No matter how good an album is, it is never guaranteed to be a bonafide hit. Artists must take their time and put in hours of effort into creating an album worthy of being nominated for “Album of the Year.” They must select songs that represent themselves as artists while maintaining a cohesive theme and appeal to their audiences. All of this year’s nominees garnered favorable reviews from both critics and fans, which leads us to wonder… what inspired them?
Shelton’s inspiration when creating Based On A True Story… is self-explanatory – it derives from Shelton’s life. According to Radio.com, he would not sing anything that was not true to him. “I was listening to the album and I thought, ‘Man, every song on here is either “Been there, done that,” or I’m doing it right now,’” Shelton explains, “so it really is my true life.”
The album also expresses his happiness and gratitude for his life. “I don’t have that dark cloud I’ve had before and that we’ve all had in our lives,” he said, “If you listen this album, by the end you’ll go, ‘Man, this guy’s pretty happy with his lot in life!’ And I am.”
With nods towards country’s traditional roots side by side with references to T-Pain, Bryan’s fourth full-length album, Crash My Party, truly has something for all of his fans to relate to. That was the intent when creating the album, showcasing Bryan’s versatility. “I try to make my albums something that everybody can gravitate to and love a song on it,” he said, “I want my personality to shine through in the music, and that’s what I try to do.”
The title of the album is meant to represent his personality. Bryan tells Radio.com, “it kind of defines the theme of my life, partying and crashing a party and stuff. Even though the song isn’t about that. The fact that is was a lead single, and everybody could associate it with me and the album, it seemed to be a no brainer.”
The FGL boys put together a party album that makes you just want to have a good time. Music critic Steve Legget of AllMusic describes the album as “based on summer energy, drinking beer, taking shots, driving back roads, and the romantic glories and possibilities of Friday and Saturday nights.”
The duo wanted to make a solid album that represented who they are. FGL’s Brian Kelley mentioned before the release, “we can’t wait to share our lives through music with our amazing fans.” Tyler Hubbard said, “we wanted to make a record where there were no duds or songs you wanted to skip when you were listening to it. That was our goal.”
According to Radio.com, when Musgraves started writing Same Trailer Different Park she didn’t have a set theme, but she wanted to figure out what she was going to say. Her final selection of songs includes some that she has been writing since 2007. Her experiences with relationships and heartbreaks helped inspire the album and her debut single, “Merry Go ‘Round”.
Her third single from the album,”Follow Your Arrow”, is a song that best represents Musgraves today. It’s one that maybe six years ago I couldn’t have written,” Musgraves admits. “I had a different outlook then,” Musgraves said, “but just growing and learning more about people and life, it just allowed me to write that.”
The album resonates on having hopes and dreams. According to Daryl Addison of Great American Country, the opening song, “Silver Lining,” is about trying to look at the good to overcome the bad. Musgraves said that her second single, “Blowin’ Smoke,” is about being, “a little broken down, a little down on her luck.”
After 20 years in the business, Two Lanes of Freedom is yet another album that showcases McGraw’s sonic genius with his ability to perfectly balance themes of enjoying life and romance. McGraw said he had a connection with this album, especially when singing the songs centered around a story. McGraw adds that the album marks a “new beginning” in his career.
According to The Baltimore Sun, listeners can hear a hint of outside influences, such as Lil Wayne. McGraw blends in other genres to challenge himself artistically. “If you go in and say, ‘I’m going to make a record according to what fans or radio wants,’ or ‘I’m going to make a record according to what my record label wants me to make,’ then you’re not being an artist anymore in a lot of ways,” McGraw explained. “I have to go in and trust what I do, and make it how I hear it in my head.”