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Artist of the Decade: Who's Next?

Mike Sudhalter  |  June 3, 2009

Who will follow George Strait as Artist of the Decade?

The year is 2019. And everyone's here tonight for the Academy of Country Music Artist of the Decade presentation in Nashville. Even President Sarah Palin came out to watch the show.

They had to push the event back one night because the Nashville Predators had just defeated the New York Rangers to win their third consecutive Stanley Cup. Can you believe it? Hockey trumping the ACMs in Music City?

So, anyone who's anyone in country music has come out to the Gaylord Arena to celebrate seeing 29-year-old Taylor Swift accept her Artist of The Decade award from George Strait, who's still performing at age 67.

Swift and her husband, Joe Jonas, smile as Strait and his wife, Norma, congratulate them on the accomplishment.

Then, Strait performs an excellent cover version of Swift's "Picture To Burn" as part of the tribute concert.

OK, all of that could happen except for the very last part.

But the question begs to be asked - Who will be the Artist of the Decade in 2019?

Few could have predicted Strait would have won it for the 2000s; towards the late 80's, he was probably a strong candidate for the 90's until Garth Brooks blew into Nashville with a sound that combined country, pop and rock.

With artists like Shania Twain and Faith Hill dominating the charts in 1999, country was veering towards pop. Although fiddles and steel guitar are hardly the norm on today's country airwaves, I'd venture to say the genre is in a better place today than 10 years ago.

Brooks debuted in 1989 and dominated the 1990's.

Strait probably could have won the award in the 1980's, but it was given to country supergroup, Alabama. The 'Bama Boys had been playing clubs throughout the late 60's and early 70's, but they hadn't really hit the charts until 1980.

Loretta Lynn debuted in 1960 and won the 1970's, and Marty Robbins debuted in the 1948 and won the 1960's; the ACM was founded in 1964.

I wonder if the ACM has made the Artist of the Decade more of a lifetime achievement award. Strait didn't win Entertainer of the Year or Male Vocalist of the Year at any point during the 2000 decade. He's won Entertainer just once (1989), but claimed Male Vocalist awards in 1984, 1985, 1988, 1996 and 1997.

Brooks, by contrast, won Entertainer of the Year six times in the 90's and male vocalist, twice. Alabama won Entertainer five times in the 80's, and Lynn had one Entertainer and three female vocalists, in the 70's. Robbins was the only artist not to win a vocalist of the year award and still win artist of the decade; the ACM didn't start an Entertainer of the Year award until 1970 when Merle Haggard won it.

You'd think - based on the award winners of the decade - that four-time Entertainer winner Kenny Chesney should win the award going away. But this was a good opportunity for Nashville to honor Strait. And I'm glad they did. I don't think an hour special of hearing Ronnie Dunn covering "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem" or Taylor Swift singing, "Young", would quite draw the ratings CBS is looking for.

But looking towards next decade, who will the winner be, let me know what you think?

Will it be an artist that's established right now or someone who hasn't hit the scene yet?

I'd say the smart money is on Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts or possibly, Swift.

But it would be nice if Jamey Johnson or even the consistently amazing, Mr. Strait, could pull off the upset in '19.

:: Posted at 1:06 AM by Mike Sudhalter ::
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