There's been no shortage of controversy in 2014. Bro-country, women on the radio, arrests, pregnancies, songs that call out other artists ... we're thankful for all of the good and the bad this Thanksgiving! From the music, to the tours, to the awards and all of the drama in between, here are the 10 things we're most thankful for this year.
Jason Aldean doesn't say much about his personal life, but thankfully, his fiancee Brittany Kerr does. Her Instagram page feels like a reality television show at times. It was there fans that found out the two were engaged, and it's there fans find Kerr defending her man like a true country girl. OK, she toys around with fans and the media at times, but for the most part she gives Aldean's faithful a look into a world he keeps shrouded on his own social media.
Maddie & Tae's 'Girl in a Country Song'
Who'd have thought that two polite teenagers would be the ones to give country's men a rude wakeup call. The debut single from Maddie & Tae is a sharp arrow aimed right at some of the most popular singers in the format. For the most part, everyone has been cool with their brand of humor, and the song's rise up the charts brings justification to a message the format needed to hear. Beyond all that, we sort of love the 'Girl in a Country Song' video!
Bro-country isn't a bad word around the Taste of Country office. Sure, there were a few too many songs about the same topics in 2013 and 2014, but it's a quantity problem, not a quality problem. Songs from Florida Georgia Line, Chase Rice, Luke Bryan ... they're kind of sexy and definitely relatable. We expect more of the same in 2015, although people may stop talking about it. Maybe.
It's time to recognize that we're experiencing one of the format's all-time great female vocalists in her prime. Now that Miranda Lambert has won a fifth straight CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year -- plus another Album of the Year trophy -- we can begin the conversation. Is Lambert the greatest female ever? Admittedly, it feels premature to have this talk, but put her numbers and accolades up against those of Dolly, Reba and Patsy. It's not absurd to suggest that by the time Lambert is through, she will be.
Yes, 2014 was a year of change. Hip-hop influences waned as R&B influences came on strong via artists like Sam Hunt and Chase Rice. But the biggest change came late, when Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman came out as gay, on the same day, no less. November 20 was a truly groundbreaking day in this format. We may be a ways away from a gay artist topping the charts, but when it happens, one can trace roots back to 2014.
Stars Who Bring Kids on Stage
When stars like Luke Bryan and Jake Owen bring kids on stage, our hearts melt ... every stinkin' time. Of course, it's even more effective when a superstar stops his show to recognize a courageous 6-year-old battling cancer or another life-threatening disease. But a run-of-the-mill 8-year-old with a lot of charisma hits the spot just fine.
Kacey Musgraves' Honesty
It's been an interesting year for Kacey Musgraves. She didn't score a country hit, yet she won Grammy, ACM and CMA awards for her raw, undeniably honest brand of country. The women of country music continue to bring real life to the radio, even if radio rejects them like they're Steve Urkel. Musgraves also overshared after the 2014 CMA Awards, admitting her underwear fell off before she performed with Loretta Lynn. Hey, with honesty, you have to accept the good, the bad and the TMI.
Over 25,000 Subscribers on YouTube
Throughout the year, Taste of Country has focused on delivering quality video content along with high-powered country music news. The 'You Think You Know Country?' series provides one-of-a-kind biographies of every superstar artist you can think of. List videos bring the best of any given topic, while head writer Billy Dukes gave perspective to the year's top events and issues. Even more is coming in 2015, so be sure to subscribe to the ToC YouTube channel.
Carrie Underwood announced she was expecting on Labor Day, and since then, her fans have been hungry for pics of the bump in addition to details on how she's feeling and what she's craving. Thankfully, the 'Something in the Water' singer has provided both, going as far as to reveal the gender of her baby on national television. Sure, there is a tabloid element to the interest in Mrs. Fisher, but the millions of country moms and dads also want to empathize with the starlet and her hockey husband. Everyone loves a good pregnancy story.
Garth is back, and we couldn't be happier. After a clunky beginning to his comeback -- Ireland, the announcement of his first tour stop, the first single -- Garth Brooks is rolling. He's embraced social media and released a song as powerful as any he cut during his '90s prime. Fans are still trying to figure out GhostTunes, but that hasn't slowed sales much. More than 130K copies of 'Man Against Machine' entered fans' homes in the first week, and each stop of his tour sells out multiple nights.
What Are You Thankful for This Year?
Is there someone or something in country music that you're thankful for? Share your story in the comments section below.