“Happy New Year.” That’s usually what we say when we want to wish someone well and let them know we are hoping their new year is happy. But this year, when I say Happy New Year, I mean it in a very literal way. I can practically guarantee that 2014 will be blissfully happy, especially if you are a country fan.
How can I be so sure? Let me count the ways:
1. Two words: Garth Brooks. He’s going to tour, and we’re all going to go — even you haters who think you’re too hip for arena shows and you rookie fans who aren’t fully aware of how country music is supposed to sound. You’re all going.
2. Tim McGraw‘s “New Year, New McGraw” teaser will be revealed on Jan. 13. It will be good. Very, very good. Trust me. By the time his new music is on country radio, it will have been literally 20 years since his first No. 1 song with “Don’t Take the Girl.” With two decades of making country music under his belt, the man clearly knows what he’s doing.
3. Kelly Clarkson will have her baby. She’ll probably Instagram pictures every day. And it will all be so adorable that it may create more baby yearning and perhaps convince Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler and Miranda Lambert that it’s time.
4. Dierks Bentley‘s new album Riser will come out. I haven’t heard it, but my gut tells me that it will be more heartfelt-and-soulful Dierks and less party-song Dierks. My gut also tells me that it will be excellent.
5. And speaking of party songs, we’re done. I think all the Nashville songwriters have gotten the message loud and clear that fans are ready to go deeper than the truck beds, cut-offs, swimming holes, ‘shine and cherry lip gloss. We’re going to pull off that cliché dirt road for good.
6. It will be the 20-year anniversary of 1994. That was a great year for country music. So much so that Jason Aldean celebrated it in his “1994” song. Aldean already taught us how to Diffie and how to appreciate the music from two decades ago.
7. Keith Urban will be back on American Idol. He’ll be doling out seriously useful advice, praising little nuances in contestants’ vocals and sharing his deep, deep wisdom of every random fact about music — country or otherwise.
8. Avery will have to make a tough decision. Scarlett or Juliette. And Will and Brent will have to reveal their secret love. And Gunnar and Deacon will hopefully play together more. And everyone will have to go to Peggy’s funeral. That’s where we left off on Dec. 11, so that’s what I think will happen when Nashville finally starts back up again on Jan. 15.
9. There will be more Kacey Musgraves. She was 2013’s country darling, so I know 2014 will welcome her with open arms. Her manager told Billboard that Musgraves had “really big opportunities both inside and outside of [the country] genre.” I hope what he meant by that is that she’ll write more perfect songs, bring her music to more cities and be an even brighter beacon of hope for the rest of the women in country music.
10. Country Thunder is back on the docket. I haven’t been in a few years, but it’s a festival that is like having Jason Aldean, Gary Allan, Miranda Lambert, the Eli Young Band, Brantley Gilbert, Thomas Rhett , the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and more play in my backyard. CMT is partnering with Country Thunder this year, so it’s going to be better than ever. Plus, it’s in Wisconsin, so there will be beer and brats.