Country Song of the Year: 2022 Edition

You guys reading this have a major soft side. Although 90% of songs on the radio today are love songs anyway, y’all voted 3 of them out of the 4 total nominees. The first newcomer nominee of the group, Jake Owen, makes his first appearance with “Made For You.” Congrats Jake, we are happy to have you. We also welcome Mrs. Carrie Underwood to the Beats Beer Bonfires nominee family for her duet with Jason Aldean. The other two artists are familiar faces, Luke Combs and Thomas Rhett. Now, for a song to be qualified for the award it had to top either the country airplay chart or the hot country chart in 2021 on billboards website. It then had to stay on top for at least two weeks. This qualifier was tough for artists like Morgan Wallen who had “Wasted on You” top the hot country chart for one week. Eric Church had “Hell of a View” also only peak for one week, as did Chris Young with “Famous Friends.” All three songs are amongst the biggest of last year but don’t make the cut.

So, what does that leave us with you might be asking? Well, we had 13 songs that made the cut and went into the bracket. From 13, we went to four, and they are…

Forever After All
Luke Combs

If I Didn’t Love You
Carrie Underwood
Made For You
Jake Owen
What’s Your Country Song
Thomas Rhett

The winner of this award might surprise you, but it won’t because it’s Luke Combs. I mean, the dudes a fucking living legend. Everything he touches turns to absolute gold. Not only did he have the winning song, but “Better Together” might’ve also made the final four had the two songs not run into each other earlier in the bracket. The question is, has Thomas Rhett surrendered the title of country music love song guy to Luke Combs?

Rhett had “What’s Your Country Song” as a finalist, but that was the only non-love song in the top 4. For a while, he was for sure the guy, with his wife Lauren as his muse. “Die a Happy Man” came out way back in 2015, which led to a string of honeymoon love hits. Relationships grow and evolve though, and what was once a young fling turns into marriage. Luke and Nichole are starting to enter the phase of life Thomas were in all those years ago. They are getting married and starting a family. Until their family starts though, expect the honeymoon phase might be in control of radio airwaves for the future. Luke Combs, once again, is a fucking monster. He won this award, and spoiler alert, you might be seeing his name again.

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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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