Pour yourself something strong and kick off your cowboy boots because Country Now is celebrating the devoted artists that have made an influential impact on Music City and throughout the country music genre in 2021 with the inaugural Country Now Awards.
For the first time ever, Country Now is recognizing signed and independent musicians that have scored high placement on the charts, released smash hits, held epic performances, and even the country newcomers who have placed their name on the map since January 1, 2021.
Music fans have the opportunity to participate in the 2021 Country Now Awards, as they now have the chance to scroll through all 14 categories and hand-pick their favorite artists, songs and albums.
Fans can start voicing their opinion with unlimited votes beginning on Monday, November 15 at 9 AM CT. The polls will close on Tuesday, November 30 at precisely 11:45 PM CT.
To support your favorite artist, head to countrynow.com/vote.
This award goes to an artist whose album was released between Jan.1 and Nov. 1, 2021.
29: Written In Stone – Carly Pearce
Produced by: Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne
Society has created unrealistic expectations that your twenties are meant to be the “best years of your life.” While many believe that’s true, several others encounter a few bumps in the road before they find themselves or come to peace that the universe always has a plan in store. Country music powerhouse Carly Pearce has experienced this first hand and made it her mission to deliver an emotional-driven record that normalizes the harsh reality of growing older and creating the life you desire. Back in February, Pearce gave fans a taste of her pain and recent obstacles with her seven-track collection, 29. Now, the inspiring musician moved on to the next chapter in her life by acknowledging that everything happens for a reason with her full-length record, 29: Written In Stone.
“I have such a richer relationship with fans now because I feel like they are able to humanize me through my experiences and something that I never wanted to be a part of my story – which is being a young person that is divorced. I am proud to put a face and be a public figure that can now maybe humanize that and not make it scary. I am putting my pain to purpose for other people, and I would go through it again,” she told Country Now. With the help of her venerable third studio album, Pearce recently earned the title of Female Vocalist of The Year at the 2021 CMA Awards, debuted at the top of the iTunes Country Charts, was praised by NPR, the New York Times, Billboard, and several others.
Body Language – Blake Shelton
Produced by: Scott Hendricks
Blake Shelton’s 12th studio album, Body Language, exemplifies who he is as a country music artist and uncovers his genuine love for the country lifestyle. His narrative-driven melodies display his innovative take on storytelling and his traditional country sound. The way he intertwines tasteful musical elements with his deep southern twang scored his name on the top charts. Hits like “Minimum Wage,” “Corn,” and “Bible Verses” are the perfect ear-worms to blast through the speakers on a laid-back Sunday morning. Come Dec. 3, Shelton fans will receive Body Language Deluxe – which features the song he wrote for his wife, Gwen Stefani, as a wedding gift and his latest single, “Come Back as a Country Boy.”
Country Again: Side A – Thomas Rhett
Produced by: Dann Huff, Jesse Frasure and Matt Dragstrem
Country music star Thomas Rhett left fans with goosebumps with his confessional lyrics in his fifth studio album, Country Again: Side A. After several years of developing his toe-tapping country-pop sound, the hitmaker returned back to his traditional roots. The 11-track collection brings fans on a journey as he walks them through different stages of his unique upbringing. However, his chart-topping title track, “Country Again,” describes his current state of mind, livelihood, and the simple aspects of life that brings him joy. His honesty and different storytelling approach with “Country Again” scored him his 18th career No.1. “This song is so special to me because every line really is autobiographical,” shared the artist in a statement. “But it’s also a song about centering yourself and reconnecting with the things that are truly important to you.”
Dangerous: The Double Album – Morgan Wallen
Produced by: Joey Moi, Jacob Durrett, Charlie Handsome, Matt Dragstrem and Dave Cohen
Morgan Wallen’s 30-song sophomore project, Dangerous: The Double Album, became the biggest-selling album of any genre during the first half of 2021. The collection that has a fine mixture of party and heartfelt ballads debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart – which two country albums have only reached. Before Wallen graced the top, Kenny Chesney’s Here and Now project and Luke Combs’s What You See Is What You Get record received the honor. Despite controversy, the collection remained on the top of the Billboard 200 chart for ten consecutive weeks and at No.1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart for 38 weeks.
Famous Friends – Chris Young
Produced by: Chris Young, Corey Crowder, Mark Holman, and Chris DeStefano
Back in August, Chris Young made a splash with his eighth studio album, Famous Friends. The long-awaited full-length collection is Young’s first project in four years. The inspiration behind the album name comes from his upbeat duet with Kane Brown. The track brought home the CMT award for Collaborative Video of the Year in June. The smash-single quickly rose to the top of the country charts and became Young’s 12th No.1 hit. “I’m really proud of the collection of songs I’ve been able to put together for this album,” the successful artist told Forbes. “Because I do feel like it touches on just about every part of my life.” The singer-songwriter penned all but one of the 14 songs on the collection.
Good Things – Dan + Shay
Produced by: Dan Smyers, Jason Evigan, Jordan Reynolds and Scott Hendricks
After three years of not putting out a full-length collection, Dan + Shay came out of the woodworks to release their 12-track album, Good Things. Dan Smyers had a hand in writing all 12 tracks, and Shay Mooney penned eight. The project includes their 4x platinum-certified “10,000 Hours” with Justin Bieber, platinum-certified “I Should Probably Go To Bed,” and gold-certified “Glad You Exist.” Upon release – the duo made history, as their collection became the first country album in the “streaming era to achieve RIAA Gold certification at release” according to a press release. The dynamic project garnered over one billion streams in the United States alone and nearly 2.5 billion streams worldwide within less than three weeks.
Heart– Eric Church
Produced by: Jay Joyce
Eric Church never fails to surprise his fans. In 2021, the singer-songwriter released his trilogy record, Heart & Soul. Heart was released on April 16 and created quite the stir within the country music space. To focus on the three-part project, the hitmaker hunkered down in Banner Elk, North Carolina – where he worked alongside award-winning producer Jay Joyce. The two created a makeshift recording studio in a barn-like restaurant in hopes the wood would capture his matchless instrumentals. Heart reached maximum success, as it had a chart-topping debut and scored No.5 on the Billboard 200 and No. 3 on Billboards Top Country Album chart. Most recently, Church lit up the stage at the 2021 CMA Awards with a performance of his radio-worthy single, “Heart On Fire,” from his Heart collection.
Human: The Double Album – Cody Johnson
Produced by: Trent Willmon
Platinum recording artist Cody Johnson released Human: The Double Album back in October. The 18-track project represents who Johnson is as a well-established creator. The full-length project captures his captivating sound and rowdy-concert-like energy. “There are ones I wrote on, there are ones I didn’t write, on there are ones that I wish I’d written. I addressed things personally with this music, and when people listen to Human, they are going to hear a lot more of me being me. I am finally comfortable with myself and able to share that with my fans,” the award-winning artist shared in a statement.
While the track list includes original material, it also features Vince Gill, Conway Twitty, and Willie Nelson covers. The hitmaker dropped his documentary, Dear Rodeo: The Cody Johnson Story – a motion picture that displays his sudden career shift from dominating the rodeo ring to the stage.
Same Truck – Scotty McCreery
Produced by: Frank Rogers, Aaron Eshuis, and Derek Wells
Country music sensation Scotty McCreery has come a long way since his American Idol days. On September 17, the hitmaker dropped his fifth studio album, Same Truck. The collection includes hits like “You Time,” “Why You Gotta Be Like That,” and “Damn Strait.” Alongside Ashley Gorley, Rhett Akins, and Monty Criswell – the artist had a hand in penning 10 out of the 12 tracks. The collection displays his growth throughout the years personally and as a vocalist. “My last album was about me as a young man getting ready to get married,” McCreery said in a release. “Same Truck is me three years later, taking a moment to acknowledge where I am now as a 27-year-old, happily married man, sharing both what’s learned and where I want to go.”
Star-Crossed – Kacey Musgraves
Produced by: Ian Fitchuk, Daniel Tashian and Kacey Musgraves
After stepping back from the limelight, Kacey Musgraves returned back to the scene with her chart-topping record, Star-Crossed. The breakup album moves through sadness, rage, and hopeful redemption. The narrative-driven melodies describe what it is like to fall out of love, grieve loss, and what it takes to pick up the broken pieces. The well-established country-pop collection debuted at No.1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. To go along with the project, the Grammy-award-winning musician dropped, Star-Crossed the film. A motion picture is split into three acts to help fans visualize the rollercoaster-like emotions that she has faced throughout the years. Towards the end of the production, Musgraves turns into the strong and independent woman we all love and remember.
Straight Outta The Country – Justin Moore
Produced by: Jeremy Stover
In April of 2021, Justin Moore dropped his sixth studio album, Straight Outta The Country – an eight-track project that turned out to be a unique blend of sentimental tracks, inspiring anthems, and clever breakup ballads. While writing and producing the project, he stayed in touch with his traditional country sound and incorporated modern musical elements. His astonishing vocals backed by a mixture of acoustic, steel, and electric guitars scored him high placement on Billboard’s Country Airplay Chart. In fact, his fan-favorite single, “We Didn’t Have Much,” from the record became his 10th No.1 hit.
Weekends Look A Little Different These Days – Brett Young
Produced by: Dann Huff
Platinum artist Brett Young understands the importance of capturing the attention of music-goers of all ages. Weekends Look a Little Different These Days displays several of Young’s most recent life milestones – from becoming a father (“Lady,”) and juggling a long-term relationship (“This.”) However, to pen “Dear Me,” a reflection piece that highlights the hardships of being a child and breakup ballad, “You Didn’t,” he had to take a look back in time and pull from real-life experiences. “I wanted the whole project to feel very indicative of the chapter of my life that I’m in right now,” the hitmaker shared with Apple Music. “We stretched a little bit and made sure that we had something for everybody on the record. There are sad songs, and there are things that aren’t specifically where I’m at in my life.”
What a Song Can Do – Lady A
Produced by: Dann Huff, Martin Johnson and Brandon Paddock
Following their 13-track record, Ocean – live performing came to a sudden halt. Instead of channeling their energy into touring and appearances to promote their recent work, the group put pen to paper to prepare for the future. After reflecting on themselves, the group broke their silence and released What A Song Can Do (Chapter One) on Friday, June 25. The ballads in the journal-inspired track list distinguish who each member of Lady A is at their very core – loving parents, loyal spouses, passionate musicians, and activists.
After digging deep and honing in on their craft, the beloved group realized that there were much more narratives to share. So, without any hesitation – Lady A dropped a full-length project, What A Song Can Do, on Friday, October 22.
Where Have You Gone – Alan Jackson
Produced by: Keith Stegall
Country music legend Alan Jackson released his 16th studio album, Where Have You Gone. The 21 song collection marks his first release of all new music in six years. The Songwriters Hall of Fame member penned 15 out of the 20 songs on the project. “This album is about life and love and heartache and drinking and dancing and crying and dying and Mama, and all that great stuff that’s always been a part of great country music and it continues with this album, just more of the same,” shared Jackson in a video on YouTube. Following the release, the record topped Billboard’s Country Album chart.
Are you ready to cast your vote for Favorite Album? If so, head to countrynow.com/vote and pick your go-to collection you will play on repeat. Country Now readers have until November 30 to make their selection.