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Country Thunder CEO Talks All-Female Friday & New Florida Festival

Country superstar Miranda Lambert and the legendary Tanya Tucker will headline an all-female lineup on the first day of Country Thunder festival in Calgary, Alberta. Kicking off the three-day festival on Aug. 16 will also be Meghan Patrick and Calgary-born Lindsay Ell. “I believe we need to empower women in regard to country music,” executive producer/CEO…

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Country Thunder CEO Talks All-Female Friday & New Florida Festival

Country superstar Miranda Lambert and the legendary Tanya Tucker will headline an all-female lineup on the first day of Country Thunder festival in Calgary, Alberta. Kicking off the three-day festival on Aug. 16 will also be Meghan Patrick and Calgary-born Lindsay Ell.
“I believe we need to empower women in regard to country music,” executive producer/CEO of Country Thunder Music Festivals Troy Vollhoffer tells Billboard. “We definitely have a shortage of female artists at that magnitude who can go out and sell tickets because I don’t think that the push has been there yet. As a promoter or festival, we’re going to try to do that.”
The all-female Friday lineup is a first for the collection of country music festivals that fall under Vollhoffer’s umbrella. Terri Clark and Lauren Alaina will also perform across the Aug. 16-18 festival with headliners Jake Owen and Jason Aldean on the main stage.
“They just need to get over the hump, these superstars. If we can push that and make that happen, it’s only to our benefit and to the fans who buy the tickets,” says Vollhoffer of women on country music festival lineups. “The most important thing are the lineups. We pride ourselves on being able to obtain these lineups. This year we have some smokin’ lineups.”

This year’s Country Thunder festivals in Arizona, Saskatchewan and Wisconsin will all see performances from Chris Stapleton and Tim McGraw with Luke Combs, Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean and more playing select across the brand in 2019.
Vollhoffer attributes the brand’s stacked lineup to 20 years of building strong relationships throughout the music community through his company Premier Global Production. The company has also serviced some of the largest events in North America including Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Electric Forest, Bonnaroo, Voodoo Music and Arts Festival, Music Midtown, Tortuga Music Festival and Hangout Music Festival, as well as worked with Metallica, Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Cage The Elephant and more.
In 2005, Vollhoffer’s Premier Global Production company took over the historic Craven Country Jamboree, the oldest continual music festival in North America started in 1983. Following the resuscitation of Craven in Saskatchewan, Vollhoffer took over the Country Thunder brand in America, adding festivals in Arizona and Wisconsin to his portfolio and rebranding Craven under the same name.

“We have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in the festival business leading up to [the Craven acquisition], so when we got into it we were able to build a great brand. Then we took over Country Thunder in a similar situation,” says Vollhoffer. “We had a formula and we ran with those festivals and turned them into financial profitability over the course of a year.”
Country Thunder now puts on five festivals throughout the year in Arizona, Wisconsin, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the first ever Florida festival happening this weekend from March 22-24 at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee.
Country Thunder Florida will feature headliners Toby Keith, Luke Combs and Luke Bryan in a city setting with available camping options. Vollhoffer explains that the festival will draw from local residents in the nearby Tampa and Orlando areas.
“Each festival has a unique environment,” says Vollhoffer. “For instance, the Arizona venues is an old movie ranch where they used to shoot westerns…surrounded by rolling hills and mountains. It feels like you’re in the middle of a western. It’s an oasis because we went and planted grass over the whole venue.”
The Wisconsin festival takes place in a grass bowl that works as a natural amphitheater and has been named Festival of the Year by industry conference International Entertainment Buyers Associations. In addition, the Country Thunder brand has been recognized with an ACM award in 2015 and Vollhoffer was recognized at the 2018 Canadian Country Music Awards with the Slaight Music Humanitarian Award for raising over $600,000 to support the 29 families affected by the devastating Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
The Country Thunder portfolio of festivals kick off the 2019 season this weekend in Florida (March 22-24) followed by Arizona (April 11-14), Saskatchewan (July 11-14), Wisconsin (July 18-21) and Alberta (Aug. 16-18). To learn more about the slate of events, head here.  

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Art & Culture

Janelle Monáe Leads The Revolution In Stirring ‘Turntables’ Video

YouTube “We are in the middle of a revolution right? What’s a revolution without a song and a song without a revolution.” That’s the question the Grammy-winning artist Janelle Monáe posed to Entertainment Weekly when describing her latest single, “Turntables.” The song was released on and flips between cleverly rapped lines about “liberation, elevation, education” and a harmonic…

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Janelle Monáe Leads The Revolution In Stirring ‘Turntables’ Video

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“We are in the middle of a revolution right? What’s a revolution without a song and a song without a revolution.”
That’s the question the Grammy-winning artist Janelle Monáe posed to Entertainment Weekly when describing her latest single, “Turntables.” The song was released on and flips between cleverly rapped lines about “liberation, elevation, education” and a harmonic refrain with clear gospel influences. It’s Monáe’s take on a contemporary protest song, a call for a political sea change, in the vein of, say, Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” or Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”
Courtesy of Atlantic RecordsAnd on Tuesday (September), Monáe released a moving music video — or, as she calls it, an emotion picture — that solidified that message. The visual opens and closes with the singer walking along the beach in a beige trench coat and military cap. At times, she can be seen singing into a retro microphone before an American flag; in others, she moves through staged breakfast scenes, with a family reading through newspaper headlines as they mouth her lyrics. The visual flashes through archival and contemporary footage depicting inspirational figures past and present: Where one scene shows the model and activist Jillian Mercado at a photo shoot, another depicts a conversation with lifelong activist Angela Davis.
What rings true without is a hopeful cry for change and for equality, and a recognition of those who have been leading that fight for decades. Monáe wrote “Turntables” for the new Amazon Studios documentary, All In: The Fight for Democracy, that shines a light on voter suppression, particularly through the lens of Stacey Abrams’s failed bid for the Georgia governorship. “Right now, I am focused on turning the election in our favor,” Monáe told Entertainment Weekly, “and I hope this song can inspire those who are on the ground doing the work.”

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Joe Keery’s Reinvention, Mxmtoon’s Carly Rae Jepsen Collab, And More Songs We Love

Getty Images/April Blum The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new? Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by…

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Joe Keery’s Reinvention, Mxmtoon’s Carly Rae Jepsen Collab, And More Songs We Love

Getty Images/April Blum

The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new?
Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by genre and can include anything — it’s a snapshot of what’s on our minds and what sounds good. We’ll keep it fresh with the latest music, but expect a few oldies (but goodies) every once in a while, too. Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.

St. Vincent ft. Yoshiki: “New York”

St. Vincent, the intuitive musical goddess that she is, must have sensed our collective need for another quarantine ballad. Enter “New York [Feat. Yoshiki],” a classical arrangement of the standout single from 2017’s Masseduction. An added string section courtesy of Yoshiki, a Japanese multi-instrumentalist, beautifully complements the song’s original piano instrumentals. What more can I say? “New York isn’t New York / Without you, love” just hits different in the middle of a pandemic. —Sam Manzella

Djo: “Keep Your Head Up”

Last year, Joe Keery (of Stranger Things fame) released a glossy solo album under the moniker Djo. It was titled Twenty Twenty, and its sparkling arrangements ended up being quite far removed from the overall vibe of 2020 the year, but who could fault him for his optimism? Keery has also long been a contributing member of Chicago psych band Post Animal, but Djo is simply Joe — and latest “Keep Your Head Up” feels like several Joes ripping open a vortex in the funk-time continuum. This is a groove, peppered with buzzy synths and icy falsetto and an honest-to-god sax part. It’s akin to Todd Terje doing Tame Impala, a lightheaded cocktail rush that feels both clubby and bedroom ambitious. Positively galactic. —Patrick Hosken

Mxmtoon ft. Carly Rae Jepsen: “OK On Your Own”

When Mxmtoon’s Maia said she recorded “OK On Your Own” for the girls and the gays, she wasn’t kidding. The mellow bedroom-pop bop soundtracks a journey of self-reflection after a breakup, complete with the soft ukulele instrumentals that put the 19-year-old singer-songwriter on the map. Is it revelatory? No, but with pop icon Carly Rae Jepsen lending her sugary-sweet vocals to the second verse, it doesn’t have to be. Now I’m just waiting for “Party for Two.” —Sam Manzella

Video Age: “Aerostar”

Pleasure Line, the third album from emerging indie pop quartet Video Age, delivers perfectly escapist ’80s new wave vibes for when you need to get outta 2020 for just a moment. “Aerostar” is its punchy center, a hip-twisting, shoulder-shuffling groove that delivers quirky robot dance commands (“Slide to the left, now! Shimmy to the right!”) over hoppin’ funk synths and a kickin’ drum machine. It all harkens to a simpler time, one where dance floors were actually a real thing. Oh, the ’80s! —Terron Moore

Ruel: “As Long As You Care”

About a year ago, Australian middle-part heartthrob Ruel told MTV News that for him, “songwriting is exaggerating to an extent.” On his latest, the technicolor, soulful “As Long As You Care,” his exaggeration is so seamless, you’d be forgiven for believing the 17-year-old is actually a time traveler. The neo-soul groove he rides propels everything upward, even as the sound cheekily looks backward. “As Long As You Care” has one amazing hook, coupled with sonic candy that makes his upcoming third EP, Bright Lights, Red Eyes (out October 23) one to watch. —Patrick Hosken

Alycia Bella ft. Boogie: “Cue the Sun”

Something magical happens two-and-a-half minutes into “Cue the Sun,” the exploratory new collab between striking R&B voice Alycia Bella and rapper Boogie. After piping in the aural equivalent of stage smoke via jazzy piano and gorgeous vocalizations — “It feel like being lost in the right direction” — Bella’s song enters a more sparkly realm for Boogie’s recitations. By the end, you’re lighter, like your mind’s been cleared of all the cobwebs. Cue the sun. —Patrick Hosken

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Who Are You Most Excited to See Perform at the 2020 ACM Awards? Vote!

The 55th Academy of Country Music Awards will welcome back Taylor Swift and present a new collaboration from the evening’s host Keith Urban and P!nk on Wednesday, Sept. 16. But which one of the highly anticipated performances are you counting down the hours to? Nine-time ACM Award winner Swift, whose latest studio album Folklore has topped the Billboard 200 for six…

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Who Are You Most Excited to See Perform at the 2020 ACM Awards? Vote!

The 55th Academy of Country Music Awards will welcome back Taylor Swift and present a new collaboration from the evening’s host Keith Urban and P!nk on Wednesday, Sept. 16. But which one of the highly anticipated performances are you counting down the hours to?
Nine-time ACM Award winner Swift, whose latest studio album Folklore has topped the Billboard 200 for six weeks, will come back for the first time in seven years to perform the country-leaning fan-favorite track “Betty.” Meanwhile, 15-time ACM Award winner Urban and Pink will come together for the world television premiere of their brand new collaboration “One Too Many,” which is from the country star’s forthcoming album, The Speed of Now, Part 1.

Billboard broke the news Monday (Sept. 14) that all five nominees for entertainer of the year — Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Luke Combs and Thomas Rhett — will take the stage to perform a medley of their greatest hits. Additionally, ACM’s freshly crowned new male and female artist of the year winners Riley Green and Tenille Townes, respectively, will also perform.

For the first time in the awards show’s history, the ACMs will be broadcast live from Nashville, with socially distanced performances from the Grand Ole Opry House, the historic Ryman Auditorium and The Bluebird Cafe.
The 55th ACM Awards will air live Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m. ET (delayed for the West Coast) on CBS and CBS All Access. (The event is produced by dick clark productions, which shares a parent company with Billboard.)
So which of the performances can’t you wait to see? Vote below!

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