Following the announcement of this year’s nominees for the 33rd MusicRow Awards, we take a look at the MusicRow Song of the Year category. The nominees honor Nashville writers and publishers on the craft of songwriting, not necessarily chart performance, during the eligibility period of June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.
The MusicRow Awards will be announced virtually among multiple MusicRow platforms on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. Presenting Sponsor of the 2021 MusicRow Awards is City National Bank.
Winners are determined solely by MusicRow Magazine subscribed members. Voting is now open and closes on July 23 at 5 p.m.
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“Black Like Me”
“If you think we live in the land of the free / you should try to be Black like me.” It is a powerful sentiment delivered by Mickey Guyton’s equally powerful voice. The song was written by Guyton in 2019 at a cross-genre writing camp with Nathan Chapman, Emma Davidson-Dillon and Fraser Churchill. She released the recording in June 2020, making an important statement in a time of social unrest, and received widespread critical acclaim. Guyton’s remarkable year included making history as the first Black female solo artist to earn a Grammy nomination in a country category, for Best Country Solo Performance for “Black Like Me,” which she performed as part of the awards ceremony. In addition, she co-hosted the ACM Awards. This is her first MusicRow Awards nomination, and she is also nominated for Breakthrough Artist of the Year.
“Give Heaven Some Hell”
Penned by Hardy with Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson, and Hunter Phelps, “Give Heaven Some Hell” is a song full of heart, grief and ultimately, hope. On first listen it could come across as a redneck ode to the afterlife—a good ole boy’s dream of muddy fields, beer and clear, and hitting “gold streets on two-wheels.” But a few more listens reveal depth below the surface, with imagery and rhyme (“Make some thunder / make ‘em wonder how you got in”) and references to classic hymns (“Amazing Grace,” “Just As I Am”). Produced by Joey Moi with co-production by Derek Wells, it is from Hardy’s debut album A Rock and is the follow-up single to his No. 1 hit “One Beer.” Gorley is the reigning MusicRow Male Songwriter of the Year and is nominated again this year. Moi is vying for Producer of the Year and Johnson is up for Breakthrough Artist-Writer.
“Half Of My Hometown”
Written by Kelsea Ballerini, Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman, Jimmy Robbins, and Nicolle Galyon, it is a heartfelt tribute to hometowns, and the conflicting desires to stay or leave the place where you grew up. (“Stay or leave / part of me / will always be / half of my hometown”). For the recording Ballerini tapped fellow Knoxville native Kenny Chesney to add harmonies. It is from her self-titled third album Kelsea, which she co-produced with Copperman and Robbins. Copperman is nominated for MusicRow Producer of the Year and Male Songwriter, while Galyon is up for Female Songwriter. Ballerini recently attained her sixth No. 1 song with “Hole In The Bottle.”
“Hell Of A View”
Eric Church is “chasing life instead of dollar bills” in his hit song “Hell Of A View.” Co-written with longtime collaborators Casey Beathard and Monty Criswell, it’s an endearing and rebellious love story about the stellar view from life on the edge. Delivered with classic Church conviction and backing vocals by powerhouse Joanna Cotten, he sings, “This ain’t for everybody / Toes hanging off the ledge / Like we got nothin’ to lose / Ain’t always heaven, baby / This livin’ on the edge / You holdin’ me holdin’ you / It’s a hell of a view.” It is his tenth No. 1 and is on his critically acclaimed new triple album Heart & Soul. This summer the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year returns to the road with The Gather Again Tour.
Elvie Shane proves that love and devotion transcend traditional family ties on his song “My Boy.” Written about his stepson (“He’s my son and that’s my choice / he ain’t my blood but he’s my boy”), the song became a viral hit which resonated with many blended families. This led to a record deal with BBR, which released it as a single, where it is Top 20 on country radio. It is featured on the Kentucky native’s debut EP, County Roads, which is chock full of blue-collar grit, vivid imagery and nostalgia delivered by Shane’s soulful vocals. His breakout year includes his debut on the Grand Ole Opry, and being direct support for Jason Aldean at his first live concert in more than a year. This summer he will join Brooks & Dunn’s 2021 Reboot Tour, Miranda Lambert’s amphitheater dates, and anticipate the arrival of his baby girl.
Carly Pearce wrote this song of warning with hitmakers Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne. (“If he ever talks about the ex girl / she tried like hell / it was too late to save herself / so she’s just trying to help the next girl…I know what happens next… girl”). It’s a clever song found on Pearce’s acclaimed album 29, which explores life after loss, and shows the songstress emerging from the ashes. Among her other recent successes are the hit “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” recorded with Lee Brice, and joining CCM artist Matthew West on a new version of his No. 1 “Truth Be Told.” She was recently surprised by Dolly Parton with an invitation to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and will spend the summer touring with Lady A. Co-writer Osborne is nominated for Male Songwriter of the Year.