Country Music’s Top 20 Underdogs (Part 4)
5. Sugarland: A band that started off as a minor trio has evolved into country music’s most powerful duo of the day. When the band started out they looked as if they would be a short lived success as they slowly ranked consistent top 10 hits but never scored a #1. They finally missed out on a top 10 with the release of “Down In Mississippi”. At the same time they lost their founding member which put the band at risk of losing their credibility. Despite this, the band was able to make a second album which proved much more successful. The once underestimated duo scored two #1 singles in a row as well as a #2 album beaten only by Keith Urban. However even this wouldn’t stand up to their biggest challenge, the CMA duo of the year award which had been held for years by Brooks & Dunn. Despite this Sugarland managed to gain both the CMA award and a CMT award, beating out the former top duo in the genre to take their place as country’s biggest duo.
4. The Dixie Chicks: The most controversial band in the genre and possibly in music made the ultimate comeback despite their poor standing with country fans. The formulated their lost recent album, “Taking The Long Way”, around their outspoken personalities and the controversy surrounding their career after their tussle with Toby Keith concerning comments towards George Bush. The album seemed as if it would be a flop and all three singles were radio flops, the most successful being “Not Ready To Make Nice”. Despite this the album earned critical support and became a huge #1 album for the trio. Some would say this was only duo to the remaining fans after the band was slaughtered. This proved untrue as the band made a triumphant return with no genre support, no radio support, and seemingly minimal fans support and scored five Grammy nominations for their single and album. They dominated all five categories over all other genres and reclaimed the #1 album spot for six consecutive weeks as well as earning critical support towards Natalee Maines free speech and expression. In addition, the trio earned credibility outside of country radio as “Not Ready To Make Nice” hit the top 5 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
3. John Rich: John began in Lonestar in their early years, however he made a risky choice of dropping from the band to pursue more solo opportunities, however their was controversy over the actual specifics of this. He signed with BNA and started a very poor solo career. John joined Big Kenny in the early 2000s to form Big & Rich and make an attempt as a successful songwriter. He became a huge part of what would become the Muzic Mafia and helped bring superstar Gretchen Wilson onto the scene before he and Big Kenny finally made their big break with the popular “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)”, a risky single that crossed all boundaries to usher in a new age in country music. John would also go on to become one of the most well known and respected songwriters as his popularity grew and he sooner or later scored even more credibility as a producer. His most recent efforts have helped his soar over his former group, Lonestar, in success and made him much more than a simple singer. Recently he was able to for his own show giving singer from other genres the opportunity to make a break in country music to continue his impression on the genre.
2. Miranda Lambert: The only Nashville Star contestant to ever really succeed has truly earned her place among country music’s top new artists. After her run in the first season Miranda made an attempt at securing a writing contract. She ended up with more than that by also securing a record deal, however her debut single didn’t fair to well and it looked as if she would fall victim to what would become a long line of failures for Nashville Star alums. Despite her poor chart success, Miranda had secured enough support from Nashville Star to earn a #1 debut album which came out of nowhere in the eyes of those who were not familiar with her appearance on the show. After a second flop single Miranda finally broke through with her huge hit “Kerosene” which put her in good standings in the ears of country fans for her rebellious attitude. When her second album approached, the title track “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” earned her credit as an excellent performer but not as a radio artist as it continued her line of flops. In the wake of all this, Miranda would earn a nomination and finally a win as the ACM Best New Female Vocalist and a Grammy nomination for what would become her most successful hit to date, “Famous In A Small Town”. Her sophomore album would receive rave reviews from critics and become another #1 album. Despite the fact that radio has rejected her and she hails from a show that has produced many unsuccessful singers, Miranda has used her talent and personality to bring herself to the top of her game.
1. Rodney Atkins: If there ever was an underdog, this would be the guy. Rodney stared recording for Curb Records in 1997 and during that same year experienced a flop single and a debut album that would never be released. In 2002 he attempted to break out again with two more flops. However the next year brought Rodney some decent success with a top 5 hit “Honesty”. Despite the single’s success the album would end very badly, reaching #50 in the album charts. Usually this would spell defeat for an artist as hit next two singles made it look as if Rodney was a one hit wonder. He fell silent until finally in 2006 he released “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before The Devil Even Knows)”, a single that would become Rodney’s first #1 hit and surprise country music fans everywhere. Rodney finally reclaimed the success that his breakthrough hit had promised him. However what makes Rodney the ultimate underdog in the genre is that his success didn’t stop there. Rodney became the golden boy of country music and earned a #1 album. He continued to release three more singles from the album which would all hit #1 very quickly giving Rodney four #1 singles in a row and two, “If You’re Going Through Hell” and “Watching You”, would go on to become the most played country music songs of 2006 and 2007. Rodney’s surprising success would earn him the ACM Top New Male Vocalist award, the only major award for which he has been nominated to date. Rodney has not reached “superstar” status but has become a dominating force on the charts. Rodney used his songwriting, persistence, and general talent to earn his way to where he is from a flop career. He has hid in the shadows for years and has revealed himself in a big way.