8 Questions We Still Have About 2015
Wait! Hold on, 2015, don't go yet — we've still got questions!
Even though there was more than enough country music news to make up a Top 10 Country Stories list for 2015, there are a few things we can't quite get to the bottom of. Some — like, why did Sam Hunt shave his beard? And how does Cassadee Pope get those abs? — we answered. But burning questions about Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton and bro-country linger.
Here are eight things we're hoping to get answered in the new year. Resolution brings satisfaction (we're looking at you, Steven Tyler), and satisfaction makes for a very happy country music fanbase.
The American Country Countdown Awards were replaced this year by the American Country Countdown Countdown, a list of the Top 10 stories of 2015. A December awards show may be too much to ask of stars taxed after a busy CMA season, and by comparison the ACCAs and its predecessor the ACAs always felt like a minor league version of the big boy show.
When asked, Florida Georgia Line made it clear they hadn't been asked to return as hosts for the ACCAs, despite doing a decent job in 2014. Official word that the show had been moved to spring came just before Thanksgiving. It's said to be honoring the Grand Ole Opry's 90th birthday, even though the Opry actually celebrated in October.
The mid-June announcement that Katie Armiger was "taking a breather" from her career in country music was curious. Okay, it was flat-out bizarre, because she had so many initiatives moving forward. Just days before Cold River Records president Pete O'Heeron announced this news, Armiger spoke with enthusiasm to Taste of Country about an upcoming album and a program designed to give female songwriters a jumpstart. She and her team couldn't have been more professional and gracious.
Later she'd respond to O'Heeron's comments saying she was not quitting, but she'd been locked out of her social media accounts.
Finally, in November, she shared what's in store for her future. She plans to tour in 2016, she tells the Boot, but there's more: “Just to get out there and show fans that I am absolutely not retiring, and to get new music out there as well."
So what the heck happened? Armiger said she can't talk about it, meaning there could be litigants and lawyers and all the ugly ingredients that bake a long legal battle.
Steven Tyler's debut country single "Love Is Your Name" found critical acclaim, but little love from radio. It peaked just inside the Top 40, and in recent months we've heard very little about his debut album, aside from plans to tour in March in support of it. In 2015, the Aerosmith singer was seen around Nashville penning songs with all the famous tunesmiths, and he made the rounds during CMA Awards season in November.
Tyler is still a Dot Records recording artist, so it seems likely the album will be released in 2016. It's not clear if radio will get another single. One figures he'd sell just as many albums with country's most powerful media as he will without it.
Garth Brooks may have over-promised when he said he'd have multiple albums out by now. Serious talk about a new solo album, plus the long-awaited duets album with Trisha Yearwood were two projects he said were priorities. Then, he fried his phone.
In September, Brooks said that all the new music he was working on was being stored on his phone, and he couldn't get the phone to turn back on. “I know I should have backed it up,” he says ruefully. “It’s like losing your briefcase back in the ’90s.”
Fans didn't totally believe his story, and indeed it seems like there are details missing. The end result is no new music from Garth Brooks in 2015.
Seventy-nine radio stations began playing Mickey Guyton's "Better Than You Left Me" upon its release to radio, a modern day record for a debut single. Yet somehow, the song never crested beyond the Top 30. Guyton's debut was personal, and her voice justified the tremendous early interest. But in January, the tide hadn't truly started to turn for women in country music yet, and the song was a ballad that didn't sound as good come spring as others.
These are just two possible explanations. The truth is there's no reason a song this good from an artist so friendly shouldn't climb the charts quickly. "Better Than You Left Me" came in at No. 1 on our list of 10 Songs That Should Have Been Hits in 2015.
Chris Stapleton's big day at the CMA Awards would suggest that traditional country music is indeed back, but it takes more than one great night to signal a movement. Other traditional artists like Mo Pitney have struggled. William Michael Morgan is a throwback hat with promise, and his debut "I Met a Girl" is moving along steadily on the country charts. Meanwhile, nobody can find Josh Turner behind his thick beard, but Joe Nichols is doing fine.
Is traditional country music back? Clearly it's a mixed bag, so it's tough to tell but if it is back, the return doesn't signal the end to it's polar opposite.
The phrase "bro-country" is beginning to feel as antiquated as "Urban Cowboy." Songs about men picking up women for a night of dirt road driving and love making are still getting played at radio, but there's not as much outrage. Florida Georgia Line have eased off the good-timing pedal, going with selections like "Dirt" and "Confessions" between hits more reminiscent of their debut album.
Luke Bryan, on the other hand, continues to push down hard with tracks like "Kick the Dust Up." He just won Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards, so it's difficult to say the public is sick of the sound he's known for. We may just be sick of complaining about it.
The couple's split secret was never revealed, and that's shocking in today's media culture. Not only did the divorce paperwork remain sealed (perhaps illegally), there was never even a rumor that felt strong enough to lean on. Could the answer be that Shelton and Lambert just fell out of love? Unless either write a tell-all, fans aren't likely to find out. Unless Lambert's next album proves to be that tell-all ...