Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008: The Country Year in Review

It was one year ago when Taylor Swift celebrated her 18th birthday and first #1 in the same week. One year later, she’s now 19, has 3 #1 hits and has sold 5 million records, making her the year's top country seller. What a difference a year makes! She released her second album, "Fearless," in November. It sold over 600,000 copies the first week, and was well past platinum by the end of the year. She won two CMT Music Awards in April, including Music Video of the Year. Taylor made one of the most memorable awards show performances during the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas, where she did "Should've Said No" with an on-stage costume change and ended the number under a cascade of water. It earned her a standing ovation. Taylor toured with Rascal Flatts all year, which allowed her to perform in front of over a million fans.

While Taylor was #1 in album sales, Kenny Chesney had country's top tour. He celebrated his 40th birthday in March, had four #1 songs, and two Entertainer of the Year trophies. He also released another album, “Lucky Old Sun,” featuring the #1, “Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven.” Kenny performed for over a million fans for his 6th straight year, but it wasn’t without incident. During his first his first stadium show in Columbia SC, Kenny caught the side of his foot in a hydraulic lift that brings him on stage. Although nothing was broken, Kenny had a sore foot for several weeks.

Several country stars became parents for the first time in 2008. Luke Bryan and his wife had a boy they named Bo. Keith Urban and wife Nicole Kidman welcomed daughter Sunday Rose. Rascal Flatts guitar player Joe Don Rooney became father of son Jagger. Dierks Bentley added a daughter named Evie.

Alan Jackson was busy in 2008. He released an album in April that featured 17 song that he all wrote by himself. Two of the songs went to #1 during the year. He celebrated his 50th birthday in October. His record label held a party in Nashville to commemorate sales of 50 million albums in his 19 year career.

Trace Adkins spent the first half of the year competing on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice. For four months, TV viewers watched as this cool cowboy competed with a tough group of celebrities. Tiffany Falon, wife of Rascal Flatts Joe Don Rooney, was also part of the show, but was the first to be eliminated. Trace made it all the way to the finale, where he lost to the “evil Brit,” Piers Morgan. The night of the finale, Trace found out his hit, “You’re Gonna Miss This,” had just become the #1 song in the country.

Carrie Underwood spent most of 2008 on the road, promoting her second album, “Carnival Ride.” She started the year on a co-headline tour with Keith Urban. Then she did her own headline tour. At the end of the year, she had performed for over a million fans. She also picked up the ACM and CMA Female Vocalist awards for the second time, as well as a Grammy.

Toby Keith released his second movie in August. It was based on his hit song, “Beer for My Horses.” Three months later, he put out a new album titled “That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy.” Toby’s “Biggest & Baddest” tour featured Montgomery Gentry. He made his fifth USO tour of the Middle East.

Toby wasn’t the only country star who was in movies during 2008. Trace Adkins played the devil in two films during the year. Dwight Yoakam and Tim McGraw starred in “Four Christmases.” Tim also released a cologne, a children’s book, and his 3rd Greatest Hits CD.

Sugarland released their third album in 2008. “Love On the Inside” sold over 300,000 copies its first week, and was one of the year’s top sellers. They won a string of awards, including the ACM Single and Song of the Year for “Stay.” In November, they were named Vocal Duo of the Year for the second time by the CMA, plus “Stay” was selected at Song of the Year.

It was also a stand-out year for Brad Paisley. He picked up his first Grammy in February. He had three #1 hits, including “Letter To Me” and “Waitin’ On a Woman.” He launched his Paisley Party tour in June, featuring Jewel, Chuck Wicks, and Julianne Hough. During that tour, Chuck & Julianne began dating. In November, Brad released his first “guitar album,” featuring a duet with Keith Urban. He also won Male Vocalist of the Year from the ACM and CMA.

There were a number of artists from other genres who found success in country during 2008. Jewel was one of the first. Hootie & the Blowfish lead singer Darius Rucker had his first country #1 with “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.” Kid Rock had a Top 5 country hit with “All Summer Long.” Jessica Simpson released her first-ever country album during the year. Hannah Montana, also known as Miley Cyrus, recorded a Top 5 duet with her father Billy Ray Cyrus.

Lots of artists had breakthrough hits during 2008. Lady Antebellum had their first Top 5 with “Love Don’t Live Here.” It helped them win Top New Country Group from the ACM and Top New Artist from the CMA. Chuck Wicks made a Top 5 debut with “Stealin’ Cinderella.” Newcomers the Zac Brown Band went straight to #1 with “Chicken Fried.” Former Trick Pony lead singer Heidi Newfield had a Top 10 with “Johnny & June.” Plus we had debut Top 20s from Randy Houser, Ashton Shepherd, and Crystal Shawanda.

But the newcomer with the biggest hit of the year was James Otto. His song, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” spent two weeks at #1, and became the most-played song on country radio in 2008. The song was actually released in August of 2007, and didn’t peak until June of 2008. That long, slow rise powered the song to the top of the year’s airplay chart.
All in all, another incredible year in country music!