reduced even further throughout the course of their given weeks.
For a long while, many assumed Garth Brooks would come roaring back with a monster debut. Some of my friends even said: “The only person who could possibly rival Taylor Swift’s sales in this day in age is Garth Brooks, and so I think he has a real shot at opening with 800,000 at least!” That wasn’t even remotely close to the actual end result.
Beyond that, forecasters initially predicted Jason Aldean would open with about 520,000, but later edited predictions predicting a 260,000-280,000 debut. They initially predicted Florida Georgia Line would open just north of 300,000 copies, but wound up selling 197,000. And so on.
I’d argue Little Big Town should take Brad Paisley’s place because, in spite of being critical darlings and a hit single this era, Little Big Town’s era-to-era sales have been “Pain”-ful……….going from “Tornado” bowing with 113,000 copies two years ago to 42,000 for “Pain Killer”.
December 13, 2014 @ 2:42 pm
I think Little Big Town shot themselves in the foot with “Day Drinking.” Sure, it’s done well at radio but ultimately it’s hard not to view it as “Pontoon Part 2.” I think a lot of other listeners feel the same way. It’s sad because they used to make some good country music. Now, after having tasted success, they threw their entire lot into the same basket of party-minded songs because that angle provided their first number 1 on radio and it’s painfully transparent.
December 13, 2014 @ 2:44 pm
As for Garth, it’s been so long since he released an album that I think we were all viewing it through the No Fences, pre-Chris Gaines debacle era filter. It’s easy to forget that his most recent album before Man Against Machine only managed about 5 million worldwide and that was in 2001.
December 13, 2014 @ 2:56 pm
That’s why here I tried to compare numbers with the numbers of other artists instead of looking at year over year or previous releases. Of course Garth’s numbers were going to be down from where he was in 2001, but I think we all thought they would still be better than what has been reported so far.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:26 pm
I’m really sad to see that idiotic gilbert among the winners, I can’t really stand his stupid hard rock oriented bro country lame music. I totally agree on Blake Shelton and Garth Brooks, even tough it makes me sad. I never liked Blake much (I’m into country music since 2011/12) but I think his new album is a little more country than his previous works.
as for Brad Paisley, I don’t really see this year as bad as 2013 was for him. I mean, in 2013 he had the accidental racist controversy, and, even though Beat this Summer became a big hit, Wheelhouse’s sales were pretty poor. and then his single ‘I can’t change the world’ quickly fell off the charts becoming the most disappointing single of his career. In 2014 he lost his song ‘the Mona Lisa’ but ‘River Bank’ was a big summer hit while ‘Perfect Storm’ did even better. ‘Moonshine in the Trunk’ did not sell well but I think it’s doing better than Wheelhouse, so I don’t see him as a great loser.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:46 pm
I think the “Accidental Racist” controversy was no controversy at all, and is simply an excuse the Brad Paisley camp is using. It was a huge deal…for about three days and then everyone moved on except Brad, and actually resulted in INCREASED sales of the song, so I can’t see how it hurt his career. No exposure is bad exposure. Read further here:
It is surprising how Paisley has had some radio success, yet somehow that has not translated into sales, especially since he seems like a well-liked artist overall.
December 10, 2014 @ 1:00 pm
I’m not saying Accidental Racist was a problem for country music fans or for Brad’s sales, it was a problem for him because a lot of artists and listeners outside of country music and critics called him an idiot and a racist. I think it was not a good moment for him at all.
But I think the lack of success he’s had is related to Wheelhouse. I remember people calling Brad Paisley the voice of neotraditional country back in 2012. He had released the (amazing) album This is Country Music and had a collaboration with Hank Jr. but when Southern Comfort Zone was released I remember a lot of fans complaining about how the song was not country. a lot of them were really disappointed because Wheelhouse was not country at all. Its sales were driven by radio Airplay but then ‘I can’t change the world’ was released as a single and his popularity at radio vanished. This is my take on his lack of success
December 10, 2014 @ 1:24 pm
I think you’re probably right about that. I definitely think 2013 and “Wheelhouse” is where the tailspin began. Maybe 2014 is where the actually crash happened. Either way, Paisley is not in a good way, and it will be interesting to see what happens next.
Toby in AK
December 10, 2014 @ 1:40 pm
I’m not a huge fan of Gilbert but I understand the appeal, and he has songs that don’t force me to swap radio stations. “Country is country wide” I think was a key hit for him that reached out and recognized country fandom and lifestyle outside of the south. It may be filled with obnoxious cliches but it speaks truth to many fans.
As far as image and artistic messages, the reasons I don’t like him myself, I have to admit that they match up well with many of my rural friends. Work hard, play hard. Country lifestyle with appropriated urban styles. Ex-whitesnake fan’s who switched to country radio. I know a lot of these people and their general great folks with horrible music taste 😀
December 11, 2014 @ 1:30 pm
I can’t take that song seriously. I mean, the subject starts off with the assumption that only people in the south are “country”, but he presents a guy from Wyoming as the image of the stereotypical country man.
December 11, 2014 @ 2:15 pm
It’s been awhile but I don’t remember the Wyoming part but I know it makes some comment about a guy with Ohio plates being lost or something. As if there are no rural, country parts of Ohio.
December 11, 2014 @ 2:57 pm
Specifically, he indicated surprise when the guy with the Ohio plates turned out to look like Chris LeDoux, who dressed the way he did not because of any connection to the South but because he spent most of his life as a Wyoming-based rancher and rodeo cowboy.
And, as you say, it’s silly enough that he ass/u/med there would be no country folks in Ohio which overall is about as rural as any other state and has turned out it’s fair share of country artists, including David Allan Coe who I’m willing to bet Brantley Gilbert considers a huge influence
December 11, 2014 @ 3:21 pm
Even though I don’t like the bro country lyrics the only reason I like BG’s music (I’m too lazy to type his name sorry) is because of the hard rock. I’d love for some country metal to be played on the radio. Lol a country cover of Bodies by Drowning Pool. Lol
December 11, 2014 @ 11:57 pm
lol the fact his music sounds close to metal and hard rock is the reason why I don’t like Gilbert at all. sorry, I got nothing against you and I respect your opinion but personally I can’t really stand hard rock and metal. I think Gilbert would be a very talented hard rock artist, I’d be happy to see him going rock and leaving country music. but if you’re a fan of country and metal, then gilbert is your man.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:29 pm
I’m surprised Paisley’s sales are so bad given that he’s still relevant on the radio with “River Bank” and “Perfect Storm” both being top 5 hits.
December 10, 2014 @ 12:30 pm
I think Brantley had a pretty good fan base before he became as famous as he is now. He also seems to have a split personality. The “Tool” that puts out cheesy songs that are radio popular and acts like a country gangsta and (what his fan base is built off of) the “southern rocker” that sings better stuff at his shows that isn’t exactly top 40 country material.
As for Brad Paisley, he dug his own grave by singing so many “comedy” songs. People grew tired of them but don’t take his deeper stuff seriously. I was a fan for a while, but it just got to the point that everything started to sound the same with him. Honestly, following him on Twitter kind of did me in with him too. He comes across as that kid in class that needs constant attention and tries to get it by having a sarcastic remark for everything.
As for Blake Shelton, 2 words. OVER FUCKING EXPOSURE. Ok, three. Seriously though, on every awards show, on tv 4 nights a week. 12 different songs in heavy rotation. It’s enough. MORE than enough.
December 10, 2014 @ 1:04 pm
The thing about Paisley for me is I never really felt any emotional connection from him with his music (with a couple of notable exceptions). They all just seemed to be glossy smart alecky novelty tunes and even some of his attempts at ballads fall flat because they have stupid jokey lines (like ‘Little Moments’). For awhile I thought he could do better but in retrospect I just think that’s what he was.
I don’t think I have ever seen an act coast for so long as Blake Shelton has and still continue to rack up the hits. I’m not even sure what the last memorable hit song he has had would be (in a good way that is). His early output had a number of good to great songs so it’s not like ha has never done it but I just don’t see the desire to find and record great or even decent stuff anymore.
December 10, 2014 @ 1:19 pm
Novelty! Yes! That is the word that I wanted to use instead of comedy. My brain just wouldn’t remember it lol.
December 10, 2014 @ 1:47 pm
I think he overdid it with the novelty songs too. Most of them are pretty clever…. But not as clever as he thinks. And as for his guitar playing. Yes, he is a damn fine player but sometimes I’d just want to shake him and say Dude, you’re not being paid by the note! Calm down and let some feeling through. But thousands would differ.
December 10, 2014 @ 5:53 pm
Couldn’t agree more with Scotty’s assessment of Paisley. The cutesy, word-play stuff just wears thin pretty quickly. I think he sees himself as the class clown of country, like Blake Shelton aims for. As Scotty pointed out, he’s not as clever as he thinks he is, and it bit him in the rear with Accidental Racist. He also comes across as kinda inauthentic. He puts out quite a few drinkin’ songs for guy that doesn’t drink. Nothing wrong with passing on booze, but I prefer artists that are, or have, lived their lyrics. Not to get too political, but Paisley has expressed some ideas that seem to indicate he is pretty liberal. Nothing wrong with that either. But one thing I’ve learned about liberal thinking is that it generally prefers novelty over tradition. Novelty doesn’t have much of a shelf life, and BP’s “sell by” date seems to be nearing.
December 11, 2014 @ 12:08 pm
There was a time when I used to enjoy Brad Paisley’s music. His older albums had a good mix of songs that made the album as a whole enjoyable, his older novelty songs were witty enough to be decent I guess.
But now, good god I can’t stand his new music. It’s like he’s trying to put a new twist on the same theme. His new song “perfect storm” sounds just like “she’s everything” but with less passion. Seems to me like he sat down and said to himself “Ok, now I need another emotional song about my wife, let me see..a storm is a good cliche there we go!!”
I guess this post has turn into a rant, but damn it seems like every song he puts out now has these singers in the background with there ill-timed WHOOOAAAOOO!!
But I digress, just sad to see the decline I guess.
December 10, 2014 @ 1:32 pm
We see Brad now and the stuff he puts out now is horrible. When I look at it, ever since Buck and George died, his music just got worse and worse. I wonder what Buck or George would say to him if they were still alive. Better yet, would he still be making crappy music if they were?
December 13, 2014 @ 2:15 pm
I wonder that as well. I miss the little Kung Pao Buckaroo skits that he would put on his albums. Sure, it got to be a bit formulaic before the end there, but it was some of the most honest fun I’ve had while listening to a “modern” artist’s work. I really got the feeling that he cared about the genre from those tracks, then he comes out and says that there’s no rulebook and he’s experimenting with dubstep. Perhaps someone in his camp or around here should send him an ouija board to see if Buck or George have any comments 😛
December 10, 2014 @ 2:18 pm
All I know is, I just found out that those Florida Georgia Line douchebags are booked at Madison Square Garden in the spring, and it made me incredibly sad.
December 10, 2014 @ 2:42 pm
Spot on as always, Trigger. Garth Brooks is absolutely a loser in 2014 and it sucks to say it because his album was good. Not great, but good all-around. There is no other proper way to say it with him though: He fucked up badly with his relaunch and singles choices. The Ireland controversy really hurt him and then he chooses the two worst songs on the album as his singles. He could have saved face if he chose better singles, but alas he did not. Garth better have a great album in 2015 if he wants to make an impact and reach his lofty goals.
Brad Paisley was a walking botch machine all year long and it’s sad to see. He just can’t accept the fact that he’s becoming a “legacy” act. I think he can make up for his screw ups in 2015 if he comes to terms on where he’s at in his career. If anything he needs to hitch himself to the NASH Icons/revival of classic country bandwagon. He may not sell the amount of albums he want to, but at least he could be respected again.
Jerrod Niemann’s career is over. I don’t see him recovering from “Donkey.” As for Blake Shelton, well maybe he should stop making Pizza Hut commercials and actually focus on making real music. His new album was one of the most boring albums I’ve heard this year. And he needs to stop trying to make RaeLynn happen.
December 10, 2014 @ 3:32 pm
Amen about RaeLynn! I got absolutely jumped on Twitter the other night by some chick that writes for a country music blog after I responded to someone’s comment about her performance on Monday night football. She is awful but according to this woman ” it’s people like me that bitch about no women on the radio, but trash the true talent trying to make it”. Ooooookkkkayyyy. She is NOT the answer to the lack of female talent in country music and would be nowhere is she hasn’t “little orphaned Annie” her way into Blake and Miranda’s house.
December 10, 2014 @ 3:44 pm
*if she hadn’t
December 10, 2014 @ 4:42 pm
Where Garth effed up is by not making the album available on iTunes or Amazon. His audience is tailor made to buy albums, but not from whatever his store is called.
I’d have bought it in a heartbeat had he made it available where I buy my music.
December 13, 2014 @ 2:19 pm
I think it would be odd for Brad to throw his chips in with the NASH Icons crowd. Sure, he’s been around for a while but he’s not “old.” Blake Shelton is only about three years younger than him. Plus, many listeners would no doubt cry foul at the idea of such a youngster that has been peddling his type of music lately being put into the same class as Reba and Ronnie Dunn (the latter’s newest album notwithstanding). Better yet, I’d prefer he stay away for a while. There’s plenty of older talent that could use a revival and would no doubt be happy to have Paisley’s sales numbers and exposure, even if it’s a far cry from his peak. In reference to our previous conversation, I’m still waiting for Clint Black to get signed to NASH.
December 10, 2014 @ 3:00 pm
Paisley was one of my favourites for the longest time. He always had a good traditional sound and songs that could really hit home. This Is Country Music was one of the best albums I had heard at the time and I still throw it into the rotation nowadays. I can’t believe how bad Wheelhouse and Moonshine were, although Moonshine had a couple decent songs (Gone Green, Country Nation).
I feel like Brad will turn it around. I have the idea that it was just an experimentation gone wrong.
December 13, 2014 @ 2:09 pm
I’m glad that other Brad fans out there have similar opinions to me. I felt like an idiot when I kept swearing on the shrine of This is Country Music only to surf around the net a bit and find that many of our resident bloggers were indifferent and even critical of the album (my favorite is the Country California article about Paisley making “songs about songs” http://www.countrycalifornia.com/brad-paisleys-new-album-all-songs-about-songs/). I openly defended Brad around here a few years ago when people would throw tomatoes. Part II was an absolute masterwork of neotraditional country music and I wish he would go back to that. I liked “Southern Comfort Zone” but Wheelhouse absolutely dropped the ball with me and I haven’t taken up arms for Paisley since. I always liken the album to Eric Church’s The Outsiders in how it attempts to be progressive, hardly sounds country and both have misplaced and overwrought little backup choirs for certain songs. However, unlike the confounding universal acclaim for Church’s opus, Paisley seems to have inadvertently thrown his career in the coffin.
December 15, 2014 @ 4:21 pm
Agreed. You hit the nail on the coffin there. Part II is probably one of the best country albums made in my opinion. Since Wheelhouse I haven’t been happy with Brad at all.
December 10, 2014 @ 3:09 pm
Winner-Miranda Lambert and Eric Church.
December 10, 2014 @ 4:15 pm
Winner- Saving Country Music
the amount of people commenting now compared to when i first found out about this place has been crazy. hopefully Triggerman is being rewarded somehow for all his hard work.
December 10, 2014 @ 4:46 pm
Thanks for the reminder about that DONATE button upper right! What was going in the kettle to save souls is going up there to help save this site.
December 10, 2014 @ 8:12 pm
DONATE! And when Trig decides to open up the forums, I’m applyin’ to be his right hand man / moderator!
December 11, 2014 @ 6:06 am
Aspiration to be a moderator is automatic debarment from being a moderator.
December 11, 2014 @ 6:44 am
Huh… Must be a new rule!
December 10, 2014 @ 6:18 pm
eric church won in my opinion as he had the biggest first week of any country act…
Zac brown band probably slipped some this year after all the down time, but based on what I’ve been able to read of their new Album, they will kick ass in 2015
December 10, 2014 @ 6:21 pm
Also, Garth brooks sales numbers are maintaining themselves well. Not surprising because I doubt many casual country fans knew he had new stuff due to the flop of people loving people
December 10, 2014 @ 6:30 pm
I don’t know if Brad Paisley is necessarily a “loser”. He has by no means had a great year but still River Bank went top 10 and Perfect Storm is in the top 5. I would substitute Rascal Flatts honestly. “Payback” was their first song to miss the top 20, and their “Rewind” album garnered as many laughs as “Donkey” did. Still though, very interesting read Trigger, thank you!
December 11, 2014 @ 1:15 am
Rascal Flatts’ downward spiral has been happening well before 2014 too, though:
2007: “Still Feels Good”
Opening Week Sales: 547,000
Single Peaks: 1-2-2-15-1
Opening Week Sales: 351,000
Single Peaks: 1-2-18-7
2010: “Nothing Like This”
Opening Week Sales: 165,000
Single Peaks: 1-2-3
Opening Week Sales: 130,000
Single Peaks: 1-4-20
Opening Week Sales: 61,000
Single Peaks: 2-21-TBD
What you’ll notice is that their album sales declined significantly as far back as 2009. However, after the trio must have read the writing on the wall regarding the negative reviews among critics as well as mixed reactions among fans regarding the bloated “Unstoppable”, they responded with “Nothing Like This” which was regarded warmly by most reviewers and applauded by fans, and that likely resulted in a short-lived renaissance for them at radio with all three singles impacting the Top Three (even though “Easy”, as I recall, had a long chart run and fell like a boulder after peaking).
That helped the opening sales of “Changed” stand up fairly closely to those of “Nothing Like This”. However, after that afterglow, their airplay sharply declined that era with only the lead single having any staying power while even “Come Wake Me Up”, despite peaking at #4, had a tediously long chart run and had a dubious distinction at the time along with Miranda Lambert’s “Fastest Girl in Town” as suffering the single-greatest freefall in weekly spins of any Top Five single in all recent memory. Then, the title track went nowhere.
Which brings us to “Rewind”: marking both a sharp decline in sales as well as their first second single not to go Top Twenty.
December 10, 2014 @ 6:59 pm
Blake Shelton probably makes more money alone on his “they put bacon in the crust” and Pepsi commercials than 95% of every other country artists. Than you throw in his Voice contract, light touring, and blah record sales and he probably cranks $10M a year easy.
Now, its easy to blast Blake as a sell out or hack. Trust me, I think it. But he’s super smart when you think about it. There comes a point in your career as a musician when the well starts to run dry in terms of creativity and you have to make a tough choice. Tour and desperately try to keep putting out albums or get a 9 to 5. I think he did himself a huge favor and scored a great job that pays him stupidly and really doesn’t have to work at it. If he saved his money he won’t have to work another day in his life.
I say Blake is a HUGE winner, even if his music sucks.
December 10, 2014 @ 7:19 pm
True. I read that he makes $6 million a cycle on The Voice with bonuses depending on how far his people make it. They do 2 cycles a year, so if that article was correct, he’s probably making close $13 million just from that show alone.
December 10, 2014 @ 9:27 pm
I watched clips from his 60 minute segment. They said he makes around 13 million per season and about 26 million a year from the voice alone.
December 10, 2014 @ 10:11 pm
That is insanity! I would love to have the problem of trying to spend that much money!
December 10, 2014 @ 7:12 pm
I talked to Sturgill after one of his shows in Northampton, MA. After talking about how great he was, I comically brought up Florida-Georgia Line. Sturgill, dead seriously told me he hasn’t heard a single one of their songs, and doesn’t care to. Some of my buddies chimed in and said to “never sell out”. He told us that he really didn’t need a big label. I guess time will tell, Trigger, if he signs with a big time label or not, my from my [albeit small] time talking with him, I’d say he stays independent, and thank god he does.
December 10, 2014 @ 10:55 pm
You really cannot judge success/failure on album sales these days. As a genre, country is the last to be severely hit by declining album sales. But now it has. Success now is judged by combined revenue streams: touring, merchandise, streaming (which pays Bupkus),publishing, music sales, licensing, endorsement & sponsorships, fan clubs, etc.
December 10, 2014 @ 11:07 pm
I agree. But that’s why I only compared the album sales numbers by comparing them with their peers. Declining album sales lowers all boats, so you can still see the significance of Brad Paisley only selling 107,000 albums by comparing it to Brantley Gilbert selling 640,000.
As far as touring, that’s why I made sure to give credit to Garth in that regard. What he’s doing right now is bordering on historic. And mentioned how Blake Shelton really has no touring numbers to speak of to counter-balance his lagging sales.
December 11, 2014 @ 12:41 am
Ya know you guys are starting to lose credibility if your calling Garth a loser. Yes you mentioned his tour, fair play, but to call his album sales flat is simply untrue.
Mom is still rising up the single charts, and his new album has been steady, other albums released on the same day as Man Against Machine, has fallen down the charts, yet Man against machine is still selling at a steady rate of 60K.
In this day and age of low album sales, Garth must be happy that Man Against Machine is holding its own.
December 11, 2014 @ 9:30 am
I think we can all agree that the expectations were high. You would expect more from the biggest (or one of the biggest) name of country music given it was his first album release in over 13 years!
December 11, 2014 @ 2:26 pm
Again fair enough, I expected it to sell more, but like I said you look at the big name albums that were released on the same day, Pink Floyd and foo fighters and you look at say tenny boppy one direction, whos albums are falling, and Garth’s numbers for Man Against Machine has stayed solid.
Yes there have been mistakes in his comeback, but the album is still in the top ten, hes breaking records on his tour, and there is still singles to be released off his album, singles that will be more popular than people loving people and mom.
December 11, 2014 @ 3:42 pm
“In this day and age of low album sales, Garth must be happy that Man Against Machine is holding its own. ”
I seriously doubt it. The way his entire marketing plan for years has been based on selling as many units as possible, which makes it seem pretty clear that he’s hot to break the all-time sales record. I’m willing to bet that he’s pretty pissed off about the sales numbers.
December 11, 2014 @ 5:43 pm
Hits daily double has just released their predictions for this week, and Garth
again is expected to sell 60K plus, this album is steady.
That will put him around 350 Thousand, not counting the downloads from
Ghost tunes. Not bad for little or no promotion and the fact that its been consistent, bows well for the album when the next few singles are released.
Garth Brooks (Pearl/RCA Nashville) 60-65k sales
December 12, 2014 @ 9:27 am
While on the surface it’s a solid total in today’s environment, you have to consider that one of the the main reasons album sales are down is because so many people are streaming their music rather than buying CDs or downloads. Since Garth’s music isn’t available for streaming outside of GhostTunes (which allows you to stream the music only after you buy the album) you have to weigh the sales numbers differently. If Joe Blow sells 500K units, it’s fair to assume that another 500K listeners didn’t buy the album because they can stream his music instead; but if Garth sells 500K units, that’s the end of the story.
But that’s really not my point. My point was that, however well the album does in terms of units sold in comparison to sales of other current releases, it’s still falling far short of what it needs to sell to get Garth back on track toward his goal of the all-time sales record. There’s no way he’s happy about that.
December 12, 2014 @ 1:31 pm
I dont think the record means as much to garth as some people think it does. He already is number one for soundscan, he wont ever catch up to the Beatles with the RIAA. Yes he doesnt allow streaming,and no one knows how many people downloaded the album from Ghost Tunes or his site because they arent releasing that info till 2015.
Yes as a fan I was quite surprised at his first week numbers, but looking at what everybody else is selling (apart from Taylor Swift) this album has been successful.
December 11, 2014 @ 10:53 am
It’s absolutely amazing how bad album and singles sales are compared to the past.
Deceased musicians and singers outsell these people by a wide margin.
December 13, 2014 @ 8:05 am
“There’s a neon light at the end of the tunnel, tunnel, tunnel….”
That song is an earworm or brainworm in my head. It’s there when I’m walking along and BAM, there it is. Soo, I just go with it.
Brad Paisley’s songs have never been in my head….not one song, ever. I don’t connect to the guitar or the catchy hooks. They have never lodged in my ears.
Blake Shelton has taken up lodging in my brain space. 😀
December 13, 2014 @ 1:37 pm
I just saw Garth here last night in North Little Rock, Arkansas. It was night two of a three night stop at our Verizon Arena (of which the third night was added due to overwhelming demand). Unsurprisingly, he kicked off with “Man Against Machine” and then segued through most of the hits you’d hear on his compilations, while also stopping for “People Loving People” along the way. Having seen that one performed live, I can’t say I’m too offended by it. It’s grossly atypical and a bit shallow, but it’s hard not to appreciate the message behind the song. I think Garth’s lack of subtlety and the broad generalizations kind of did it in, as opposed to the idea just being wrongheaded altogether. Trisha Yearwood also appeared to help out with “In Another’s Eyes” and also performed about three of her own songs.
Not that anyone will be surprised, but Garth is still a great showman. Sure, clips of Pure Country flashed into my mind during a few of the bits, but it’s hard to deny how electric Garth’s performances are and how much fun he is to watch. There’s a reason this man’s touring enterprise isn’t stalling. Also, his stage setup included some odd conveyer belt walkways of the type that you see at airports, on which he seemed to almost lose his balance a few times. It wouldn’t surprise me if all of that falling down we’re hearing about is from this little contraption.
A few observations:
1. He didn’t play his current single “Mom” or even his supposed new favorite Garth song “Tacoma.”
2. For whatever reason, I didn’t see any copies of Man Against Machine at the kiosk I visited. Instead, there were numerous units of the 25th Anniversary reissue of Double Live.
3. Most disturbing, when Garth introduced his band some people booed the steel guitar player (?).
4. I don’t really get all of this talk I’ve seen in reviews about Garth’s voice aging. Sure, given how loud the show was and my misfortune of sitting near the top obviously affected the acoustics, but he hit every note effortlessly whilst running around with his hands-free microphone.
December 13, 2014 @ 1:41 pm
The conveyor belts were definitely the culprits this time:
(looks like they removed the video).
December 13, 2014 @ 2:32 pm
Hmm. I saw that article when you posted it but didn’t feel the need to read it because I found an onstage fall to be pretty self-explanatory (odd, since I tend to read everything else you post even if I don’t comment as much as I used to). Assuming his trips weren’t an attempt to look hyper or whimsical, I’d say he needs to alter his setup a bit, if only to slow the belts down so he can actually function properly.
As for the show itself, do you plan to catch one? It’d be interesting to see your take on the Garth live experience circa 2014. I have no idea what your personal history is in regards to Brooks’ music and feelings that might or might not have changed lately, but he 2014 show is well worth the money. (And before you link it, I DID read your article about “time being kind” to his music, but I was unsure as to whether you’d only recently become a fan or always were.) There have been numerous conversations here about the showy nature of most modern concerts and I even mentioned Pure Country, but it’s hard not to appreciate Garth’s show. Sure, it’s overly flashy and often ridiculous, but his music really doesn’t fit the classic country archetype of a guitar, a stool and the stage. One also gets a sense from his excitement and charisma that he wants people to have a good time. Say what you will about the man’s infatuation with sales numbers and constant reissues of his older material, but I never got the sense that he didn’t care to give anything less than 110% for his fans.
December 13, 2014 @ 10:27 pm
I saw a few fan clips posted online from tonight’s show; Garth has lost nothing vocally, in spite of doing two a night shows. I certainly wouldn’t call him a loser based on cd sales as he hasn’t released the GhostTune numbers because they include a cd that hasn’t been offered to the public yet.
The new cd is quite strong, and since I rarely listen to radio, the lack of airplay doesn’t bother me. I just hope he comes to central Ohio.
December 13, 2014 @ 10:57 pm
Brad Paisley depresses me more than any artist, in any genre out there today. His first four albums (Who Needs Pictures, Part II, Mud on the Tires and Time Well Wasted) were so damn good and so damn country. From top to bottom those albums produced great singles and great albums cuts. Brad Paisley’s depth and ability to find and sing good songs wasn’t just a flash in the pan. It wasn’t like he just got a hold of a song like Whiskey Lullaby and that was it. No, he had four albums of strong, country material. Then, he got greedy, wanted to be like everyone else drinking from the trough and had his career careen downhill in the process. Such a shame that it did too.
Hopefully Brad can get his momentum back and rekindle the attitude within himself that created a want to write, select and record good songs and records. If Paisley can get “When I Get Where I’m Going”, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” and “Part II” Brad back, I bet his album sales would see an uptick. Even if they don’t though, at least his level of quality will return to a higher standard and he can hang his hat proudly on that.
December 14, 2014 @ 1:13 am
I cannot agree more. I think Brad’s problem is that he sticks his finger in the wind and tries to do what he thinks other people are doing. He tries too hard to be popular. In the process he seems to have forgotten who he is. My advice to him, quoting another country classic, is “You got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything, You got to be your own man not a puppet on a string”. He’s never going to be as cool or as hip as the youngsters in their 20s, so he might as well focus on doing what he does best.
December 14, 2014 @ 6:44 pm
Can he learn how to connect emotionally with an audience after all these years?
I think that kind of talent is caught and not taught. He doesn’t have the audience connection that Garth has always had.
December 16, 2014 @ 12:01 am
I think he doesn’t have the strongest audience connection because he’s too concerned with what everyone else in the industry is doing. I see shades of Faith Hill in his temperament as an artist – a fashionably late trend follower who had a taste of the bright lights in Hollywood and wants very badly to be popular. Except that Brad is much more talented.
December 15, 2014 @ 4:25 pm
Part II is amazing. Pure country
December 16, 2014 @ 5:58 pm
Yet another 60K sold for Garth in week five of Man against Machine release. The song Mom is slowley moving up the charts.
If he releases Shes Tried of Boys as the enxt single, that would be the smartest move Garth has done in terms of this album.