The year 2012 be known as the year that ignited the rise of bro-country. Jason Aldean’s Night Train helped him graduate to stadium headliner, Taylor Swift’s Red paved the way for her transition into pop and Florida Georgia Line changed the game with “Cruise.” George Jones and George Strait each announced respective farewell tours. Here are the country albums that defined 2012.
Anyone who was introduced to Moore’s signature gravel on the platinum-selling Up All Night became an instant fan of the Georgia native. After his heartfelt debut “Mary Was the Marrying Kind” failed to generate a buzz, the follow-up “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” broke through and became Moore’s first No. 1. Combined with an impassioned live presence, Moore quickly built an avid following that hasn’t left and only continues to grow into the next decade.
Without having a single radio hit, Tuskegee marked a significant achievement by becoming Richie’s first No. 1 album since 1986’s Dancing on the Ceiling. The platinum-selling collection reimagined his most famous songs with a country spin. It featured guests Shania Twain, Willie Nelson, Darius Rucker, Billy Currington, Luke Bryan, Little Big Town and others.
Zac Brown Band continued to prove to be a genre-morphing, hit-making machine with the release of the Grammy-winning Uncaged. The band’s musicianship is unmatched with ostentatious performances mixing cinematic acoustic ballads and Southern soul with a touch of reggae. Highlights include ZBB standards “The Wind,” “Goodbye in Her Eyes,” “Jump Right In” and “Sweet Annie.”
Red sets up Swift’s full-blown transition into pop by collaborating with a mix of pop producers including Shellback, Dan Wilson, Butch Walker and Max Martin, the latter of whom is one of the most successful songwriters in recent memory with songs recorded by Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson. The emotive “All Too Well” and “Begin Again” serve as her country-leaning standouts in contrast to the glitzy pop of “22,” “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
Following the bluegrass of Up on the Ridge, Home signified Bentley’s return to the country rock and offered an introspective exploration into one of country music’s perennial themes. The title hit was arguably Bentley’s most emotional single release at that point in his career. However, the driving, country rock of “Am I the Only One,” “Tip It on Back” and “5-1-5-0″ continued to anchor his live show.
The summer of 2012 changed the sound of country music for the rest of the decade because that’s when Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley released their runaway smash, “Cruise,” from their debut EP, It’z Just What We Do. The release coincided with the new duo joining the third annual Country Throwdown Tour with Gary Allan, Rodney Atkins and Justin Moore. Over the year, the song became an inescapable, runaway smash and spent a record-breaking 24 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s country charts. The full-length Here’s to the Good Times featured a re-release of “Cruise.” And the 11-song album went on to achieve double-platinum success propelled by additional hits “Round Here,” “Get Your Shine On” and “Stay.” Since its release, “Cruise” has been certified 11 times multi-platinum.
The trajectory of Aldean’s career continued to rise with the release of Night Train, the album that transitioned him into a stadium headliner. The album sold 409,000 copies in its debut week and went on to receive double-platinum certification. The title song, “Take a Little Ride,” “When She Says Baby,” “1994” and “The Only Way I Know” featuring Eric Church and Luke Bryan propelled Aldean’s popularity. In 2013, Aldean’s Night Train Tour was the first concert hosted at the University of Georgia’s venerated Sanford Stadium. On the bill were Luke Bryan, Jake Owen, Thomas Rhett and surprise guest Ludacris.
Tornado changed everything for Little Big Town, and it was an irresistible boat anthem written by Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby and Luke Laird that started it all. At the No. 1 party for “Pontoon,” Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild recalled how at one point in the band’s history they had qualified for food stamps. That wasn’t going to happen again following the success of “Pontoon,” which yielded the band’s first Grammy win for best country duo/group performance. However, the band’s entire fifth studio album is a masterpiece. There are nods to the group’s “Boondocks” roots in “Pavement Ends” and “Front Porch Thing.” The ethereal “Sober” and “Night Owl” provide a contrast to the empowering No. 1, “Tornado.”
Underwood’s fourth studio album shows her penchant for suspense in “Good Girl” and the Grammy-winning title hit. Yet, Underwood continued to provide her audience clear messages of hope as she does in “See You Again” and “Good in Goodbye.” Nearly a decade after its release, “Blown Away” continues to be a regular in Underwood’s live set.
This is remembered as arguably one of Yoakam’s greatest albums of all time. Offering nods to the Bakersfield sound, ’60s rock and cowpunk, the 12-song album features collaborations with Beck, Kid Rock and Ashley Monroe.