Country’s Rising Hitmakers: Morgan Wallen, HARDY & ERNEST 

Morgan Wallen, Hardy, and Ernest are arguably some of the top rising artists of today’s country music. Not only do they have outstanding vocals, but they also have incredible songwriting talent. Whether it’s a phone call in the grocery store or a sit-down session in the studio, these three Big Loud artists often find themselves writing together.

In 2021, Morgan Wallen dominated the country genre with the release of his sophomore album Dangerous: The Double Album. Much of the successful lyric crafting of these songs are credited to Morgan who co-wrote 18, Ernest who co-wrote 11, and Hardy who co-wrote 7, out of the 32 total songs (30 original tracks and 2 bonus tracks). In October of 2021, these three artists hit the road together to play a few shows before the holidays, setting attendance records nearly everywhere they went. Whether they are writing together or apart, each of them have been writing hits for years, not only for themselves but also for other artists. Let’s take a deeper look into their careers.

SongwritERN

Ernest Keith Smith, better known by his stage name ERNEST, released his debut album back in 2019 titled Locals Only. This album consisted of 9 songs all co-written by him. Following that release, came a single called “Cheers” in 2020 and a single called “American Rust” in 2021. On top of releasing music of his own, Ernest has written plenty of songs for others, making a name for himself as a songwriter. So far, he has contributed to over 70 songs for himself and other artists such as Walker Hayes, Kane Brown, Chris Lane, and more. His number one co-writes include “More Than My Hometown” by Morgan Wallen, “Big Big Plans” by Chris Lane, “I Love My Country” by Florida Georgia Line, “Breaking Up Was Easy In The 90s” by Sam Hunt, and “One Mississippi” by Kane Brown.

Now, Ernest is working hard to make a name for himself as an artist. Right before 2021 came to an end, Ernest released a duet with Morgan Wallen titled “Flower Shops.” Yet before this highly anticipated single was released, the two were performing it to crowds of over 30,000 and leaking it on social media. This resulted in the duet instantly becoming a fan favorite. When the song did come out, it debuted at #1 on the iTunes All-Genre Chart, #1 on both the USA and Global Spotify Top Songs Debut Chart, and #44 on the Billboard Country Airplay Chart, earning the breaker award. Ernest was also able to hear himself on the radio for the very first time as this song was the most added song of the week it impacted country radio.

Since then, Ernest has been taking to social media to share his studio time, share unreleased music, and has officially confirmed that his next album is finished. Just recently, he released three songs called “What It’s Come To,” “Some Other Bar,” and “Feet Wanna Run” all on the same day. On top of that, Ernest announced his second studio album, Flower Shops (The Album), will be an 11 track album being released on 3.11.22.

As for touring, he has been the opening act for Chris Lane’s Fill Them Boots Tour and will be joining him again for all 2022 March dates. In addition, fans can expect to see Ernest making surprise appearances throughout Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous Tour. He has already appeared at Morgan’s first sold-out Madison Square Garden show to sing their duet “Flower Shops.” 

PENNED BY HARDY

Michael Hardy, better known for his last name, HARDY, has had lots of success mixing his love of rock and roll to form a bro-country sound. He has become one of the most popular new artists of country music and is arguably one of the best songwriters in the genre. Since 2018, Hardy has been releasing new music yearly. That year he released a 4-song EP titled This Ole Boy and released another 4-song EP in 2019 titled Where To Find Me.

Later that year, Hardy also introduced Hixtape Vol. 1, a joint album with himself and Hixtape, that is filled with features by country music’s biggest stars. This project consisted of 10 songs with 18 different artists. It also gave Hardy his first number one song as an artist with “One Beer.” In 2020, Hardy released his debut album titled A Rock, again consisting of 10 songs. Finally, in 2021, Hixtape Vol. 2 was born, this time doing things a little differently. This album was only a Hixtape album, where Hardy was a feature on 6 songs, allowing other artists to include these songs on their own albums. This project upgraded to 14 songs with 33 artists/bands.

Not only has Hardy been hard at work writing and recording for himself, but he has also co-written for various other artists, totaling over 100 songs he has been a part of. You can even find him featured in many of these songs. As a songwriter, Hardy takes great pride in writing every single song he has released as an artist. His hard work and dedication to songwriting have surely paid off as he has been nominated for ACM Songwriter of the Year for three consecutive years. Over the years he has written hits for many artists including Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line, Dallas Smith, and more. His number ones as a songwriter include “Gods Country” by Blake Shelton, “I Don’t Know About You” by Chris Lane, “Some Girls” by Jameson Rodgers, “More Than My Hometown” by Morgan Wallen, “One Big Country Song” by Locash, “Up Down” by Morgan Wallen, “Simple” by Florida Georgia Line, “Single Saturday Night” by Cole Swindell, and “Sand In My Boots” by Morgan Wallen. 

Writt-en By Wall-en

As mentioned before, Morgan Wallen’s fame and success skyrocketed like no other throughout 2021. Thanks to his fans/supporters, Dangerous: The Double Album broke records and received the Billboard honor of being the number one album of 2021. In addition, Morgan is arguably the most wanted performer as he has nearly sold out all 54 dates of his 2022 Dangerous Tour with Hardy, Larry Fleet, and unannounced help. As well as writing a fairly good portion of his own music, Morgan has also written songs for Jason Aldean, Lil Durk, and Walker Montgomery.

Before Morgan became one of country music’s biggest superstars, he was auditioning for season 6 of The Voice, landing on Team Usher. On The Voice, Morgan auditioned with the song “Collide” and luckily Shakira and Usher turned their chairs. He went on to advance in the first battle round but was eliminated in the second. Luckily, Adam decided to steal him, which meant that Morgan would now be competing on his team. His Voice journey ended in the playoff round where he was eliminated. Looking back on this experience, Morgan sure is thankful that he was eliminated because it allowed him to seek a vocal coach and rediscover his sound.

In 2015, he released a 5-song EP titled Stand Alone. In 2016, he released three singles called “Stand Out,” “Chain Smokin’,” and “American Nights.” Soon enough it was time for Morgan to release his 14-song debut album titled If I Know Me, which includes the number one song that launched his career, “Whiskey Glasses.” In addition to his songs “Whiskey Glasses,” “Up Down,” “Chasin’ You,” “More Than My Hometown,” and “Sand In My Boots” all reaching number one, he has also co-written Jason Aldean’s number one hit “You Make It Easy.” Furthermore, Morgan Wallen had his first rap collaboration with Lil Durk’s “Broadway Girls,” a song that was co-written by both him and Ernest. This song went on to debut at number one on five different Billboard charts. Morgan has already successfully kicked off his massive Dangerous Tour and will be headlining a plethora of festivals this year. 

Friends Forever 

Whether these three are writing, recording, touring, or just having fun, they have become best friends, sharing loads of fond memories together. Since quarantine, they have picked up a new enjoyment for golf. Now that things are opening back up, they have been hitting the road, performing for sold-out crowds all over the country. The future is bright for these Big Loud boys, with many more hits to come. Be sure to check out the Apple Music playlists that are filled with the songs written by each artist (links below). 

https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/songs-written-by-ernest/pl.u-gxblkyGt5LEEb2d

https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/songs-written-by-hardy/pl.u-2aoqXxaFN1zzGjD

https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/songs-written-by-morgan-wallen/pl.u-kv9lbxLs7kaaJMA

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Country Album of the Year 2022

The Beats Beer Bonfires Country Album of the Year Award got filled with some bullshit nominees this year. It also had one stand-alone true deserver to win. To get qualified for the chart, the album had to be a #1 album on the Billboard top country albums chart for at least 1 week. It also had to get released in that calendar year. Let me clear one thing up, the Taylor Swift dilemma. Yes, I understand that Red and Fearless didn’t come out last year. Yes, I understand all she did was rename them Taylor’s Version. Yes, I understand she is selling them to millions of idiots who are pretending that they are doing some justice to Taylor by buying old albums again. Yes, I understand that she released deluxe albums. BUT, I trust you the followers not to vote for these albums. I wanted to not allow Taylor fans to bitch about how we didn’t include her. So instead, I did include her and got the satisfaction of watching her lose. 

The other two nominees each come with some controversy. “Dangerous: The Double Album” didn’t get flowers from the mainstream last year. You might remember Morgan Wallen getting canceled for no reason. That came about a month after the release of his fantastic album. “Star Crossed” by Kacey Musgraves wasn’t considered a country album by the Grammy’s. Then after public backlash that changed. Then it wasn’t country than it was. I’m not going to try and distinguish what the album is. You guys reading and voting know what country is, so who am I to force my opinion on the situation. And the winner is…

Dangerous: The Double Album” by Morgan Wallen 
Fearless by Taylor Swift 
Red by Taylor Swift 
Star-Crossed by Kacey Musgraves

Morgan Wallen dominated the category. In reality, he didn’t even have competition, we all know Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves are pop. “Dangerous” was a mega 30 song double album, filled with something for everyone. “Dangerous” featured everything from slow heartbreak songs, like “Sand in My Boots.” Then it had rowdy drinking songs like “Beer Don’t.” It features radio hits like “More than my Hometown” and everything in-between. He had a big-name duet with Chris Stapleton. He has big-name writers with Eric Church, Hardy, Thomas Rhett, and Ernest on it. Congratulations to Morgan Wallen on winning the 2022 Beats Beer Bonfires Album of the Year Award! 

I also wanted to do an honorable mentions section for all the people bitching about what I missed. Cody Johnson released a fantastic album release with “Human.” Thomas Rhett’s “Country Again Side A” was great. Justin Moore released “Straight Outta the Country.” Eric Church had a triple album in “Heart & Soul,” and that’s the tip of the iceberg. For a complete list, click here. Next year, we are considering redoing the criteria for this award. While I still believe Morgan Wallen would’ve won, I don’t feel the best 4 country albums received a nomination. Let us know what you think below! 

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Top 10 Morgan Wallen Songs

Morgan Wallen is a force in country music. My man had to take 2021 off because Bobby Bones canceled him and all the little sheep radio stations followed, but he’s back. “Sand in My Boots” is working its way up to #1, and “7 Summers” got canceled in the top 20 but it should be a #1. Morgan Wallen is sitting pretty after getting over his “go away period” (fuck Bobby Bones.) Now we look back at his top 10 songs in his young career. If you have a problem with the list, let us know. If you hate our #1 pick, most people will listen to that song before your about to go out on the town. It’s an absolute fucking hype song. That’s what we are here to do, fuck your emotional songs with feelings. I want music to hype me up. That’s what we are doing here, telling you what Morgan’s best 10 songs are, not the ones the “reviewers” say they are. Let us know what you think, and don’t forget… gaht

10. Redneck Love Song

9. Chasin’ You

8. Somethin’ Country

7. Up Down

6. Still Goin’ Down

5. Sand in My Boots

4. Whiskey Glasses

3. More Than My Hometown

2. Silverado for Sale

1. Whatcha Know ‘Bout That

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10 Country Artists Who Like to Party

            Let’s fucking go. What country artist do you want to get fucked up with? In the past, it was well documented that artists had major drinking and drug problems. Today that doesn’t seem to be the case because of PR people and all that stuff. Still, I can’t imagine that there are no fun partying country people in 2022. Saying that these are the 10 artists that would be the most fun to party with. I don’t have much evidence, but based on what artists put out on the gram. Without further ado, here is the list.

10. Riley Green

Fuck Riley Green and how perfect he is. He’s attractive, has the voice of an angel, hunts, and has amazing flow. Why wouldn’t you want to go out on the town with him? He will get all the ladies coming in flocks, and guys, can we blame them? My man seems like he is always sipping on something. Also, the fact that he’s still single all points to a Riley Green being a fun ass night.

9. Luke Combs

 I don’t know if Luke Combs is rowdy or not. Based on his past teaming up with Upchurch, plus his ability to shotgun a beer, I would have to say he is. On top of this, he has a solid posse around him. His wife is hot as fuck and I’m sure she has friends that are equally as attractive. I imagine that after a good show he can get fucked up and have a good time.

8. The Tim Montana/Michael Ray crew

  A little less known than others, Tim Montana is hilarious. If you follow his Instagram, you would see he is hilarious and I imagine he would be any less fun in person. Scrolling through his page, you see many photos of the long hair wildman rocking Pit Vipers, or kissing another dude because he lost a bet. He might also be sitting in a bathtub playing with toy cars and drinking… a lot. He also has hung out with ZZ Top leadman Billy F. Gibbons, Kid Rock, and Michael Ray.

 Speaking of Michael Ray, I’m not sure when exactly I flipped my opinion on his music, but I’m happy I did. His first album was on the pop side of country music, but his newer stuff is fantastic. He has a little bit of image repair to do because of his early stuff, but I could see him being very popular in the future. These guys combined, along with the legends mentioned above would be an insane night.

7. Ryan Upchurch

 So I will say this with a little caveat. Church isn’t much of a drinker and I’m not much of a smoker, so our particular types of partying might not match up perfectly. Saying that though, I can’t imagine an “on night” of Upchurch wanting to throw down is beatable by much. My man pretty much calls his shot and grinds his way to whatever he wants. I want to be a part of that, whether it’s going down to Broadway in Nashville or having some of the boys over to the house for a wild night in.

6. Justin Moore

  Justin admits that he isn’t the wild partier that he used to be. Still, I can’t imagine that on the right night he doesn’t have it in him. My guy passed out one night after recording his podcast under his desk. He has many times had to apologize for being too drunk. Justin and his tour manager, JR, have often talked about nights after the show being hammered and calling legends like Brantley Gilbert, Tracey Lawrence, and more after a show. I wouldn’t expect to wake up in a ditch on a night out with Justin, but I don’t think their’s anything wrong with that.

5. Dustin Lynch

  Dustin is like Riley Green in terms of he’s a good-looking dude who can sing and all that crap that girls love. In the past, he has had a few smoke showgirls in his life, although he is single at the moment. He seems like a chameleon, and that’s why he ranks so much higher than Riley Green. My man has done it all. He’s partied on a yacht in Marina Del Rey and chainsawed and cut trees down on his farm. That’s the guy I want to chill with, the guy who has been everywhere. I met Dustin Lynch one time. His ability to make a 30-second conversation seem like he finds you interesting is incredible.

4. Buck Commander boys

You might be asking who exactly the Buck Commander boys are. That’s a valid question. Country artists Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Tyler Farr, plus baseball players Tombo Martin, Ryan Langerhans, Adam LaRoche, and who could forget Willie Robinson make up the squad. First off, these guys have the highest net worth of anyone on the list. This means the best alcohol, the coolest experience, and the nicest stuff. Saying that I do have a caveat to that. I only have these guys this high if we are at deer camp. That eliminates the huge mansions, the nice cars, and all that shit. It forces these guys to be boys and chill with the boys. On their TV show, I’ve seen them pull crazy pranks like destroy rental cars, and often wake up hungover to get out to the stands. It would be a shit ton of fun.

3. Kid Rock

This man doesn’t need much of a description, does he? He’s Kid Rock. My man has out-partied the number 1 partiers on this list. He also put one of them behind bars unintentionally. Every celebrity ever has a wild story about partying at his house, or him partying somewhere. The rapper gone rocker gone country singer is someone I would expect to wake up cuddled up to like a tiger or some shit like that after partying with for the night.

2. Hank Williams Jr.

 Similar to Kid Rock, I would expect to die after one night with Hank. I would expect to walk up to the man, be handed a bottle of whiskey, and then wake up the next morning not remembering a fucking thing. But man, what a great few minutes of pounding that whiskey it would be.

1. Morgan Wallen/Hardy/Ernest

  So the boys get to number one because this is a combination of people I could actually hang with, plus the fun factor. Morgan Wallen’s parting habits have been well documented over the past few years. To be honest I don’t think he’s changed much since all the backlash, which is perfect. Hardy was arrested for smashing car windows not all that long ago. Ernest is out and about about his drugs and drinking habits. On the Theo Von podcast, “This Past Weekend,” he talked about how he spent most of the time hungover on the couch while the other two wrote “More than my Hometown.”

  I feel like most people would be in the same boat as me that these guys are the “party guys” on the current generation of country stars. Florida Georgia Line were the guys before, but since being wifed up they seem to have calmed down a little. I imagine these guys are fucking reckless, and will likely get you either arrested or very close to it.

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Could Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs Surpass Two Country Music Goats?

Luke Combs and Morgan Wallen… bam… click bait. These two are on absolute tears right now. Wallen is having a remarkable comeback from his controversy in the beginning of the year, with “Sand on My Boots” climbing the charts as his first single back. Luke Combs is sitting on his 12th number one hit with “Cold as You.” We could very easily be watching two all-time greats at the beginning stages of their careers, and it’s a lot of fun. There have been artists before that started hot and phased out, artists like Hunter Hayes had his first six singles all do well before disappearing. I think we are watching these two challenge some of the greatest commercial country artists, Luke Combs could realistically beat out George Strait for the most number ones of all time, and Wallen could challenge Garth Brooks for the best-selling artist of all time. How possible is it and how hot are these guys right now? Funny you ask, read on to find out.

Luke Combs just got it all overnight right? Amazing music, extremely hot wife, money, fame? It just popped up one day… right? Don’t tell Luke Combs that. He struggled early to get any traction or attention on music row. He was told that the songs he brought to the city were terrible, and he should just give it up. Those songs by the way included “Hurricane” and “When it Rains it Pours.” However, after grinding for a while, Combs finally did get the chance he deserved, and after “Hurricane” slowly climbed the charts to #1, the rest of the music took off. In fact, Luke Combs has never not had a song top the charts, he is a perfect 11 for 11 to this point, and “Cold as You” will probably ring the bell in a few weeks. You might say, “who cares, there are lots of artists with radio success who no one cares about,” and you would be correct, but out of his singles, the WORST selling one still is certified gold. I don’t think I need to really sell Luke Combs; I think he’s doing ok, but the streak he is on is fucking crazy, and it just started.

            Ya know what, I will continue to sell Luke Combs, and I’m going to do it by comparing him to, who else, Justin Moore. Justin Moore has had 19 songs released as singles, of those, 10 have topped the charts. In reality, that’s a widely successful career, that’s more than Eric Church, Lee Brice, and Chris Young. Moore released his first single in 2008, Luke Combs released his first single in 2016. That’s how fast Luke Combs has been piling up number ones, he is dwarfing Justin Moore’s numbers and Justin had an eight-year lead on the guy. This is why I think that Luke Combs should be compared to the likes of George Strait, or Alan Jackson.

            First off, I am by no means saying that Luke Combs is George Strait. I am however saying that I do believe that Combs could challenge him for the title of most number one hits by the end of his career. Luke Combs is 31 years old, which gives him about 19 more years of relevance. Let’s say that he has two number one songs per year, that would be 38, plus at the 11 he already has would be 49. George Strait has 44 number ones, and although Luke probably won’t be able to keep up the pace he is on, it’s not impossible. The other part of this is likeability, an artist can do well on the radio but not actually have many fans. Who doesn’t like Luke Combs? He has found the perfect formula of love songs for the girls, 90s country for the traditionalists, and rock songs for the hardcore guys. Anytime Combs comes around me, nosebleed tickets are selling for well over $100.

             So what about the either guy at the top of the country music world? Morgan Wallen is still too new to have the crazy stats Luke Combs has overall, but what his two albums have done in a short time are crazy. Morgan Wallen was another guy who didn’t exactly pop off right away. He was on “The Voice” but failed because he didn’t sing One Direction as well as he sings country. He went to Nashville after that and released “The Way I Talk” which died early on the charts. In 2018 he released the album “If I Know Me” and it didn’t really make much noise. His second single, “Up Down” with Florida Georgia Line topped the charts but didn’t really do much at the time for Wallen. The next single, “Whiskey Glasses” really is the song that changed his career. After that, the mullet came out and the rest is history. Wallen is 4 for 6 with singles going number one, and that’s only because “7 Summers” got dropped off the radio because of the bullshit N-word thing.

            Wallen essentially took 2021 off from the public eye, yet his album “Dangerous” will probably be the best-selling album of 2021, setting a shit ton of chart records in the process. I really don’t think this is going to be a phase either, Wallen has done something similar to Combs in the fact that he has captured a wide audience. He has the look, which is literally setting a trend across America with the mullet and cutoff flannel. The women love him, songs like “7 Summers” went from being a demo he teased on Instagram to a platinum selling smash hit. Men love his as well, songs like “Country A$$ Shit” are meant to fire up his redneck following. I think that Morgan Wallen has a legitimate chance to be the next Garth Brooks.

            The thing about Garth Brooks is that no one really thinks about him as a true country artist or a radio successful guy. He is known as a cowboy who stayed true to himself musically yet competed with the biggest pop stars in the 90s. He also is known for his crazy energy during performances and often is considered the best performer of all time. He is second to only “The Beatles” in all time album sales. I’m not exactly sure how streaming numbers will translate to album sales, because in reality no one buys albums anymore, but I would expect Wallen to be making his way towards the top of the charts regardless.

If you look back the past ten years, there were artists like Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, and Carrie Underwood dominating the genre, but these two just feel bigger. Luke Combs is just on fire, and although he is far away, he could eventually end up at the very least challenging Strait for the most number ones of all time. Wallen has had a roller coaster of a career so far, yet his controversies (that no one actually gives a shit about) have really only vaulted his success to the next level. I can’t wait to look back in 2030 at this next decade, because I want to see how much more success these guys had over the third most successful artist of the decade (Thomas Rhett maybe?) It will be interesting to continue to track these guys, because I think we are watching two all-time greats battle it out to be the biggest name in country music.

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The Best Mullet in Country Music Bracket Results

           First off, thank you all for voting. Round one of this bracket saw something like 50 people vote per poll, and by the end, over 80 people had voted per poll. Listen, 80 isn’t a lot, and I understand that, but it’s a start, and I truly am thankful for everyone who takes time out of their busy day just to vote. With that being said, here is how each round went. Who do you think has the best mullet in country music?

Round 1

Ricky Skaggs 56%  vs. Hardy 44%

Riley Green 81% vs. Justin Moore 19%

Joe Dirt 42% vs. Tracey Lawrence 58%

Joe Diffie 75% vs. Billy Ray Cyrus 25%

Travis Tritt 62% vs. Blake Shelton 38%

Marty Stuart 53% vs. Jade Eagleson 47%

Alan Jackson 92% vs. Theo Von 8%

Ernest 8% vs. Morgan Wallen 92%

Takeaway: I would say that six of them went how I expected out of the eight matchups, and one of them I wasn’t really surprised by. I agreed with and voted for Joe Diffie to beat Billy Ray Cyrus, but I expected Billy Ray to make it more interesting than he did. When I asked people for opinions, Billy Ray and Morgan Wallen were the two most popular names I got. Maybe it’s just a result of my following that people picked the true country singer over the pop-country cross-over, but the 75-25 breakdown shocked me.

Also, shout out to Ernest for voting on the poll. If you noticed, he only got 8% of the votes over his boy Morgan Wallen, but he voted for himself over Morgan Wallen, which he was one of only three to do that. He also voted for Theo Von over Alan Jackson, which might be a homer vote because the two are friends but put him on the wrong end of the two worst votes in the round. Despite that, I appreciate the effort and attention from Ernest.

Round 2

Alan Jackson 70% vs. Riley Green 30%

Morgan Wallen 85% vs. Ricky Skaggs 15%

Joe Diffie 87% vs. Marty Stuart 13%

Travis Tritt 53% vs. Tracey Lawrence 47%

Another round of minimal surprises, in my opinion. Riley Green getting 30% of the vote was a pleasant surprise since I figured Alan Jackson would totally dismantle him. Also, Tracey Lawrence was ahead of Travis Tritt for probably 20 out of the 24 hours possible, but in the end, Tritt was able to take the lead and move on.

Round 3

Morgan Wallen 61% vs Joe Diffie 39%

Travis Tritt 23% vs. Alan Jackson 77%  

      I’m not really surprised by either of these, but I will say that I thought that Joe Diffie would’ve beat Morgan Wallen out. Personally, I voted for Wallen; if we are talking mullet for mullet, he is famous for it and deserves to go rounds due to that. That brings us to an exciting finale, between the biggest name in country music of the 2020s and the biggest artist of the 1990s (in my opinion.)

Round 4

Morgan Wallen 29% vs. Alan Jackson 71%

           Is anyone shocked by this result? I expected it to be a little closer of a result, but overall I would’ve bet money on Alan Jackson winning. That will unfortunately wrap up the end of the mullet bracket. IF you want to read something else like this, HERE is the barfight bracket I did last month. What should be next? DM me suggestions and let’s get this deal rocking!

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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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First Wheeler Walker Jr. and now Upchurch apologizing?!?!?!

For lack of a better term, Upchurch is a smartass. That’s why we love him, though, because he does shit to rile people up while making his followers laugh. One of his latest videos, named “My apology video…” is a prime example of this. Released on February 18th, the video is meant to be a spoof of Morgan Wallen’s apology on Instagram for saying the N-word. He first talks about the situation and talks about how Nashville is turning soft. Nashville was always an outlaw city, but now it is a pc city.

He doesn’t defend Morgan Wallen for saying the N-word. He does, however, say that he thinks the situation was blown out of proportion; Upchurch says that “cancel culture” people are treating black people worse than presumed “racists” because they are telling the entire black community how they should feel. He says that he has many black friends, and none of them give a shit about what Morgan Wallen said.

           Upchurch then further talks about the Dixie Chicks dropping their name to the Chicks and saying that dixie is just where they are from. It isn’t a racist word but a geographic location. He takes a few jabs at Luke Combs, talking about how he is a sellout and how his reps told Upchurch to take down the “Outlaw” video because it put Combs in a room with the confederate flag. Combs has been outspoken about how he was uneducated about the flag and has apologized for it before cancel culture got to him. He also dropped the bomb about how Combs got his record deal. After all, the music industry offered it to them in exchange for not being around the confederate flag anymore; Combs took the deal, Upchurch didn’t. I think that the link between Luke Combs and Ryan Upchurch is fascinating. Even though Combs wants to shake it, it is remarkable that country music’s most prominent name right now started with a feature on a rap song just a few years ago.

Upchurch cannot be changed or manipulated, no matter the power behind it. Overall, it seems more artists should push back like Upchurch has and stand their ground where they can. That may be dependent on big record labels taking complete control of the content we listen to daily. Upchurch released the album “Mud to Gold” last week, and the album was number one on iTunes up until last Friday. He has a following, and even though his actions and beliefs get him labeled as a bad guy, Upchurch brings honesty and insight well beyond his years. He will be ignored by many, but he isn’t going anywhere, which is a testament to his own hard work. Check out “Mud to Gold” on iTunes and the full video below.

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