meta-scriptBehind Shania Twain’s Hits: How A Hospital Stay, A Balmy Porch And A Hair Nightmare Inspired Her Biggest Songs & Videos | GRAMMY.com
Behind Shania Twain’s Hits: How A Hospital Stay, A Balmy Porch And A Hair Nightmare Inspired Her Biggest Songs & Videos
Shania Twain

Photo: Louie Banks

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Behind Shania Twain’s Hits: How A Hospital Stay, A Balmy Porch And A Hair Nightmare Inspired Her Biggest Songs & Videos

As Shania Twain kicks off her massive Queen of Me Tour, the country icon details the funny inspirations, fashion choices and "liberated" moments that have fueled songs like "Any Man of Mine" and "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!"

GRAMMYs/Apr 25, 2023 - 07:36 pm

Shania Twain has many reasons to celebrate in 2023. She released her sixth studio album, Queen of Me, in February; her self-titled debut album turned 30 on April 20; and on April 28, she'll launch her Queen of Me Tour, headlining arenas in 76 cities in North America and Europe.

With a catalog of countless hits — including seven country No. 1s — Twain's setlist is a celebration in itself. And as her recent eclectic red carpet looks have teased, the Queen of Me tour will commemorate Twain's boundary-pushing fashion as much as her music.

"There's nothing boring about the wardrobe in this show," she teases. "I am styling the tour myself — designing, and cutting, and putting the wardrobe together. So every change will be one-of-a-kind."

In between tour rehearsals, Twain sat down with GRAMMY.com to dive into some of her classics and new tracks, many of which will be part of the Queen of Me show. She shared her most prominent memories from each, from her hair "nightmare" in the "You're Still the One" music video to the life-altering moment that inspired Queen of Me cut "Inhale/Exhale AIR."

Below, the five-time GRAMMY winner tells unique stories behind 10 of her most beloved songs, from "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" to "Queen of Me." 

"What Made You Say That," Shania Twain (1993)

The record was over-regulated because I didn't get the direction that I wanted, but the video was totally unregulated — I was just on my own with the director, and we just made what we wanted. It was really the beginning of me already piecing together the silhouettes I was trying to create [with my image].

I guess you would say it was a bit of a honeymoon period. I just took liberty to be incredibly expressive. I was doing things that I would never do in real life — I wouldn't normally wear a beautiful white, braless dress on the beach, for example. I knew that it was a fantasy world, and that it was in front of the camera, and it wasn't real life — and therefore, I felt liberated.

I use Dolly Parton as my inspiration. Dolly Parton has always been glamorous, very body-hugging. She's unapologetic about wearing stilettos and not wearing cowboy boots. She established a very different style that was just Dolly. It wasn't country, it was just Dolly. 

I didn't really understand why I wasn't country enough for country when I arrived in Nashville. I was like, "I don't know what you're talking about, you've got Dolly Parton! You've got Willie Nelson with braids down to his butt! What does this mean?" 

In making that video, I realized what my look and what my performance body language was. I had just enough rope to go where I wanted to go and put my anchor down. My version of country was variety, and presenting it in a unique way was a good thing. 

"Any Man Of Mine," The Woman in Me (1995)

"Any Man Of Mine" was the video where I'm in the bathtub with the bubbles and the horse gave me my towel. My label was like, "Is this is borderline bestiality? We can't air this." Like, what? Are you kidding me? [Laughs.] My response was, "Trust me, my fans are not gonna think that — and if they do, you can take it away,"

The deeper story is, I wanted it to be my first single off that album, and it was like, "No, no, not pushing it too far. Let's not put that first." It wasn't wrong to not put it first. I was just ready to be more bold and to come in and kick the door down.

That was another [video look with] the open midriff, braless dress. I loved my braless moments, and because I'm like, "Hey, they're not always gonna sit like this! I have to enjoy it while I can!" 

"That Don't Impress Me Much," Come On Over (1997)

This was a real introduction for me and experience [in] handling fabrics. getting a feel for texture and shapes and colors. I just learned a lot about it, because I was in Marc Bouwer's studio picking the fabrics. The way it fit me was very, very important, and the way it felt — I wanted it to be comfortable. That's before we knew we were going to be shooting in the desert, by the way.

Earlier on I was doing it myself; I was taking things from ready-made racks and I was pinning, and we were shaping things. This was really my first time in a designer's workshop where I could just play and be a part of it before it was made. It was my biggest learning experience, I would say, in a tailored design and custom look.

I was so drawn to the leopard print and the stretch velvet. I ended up using it so much after that. [The "That Don't Impress Me Much" video] was a big discovery — it awakened my desire to be part of the way things fit, and are cut, and drape. I didn't realize that I could be so part of developing a look.

"You're Still the One," Come On Over (1997)

I just really appreciate it as one of my classics. I'm very proud of what it's done for inspiration in the world of relationships. It's a lot of people's wedding song, a lot of people's anniversary song. It takes on a special role that way, which is really beautiful and means a lot to me.

This video is funny, because it's the first time I'd ever used glue-in extensions. It was so humid, and we were at the beach, and hair was so hard to keep not looking, like, flat and stringy. So [the stylist] glued in a bunch of strips of extensions, and that's how we got that hair look. 

It was such a nightmare. I'm like "Oh my gosh, you're gonna put glue in my hair? I've never heard of such a thing!" There were so many things that were still new to me at that time — extensions was one of them, and gluing them in was another.

"Man! I Feel Like A Woman!," Come On Over (1997)

I don't know if the video is more iconic than the song, but I think that the statement of "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" inspired the direction of the video, which was to, in the video's story, reverse the roles — visually, not just lyrically.

It was to manifest — no pun intended — the lyrics into the visual story, and [have the backup] musicians be men and make them the mannequins. A lot of runway [shows] at the time [weren't] so much about the faces of girls and the girls on those runways. They were meant to be displaying clothes, which I understand, but there was also sometimes purposeful, deliberately expressionless faces for that reason. So I wanted to bring that in the men in a playful song.

It was all supposed to be mine — I was all about the expression. I was the rock star, and they were expressionless supermodels. There was a little bit more about a poetic purpose to it.

"I'm Gonna Getcha Good!," Up! (2002)

When I think of this one, I can't help but think of the video. It was one of my favorite videos, and still is. I just loved that it was a whole other look for me. I think the glam-rock chick in me came to life from that song and that video.

It was a new thing for me to wear black lace and a rib-structured [silhouette], and the really black eye, and the long, very rock hair. There were a lot of textures in there. I worked a lot on the texture of the hair, and the little braids. The length was important, and the way the wind blew it — the video direction, I was very involved with that one, with lighting and wind, and how everything moved. 

I ended up taking it to the first residency at Caesars Palace. At the opening of the show, [we had] the motorbike, and the theme was there. It lives on as one of my fashion sides, one of my images.

"Roll Me On The River," Now (2017)

It's one of my own personal favorites. I am a very soul/folk artist at the root of what I really do in the room when I'm alone with my guitar, before production and stuff is involved. [With] this song, the production stayed true to the core singer/songwriter version. And I just love it. I love the whole story in it, and the bass line is my favorite — I'm gonna highlight the bass player in the song on stage [during the tour].

I was thinking about the South and New Orleans and soul/blues. I wrote this song on a hot, sunny porch. It was very balmy, and it got me in the vibe of New Orleans. And that really came out all the way through to the end, even through the production.

"Best Friend," Queen of Me (2023)

"Best Friend" is actually the first studio and vocal recording that I had done when I got out of the hospital with COVID pneumonia. I wrote the song reminiscing about childhood friendships and how formative they are in your future relationships throughout life. Because I wrote a lot of the new songs during COVID, a lot of my songwriting was very reflective.

This song brought me back to the age of 12 and 13. I really only had one real friend during that time, and that was a very important friendship. I went back to that time and thought about how the bonds of friendships take you through the good and the bad.

The beauty of it is that it is the demo recording. I wasn't expecting it to be something that I would have thought was strong enough [on the first try], just considering that I wasn't really back on my feet yet.

"Queen of Me," Queen of Me (2023)

This was also a COVID period-written song, and it was really just to inspire myself to be responsible for my own frame of mind and my own spirit. Because, like everyone, I was worried about my family and my friends, about the world — where were we going? What was happening?

There was so much mystery and weight with this period of time for everyone in the world, and I thought, Well, writing positive songs — and self empowering ones — are particularly helpful in keeping my own self on track or taking charge of my mindset

It became a song about being [the] boss of your emotions, of your psyche, of everything. You're the boss of yourself, and keeping yourself on track toward your own dreams and goals as well — not losing focus.

I live my life trying not to get distracted by things that take me off my own trajectory — anything [that would] somehow deconstruct my constructive nature. [Laughs.] So I was trying to keep my optimism intact. 

Of course, something like COVID was a very powerful, scary force, and songwriting was a fabulous way of reminding myself that I've just got to keep it together and stay positive. And [remember that] I can be strong for others too. That takes a lot of independent thinking as well, which is what "Queen of Me" is all about. 

"Inhale/Exhale AIR," Queen of Me (2023)

When I was in the hospital, I made a list of all the things that I appreciated about air, because I was running out of air, literally. [Laughs.]

I was inspired by a man, a pastor, that was talking about air and not taking it for granted. And I thought, Oh, that's definitely me right now. I want to write a list of all the things I really appreciate about air that I may have taken for granted, and when I get out of the hospital, I'm going to write this song and record it.

Making the album, I was in a very appreciative spirit, looking forward to the end of [COVID] and then celebrating the end of it. I'm just sharing my celebration and my appreciation through the music. Hopefully it resonates to the fans, too.

Behind Little Big Town's Biggest Hits: Funny & Heartfelt Stories From The Country Group's Career-Defining Singles

Loving Olivia Rodrigo's "Vampire"? Check Out 15 Songs By Alanis Morissette, Miley Cyrus & More That Reclaim The Breakup Narrative
Miley Cyrus performs in Bogota, Colombia in 2022.

Photo: Ovidio Gonzalez/Getty Images for MC

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Loving Olivia Rodrigo's "Vampire"? Check Out 15 Songs By Alanis Morissette, Miley Cyrus & More That Reclaim The Breakup Narrative

From the soft hums of Carole King's "It's Too Late" to GAYLE's fiery rage on "abcdefu," these 15 songs encapsulate the expansive emotions of women who put problematic exes in their place — far behind them.

GRAMMYs/Jul 27, 2023 - 03:06 pm

Since the 2021 release of SOUR, critics and listeners alike have touted Olivia Rodrigo for her knack to eloquently pen the relatable woes of adolescence and the pitfalls of falling in love too hard. Her latest single, "vampire," is no different.

Despite trading in her "drivers license" teenage loverboy for an older man, the perfectly executed expression of agony remains. As Rodrigo wails on the chorus, "You made me look so naïve/ The way you sold me for parts/ As you suck your teeth into me/ Bloodsucker, famef—er/ Bleeding me dry like a g——n vampire."

But before there was Rodrigo, there was Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, and Alanis Morissette — none of which would be where they were without pioneers of diaristic songwriting, Carole King and Carly Simon. Thanks to the immortalization of their music, we can relive the shift from poetic disclosures of hurt, which King exemplifies on "It's Too Late," to more unrepentant, straightforward jabs (like Kate Nash says on "Foundations," "Don't want to look at your face 'cause it's making me sick") and harrowing battle cries (as Miley Cyrus roars, "I came in like a wrecking ball"). 

Below, revisit 15 songs by empowered women, from 1971 all the way to 2021, who reclaimed the breakup narrative with their fervent sentences of damnation — because, as the age-old saying goes, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Carole King — "It's Too Late" (1971)

When Carole King released "It's Too Late" in 1971, it marked a new era of songwriting. Discussions about divorce were generally unheard of, but even more so when initiated by a woman. Yet, King carried on to unapologetically release "It's Too Late," which later won a GRAMMY for Record of the Year and is lauded by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

On this folky track, King and her husband's inevitable parting is on the horizon, but she isn't resentful per se. Instead, she's more troubled by the embarrassment of her husband's growing discontent, admitting, "I feel like a fool." And at this point, she's ready to move on and can be grateful for the times they've shared. 

Carly Simon — "You're So Vain" (1972)

In her '70s chart-topper, Carly Simon narrates the tale of an arrogant man who believes every woman is enchanted by his aura. But the folk songstress wants to make it very clear she's not impressed by his embellished stories or luxurious closet.

Usually, it's easy to guess the subject of a breakup song, but "You're So Vain" has led to decades of speculation. Many have assumed it could be about James Taylor, who Simon married in 1972 and divorced in 1983, or Mick Jagger, who provided vocals to the track (a theory that was later debunked). To this day, she has only revealed the track's inspiration to a select few, including Taylor Swift, who names Simon as one of her role models.

Joan Jett And The Blackhearts — "I Hate Myself For Loving You" (1986)

Joan Jett might not give a damn about her bad reputation, but she despises nothing more than her ex-lover making her look like a lovesick fool.

On "I Hate Myself for Loving You," the '80s chanteuse wraps herself around a classic glam rock beat, unveiling her contempt for a man who's neglected her. Stripped of her pride, Jett begins to resent herself for holding onto her feelings — as evidenced by the song's title. 

She tries to hide her dwelling desires ("I want to walk, but I run back to you") but ultimately fails to rid herself of the emotions, leaving her to fantasize about the sweet justice of one day roping him back in, just to leave him. 

Alanis Morissette — "You Oughta Know" (1995)

It's impossible to talk about scathing breakup songs without acknowledging Alanis Morissette's quintessential heartbreak anthem, "You Oughta Know." At the time of its release, the Jagged Little Pill single contained some of the most honest and vitriolic lyrics in existence.

Morissette begins with an illusive statement, "I want you to know that I'm happy for you," which, by the second verse, crumbles into a revelation, "I'm not quite as well, you should know." As she culminates into her most confessional, the instrumental rises into an addicting ruckus, with Morissette revealing the thoughts most of us would be too ashamed to admit: "It was a slap in the face how quickly I was replaced/ And are you thinkin' of me when you f— her?"

Shania Twain — "That Don't Impress Me Much" (1997)

Shania Twain has a particular superpower of delivering each of her lyrics with an air of lightheartedness and confidence. So, when you hear a track like "That Don't Impress Me Much," her disappointment and irritation becomes undetectable.

A quick examination of Twain's story proves — despite the song's bouncy melodies — she's jaded by her ex's preoccupation with his vehicle, appearance and intelligence. Sure, he might be perfect on paper, but he lacks the qualities of a forever lover, and his unmerited ego should be reserved for true big shots like Elvis Presley and Brad Pitt.

Michelle Branch — "Are You Happy Now?" (2003)

In the opening verse of "Are You Happy Now?," Michelle Branch pleads, "No, don't just walk away/ Pretending everything's okay, and you don't care about me." At first, she is in disbelief that her once admirer would swiftly brush her off, but as she reaches the chorus, she begins to question whether his actions were a lie all along.

Her mind racing, Branch teeters between shameless questions of "Do you really have everything you want?" and "Could you look me in the eye and tell me you're happy now?" But by the song's end, she gets the most satisfying payback of all — peace without him: "I'm not about to break/ 'Cause I'm happy now."

Avril Lavigne — "My Happy Ending" (2004)

"My Happy Ending" finds 2000s pop-punk maven Avril Lavigne grasping onto the shards of a broken relationship and trying to pinpoint where everything went wrong. She could have said the "wrong" thing, or her partner's misfit friends might have spoken negatively about her. But there is one thing she does know with certainty: there is no way to pick up the pieces.

Coming to terms with the truth, Lavigne repositions her anger toward the other person for stripping her of her fairytale ending, sarcastically acknowledging him for their time spent together over a somber piano: "It's nice to know you were there/ Thanks for acting like you care/ And making me feel like I was the only one."

Kelly Clarkson — "Gone" (2004)

Kelly Clarkson has traversed almost every emotion in love, from her epic breakup anthems like "Behind These Hazel Eyes" to her most recent LP chemistry. But "Gone" may just be her most unrelenting to date.

Introduced by its Breakaway counterpart "Since U Been Gone," the mononymous "Gone" extends Clarkson's journey of healing — this time, with a more explicit and mature diatribe against her ex's character. Rather than using trivial attacks, Clarkson instead chooses to call out his assumption she'd run back into his arms, later declaring an end to her toleration: "There is nothing you can say/ Sorry doesn't cut it, babe/ Take the hit and walk away, 'cause I'm gone."

Lily Allen — "Smile" (2006)

With "Smile," Lily Allen gets her sweet revenge through the sight of her former flame's tears and misfortune. But the lyrics of Allen's breakthrough single doesn't exactly clarify the specifications of her antics, only an explanation for its origins.

After a cheating scandal ends her relationship, her mental health plummets — until he comes crawling back for her mercy. Upon hearing his pleas, she comes to a realization: "When I see you cry, it makes me smile." And as the conniving music video shows, anyone who cheats on her will get their karma — perhaps in the form of organized burglary, beatings, and a laxative slipped into their morning coffee.

Kate Nash — "Foundations" (2007)

Following in the footsteps of her mentor Lily Allen, Kate Nash vividly paints the tragedy of falling out of love, made prismatic by her plain-spoken lyrics ("Your face is pasty 'cause you've gone and got so wasted, what a surprise!") and her charming, thick London accent.

In this story, Nash has not quite removed herself from the shackles of her failing relationship. In fact, she'd like to salvage it, despite her boyfriend's tendency to humiliate her and her irresistible urge to sneer back with a sarcastic comment. By the end of the track, Nash, becoming more restless, packs on new ways to inconvenience him — but in the end, still wonders if there's any saving grace to preserve their once blazing spark out of a fear of loneliness.

P!nk — "So What" (2008)

The year P!nk wrote "So What," she already had a bevy of platinum singles under her belt. With a gleaming social status and peaking career, she was apathetic to the temporary separation from her now husband, Carey Hart. Feeling the highs of newfound singlehood, P!nk was ready to incite personal tyranny, whether that meant not paying Hart's rent, drinking her money, or starting a fight.

Ironically, Hart appears as the antagonist in the music video, which P!nk revealed via her official fan website was a testament of their growth: "Carey hadn't heard the song before he did the video. That's how much he trusts and loves me [...] He gets it. He gets me," she said.

Taylor Swift — "Picture To Burn" (2006)

Taylor Swift has long solidified herself as the reigning queen of love songs, from ballads honoring the most committed relationships to diss tracks of heartbreaking adolescent flings. The latter houses one of the earliest (and most twangy) hits in Swift's sweeping catalog: "Picture to Burn."

In this deceivingly upbeat tune, Swift vows to seek vengeance on a boyfriend after he leaves her to date one of her friends — from getting with his friends to having her father give him a piece of his mind. And along the way, she will gladly dish out a few insults: "You're a redneck heartbreak who's really bad at lying/ So watch me strike a match on all my wasted time/ As far as I'm concerned, you're just another picture to burn."

Miley Cyrus — "Wrecking Ball" (2013)

Closing the door on her Hannah Montana days, Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" saw the childhood pop star in her most grown-up and vulnerable state to date. Months before the release, Cyrus had called off her engagement to her longtime boyfriend, Liam Hemsworth, paving the way for her thunderous performance on the Bangerz single.

Just as affecting as Cyrus' belting vocals is the track's iconic music video. Cyrus climaxes with a deafening cry — "All you did was wreck me" — as she swings across the screen on an actual wrecking ball, breaking down all her physical and metaphorical walls. 

Halsey — "You should be sad" (2020)

By the mid-2010s, the industry had put angst on the back burner in exchange for feel-good EDM and trap beats. Well, that is, at least, until Halsey entered the picture.

After just two years in the limelight, Halsey had cultivated a vibrant assortment of sonic melodrama — from the dirt and grime of toxic, failed love on tracks "Bad at Love" and "Colors" to the Bonnie and Clyde-esque heated passion of "Him & I."

In 2020, Halsey rounded out her discography with the genre-bending, introspective Manic, where a track like "You should be sad" commands your attention with matter-of-fact, vindictive comments: "I'm so glad I never ever had a baby with you/ 'Cause you can't love nothing unless there's something in it for you."

GAYLE — "abcdefu" (2021)

Unlike most love songs, GAYLE refuses to point her fury on "abcdefu" solely toward her heartbreaker. The then-16-year-old singer, instead, rages against his mother, sister and pretty much anyone (and anything) he's associated with — other than his dog — across a searing melody with a bewitching bassline.

Earlier this year, GAYLE revealed to GRAMMY.com that she was "angry at him and was angry at the people who enabled him and his behavior." That animosity was palpable in "abcdefu," creating a magic as empowering as it is cathartic — and, like many songs that came before it, proving that there can be power in pain.

Behind The Scenes Of The Eras Tour: Taylor Swift's Opening Acts Unveil The Magic Of The Sensational Concert

Listen To GRAMMY.com's Women's History Month 2023 Playlist: Swim In The Divine Feminine With These 40 Songs By Rihanna, SZA, Miley Cyrus, BLACKPINK & More
(L-R, clockwise): Rosalía, Rina Sawayama, Rihanna, Doja Cat, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton, Shania Twain

Photos (L-R, clockwise): Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella, Adam Bow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ACM, Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

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Listen To GRAMMY.com's Women's History Month 2023 Playlist: Swim In The Divine Feminine With These 40 Songs By Rihanna, SZA, Miley Cyrus, BLACKPINK & More

Who run the world? Harness positive energy during Women's History Month with this immersive playlist honoring Beyoncé, Rina Sawayama, Kim Petras, and more female musicians.

GRAMMYs/Mar 1, 2023 - 03:59 pm

In the words of recent GRAMMY winner Lizzo, it's bad b— o'clock. To kick off Women's History Month, GRAMMY.com is celebrating with an extensive playlist spotlighting women's divine musical artistry. Perpetually shaping, reinvigorating, and expanding genres, women's creative passion drives the music industry forward.

This March, get ready to unlock self-love with Miley Cyrus' candid "Flowers," or hit the dancefloor with the rapturous Beyoncé's "I'm That Girl." Whether you're searching for the charisma of Doja Cat's "Woman" or confidence of Rihanna's "B— Better Have My Money," this playlist stuns with diverse songs honoring women's fearlessness and innovation.

Women dominate the music charts throughout the year, but this month, dive into their glorious energy by pressing play on our curated Women's History Month playlist, featuring everyone from Dua Lipa to Missy Elliott to Madonna to Kali Uchis.

Listen below on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.

2022 In Review: 6 Trends That Defined Country Music
(L-R): Zach Bryan, Shania Twain, Brandi Carlile, Billy Strings, Orville Peck

Photo: (L-R) Mickey Bernal/Getty Images, Neil Lupin/Redferns, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images, Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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2022 In Review: 6 Trends That Defined Country Music

From Dolly Parton to Zach Bryan, country music's veterans and new generation found room to grow within the genre in 2022.

GRAMMYs/Dec 22, 2022 - 06:49 pm

Country music isn't always heralded as a haven for artists who fall outside the genre's accepted mainstream. But 2022 saw country music claim a bigger piece of the cultural pie than it has in recent years.

Artists are discovering new paths to success, driven by the meme-ification of culture and music and templated by stars like Walker Hayes, whose GRAMMY-nominated song "Fancy Like" broke through in mid-2021 thanks to TikTok and ended 2022 among the top five of Billboard's Hot Country Songs. Breakout stars Zach Bryan and Bailey Zimmerman also rode online acceptance to mainstream success — the former built a career on his YouTube buzz, while the latter turned his TikTok virality into Platinum sales. 

The genre expanded in other non-traditional ways in 2022 as well. In particular, indie-rock and LGBTQIA+ artists are no longer hovering in the periphery, but making real impacts on country music listenership, thanks to worthy efforts by Waxahatchee and Adeem the Artist, among others.

As country music continues to expand its horizons into 2023, here are six trends that defined country music in 2022.

New Artists Dominated

If the emergence of new talent is a barometer of a genre's health, country music has nothing to worry about. Not since 2015 has a country artist landed on Billboard's top five Best New Artists, when Sam Hunt broke through big. But this year, country music landed two of the five spots on the year-end chart, thanks to newcomers Zach Bryan and Bailey Zimmerman.

Bryan emerged with an audacious statement, claiming country's biggest first-week sales with his major-label debut, the triple-album American Heartbreak. The album landed at No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200 and topped country streaming tallies on both Spotify and Apple Music. 

Like Bryan, who first found success when his music went viral on social media, Bailey Zimmerman parlayed his online following into an impressive run with Platinum singles "Fall in Love" and "Rock and a Hard Place." Both are off of his first EP on Warner Music Nashville, Leave the Light On, which became the most-streamed all-genre debut of the year and the biggest streaming country debut of all time.

Lainey Wilson also had a banner year, proving that her No. 1 hit on country radio with "Things A Man Oughta Know" in 2021 was no fluke. In between winning new artist honors from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association this year, she landed her second No. 1 on country radio with the Cole Swindell collab "Never Say Never" in April. Most recently, Wilson became the latest country star to appear on the hit Paramount TV drama "Yellowstone"; she debuted on season five as the character Abby, performing her original songs "Smell Like Smoke" and "Watermelon Moonshine," and has become a recurring character.

After Jelly Roll made waves with his 2021 single "Dead Man Walking" and the 2022 Brantley Gilbert collaboration "Son of the Dirty South," the Nashville country rapper solidified himself as a newcomer to watch with "Son of a Sinner." The slow-burning single scored Jelly Roll his first top 10 hit on Billboard's Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts, and it broke the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. He also proved his hometown pride is strong: On. Dec 9, he headlined a sold-out show at Nashville's 20,000-cap Bridgestone Arena.

Bluegrass Saw A Resurgence

You'd be hard-pressed to find another artist who has broadened the bluegrass horizon in recent years more than Billy Strings; his progressive approach to the foundational country genre pulls in elements of rock and psychedelia. While he titled his 2019 Grammy-winning album Home, on his 2022 set Me/And/Dad, Strings came full-circle to play traditional bluegrass standards with his father, Terry, like they did when he was a kid. Strings (whose birth name is William Lee Apostol) even located the Martin acoustic guitar Terry played in those early days but pawned to support the family, fulfilling Billy's bucket-list bluegrass album in more ways than one.

Representing the more traditional approach to the genre, bluegrass icon Del McCoury issued his 17th album, Almost Proud, in February. A peer and collaborator of the genre's Mt. Rushmore (Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs), McCoury is keeping the flame lit in his ninth decade — and he hasn't lost a lick of his abilities. McCoury and his sons Ronnie and Robbie pick, roll and harmonize like it's a Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry. 

Up in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, the Po' Ramblin' Boys have tapped into a similar authenticity by playing bluegrass standards like their forebears. Although they formed around a regular gig at a moonshine distillery, their 2022 album God's Love Is So Divine walks the straight and narrow on 13 gospel bluegrass tunes. 

Old Crow Medicine Show have come a long way since O.G. bluegrass musician Doc Watson discovered them busking on the streets of Boone, North Carolina in 2000. While that growth is evident throughout 2022's Paint This Town, they incorporate bluegrass on tracks like "Painkiller," "DeFord Rides Again" and "Hillbilly Boy." The group also invited Americana mainstay Jim Lauderdale to co-write a couple of tunes, and Mississippi fife master Sharde Thomas to guest on "New Mississippi Flag."

Punk Went Country (And Country Went Punk)

Genre-bending is nothing new in Nashville, and even punk rockers have been acknowledging the raw power of country music since the early '80s — when bands like X, Social Distortion and The Gun Club began incorporating elements into their music, and even covering classics like Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Fast forward to 2022, and the trend has kicked into high gear.

Woody Guthrie, the iconic folk hero of dust-bowl-era America, left behind a large body of unrecorded songs — evidenced by the three volumes of lyrics that have been set to music and recorded as Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg and Wilco. Boston pub punks Dropkick Murphys plucked 10 more uncut Guthrie gems for their 2022 set This Machine Still Kills Fascists, a play on the line Guthrie famously scrawled onto the body of his guitar. For their first country album, Dropkick Murphys recruited two of the genre's brightest lights: Nikki Lane, who guests on "Never Git Drunk No More," and Evan Felker of Turnpike Troubadours, who shares the mic on "The Last One."

Foo Fighter Chris Shiflett — who previously played with speedy punks No Use For A Name — got into the act, too. When he isn't cranking guitars alongside Dave Grohl and Pat Smear, he plays his own Bakersfield-inspired country rock, as heard on 2017's West Coast Town and 2019's Hard Lessons. This year, he issued the singles "Born & Raised" and "Long, Long Year," a pair of breezy, pedal steel-assisted cuts that find him leaning more than ever into his sunny SoCal disposition.

Shiflett previously shredded the guitar solo on "Goin' Nowhere," a collaboration with country hitmaker HARDY on his Hixtape Vol. 2, released in the last weeks of 2021. Now, HARDY's back and flipping the script with his own rock record, the mockingbird & THE CROW, set for release in January. Early singles "JACK," "TRUCK BED" and the title track, all released in 2022, show the influence of Nirvana and post-grunge songcraft alongside his distinctive, rhythmic lyrical delivery.

Legends Got Their Due

In 2022, country music proved that age is irrelevant when the music is this good. Newcomers Chapel Hart captured the national spotlight — and a rare Golden Buzzer — on "America's Got Talent" in July with a nod to icon Dolly Parton. The trio's electrifying performance of their original song "You Can Have Him Jolene," an answer to Parton's 1974 smash "Jolene," elevated them to star status, and they spent the latter half of 2022 playing to sold-out audiences across America. Darius Rucker even recruited them to back him on his song "Ol' Church Hymn."

Parton had her own high point this year, earning her first No. 1 on Billboard's Bluegrass Albums chart with her 48th studio album, Run, Rose, Run. She also released a new compilation album, Diamonds & Rhinestones: The Greatest Hits Collection, in November. 

After Shania Twain spent the last couple of years featuring on other artist's songs, the best-selling female country artist of all time returned to her throne in 2022. She announced her sixth studio album, Queen of Me (due Feb. 3, 2023), helmed by the dance-floor bop "Waking Up Dreaming." The announcement followed the Netflix documentary Not Just A Girl (and the companion album that featured more than a dozen unreleased songs) and preceded another huge announcement: a 76-date U.S. tour for 2023.

Twain's fellow genre-bending '90s icon, Sheryl Crow, also issued a documentary in 2022. The Showtime special, "Sheryl," was accompanied by a double-album compilation of the same name, which featured two discs of hits plus collaborations with Chris Stapleton, Stevie Nicks, Jason Isbell and more. Crow also featured on 2022 releases from TobyMac and Lucius. The latter track also featured Brandi Carlile, who has played a big role in Tanya Tucker's recent comeback story — as shown in yet another 2022 doc, "The Return of Tanya Tucker," which featured their song "Ready As I'll Never Be."

The CMA Awards paid tribute to icons Jerry Lee Lewis, who passed away in October, and Alan Jackson, who is in the midst of a farewell tour dubbed Last Call: One More For the Road. Firebrand singer Elle King channeled The Killer's wild moves as she performed his signature hit, "Great Balls of Fire," backed by The Black Keys. Meanwhile, Carrie Underwood led a star-studded Jackson tribute featuring Dierks Bentley, Jon Pardi and Lainey Wilson, who performed a melody of his hits including "Chattahoochee" and "Don't Rock the Jukebox."

The legacies continued both on stage and in studio. Brooks & Dunn's Ronnie Dunn, Reba McEntire and Bonnie Raitt all returned with new albums in 2022; meanwhile, Shenandoah, Billy Dean and Wade Hayes appeared on the Country Comeback Tour, and Wynonna led The Judds: The Final Tour in tribute to her mother, Naomi Judd, who passed away in April.

Indie Rockers Infiltrated Country Music

As '90s-style indie rock has a moment thanks to artists like Big Thief, Momma and Alvvays, Katie Crutchfield is leaning deeper into laid-back country vibes. The leader of Waxahatchee, whose blissful 2020 set Saint Cloud landed her on scores of year-end lists, doubled down in 2022.

Waxahatchee collaborated with Wynonna on the single "Other Side," recorded on the Judds singer's farm in Tennessee — an experience both artists ranked among their favorite recording sessions. Crutchfield also collaborated with Jess Williamson on a new project dubbed Plains, releasing the album I Walked With You A Ways in 2022 to critical acclaim. The 10 songs on Plains' debut rival the artists' soothing solo work and combine their strengths with Fleetwood Mac harmonies.

Madison Cunningham, who is best known for weaving mind-bending melodies and harmonies between her voice and guitar, guested on the second edition of Watkins Family Hour — which pairs siblings Sara and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek with a series of notable collaborators like Fiona Apple and Jackson Browne — contributing her signature spidery guitar playing to "Pitseleh."

Other notables on the indie side of country include Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit, who returned with Palomino, a strummy set of acoustic guitar-driven country pop and their first album in four years. Michaela Anne's gentle LP Oh To Be That Free chronicled a period of personal troubles with compassion, while Sierra Ferrell released the sparse, playful single "Hey Me, Hey Mama" and collaborated with Shakey Graves on "Ready Or Not." 

LGBTQIA+ Country Artists Were Celebrated

Acceptance for LGBTQIA+ artists in country music has grown steadily in recent years, thanks to efforts by allies like Kacey Musgraves and Dolly Parton, as well as artists who have publicly discussed their sexuality, including T.J. Osborne, Lil Nas X, Chely Wright, Amythyst Kiah and Shane McAnally. With such star power in their corner, gay and non-binary country artists are now getting a fairer shake.

Non-binary singer-songwriter Adeem the Artist released the acclaimed album White Trash Revelry. Over 11 songs, Adeem chronicles their experiences growing up different in small towns surrounded by smaller minds — from the stomp-along "Going to Hell" to the Heartland rocker "Heritage of Arrogance" and fingerpicked album closer "My America." 

Elsewhere, Orville Peck, the masked singer who performs a fever dream of '70s-inspired country music with a deep-throated croon, returned with his second album, Bronco. Peck traded the spare songscapes of his 2019 debut, Pony, for Bronco's more fully realized, cinematic arrangements, broadening his sound and the scope of his persona.

Brandi Carlile, whose pro-LGBTQIA+ activism is tied directly to her music — she founded the Looking Out Foundation early in her music career, and donates a portion of touring proceeds to groups like The Trevor Project — has seen her reputation grow steadily over nearly two decades of releasing music to ever-growing audiences. In 2022, she added to an already storied career by  performing with her personal hero, Joni Mitchell, at Newport Folk Festival. Carlile also headlined Tennessee's Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, marking the first time a woman has headlined the fest. 

However country music continues to expand and impact culture as a result, 2022's trends certainly set up a promising future for the genre.

Hear All Of The Best Country Solo Performance Nominees For The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

7 Things We Learned At The GRAMMY Museum's 'The Power Of Women In Country Music' Exhibit
Items on display at the GRAMMY Museum's 'The Power Of Women In Country Music' Exhibit in Los Angeles.

Photo: Courtesy of the Recording Academy/Rebecca Sapp for Getty Images

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7 Things We Learned At The GRAMMY Museum's 'The Power Of Women In Country Music' Exhibit

Artifacts from Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton and more shine at the new exhibit, which celebrates the role of women in one of music’s oldest genres.

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2022 - 11:34 pm

"The Power Of Women In Country Music" exhibit opened May 27 at the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles, and it's a must-see for any lover of country music, strong women, or the history of the recording industry at large. 

Encompassing almost 100 years of female-led folk or hillbilly music, the exhibit looks at the evolution of what it means to be a woman in the country genre — from its first pioneers to today's generation of future stars. 

Whether you're a fan of Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Maybelle Carter, or Kelsea Ballerini, you'll find something to love at "The Power Of Women." Full of stage-worn costumes, hand-written lyrics sheets, and well-loved instruments, the exhibit will allow visitors to see relics such as Taylor Swift's stage props and Patsy Cline's dress made by her mother. 

There's lots to learn, too. You can get to know tones of instruments like the autoharp, or explore the early plight of women in country music, when the industry was a bit more concerned with style than substance. 

The exhibit will run through Sun. Oct. 2. Whether you are hoping to check it out yourself or just curious what it's all about, here are some of the biggest takeaways from "The Power Of Women In Country Music" at the GRAMMY Museum.

The Arc Of Women In Country Music Is Long

Long before country music was recorded, women were helping define its sound, whether it was through strumming a banjo on a front porch or belting out a twangy traditional in church.

In 1927, the Carter Family's Maybelle and Sara Carter made the first country music recordings featuring women. That doesn't mean the doors busted wide open in their wake — women were still mainly shuffled into roles primarily as family caregivers and support staff for their working husbands. 

That started to change a bit after World War II, when artists like Patsy Cline and Rose Maddox started to make waves by crossing over onto the pop charts. But the real heyday of women in country music didn't come until perhaps the late '80s or early '90s, when stars like Reba McEntire and Shania Twain became truly international superstars. 

Many, many women helped pave the road along the way, and "The Power Of Women In Country Music" helps celebrate their stories.

Read More: 5 Women Essential To Country Music: Dolly Parton, Mickey Guyton, Jo Walker-Meador, The Love Junkies & Mother Maybelle Carter

"The Singing Cowgirl" Deserves More Credit

Everyone knows about Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, but in the mid-'30s, female country artists like Patsy Montana, Rose Maddox, and The Girls Of The Golden West found success as "singing cowgirls." (In fact, as her part of the exhibit details, Montana was the first female country singer to sell a million records.)  

Dressed in fringed skirts, bolero vests, and wide-brimmed Stetson hats, singing cowgirls reminded Depression-struck America that it was still possible to be determined, optimistic, and in charge of their own destiny — even when things didn't always seem so bright. 

Fun fact: The success of singing cowgirls and their male counterparts is part of the reason that the genre eventually became called "Country & Western."

There's More To Country Music Than Just Being On Stage

Many women have made their mark in country music through songwriting rather than through performance. There's some crossover, of course — Dolly Parton and Maren Morris broke into the industry by writing songs for others before finding their own success — but women like Jessie Jo Dillon, Laura Veltz, and Liz Rose have become country powerhouses because of the power of their pens rather than their voices. 

That makes a lot of sense, given how much Nashville values the craft of songwriting. "The Power Of Women" contains handwritten lyrics for songs like Diane Warren's "How Do I Live" (made famous by LeAnn Rimes) and Dan + Shay's "Tequila," which was co-written by Nicolle Galyon, who has co-written nine other no. 1 hits as well as Miranda Lambert's GRAMMY-nominated "Automatic." 

Read More: 10 Songs You Didn't Know Dolly Parton Wrote: Hits By Whitney Houston, Kenny Rogers & More

Country Women Can Be Stronger Together

Among country's singular female stars like Dolly, Reba, and Shania, the exhibit reminds that some of the genre’s biggest women acts have found strength and success in groups. The Judds and the Chicks had massive success in the '80s and '90s, respectively;  today, groups like the Pistol Annies and the Highwomen create songs and sounds that mesmerize and mystify. 

Those groups are also often made up of powerhouse acts in their own right, like Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstandt, and Emmylou Harris' Trio, and the Pistol Annies' Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angeleena Presley. Visitors to "The Power Of Women" exhibit can check out the Pistol Annies' fun nameplates ("Lonestar Annie," "Hippie Annie" and "Holler Annie"), as well as the outfits the trio wore on the cover of their 2021 Christmas album, Hell Of A Holiday

Country's Females Have Always Pushed Genre Limits

Starting in the '70s and '80s, a group of female musicians emerged that would challenge what it meant to be a country music star. Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, and Rosanne Cash blurred the lines between country and rock, while Alison Krauss broke into bluegrass's boys club. 

"The Power Of Women" pays tribute to those pioneers with a display case containing, among other things, the beautifully embroidered, Manuel-created boots Harris wore on the cover of 1979's excellent Blue Kentucky Girl

The exhibit also tips its hat to genre-crossing artists like Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and Taylor Swift, all of whom crossed over into the pop and rock spheres, pushing both the boundaries of what country music could be and drawing new fans to the genre.

Even Taylor Swift Used To Buy Off The Rack

Some of the most interesting artifacts in "The Power Of Women" exhibit are the stage and video-worn outfits sent from the closets of country's biggest stars. There are two looks from Dolly Parton set on mannequins that really let viewers know just how tiny she really is. One — a red and pink high-necked dress — was worn by Parton on the cover of 1972's Together Always with Porter Wagoner

One of the sweetest garments on display in "The Power Of Women" is also one of its most understated: An orange cotton day dress made in the '50s or early '60s for Patsy Cline by her mother, Hilda Hensley. Cline died in a plane crash in 1962, when she was just 30, and the dress is a bittersweet reminder of how young she was, and how close she remained with her family.

Taylor Swift sent over four outfits, including one worn on stage at the 63rd GRAMMY Awards. The other three outfits were worn in various music videos, like 2008's "Tim McGraw," which found Swift and her stylist pulling from racks at BCBGIRLS and Betsey Johnson to create the starlet's on-screen look. 

Speaking of GRAMMY-worn outfits, Shania Twain fans will certainly recognize the satin suit/gown and top hat that Twain wore for both the "Man! I Feel Like A Woman" music video and on stage at the 41st Annual GRAMMY Awards. It sits not too far from one of Faith Hill's actual GRAMMY statues, her Best Female Country Vocal Performance gramophone she won for “Cry” in 2003.

Country's Female Future Is Strong

"The Power Of Women" devotes considerable space to women that might not yet be household names, but who have a strong chance at becoming country's next big stars. It's an incredibly diverse group of artists — something country music hasn't always been known for — including Black women like Reyna Roberts and Brittney Spencer, Mexican-American artists like Leah Turner, and stars who have risen from TV competitions, like The Voice's Danielle Bradbery. 

The exhibit even highlights acts from outside of the U.S. who have found their way to country music, like the U.K.'s Yola, proving that the genre is only growing in popularity and reach — with women continuing to break the mold. 

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