25 Reminders That 2017 Wasn’t as Bad as It Seemed
2017 has been a tough year in country music and elsewhere in the world, but there were plenty of good things happening, too. It's important to look back and remember the bright spots of 2017 in the midst of all the darkness.
There's not too many of us who will feel sad to turn the page on 2017, which has been one of the most tumultuous years in recent history. There's been widespread political scandals and social unrest, fires, hurricanes, and a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival that killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 others. We've also seen a rash of sexual assault and sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men in every walk of American life, but if you look past all of the doom and gloom on the nightly news, there was actually a lot to like about 2017 if you're a country music fan.
The brightest, most fun and most uplifting moments of 2017 include the returns of two superstars to country music, stars who've had special interactions with their fans, some amazing performances, artists who've stepped up to help others and more.
1. Garth Brooks' Life-Changing Gifts to Fans
Garth Brooks loves his fans, there's never been any doubt about it. But in 2017, during the home stretch of his massive three-year comeback tour, he upped his game by giving some truly amazing gifts to fans that will alter their lives completely. He gave one couple who attended his show a honeymoon, and he literally gave another fan the guitar right off his back, but that's not even the best part. Brooks even went so far as to offer to pay for college for a baby whose parents enlisted Brooks for a mid-concert gender reveal.
2. Alan Jackson's "The Older I Get" Video
Alan Jackson is the master of simple, understated sentiment, and it's been too long since we got a dose of his no-frills approach. The country legend's video for his latest single, "The Older I Get," is his best marriage of song and video since "Remember When," taking his longtime fans on a sentimental journey back through his career that's like a yearbook of country music history.
3. Shania Twain's Comeback
2017 saw the return of Shania Twain. The best-selling female country singer of all time took a whopping 15 years off between albums, but the wait is finally over for her loyal fans. They turned out once again for Twain, making her new album, Now, the top-selling album in country music the week it was released.
4. Brett Eldredge's Dog, Edgar
There are some seriously cute pets in country music, but Eldredge's dog, Edgar, is in a league of his own. He's so popular with fans that he's got his own Instagram, and he's practically become a star in his own right. Some of the most heartwarming social media moments of the year have come from him, including the above meeting with a sweet young fan.
5. Randy Travis Takes to Twitter
We've been seeing a lot more from Randy Travis recently. The country legend has been working hard to regain his ability to talk and sing, and he's been making a lot of progress. But in the meantime, he's taken to reaching out to his fans via Twitter, and it's a lot of fun to see him interacting so freely with so many people. You never know what he might share or comment on ...
6. Taylor Swift Returns to Country Music
Swift's fans were crushed when she left country music to go pop, but she roared back to country radio in 2017 with the release of Little Big Town's hit single, "Better Man," which Swift wrote. The song won her a CMA Award for Song of the Year, and she capped that off by releasing a new single of her own, "New Year's Day," to country radio from her new album, Reputation.
7. Kris Jones Goes Viral With "Tennessee Whiskey"
Kris Jones had struggled for years to gain attention as a singer when lightning struck. The part-time singer went viral after posting a cover of himself singing "Tennessee Whiskey" to YouTube, and subsequent videos also gained him so much attention that he was able to parlay his internet fame into an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
8. Country Music's Baby Fever in 2017
Yes, 2017 was a hard year, but it's also been a year of great joy in country music. We've seen so many stars welcome children this year, it's as if they're trying to ensure the country music population for a generation to come. Scroll through above to see which of your country favorites had kids in 2017.
9. Carrie Underwood Singing "Jesus Loves Me" With Isaiah
Carrie Underwood has sung a few duets over the years, but this Instagram of her singing "Jesus Loves Me" with her son Isaiah is so sweet, it will bring tears to your eyes.
10. Traditional Country Music Returning to the Mainstream
There's been so much talk in recent years about how "real" country music isn't getting any attention anymore, but you can't say that about 2017. Chris Stapleton continues to be one of the most successful artists in the genre, and Midland became one of the breakout successes of the year with their throwback style and sense of fashion. Jon Pardi and William Michael Morgan are two more who are bringing traditional back to the spotlight.
11. Brantley Gilbert's Baby Excitement
Tough guy Brantley Gilbert has sure mellowed over the last few years. Now married and having recently welcomed a baby boy, the intimidating-looking singer showed his soft side all year as he gushed in public about impending fatherhood.
"I’m a little bit emotional about this stuff right now. I can’t look at an ultrasound picture without crying," Gilbert admitted in June. "Only about that, that’s it. That is literally the one thing that may get a tear out of my eyes is this baby, man."
12. Keith Urban's "Female"
While others talk endlessly about sexual misconduct in show business and the diminished opportunities for women at country radio, Keith Urban chose to speak through his music. He released an empowerment song titled "Female" in November that is one of the most powerful songs of 2017.
13. Chris Stapleton Times Two
Chris Stapleton is one of country music's most exciting artists, and a new album from him was hotly anticipated in 2017. But Stapleton upped the ante by releasing two albums in 2017, recording a new cycle of songs at RCA Studio A and releasing it as From A Room: Volume 1 and From A Room: Volume 2.
14. Brett Young's Haunting "Hallelujah" Cover
Brett Young had a breakout year that included massive hits with "In Case You Didn't Know" and "Like I Loved You," but perhaps his finest moment was a hair-raisingly emotional cover of "Hallelujah" from Taste of Country's RISERS shoot in February.
15. Taylor Swift's Fierce Court Testimony
Taylor Swift took lemons and made them into a lemon daiquiri, which she then raised in salute to women everywhere in 2017. In court to give testimony in a sexual assault case against a former DJ who allegedly groped her at a meet and greet, Swift did not hold back in her no-holds-barred answers, setting aside her prim and proper image to verbally thrash the accused soundly in open court. She won that case, and Time magazine included her among the Silence Breakers as part of their Person of the Year coverage. See highlights from her scorching testimony above.
16. Miranda Lambert Steps Up in Houston After Hurricane
Miranda Lambert did not sit around watching the devastation in Houston on the news after Hurricane Harvey hit in August. The superstar mobilized her MuttNation Foundation and hit the road, rescuing 72 animals on their first day on the ground in that devastated region and spending several subsequent days helping reunite animals and their owners and finding shelter for animals who had been displaced.
17. Jamie Lynn Spears' Daughter Makes a Miracle Recovery
Jamie Lynn Spears' daughter Maddie made headlines after an ATV accident in February that left her with severe injuries. She was trapped underwater for more than two minutes, but just days later the 8-year-old girl was on the road to a miraculous recovery, waking up and recognizing everyone around her. She has gone on to resume her normal activities.
18. Faith Hill Sings With Adorable Young "Mississippi Girl"
Faith Hill brightened up the life of a young fan in Mississippi who wanted to meet her when she sweetly sang a backstage duet with the girl on her hit, "Mississippi Girl."
19. Luke Bryan Checks Fan's Bucket List
Luke Bryan helped a fan diagnosed with ALS cross an item off her bucket list. A woman named Candace brought a sign to his Philadelphia show that read: “I have ALS, on my bucket list is too drink a beer with you" to the show. Bryan spotted it near the end of his show and made sure that's exactly what she got to do, in one of the coolest viral moments of 2017.
20. Kenny Chesney's Storm Relief Efforts
Chesney has made no secret of his love for the Virgin Islands, and after Hurricane Irma hit in September he swung into action. The superstar has donated money, supplies and even the use of his private plane to assist relief efforts, and also founded a charity called Love for Love City to help raise money for the victims.
21. Scotty McCreery's Mountaintop Proposal
Scotty McCreery's proposal to longtime girlfriend Gabi Dugal was one of the most romantic of 2017, and possibly all time. The couple hiked up their favorite trail on Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, and when they got to the top, he surprised her with a proposal and a ring he helped design. The couple shared photos of the ring and the amazing view with their fans.
22. Thomas Rhett's Adorable Modern Family
Thomas Rhett has sure gone through some Life Changes in 2017. The superstar and his wife adopted their daughter Willa Gray from Uganda in May, and in August they welcomed a biological daughter, Ada James Akins. They've chronicled their real-life modern family extensively via social media.
23. Miranda Lambert's "Tin Man"
Any year that includes the release of a song as good as "Tin Man" can't be all bad. Lambert released the song in April as the third single from The Weight of These Wings, and it's one of the best songs of the year, revealing a new maturity and vulnerability to the spitfire singer. "Tin Man" earned Lambert multiple CMA Awards and Grammy nominations.
24. Carrie Underwood's Las Vegas Tribute at the CMA Awards
Carrie Underwood provided some light in the darkness with an awe-inspiring performance of "Softly and Tenderly" at the CMA Awards. It began as a wrapup of all of the talented artists we lost in country music in 2017, but ended up as a tribute to the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas when their pictures flashed on the screen behind her. The astonishing performance stunned the audience.
25. Jason Aldean Doesn't Back Down After Las Vegas
Nobody would have blamed Jason Aldean for taking the rest of 2017 off after the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in October. The shooting started during his set, forcing him and his band to run off stage, and they were pinned down as the bullets flew. But Aldean didn't let fear hold him back; he made a surprise appearance on Saturday Night Live less than a week later, singing a defiant cover of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down," and returned to the stage in Oklahoma just 11 days after the shooting.