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Best and Worst 2012: The year in country music

Ah, what a year in music it’s been! Here at EW, we’ve been in retrospective overdrive, looking back at the best and worst albums, singles, lyrics, and soundtracks that 2012 had to offer.

But since I’m already primed to hop onto a plane and head home down South for the holidays, I thought it might be fun to take let my music tastes do the same and take a deep-dive into the country music world. Here’s my take on the year that was — country music style:

BEST: Little Big Town The hard-working quartet has always had the respect of Nashville for their on-point harmonies and sumptuous live performances, so it was nice to see them find true mainstream success in 2012. “Pontoon” was a fresh, tongue-in-cheek summer smash that motorboated all the way to No. 1.

BEST: Eric Church With a sand-papery voice, a trademark baseball cap (which have now officially replaced cowboy hats), a drink in his hand, and some genuinely great melodies, Eric Church joined country’s A-list this year. “Springsteen” was a wide-open crossover hit that gave his confidently country disc Chief the mainstream appeal it deserved. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Chief won the CMA Award for Album of the Year, either. READ FULL STORY

Who the heck is Gloriana? We answer last night's AMA burning question with a backstage Q&A!

Their win for Breakthrough Artist elicited the biggest press room gasps at last night’s American Music Awards (well, besides J.Lo falling) (oh, and Adam Lambert’s fellatio follies), because who on earth thought Gloriana would beat out Lady Gaga, Keri Hilson, and Kid Cudi to take the Stabby Trophy of Death™ home? And, more importantly, who on earth are Gloriana?

To country fans, they’re a familiar up-and-coming group that’s put in the miles opening for Taylor Swift’s 2009 Fearless tour, as well as Alan Jackson, the Zac Brown Band, Brooks & Dunn, and several others over the past couple years. Their first single, “Wild At Heart,” is the year’s highest-selling country debut. Back in July, the Music Mix streamed an exclusive live track (“The Way It Goes”) from the band, I confessed “Wild At Heart” makes me want to stab Care Bears, they very kindly sent me a signed Care Bear, and then I more or less panned their debut album when it dropped a week later. Happily, this Nashville foursome — brothers Tom and Mike Gossin, Rachel Reinert, and America’s Most Talented Kid winner Cheyenne Kimball — was able to speak to me yesterday without punching me in the face.

Fun fact: When I caught up with them, they’d just come from being mobbed by the photographers in the press room, and were still carrying the prop AMA they were given to hold. In all the excitement, they would go on to inadvertently steal the fake trophy and take it back to their hotel. No word on whether or not it has since been returned to Dick Clark Productions.

After the jump, Gloriana introduce themselves… READ FULL STORY

New live track from Gloriana, 'The Way It Goes,' streaming exclusively on EW's Music Mix!

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I promised I’d always be honest with you, Mixers, and I don’t intend to quit now: Gloriana’s cloyingly perky first single, “Wild at Heart,” makes me want to stab Care Bears.

So how surprised was I by this laid-back live version of “The Way It Goes,” a track off their upcoming Aug. 4 debut? Very. Decided it would be wrong not to share it with you. Also because I suspect no matter how many Care Bears have to die, this photogenic country foursome is on its way to next-big-thingism.

Recorded while on tour with Taylor Swift — that’s gotta be a coveted opening slot — this live cut is one of three bonus tracks listeners can find on the deluxe version of the self-titled album, available for pre-order on iTunes this coming Tuesday.

Give a listen below, check out the official video after the jump, and let us know in the comments: Should Little Big Town start watching their backs?

More from EW’s Music Mix:

‘New Moon’ soundtrack: Will Thom Yorke and Kings of Leon contribute? And who else should?
New Our Lady Peace, ‘Time Bomb’ — it’s an exclusive EW.com stream!
Cobra Starship, “Hot Mess”: An EW Exclusive stream

Summer ’09 playlist: Refresh!
Michael Jackson sells a million in a week, but Maxwell tops the albums chart

READ FULL STORY

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