Week after week, the women of country music were making headlines on CMT.com. To wrap up an action-packed year, here are 10 women who had something to say in 2010.
The Band Perry’s Kimberly Perry
Big sister Kimberly Perry presides over this sibling ensemble which broke through this year with a sensitive, somewhat sad single, “If I Die Young.” With her distinctive voice, she allows the story to unfold gradually, lending a thoughtful air to an otherwise depressing topic. Country fans listened intently — then bought the music. So far, the digital single has been certified platinum for shipments and downloads totaling 1 million copies and the album is approaching gold status. In addition, the weeper topped the Billboard country airplay chart, and Perry secured a Grammy nomination for writing the song.
Faith Hill entered the year with a new management team in place, and although she released a new fragrance instead of an album, she did offer memorable tracks to the Loretta Lynn tribute album and the Country Strong soundtrack. Along with co-hosting the Nashville Rising concert for flood relief with husband Tim McGraw, the Mississippi girl commemorated Hurricane Katrina’s fifth anniversary with a charity concert in New Orleans. And don’t forget her performances at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in March and the White House in June. Who else in country music can judge Project Runway as well as reliably pick NFL winners for the local newspaper?
With a name like Lady Antebellum, you have to be included on a list like this. In particular, Hillary Scott shines on “American Honey,” the coming-of-age tale that followed the inescapable “Need You Now.” Over the course of 12 months, Lady A released a triple-platinum album, earned multiple ACM and CMA awards, toured extensively with Tim McGraw, sang at the World Series, serenaded Oprah Winfrey, sold out London, launched their first headlining tour, scored six Grammy nominations this month, etc., etc. And after all that, they still like each other!
You say you want a Revolution? With platinum sales of her third album, Miranda Lambert established a firm foundation with country fans. Then she built a fortress with “White Liar” and “The House That Built Me” and a successful tour sponsored by CMT. She won multiple ACM and CMA Awards this year, then performed on the Grammy nominations concert in December — and heard her own name called five times when the nominees were announced. Her new DVD, Live by Candlelight, shows her softer side, and romantic country fans got swept up in her engagement to Blake Shelton.
This year marked a transition for Martina McBride, as she switched management and signed to a new record label, Republic Nashville. Earlier in the year, she toured with Trace Adkins as well as Lilith Fair — probably without much audience overlap. She also recorded with Alan Jackson for the Loretta Lynn tribute album and with Kid Rock for his new album, Born Free. In addition, the Grand Ole Opry member helped reopen the Opry House after the Nashville flood, plus she sang at a flood relief concert at the Ryman Auditorium. Expect more activity in 2011. At a press conference in November, McBride told reporters, “I’m fired up and feel like I have a focus and energy for making music that I haven’t had in a long time. So, here’s to the future.”
Although she’s a cornerstone of contemporary country music, Reba caught everybody off-guard with a savvy, spot-on cover of Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy,” from her well-received new album, All the Women I Am. And she’s definitely popular, with more than a million Facebook friends. Over the summer, she sang on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol and accepted the National Artistic Achievement Awards from Congress — only the fourth one ever presented. Along with landing her 59th Top 10 hit, “Turn On the Radio,” she partnered with longtime buddy George Strait for a dream tour which will continue through early 2011.
Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles
This Sugarland star spent most of the year explaining the motivation behind their new album, The Incredible Machine. Although their initial “steampunk” modifier mostly confused fans, the project still debuted at No. 1 across all genres. “It feels like a jumping point, a new place, a new bar has been set for us with this record,” she told CMT.com. “I think people are excited about it. They’re curious about it. I think it’s inspired a lot of conversation about ’what is country music today?’ That makes me feel very proud to be a part of that kind of cultural moment.”
Already a triple-platinum success, Swift’s Speak Now album earned positive reviews for its insightful songwriting, while curious listeners looked intently for clues about who inspired the songs. “Mine” made a splash as the first single, yet most of the tracks sound radio-ready. After an armful of Grammys, multiple countless magazine covers, countless TV appearances and several lucrative endorsement deals, she wound up the year with a 21st birthday celebration — and probably a cup of coffee with one of her friends.
The shortest phrase she said all year — “I do” — made the most headlines as she wed pro hockey player Mike Fisher in July. In the midst of a multi-media touring extravaganza, she had to rearrange her mantle after winning her second fan-voted ACM entertainer of the year award. Her Hollywood profile is also rising with a guest role on CBS’ How I Met Your Mother and a musical contribution to the new movie, Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Even if she could change anything about this year, it’s highly unlikely she’d want to undo it.
Written over the course of three years, her autobiography Like Me drew on her rough-and-tumble upbringing, suicidal thoughts and coming out as a lesbian. The candid passages about her doomed relationship with Brad Paisley caused quite a stir among country fans, too. The book coincided with an insightful new collection of original songs, Lifted Off the Ground. At an in-store signing in Nashville earlier this year, the “Single White Female” singer accepted dozens of letters from people who wanted to share their own story. Along with appearing at several gay pride festivals this year, she now considers herself a role model to gay youth. As she told CMT.com, “If I can be someone that they can say, ’Hey, she’s like me,’ that was my mission.”