Thursday, December 30, 2004

Country's 2004 in Review

Kirk Fitzgerald's website is for passionate fans like himself, but it contains some great ideas for your year-end programming as well..

Newsworthy Country Format Events of 2004

2004 appeared to be focused around hospitals. From Charley Pride with brain surgery, Willie Nelson's carpal tunnel surgery, and Little Jimmy Dickens making two trips to the hospital (heart problems and then for pneumonia) it was a year of praying and hoping that all turns out well for these special artists in country music. However, the country music community did suffer loss this year in the deaths of Roy Drusky, Skeeter Davis, Charlie Waller, and music icon Ray Charles in which had a impact of music worldwide, including country music.

The country music community also suffered the shock of Gary Allan's wife committing suicide. Even though this event was a tragic time for his family, it also reminded us in the country music community of how we come together as a group when someone is in a time of need. Gary Allan's website was inedited with messages of support and thoughts from country music fans, fan clubs, and individuals all. It was so much support that the website was temporarily down due to the high amount of traffic.

Babies were a topic throughout 2004. Many new country music fans saw the first light during the year. Kenny Roger's wife gave birth to twins. Cledus T. Judd and Julie Roberts, Gary LeVox , Joe Diffe, Sara Evans, Natalie Maines, and Deana Carter all welcomed children into their lives.

Terri Clark and Trace Adkins were invited in 2004 to join the prestigious cast of the Grand Ole Opry.

The Country Music Association made news pretty much throughout 2004 announcing the Brooks n' Dunn would host this year's 39th Annual CMA Awards. Then, announcing that in 2005 the award show will be at Madison Square Gardens in New York, New York. The plans for 2006 to move the show to the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tennessee were announced instead of its current home of the Grand Ole Opry House.

Legal troubles for Marty Stuart with a DUI arrest and Glen Campbell played a concert behind bars of his Arizona prison while serving time for his charge of extreme drunk driving and leaving the scene of a minor accident kept both in the entertainment spotlight, not just in country music.

On the business side of things, the big story of 2004 was the Dreamworks Records consolidation with Universal Music Group.

A substantial amount of greatest hits albums made there way to store shelves this year. They didn't sit on the shelves long, however. Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, George Strait, LeAnn Rimes, Brooks n' Dunn, and Terri Clark all released greatest hits CDs this year.

Finally, this year was full of debate between fans on the topic of Big & Rich, one of "country music's" hottest duos of the year. Their unique high-paced tempo and attitude took "country music" to a new level, one that may call pop-rock or other words that are best left unspoken. On the other side of the argument found it to be refreshing, new, and allowing country music reach a new audience. This group also ignited the harder country music sound, now known as a new form of "Outlaw Country" was showcased in a high energy CMT special with Hank Williams Jr., Kid Rock, Gretchen Wilson, and many more.

This year's hottest stars ranged from veteran artists to newcomers. With the release of another #1 single, "I Hate Everything," his 2-CD "50 #1 Hits" package, and a successful tour, George Strait continues to be a very popular part of country music. Toby Keith's "Shock'N Y'ALL" album and "Greatest Hits II" in stores, and AOL's most successful performances of "AOL Live" made Keith one of the hottest stars of 2004. Newcomers Julie Roberts, Josh Turner, and Dierks Bentley all made a splash this year on the industry with talented debut albums.

The State of Country Music

2004 country music sales are up, big time. Country music sales are up over 12% from last year. This is just about double the pace of the music industry overall.

Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks 2004

* Live Like You Were Dying - Tim McGraw
* Remember When -Alan Jackson
* You'll Think of Me - Keith Urban
* When The Sun Goes Down - Kenny Chesney & Uncle Cracker
* Letters From Home - John Michael Montgomery

Billboard's Top Country Albums 2004

* Shock 'N Y'All -Toby Keith
* When The Sun Goes Down -Kenny Chesney
* Here For The Party -Gretchen Wilson
* Live Like You Were Dying -Tim McGraw
* Horse of a Different Color -Big & Rich

Top Country Tours 2004

* Shania Twain
* Kenny Chesney
* Toby Keith
* Alan Jackson
* Tim McGraw

Information obtained from Billboard Newspaper, December 25, 2004 issue.

Country Music Alive's Hot List: 2004

The Best Females of 2004

2004 has been Gretchen Wilson's year. She finishes the year with mentions on the Top Pop Artists (36), Top New Pop Artists (4), Top New Pop Female (9), Top Bill Board 200 Artists (23), Top New Country Artists (1), Top New Female Artists (1) and Top Country Artists (5) from Billboard for 2004. Not only has she had chart success, she has been in the forefront of country music in giving a voice to the everyday female. Wilson is the real deal and prooves it not only in personality but also in talent.

Other female artists that have had success this year include the newest member of the Opry, Terri Clark with her "Girls Lie Too" hit. Shania Twain's greatest hits package with "Party For Two" brought Twain back to country music, and can be argued if she ever was not a part of the music. Sara Evans also had a wonderful year. All her singles kept her alive and a bright light in country music all year. Newcomer Julie Roberts deserves mention as well with her hits "Break Down Here" and "The Chance."

The Best Males of 2004

The year belonged to Toby Keith. The continued success of "Shock 'N Y'All" throughout the year along with his second greatest hits album made Keith a hot star all year. His year ending positions on Billboard prooves it as well. Top Pop Artists (7), Top Pop Artists (3), Billboard 200 Artists (3), Hot 100 Artists (24), Top Country Artists (1), and Top Male Country Artists (1) all have Keith's name in the list.

Even with his album coming out in late August, his performance of "Live Like You Were Dying" at the ACM Awards in the Spring kept fans talking all year. The release of the album, one of the best of the year, keeps selling and makes McGraw one of the best of 2004. Kenny Chesney also had a great year with releasing a high selling album and an energetic and popular tour. Brad Paisley also was highly popular throughout the year with his duet with Alison Krauss "Whiskey Lullaby" among other hits from his "Mud on the Tires" album. Alan Jackson also brought us some great music throughout the year with a second greatest hits package as well as a new album.

George Strait even stregthened his "King of Country Music" title this year with the the release of "50 #1 Hits" that even produced his 51st #1.

The Best Duos/Groups of 2004

Rascal Flatts showed country music that their is room for the contemporary sound, no doubt. Selling tickets to tour stops and the release of "Feels Like Today" kept them on top of the country music scene daily through the year.

Lonestar's release of "Mr. Mom" kept them even busier. Also, Big & Rich kept country music wide awake with the release of "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy." Nothing like a little controversy whether to consider a group country or not to keep record sales and popularity high all year.

Contact Kirk Fitzgerald by email: countrymusicalive@verizon.netphone: Local/fax: 804-364-2490 toll free: 1-888-870-1573

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