2011 In Country Music: Year In Review

Every year, country music just keeps getting bigger and bigger--and so do the headlines! This year was no exception (in fact, it may just be the most grandiose yet) with our favorite genre taking front-and-center space on some of the season's biggest TV shows, news stories, anniversary celebrations, and magazine covers. Read on for a synopsis of 2011, country style, and be sure to let me know your favorite moments of the year, as well!

The year of the country bride:

This year produced a bumper crop of country brides--representing everything from second- to same-sex weddings. Shania Twain, Kellie Pickler, LeAnn Rimes, Miranda Lambert, and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles all took a trip down the aisle. Chely Wright made headlines for having two brides at the altar when she said "I do" to partner Lauren Blitzer.

Carrie Underwood burns up the Internets with "How Great Thou Art": Her performance of the classic hymn on a TV special, accompanied by Vince Gill, results in a viral sensation and more than 10 million views on YouTube. Commenters go so far as to align Underwood's version to Elvis Presley's famous rendition.

Disaster relief: Storm damage ravaged Alabama and surrounding states in April, and as usual, the country music community leaped to lend a helping hand. Hank Williams Jr. led the charge by spearheading a benefit all-star concert in May. Oklahoma was also sorely affected, causing natives Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton to host their own show. Later, when wildfires caused widespread damage in Texas, the Dixie Chicks, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett and others came together to raise money for relief funds.

Both Faith and Shania are back:

The country divas returned to the spotlight this year--Twain in particular, who not only released her first new single in six years, but also appeared in her own reality show, released an autobiography, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Oh yeah--and she inadvertently stole the 2011 CMT Awards by making a spectacular, albeit accidental, collapse on air while walking up to present an award. Hill, for her part, made a slightly quieter re-emergence, debuting her own new music at the CMA Awards in November.

Blake Shelton on The Voice: Shelton's bawdy sense of humor won him plenty of new, non-country fans. Meanwhile, those who already know and love him well enjoyed his sensitive side on the reality show, delighting in his emotional "coach's" response to Dia Frampton (who ended up losing to Javier Colon from Adam Levine's team).

John Rich wins Celebrity Apprentice: Rich, best known for his party-hearty role heading up the Muzikmafia, showed the world, Donald Trump, and fellow finalist Marlee Matlin his enviable business acumen on Apprentice--high points including a retro '80s 7Up can and a last-minute save when hired rockers Def Leppard weren't there at curtain call.

Scotty McCreery wins American Idol: It was head-to-head country on Idol, when the final two ended up both being hopeful Nashville stars. McCreery prevailed over first runner-up Lauren Alaina, but both walked away with sweet deals at the same record label, releasing back-to-back debut albums in October.

Glen Campbell announces he has Alzheimer's Disease: The 75-year-old legend went public with his diagnosis in June, promising a final good-bye tour before official retirement.

Indiana stage collapse: The country watched the news in horror: At the Indiana State Fair, a stage that country duo Sugarland was minutes away from performing on crumpled like a house of cards under an onslaught of storm winds. Seven people were killed and dozens more injured. The band was unharmed, although it remains named in a lawsuit filed by victims of the tragedy.

Lady Antebellum debuts on SNL: The late-night show, never known for its fantastic track record at booking country artists, changes its tune and recruits Lady Antebellum as special guests.

Alan Jackson looks back at 9/11: Jackson's "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" defined a moment for a nation. Ten years later, he performed a memorial concert at Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral, proving the ballad hasn't lost any of its power.

Hank Williams Jr. cuts ties with ESPN:

"You can get drunk and carry on...but you can't compare the president to Hitler." I don't have to explain this, do I? Everyone knows the story by now.

Taylor Swift once again reigns supreme: Not only did she captivate the nation with her special-guest-filled Speak Now tour, Swift found herself daintily poised at the top of the awards lists yet again this year--most notably in her home genre, scooping up the coveted Entertainer of the Year title at the ACM Awards in April and the CMA Awards in November.

Tim McGraw wins freedom from Curb: McGraw had a bit of a tough year overall, starting out with a broken foot sustained on tour, conflicts with and subsequent rearrangment of his longtime touring band, and--by no means least--a May lawsuit from his longtime label for breach of contract. McGraw finally received a judge's official go-ahead in November to record for whomever he chooses. Legal issues with Curb are still pending.

Related links:

Hillary Scott lands 'Redbook' cover

2011 CMA Awards red carpet photos

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