Here’s What Chris Stapleton’s Night at the CMA Awards Means for Country Music
I couldn't tell you how many times I saw the phrase last night on social media, in website headlines and seemingly all over the world this morning.
Who the hell is Chris Stapleton?
He ignited the interwebs not only with a downright nasty performance with pop star Justin Timberlake, but also by surpassing names such as Sam Hunt, Kenny Chesney and Luke Bryan in winning New Artist of the Year, Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year awards.
Many of the resulting reactions on social media were less than positive:
Really, who the hell is this guy? To the Nashville-bred country listener, he was nothing more than a name slid into three different award categories among the heavyweights.
Even popular country music websites, like The Boot for example, weren't taking up any space on the Chris Stapleton bandwagon. On its 2015 CMA Awards predictions story, the website staff offered their predictions as well as asked readers who should win in each category.
For the Stapleton-nominated categories:
New Artist of the Year
- Readers: Thomas Rhett (Stapleton received 7.43 percent of the vote, the lowest).
- Staff: Sam Hunt
Album of the Year
- Readers: The Big Revival, Kenny Chesney (Stapleton received 8.84 percent of the vote, the lowest).
- Staff: The Big Revival, Kenny Chesney
Male Vocalist of the Year
- Readers: Blake Shelton (Stapleton received 2.87 percent of the vote, the lowest).
- Staff: Blake Shelton
And this guy named Chris Stapleton won them all.
The fact is, Stapleton's been around for years. He's even written songs for some of the artists who many were outraged about not winning. "Drink a Beer" by Luke Bryan and "Love's Gonna Make It Alright" by Kenny Chesney? Written by Stapleton.
But then he records his first solo record. Then he gets nominated for three CMA Awards.
Cool. Awesome. Good for him.
But then he wins all three.
Then his album, Traveller, shot to the top of iTunes.
So, what does it mean for country music?
It means a turn of the tide. It means people will start digging a little deeper to find the names they'd never thought would turn up on their radio, iPod or Spotify playlist. And then they'll spread the gospel.
We saw the light shine through the door a little in 2013 when Kacey Musgraves won New Artist of the Year at the CMAs. Then she won Album of the Year at the 2014 ACM Awards and Song of the Year at the 2014 CMAs.
Stapleton's night helped push the door open even more.
That's generally the way you and us at Radio Texas, LIVE! operate. It's how we've been able to hear about and then share with our listeners names such as Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Cody Jinks, Uncle Lucius and hell, Chris Stapleton. The list can go on.
But for the millions of other country music fans who are used to normal radio play and "recommended" playlists, it's different.
And Chris Stapleton's night at the CMAs is (hopefully) going to move things back in the right direction. Because for now, at least there's one gem that's no longer a secret. Hopefully he can be one of the catalysts that restores country music and "normal" country radio back to what we've longed for all this time.
Fans of real country music -- whether it be Texas country, Red Dirt, Americana or just plain, simple country music -- have always been loud and proud of their artists and bands.
Now it's just time to get a little louder. Maybe play your friends a Chris Stapleton song to get them started.
At least now we have hope.