It’s award season in the country music world.
Well, there are country awards all year, but it seems there are always some big happenings during the last quarter of each year. Artists are usually looking to debut new singles and many also have upcoming album releases. This year is no different as some big names, like Miranda Lambert, have upcoming album releases.
Here at CML we thought we’d give out our own awards for the best artists, songs, and albums from 2011. There have been many great things happening in country music, but these were the best of the best from the last year.
Share your thoughts in the comments.
You’re always welcome to contribute to the Country Music Life Community.
The 2011 Country Music Life Awards
There were some big moves in country music this year. Names like Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift, and Brad Paisley ruled the charts. There were also a ton of newcomers that emerged from out of nowhere and even some hard working artists that became stars (see: Eric Church).
Let’s check out the best of the best in country music from 2011.
Female Country Artist of the Year
- Taylor Swift
- Miranda Lambert
- Sara Evans
Even though artists like Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain, and Faith Hill made noise in 2011, the nominees were simply the best of the best this year. Miranda and Taylor continued their dominance in country music and Sara Evans came back in a big way with a huge single and album.
Winner – Taylor Swift
You have to give the award to Taylor. Her 2011 was huge. She had one of the biggest tours of the year for any genre of music. Her singles continued to top the charts on both the country side of things and over on the pop charts. She’s been riding high as one of the biggest influences for a generation of young fans and she even finds ways to get the guys in the crowd to sing along.
Male Country Artist of the Year
- Jason Aldean
- Blake Shelton
- Kenny Chesney
Man…this was difficult. Keith Urban and Brad Paisley really need to be included in this group, but I had to narrow it down to only three. I went with the very subjective method of my own perception of buzz around each of these artists in 2011. Even though Brad and Keith had huge hits the buzz surrounding them this year was less than the buzz surrounding the others. Blake had a huge year in many ways (The Voice, marriage, songs). Kenny came back big in 2011 with new songs and Jason took a hit into the top ten on the pop charts.
Winner – Jason Aldean
What can you say? 2011 belonged to Jason Aldean. His album has been selling huge amounts of copies every week for the last 12 months. The guy has put just about every single over the same period to the top of the charts. He collaborated with a great pop singer and had a ballad enter the pop charts and crossover. He also collaborated with a rapper for his country rap version of Dirt Road Anthem. Jason Aldean took risks and it really paid off in 2011. He could be as close as we get to these days to Garth Brooks.
Group or Duo of the Year
- The Band Perry
- Lady Antebellum
- Zac Brown Band
This was another difficult nominee list. I had to ask myself, “Can you really leave Rascal Flatts, Sugarland, and Thompson Square off the list?”. It was difficult and not to mention the other groups and duos that were left out. There is no doubt that country is full of great groups of musicians and singers these days. Country is in good hands. Ultimately, though, I had to narrow it down and the biggest acts of the year with the most buzz were these three nominees.
Winner – Zac Brown Band
It was close. I went back and forth, but ultimately gave the nod to Zac Brown Band. These guys rock. There was probably favoritism on my part. I saw them this summer at a festival here in Wisconsin. The guys played for something like 2 to 3 hours straight with only a break or two where they actually had other artists play as they rested. It was unbelievable. Add that entertainment quality on top of the back to back to back (should I keep going?) hits there is no doubt the Zac Brown Band is ruling the country world.
Music Video of the Year
- Honey Bee – Blake Shelton (Trey Fanjoy)
- Mean – Taylor Swift (Declan Whitebloom)
- Just A Kiss – Lady Antebellum (Shaun Silva)
This is a tough category every year. I’m not sure how the big academies manage to sort out the nominees. The directors are top notch and the artists do a great job as well. Of all the videos, these are the ones I feel keep the attention of country fans the most. That’s up for debate of course.
Winner – Honey Bee – Blake Shelton (Trey Fanjoy)
Great video. Having one of the best songs of the year doesn’t hurt, but it really was a great video. Trey Fanjoy has been in the game for years and she continues to impress. Blake really came into superstar status this year and the song and video were so successful Blake had to hurry up and finish his album to capitalize on the momentum. The video continues to be fun to watch even after its initial run.
Breakthrough Act of the Year
- Chris Young
- Eric Church
- The Band Perry
This is incredibly tough. All three nominees (and acts that didn’t make the list) all had huge years. They took their careers from just being a new act to becoming top of mind among country fans. It’s great to see artists go from having just a couple hits to really becoming something special in the eyes and hearts of country fans.
Winner – Eric Church
I had to go against my owner personal love for Chris Young’s latest album, Neon, for this one, but ultimately I really respect what Eric Church did in 2011. His album, Chief, topped both the country charts and the all encompassing Billboard 200 chart. That’s huge. That’s superstar. Eric Church is now riding high on his biggest single to date and there is no telling when he’s going to stop. He broke through in 2011 and he did it his way.
Song of the Year
- Dirt Road Anthem – Jason Aldean
- A Little Bit Stronger – Sara Evans
- You Lie – The Band Perry
I know this list of nominees will be open to criticism, but I’ll stand by my choices. These are the songs I felt had the biggest impact on country music in 2011. Each of these songs became huge hits on the charts and they all were big for each of the artists. Dirt Road Anthem took Jason Aldean into the top ten on the pop charts. You Lie could have been the most played song of the year and Stronger was a huge comeback for Sara Evans.
Winner – Dirt Road Anthem – Jason Aldean
It goes to Jason. Who would have thought a country-rap song written by a couple of country outcasts (Colt Ford and Brantley Gilbert) would be such a big hit. I love this song and earlier in the year it was on repeat for days and days. The song is catchy and it’s what country fans wanted to hear in 2011. The song has been huge and it’s brought recognition to everyone involved.
Album of the Year
- My Kinda Party – Jason Aldean
- Speak Now – Taylor Swift
- Neon – Chris Young
How can I leave off the Zac Brown Band, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, and so many others? This was tough, but ultimately I had to go with what seemed to be two of the most popular albums and one I thought was a bit overlooked. Chris Young’s Neon isn’t on any other nominee list, but it’s one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard in a long, long time. You have to check it out.
Winner – My Kinda Party – Jason Aldean
When it comes to what I’ve been listening to all year it’s been My Kinda Party. Jason Aldean is the biggest and best artist in country music right now. Taylor Swift gives him a run for his money, but for the Country Music Life awards the nod goes to Jason and his career defining album (up to this point…).
Entertainer of the Year
- Toby Keith
- Taylor Swift
- Zac Brown Band
Again, this was tough. Toby Keith has been a top performer for so long and there’s no way to not include him on this list. I had the chance to see ZBB earlier this summer and they rocked. And Taylor Swift has been one of the biggest stars in music for the last five years. Her tour was huge. Now, there are tons of others not on the list. Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Tim McGraw, and many others. This is always a tough category. Please share those I’ve missed.
Winner – Taylor Swift
I couldn’t deny Taylor. She wins it for the sheer size of her tour and her fans are crazy and passionate. She’s hit on something special and people are going to remember her for a long time. And the thing about Taylor is she seems poised to really continue her successful ways. I think she’s going to be the female version of George Strait, but that’s just a guess at this point. I think there’s a chance, though.