New Music Roundup

           Due to Covid, 2020 pretty much didn’t see any music released. Artists like Hardy still pushed an album out, and other artists like Dustin Lynch released music right before the pandemic that pretty much was just lost. 2021 has been the complete opposite, as everyone seemingly everyone has released new music. Alan Jackson, Chris Young, Clay Walker, Florida Georgia Line are among dozens of artists with new albums this year. The end of 2021 and 2022 will continue to see that trend, with many artists releasing new singles from upcoming albums. With that being said, let’s look at artists that should be releasing music within the next few months.

Brantley Gilbert 

           Sitting on his latest single, “Worst Country Song of All Time,” Brantley, Hardy, and Toby Keith are grinding up the charts as we speak. The single is the first off his upcoming project, and hopefully, we see it by the end of the year. “Fire and Brimstone” will be two years old in October, a good indication that it will be replaced with fresh music very soon. “Brimstone” didn’t reach the level of success of some of Brantley’s past albums, with songs like “Fire’s Up” not making it past the mid-’40s and “Hard Day’s” dying in the high 20’s. It did breed “What Happens in a Small Town” being a number one, but that song won’t go down as a favorite of Brantley Gilbert’s biggest fans. 

           I’m not sure if Brantley will still try for radio success or if he might transition to just making music for his fans. I’d like to see him go back to his rock roots a little more, making music that sounds closer to Lynyrd Skynyrd than George Strait is his bread and butter. I’ll always buy his shit, though, so I’m excited to see what happens with his next album whenever it comes out. 

Cody Johnson

           October 8th is the day! “Human: The Double Album” will finally be released. To date, nine songs from the album have already been released, ranging from classic Cody Johnson jams such as “Til You Can’t” to slower, more meaningful songs like “God Bless the Boy.” It also features the legend Willie Nelson on “Sad Songs and Waltzes.” Like Brantley Gilbert, Cody’s last album “Ain’t Nothin’ to It” came out in 2019 and spawned three singles, with “On My Way to You” reaching the low teens, “Nothin’ on You” and “Dear Rodeo” both dying in the ’40s. 

           Like Brantley Gilbert, Cody Johnson isn’t out there trying to make radio country music. If Gilbert is Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnson is George Strait. He makes very traditional country music, proudly repping his Texas roots and mixing traditional country sounds with modern-day storylines and relatability. I would argue that Johnson is the most underrated artist in modern music. Hopefully, “Human” can be Cody’s huge radio breakthrough, and he can start country music’s renaissance. Still, even if not, it will be a fantastic album that his fans will truly enjoy.   

Cole Swindell

           Cole Swindell, for me, is something of a guilty pleasure. I admit that he is basically just a Jr. version of Luke Bryan, but I just like the guy for some reason. I get excited when he releases new music, and a new album has to be coming soon. “Single Saturday Night” finally topped the charts recently, after about a year and a half. His new single is “Some Habits,” a slow ballet where he talks about how some habits can’t change from being single to being in a relationship. It’s a good song, not my favorite, but it seems like it’s trying to be the opposite of “Break Up in the End.” Two singles recently usually mean that an album is on the way. I’m willing to bet early quarter one of 2022 will be the release of it. 

Dierks Bentley 

           This will be an interesting case; what will Dierks Bentley do with his new album? He basically is on record saying that he released “Gone” to stay relevant in these weird musical times. “Beers On Me” is his current single, featuring Hardy and Breland, and will probably make its way to the top of the charts. What makes this interesting is that I don’t think Dierks cares to release a radio country-friendly album; I think he wants to do another bluegrass album. He released the live album “Live from Telluride,” which features “Pride (In the Name of Love),” which he does as bluegrass. 

           “The Mountain” was released way back in 2018, so Dierks is due for a new album. With his second single climbing, I would expect any day for a preorder to come up. I just hope that he makes the album he wants, not the one that the record label tells him to make. Dierks Bentley has grinded to being one of the top names in country music very quietly. I think Dierks will fade much better than artists like Luke Bryan will; he makes more timeless music that mixes relevancy and reflection of who Dierks really is. 

Hardy

           Hardy is about to change country music. 33 artists, 14 songs, 14 weeks, one album. Mixtape Vol. 2 is here. Almost every artist who is remotely relevant is on this album. Highlighted by Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore, Dierks Bentley, David Lee Murphy, Jon Pardi, and of course Ernest and Morgan Wallen, this album is going to be fucking insane. Hardy is literally taking over country music right now. My man has fifteen songs on country radio that he wrote, two features with Dierks and Brantley, and his own single climbing. He writes everything for everyone. 

           Hardy has to be on cloud nine right now. He recently got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Caleigh. He is opening for Jason Aldean on his “Back in the Saddle” tour, and everything he touches turns to gold. I don’t think he’s going to slow down either in 2022, as he will get his second number one with “Give Heaven Some Hell” and hopefully a third with another song off “A Rock.” 

Jason Aldean

           “If I Didn’t Love You” with Carrie Underwood is going to be a smash. Aldean knows that he can pretty much release anything and have it be a number one, but he also knows what his fans want. He usually stays in his lane with a big guitar sound and rocking songs. I would expect more of the same on this next album. The next album will also be his tenth career album, a massive accomplishment for the artist of the decade for the 2010s. I think the artists that came out in the late 2000s are doing something cool and teaming up a little bit more. Aldean, Underwood, Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert are all a part of that generation who know they are the cream of the crop and taking advantage as they know their best days are probably behind them. 

Justin Moore

           2021 will go down as a massive year for Justin Moore. He now has ten career number ones as “We Didn’t Have Much” topped the charts. He released “Straight Outta the Country,” an absolute smash record, even if the numbers don’t necessarily back that. He already announced a new single from a new album that will probably drop in 2022 as well. Moore is touring arenas right now all over the country. While I don’t see him jumping up to the level of popularity as Luke Bryan, I think he has a chance to have even longer-term success if he stays in his lane and keeps doing what he’s doing right now. I could see him going down as someone on the same level as Tracy Lawrence, someone who had an excellent career with a few all-time great songs but maybe overshadowed by George Strait and Alan Jackson for most of his career. He just got onto “Mixtape Vol. 2” with Hardy, which speaks to the state of his career right now as well. He can be the “country guy” in a time where pop is ruling the country airwaves. 

Thomas Rhett

           Another guy with a double album on the way, Rhett, released “Country Again (Side A)” was released early in the summer. He hinted that “Side B” will be out before the end of the year, and “Redneck Be Like” has been released as a single. “Side A” was his best album ever, so hopefully, “Side B” is more of the same. “Be Like” is much poppier than anything on the first side, but if you can get over the fact that it isn’t the next great country song, it’s actually fun to listen to. I think “Side B” will produce more great music, and Thomas Rhett might be angling himself to be one of the faces of country music for a long time with Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs. 

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2021 Bar Fight Bracket

Here we are, the first debate in Beats, Beer, and Bonfire’s history. We all know that it’s March, and everyone makes brackets for everything, so who are we to be an exception. Unlike other brackets, though, we do one that we think people will actually give a shit about. Country music singers should handle themselves at a bar, but most of them can’t. I don’t think that chart-toppers like Dan and Shay or Sam Hunt would throw hands in a bar, but the old-school rednecks of country music past are a totally different story. On top of not being country at all anyway, they are more Hollywood and pop than gritty country artists. I genuinely like all of the artists in this bracket, and I think they all make fantastic music, which was not a qualifier. If someone had listed Sam Hunt, he would be on the bracket, but obviously, no one thinks he is tough.

I made an Instagram poll and asked people who they thought would win a bar fight to start this bracket. Conveniently enough, 12 artists were nominated, so it was easy to put a bracket together. These artists come from different backgrounds, from more radio-focused names like Morgan Wallen and Tyler Farr to Texas country master Cody Johnson to rap artists Upchurch and Adam Calhoun. We even have women in the bracket, as Carrie Underwood might not be known as the toughest chick, but she did grow up on a farm and has mom instincts. I think that if any modern female artist got nominated, it would behave to be her.

The first round of the bracket had eight artists, while four artists had byes. This means round two had eight artists, round three had four, and round four was the finals. To determine the matchups each round, I put each artist’s name on a wheel. I then had another wheel with the appropriate number of numbers on it. I spun the wheel with the artist’s name, followed by the number. In round one, numbers one through four received the byes into round two. Then in the following rounds, the wheel was spun again. I went through all of this trouble because I wanted it to be random and unbiased throughout the tournament. It also led to some exciting matchups, which can be seen below.

Round 1

Round 1 featured some exciting matchups and a few upsets right off the bat. The artists that received byes were Brantley Gilbert, Trace Adkins, Trey Lewis, and Cody Johnson. Artists like Gilbert and Adkins are favorites in this tournament and didn’t really need help. However, Trey Lewis, who isn’t a household name, and Cody Johnson, who isn’t nearly as physically big as some other contenders, might have benefited from the early advantage. The rest of the matchups are as follows…

Carrie Underwood 28% vs. Hank Williams Jr. 72%

           The first matchup, Underwood vs. Williams Jr, I didn’t think would be much of a discussion. I think Carrie Underwood might have gotten a boost against most people due to being the lone female, but it’s hard to vote against a legend. The one argument that could be made is that Carrie Underwood is a super athletic 38-year-old, and Hank is 71 years old who has spent more of his life at a bar than at a gym. Personally, I would expect Underwood to be able to beat Hank. Still, I didn’t expect the majority to agree with me. At the end of the day, Hank Williams Jr. took this matchup by a considerable margin. I think we will see the trend throughout this tournament that people are voting on legends like they are in their prime. That isn’t necessarily the way I intended this bracket to go. Still, at the same time, I didn’t really make rules, so it was up to interpretation. 

Morgan Wallen 81% vs Tyler Farr 19%

           In my opinion, the first upset of the tournament, I expected Tyler Farr would take Morgan Wallen down. Honestly, if this fight actually happened, I would still expect Farr to win. Still, Morgan Wallen has a considerable following, so I think his fans stepped up this round. Not that I don’t think Morgan Wallen is a tough dude, and I’m sure he has been in a bar fight or two in the past based on his drinking habits, but I don’t think he would beat Farr. Regardless my opinion doesn’t matter. The people have spoken, so Morgan Wallen will move on round to, and really the voting wasn’t even close.

Adam Calhoun 51% vs. Toby Keith 49%

           In the best matchup of round one, Adam Calhoun was pitted up against the man who admits he is only as good once as he ever was, Toby Keith. Adam Calhoun has gone to jail for aggravated assault, which I would’ve assumed gave Calhoun a massive advantage, but I was wrong. Toby Keith made it close, and for about 22 of the 24 hours, the two went back and forth; in hour 23, they were tied. At the last minute, one final person gave Adam Calhoun the nod. This was a crazy close poll, and I hope this isn’t the last one like this. 

Randy Houser 37% vs. Ryan Upchurch 63%

           The final matchup started very similar to the Calhoun vs. Keith matchup. Both of them were back and forth,  as I would check one minute and see Upchurch winning, but the next minute Randy Houser would pull ahead. However, about halfway through, Upchurch started to pull away from Houser. I think physically, I would take Randy Houser, but Upchurch just has a dog in him that I think would overcome Houser. Again in a super close pull, the general public agreed with me as Upchurch pulled ahead and moved onto round two.

Round 2

           Round two saw every artist who received a bye in round one facing off against a last-round winner. I think that we might see some close matchups again. Looking at these matchups, I believe I know who would win in real life, but this isn’t reality, and the underdogs with big fanbases have been showing up. Also, Adam Calhoun himself voted on all of these polls, so we will let you know what he voted as we go. Without further ado, round 2 results… 

Cody Johnson 31% vs. Hank Williams Jr. 69%

           The Texas cowboy went up again, Bocephus, and based on the last round, I wasn’t surprised by the outcome. I voted for CoJo because, again, he’s a 33-year-old cowboy going up against a 71-year-old legend who, let’s be honest, isn’t exactly in fighting shape. However, like I’ve said before and will probably say again, I didn’t make rules, and I think many people are picking Hank Jr. in his prime, so that is why he took down Cody Johnson. As for Adam Calhoun, he was on the winning side as he voted Hank Jr. to win.

Trey Lewis 21% vs. Adam Calhoun 79%

           This is an interesting one, and not because of the results. This is the first poll so far is the first time that BOTH of the guys voted for themselves. Trey Lewis and Adam Calhoun each picked themselves to win, which led me to put up a poll asking them if it was time to put on the gloves. Neither replied to that, which is a little unfortunate, but probably better off for Lewis. I still am siding with the guy who literally has gotten arrested for aggravated assault, and I think that I will until the end. Most people agreed with me, and Calhoun moves onto the semifinals.

Morgan Wallen 38% vs. Brantley Gilbert 62%

           This is the matchup that I was the most nervous about. I think everyone knows who would win the fight. Brantley Gilbert would absolutely dominate Morgan Wallen. I’m sorry, Morgan, I like you, but damn son, you would go down. I think that Wallen still was being voted on by fans, but it just isn’t happening. Adam Calhoun agrees with me, as he voted for Gilbert as well. Brantley Gilbert will be moving on into the semifinals, and I think he has a legitimate shot at making the finals.

Ryan Upchurch 53% vs. Trace Adkins 47%

           Last round, Upchurch and Randy Houser were both close for a lot of the poll, until closer to the end when Upchurch pulled away and took a commanding lead. This one was almost the opposite of when Upchurch was out to a massive lead before Trace came surging back. However, it was too little too late, as Upchurch held off the charge and won this fight. Adam Calhoun had his boys back, so he ended up picking perfectly this round.

Round 3

           I don’t expect this round to produce any close results. Nothing against Upchurch, but I think that people realize that Calhoun is just a physically bigger human, which will propel him to the win. On the other side, Hank Jr. has taken out Carrie Underwood and Cody Johnson, who aren’t exactly known for putting off fighter vibes. I think that if we don’t see a Brantley Gilbert, Adam Calhoun finale, it would be a shock. However, I don’t want to count out Hank Williams Jr.

Ryan Upchurch 54% vs. Adam Calhoun 46%

           Well, I guess I got the first part of my shocker. When I went to bed last night, Calhoun was leading Upchurch by a few votes. I wasn’t ready to call it, but when I woke up, and the lead changed, I was shocked. Upchurch received a streak of at least ten votes in a row, which took him from down four to up six votes. I would be interested to see this fight in real life because as much as I love Upchurch, I wouldn’t be putting money on him. Maybe this came down to a popularity contest a little bit, but that’s the risk you run with a public poll. Well, congratulations are in order for Ryan Upchurch and welcome to the finals.

Brantley Gilbert 38% vs. Hank Williams Jr. 62%

           The other matchup, and the other upset, in my opinion, in the semifinals. Again, just like the first matchup, Brantley Gilbert led for well over half of the time. However, Hank overcame Gilbert last night and into this morning to move onto the finals. I personally looked at this bracket like it was a 71-year-old man vs. Brantley Gilbert, but I think most people were voting for vintage Hank, and he took it. The final round will feature a legend and the biggest name in country rap.

The Finals

           It all comes down to this. Two men have bested the other ten artists in the bracket. Upchurch had the tougher road to get here and really never beat anyone by a large margin. He took down Randy Houser, Trace Adkins, and Adam Calhoun in his path to the finals. On the other hand, this might be Hanks’s biggest challenge, as he had Carrie Underwood, Cody Johnson, and Brantley Gilbert. The first two aren’t exactly known for their hillbilly bar fight vibes, so it wasn’t much of a shocker that he went past them. Brantley Gilbert was my favorite in the previous matchup, but Hank proved that he still has the following to pass the artist. I’m excited to see this final round, I would have to say Upchurch has the edge, but I have slept on Hank enough and don’t want to anymore. I think it is a 50-50 tossup but let’s see how it goes!

Ryan Upchurch 33% vs. Hank Williams Jr. 67%

           I can’t say I’m surprised by the result, but I can say the split was much bigger than I expected. I expected this to be at least a 45 to 55 percent amount, but Hank didn’t even give Upchurch a chance. From the beginning to the end, Hank took a quick lead and never looked back. With that being said, congratulations on Hank Williams Jr. on being the first-ever Beats Beer and Bonfires Bar Fight Champion!

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