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How country music went crazy: A comprehensive timeline of the genre's identity crisis

Are you aware that Nashville is currently embroiled in an outright civil war?

The country music genre has gone through quite a transformation in the past couple years, adopting the electric guitar sounds of nearly-defunct rock radio, the rap-infused cadences and AutoTune normally reserved for hip hop, and, most controversially, the pop elements left behind as that genre gravitated toward electronic dance music. And attitudes have become ever more contentious between traditional and modern-country fans in 2013. Lately, the frustrations have reached a boiling point.

The straw that broke the camel’s back arrived two weeks ago, when Zac Brown called Luke Bryan’s No. 1 single “That’s My Kind of Night” the “worst song I’ve ever heard.” That remark caused Jason Aldean to hop on Instagram and tell Brown, “trust me when I tell u that nobody gives a shit what u think.” The country community quickly took sides in the debate, and the resulting feud has catapulted country music’s identity crisis straight into the spotlight.

These days, pop-country is more popular than ever — but also more despised than ever. Stars like Brown, Alan Jackson, Kacey Musgraves, and Gary Allan have begun publicly expressing unhappiness with their format, which this year has become an increasingly homogenous platform for men (a few weeks ago, Carrie Underwood was the only solo female in the Top 20) singing about trucks and beers and girls and then more trucks.

Tensions have been brewing all year long (and really, much longer than that) — and there’s been no shortage of public feuding among the genre’s A-list. As country fights to figure out what it should look and sound like, its biggest stars are airing some very honest (and sometimes harsh) opinions. Here’s a timeline of country’s wild, crazy, and sometimes mud-slinging year:

January 23: Blake Shelton calls classic country fans “old farts” and “jackasses”
While speaking in a GAC special, The Voice coach angered thousands of elderly country fans when he remarked, “Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, ‘My God, that ain’t country!’ Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.” The comment caused a controversy that endured for weeks and helped spark this year’s debate about traditional-country vs. pop-country.
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CMT Awards: Best and worst of the broadcast

CMT-MIRANDA-LAMBERT.jpg

The real winners were announced last night at the 2013 CMT Music Awards, a fan-voted program that technically honors country-music videos. Still, here are a few more honors from the unremarkable telecast you should feel free to weigh in on:

Worst hosts: With dead eyes and a stiff posture, Jason Aldean left returnee Kristen Bell to once again try way too hard to elicit laughter from the crowd. Their ongoing gag about which duet to sing together (a thinly veiled attempt to get people to use the #CMTawards hashtag) was downright painful — and frequent teleprompter issues didn’t help. These two were no Brad and Carrie. They were no Blake and Reba, either. Heck, they were no Blake and Luke — and that’s saying something. READ FULL STORY

Sheryl Crow announces that she has a benign brain tumor

Sheryl Crow opened up in a recent interview and revealed that her doctors have discovered a benign brain tumor, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“I worried about my memory so much that I went and got an MRI,” Crow said. “And I found out I have a brain tumor.”

“And I was, like, ‘See? I knew there was something wrong,'” she added.

“It’s benign,” the 50-year-old artist continued. “So I don’t have to worry about it. But it gives me a fit.”

This isn’t Crow’s first bout with a serious medical condition; she has spoken publicly about beating breast cancer back in 2006.

READ FULL STORY

TV Jukebox: 'Mad Men,' 'Supernatural,' 'Missing,' and more music-on-TV moments

Old-school tracks were the name of the game more often than not these past few weeks. Whether your definition of “old-school” translates to proper Mad Men-era tunes heard on the AMC hit, Scandal, and Supernatural, or ’80s classics as seen on Happy Endings and One Tree Hill, this week’s Jukebox offers up a retro rave fit for anybody. Of course there were plenty of contemporary jams, too: MCs from London and the Bronx on Breakout KingsCSI: NY, and 90210, TV darlings Sleigh Bells on The Vampire Diaries, and Portland indie rockers Novosti on Missing, plus “show tunes” from GCB and Gossip Girl. Check out our picks below. (Warning for those still catching up on DVR: SPOILERS ahead!)

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CMA Awards: Best and worst of the broadcast

cma-lambert-nettlesImage Credit: Katherine Bomboy/ABCThe real winners were announced last night at the 44th Annual Country Music Association Awards. But here are a few more honors from the telecast that you should feel free to weigh in on:

Best Entrance: I’m going to give this to Alan Jackson, who got applause after he walked through a curtain just in time to sing his part on the Zac Brown Band tune “As She’s Walking Away” — even though (or maybe because?) we were all expecting him to walk through the curtain. He looked a bit awkward not holding his guitar, which could be why George Strait had his strapped on for his performance of “The Breath You Take” even though he didn’t actually need it.

Worst Entrance: I love Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, but the optical-illusion tutu and music-box figure motions during their performance of “Stuck Like Glue” came off kinda… well, crazy. The woman is fearless — see those white leggings she was rockin’ when she stepped out from behind said tutu — but every now and then, she needs to be reined in.

Best confused face: The cut to Gwyneth Paltrow, politely clapping after cohost Brad Paisley brought out Little Jimmy Dickens to inform us that Nashville’s new flood warning system is Dickens yelling when the water reaches his neck.

Worst confused face: At the end of Taylor Swift’s mesmerizing piano-set performance of “Back to December” (some gorgeous snow effects, plus a lower setting on the smoke machine than Dierks Bentley and a great shade of red lipstick), she was shown mouthing “What?” before the curtain came down. It ruined the mood, even if it shouldn’t have: Her rep tells EW she was just excited about the standing ovation (so it was a “What?!”). READ FULL STORY

CMA Awards: You really should watch this year

cma-awards-walk-upImage Credit: Scott Garfield; Simon Webber; Mike RuizThis year’s CMA Awards are shaping up to be a must-watch. The Country Music Association has just confirmed the rumor that Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson will perform their duet “Don’t You Want to Stay” off of his new album, My Kinda Party, in stores tomorrow, during the live broadcast Nov. 10 on ABC. (Listen to the track below.) One thing this awards show does right is pack the three-hour ceremony with performances. Aldean and Clarkson are the latest additions to the all-star line-up that includes: both returning cohosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, George Strait, Sugarland, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, and Reba McEntire, as well as Zac Brown Band with Alan Jackson, Sheryl Crow (with Lambert, in a tribute to Loretta Lynn’s 50 years in the business), and Gwyneth Paltrow, who’ll make her “live country music singing debut” performing the title song from her upcoming movie Country Song with Vince Gill.

You get all this, plus the usual thrills: Finding out which stars on the network are country music fans (Better With You‘s JoAnna Garcia and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition‘s Ty Pennington have been added to the list of presenters), hearing what comes out of presenter Kellie Pickler’s mouth, and (fingers crossed!), seeing a shot of presenter Tim McGraw’s butt.  READ FULL STORY

Avenged Sevenfold bumps Eminem to No. 2 on Billboard 200 albums chart

Avenged-SevenfoldAvenged Sevenfold’s Nightmare debuts at No. 1 this week on the Billboard 200 albums chart with 163,000 copies sold, ending Eminem‘s five-week run as the list’s leader. Now at No.2, Em’s Recovery moved 159,000 albums. Last week’s No. 2, Rick Ross’ Teflon Don, moves to No.3 with 63,000 copies sold. Justin Bieber’s My World 2.0 moves up two spots to No. 4 selling 38,000 sets.

At No. 5 with 34,000 copies sold is Drake’s Thank Me Later, which fell one spot. The Kidz Bop 18 collection falls one space to No. 6 moving 29,000 units.

Need You Now by Lady Antebellum jumps up two to No. 7, selling 27,000 copies. Sheryl Crow’s 100 Miles From Memphis drops five positions to No. 8, with 24,000 sets sold. Lady Gaga’s The Fame moves up one to No. 9, selling just under 24,000 albums. Rounding out the top 10 is the Now 34 compilation, falling two to No. 10 and selling 22,000 copies.

Surprised Eminem came in at No. 2? Buy any of this week’s new releases? Let us know.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
Katy Perry’s topless ‘Rolling Stone’ shoot: Yay or yawn?
MTV’s VMA nominations: Five surprise winners and losers
Ke$ha and friends have a psychedelic party in her new ‘Take It Off’ video: Watch here
Mitch Miller RIP: Legendary record executive and orchestra leader dies at age 99
Lady Gaga’s naked ‘Vanity Fair’ cover
Lady Gaga rallies fans in Arizona: ‘If it wasn’t for all you immigrants, this country wouldn’t have s—.
Linkin Park release new single, video for ‘Medal of Honor’ video game; watch it here

Jonas Brothers, Black Eyed Peas, Miley Cyrus, Lady Antebellum and more join 'Good Morning America' summer concert lineup

Good Morning America announced its summer concert lineup for 2010 today, and it looks like a good one: the Jonas Brothers, Black Eyed Peas, Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, and plenty of other hot acts will take the stage in Central Park to wake you up on Fridays, starting May 21. Hip-hop fans can enjoy Diddy and Dirty Money; Mom should like those sets from Sheryl Crow and the Go-Gos (it’s their final TV performance!); country fans get ambassadors in Lady Antebellum and Sugarland. The only real omissions I see are a big ol’ rock n’ roll band — were Nickelback/Bon Jovi/Linkin Park busy? — and that riot-causing wunderkind, Mr. Justin BiEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEber. And best of all, if you live in NYC, you can be there in person, for free.

Full schedule below. What do you think, Mixers? If you were in charge, who would fill those two “TBA” spots? READ FULL STORY

'VH1 Divas': Miley-Sheryl rocked, Paula schlocked

vh1-divas-cyrus-crow_lLast night, Divas returned to VH1 for the first time in five years. Hallelujah! And while it wasn’t quite the Mariah-Whitney-Christina finger-waving, rafter-shaking smorgasbord of the special’s heyday, I’d still give it a big ol’ thumbs up. ‘Twas a ton o’ fun. VH1 had pimped it as a show all about Miley Cyrus, Jordin Sparks, Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis, Jennifer Hudson, and Adele, but lots of older, less-usually-considered-divas divas showed up, like Martina McBride, Sheryl Crow, and Melissa Etheridge. Oh, and Stevie Wonder was there, too. And no disrespect to the younger ladies, but thank goodness the old-timers were there — the night turned into a great old-divas-meet-new-divas extravaganza.

To be truthful though, at two hours long, the show was bloated and stuffed with tons of filler like constant gags from host Paula Abdul, who poked fun at her recent exit from American Idol by launching the show by saying, “I’m Paula Abdul, and this is not American Idol!” She continued by dressing up as new Idol judge Ellen DeGeneres, fawning over Liza Minelli, and supposedly Tweeting from the stage while MTV stars Whitney Port and Lauren Conrad were on stage.

But the most egregious act from Abdul? Her opening-show performance. She lip-synched her way through a medely of her hits, which included “Straight Up” and “Forever Your Girl.” And during a snippet of “Opposites Attract,” she danced next to a screen featuring MC Skat Cat. That is, until a huge photo of Simon Cowell popped up. So…not expected! But, I suppose I’d rather have seen her “sing” her hits rather than recent messes like “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow” or cover something contemporary and equally as awful.

As for the good, in my opinion, the show-stopper went to the collab between Miley Cyrus and Sheryl Crow (pictured), who teamed up to sing a rockin’ version Crow’s hit “If It Makes You Happy.” (Don’t they look related? Mother and daughter?) Even though I trumpeted the old-timers (like Crow) above, here it was Miley who stole the moment (after kind of screwing up her current hit “Party in the U.S.A.”), with a nice assist from Crow. I mean, who knew that Miley could tear through the wailing “if it makes you happy!” line in that song with such control? Crow just let her take the lead. I’d give runner-up accolades to the Melissa Etheridge-Kelly Clarkson collab of “Bring Me Some Water” and the Jordin Sparks-Martina McBride collab of “A Broken Wing.”

Needless to say, the night was all about the cross-generational duets. Do you agree? What was your favorite performance of the night? Favorite moment? (Maybe when the Real Housewives showed up on stage?) What performance did you hate the most?

More from EW’s Music Mix:
BET Hip-Hop Award nominations announced; will top nominee Kanye show?
Kris Allen’s rumored single, ‘Live Like We’re Dying,’ leaks!
Whitney Houston’s ‘Million Dollar Bill’ video: Watch it here

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