Thursday, November 06, 2003

CMA Recap

It seems that a lot of journalers like to recap the big award shows on their sites – Emmys, Grammys, MTV music and video awards, etc. I don’t think I’ve seen/read anyone who’s recapped the Country Music Association awards (CMAs), so I thought I would. I’ve been a die-hard country music fan since 1993 and a somewhat fan for years before that. The first real concert I ever saw was Alabama, Juice Newton, Johnny Lee and Mickey Gilley. This was during the Urban Cowboy craze and Alabama was the opening act, if you can imagine. We’ve all come a long way since then, so here’s my take on the 37th annual CMA awards.

The show opened with the first of many musical performances – Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett singing “Five O’Clock Somewhere.” An upbeat way to start the show. The audience acted like it was a big surprise that Jimmy Buffett showed up, but the second microphone set up next to AJ was a giveaway.

Vince Gill came on as the host for the twelfth consecutive year. Has it really been that long? He made a bunch of jokes about his weight, which has fluctuated over the years, but I thought he looked pretty trim this year. It was, however, an unintended segue for introducing Wynonna to present the first award of the night.

Wy made some greeting/joke that was so flat she had to repeat it. I still didn’t get it the second time around. Let’s just announce the winner for Video of the Year. My pick was Brad Paisley’s “Celebrity,” a fun video, but Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” won instead. A legitimate pick, since CMT did actually play this video. Cash’s son and daughter accepted the award.

Then there were two back-to-back performances – Toby Keith with his new single, “I Love This Bar” and Brad Paisley singing “Celebrity,” introduced by Bachelorette Trista and William Shatner, both of whom were in the video. Leading up to the show, Keith was predicted to be the big winner of the night, since he has the most nominations and is long overdue for a big night.

The next award presented was for Vocal Event, which is always one of my favorites. I wanted Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock to win for “Picture,” but I thought Toby and Willie Nelson would win for “Beer for My Horses.” I was wrong on both counts – AJ and Jimmy Buffett won instead. Jimmy Buffett looks like the actor Peter Michael Goetz (father-in-law Mr. MacKenzie in Father of the Bride).

Then Martina McBride sang her new single, “In My Daughter’s Eyes.” I heard her sing this live back in August and was just blown away. As a new mother of a daughter, it brought tears to my eyes. She is also one of the best live performers I’ve ever heard and she didn’t disappoint.

Brooks & Dunn quickly followed with another performance, their latest single “You Can’t Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl.” Other than the title being too long, I have a love/hate feeling for this song. I think the chorus is great, very catchy. But the ABCB rhyme scheme of the verses just doesn’t work for me. At the end of their performance, Vince Gill brought out their award for Vocal Duo of the Year, which wasn’t going to be presented during the program. Why, I don’t know. Is it because they’ve won every year but one since 1992? Montgomery Gentry is the only legitimate competitor in an otherwise lame category. There’s been some talk that this category will be absorbed into a combined Duo/Group of the Year award in the near future.

A quick shot of Brad Paisley in the audience shows he is not with new wife Kimberly Williams. Could she not get from L.A. to Nashville for the show? It would have been nice to see them together.

Then the award for Single of the Year is presented, which goes to the artist. Johnny Cash wins again for “Hurt.” Artistic value aside, I don’t think this song should have won. I listen to five different country music stations in our region and not a single one of them has ever played this song, to the best of my knowledge. The same thing happened a few years ago with “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the move O Brother, Where Art Thou? The “major market” station in our area wouldn’t touch that song with a ten-foot pole, but after it won a few CMAs, they hypocritically played it all the time. They certainly did not contribute to any of the success it had achieved. It will be interesting to see if I hear “Hurt” on the radio this week. Toby Keith has now lost three awards already. Will he stay through the end of the show?

CBS is airing a lot of holiday commercials already. Does this just seem way too early or am I in complete denial that Christmas is less than two months away?

After the commercial break, Tim McGraw sings “Red Rag Top.” I don’t know why he chose this song from earlier in the year, especially since it was controversial when it was released since it alludes to the issue of abortion. An audience shot of Faith Hill at the end of his performance reveals Anthony Clark sitting in between Toby Keith and Faith. How did he luck out and get that prime seat?

Next award is Song of the Year, which goes to the songwriter instead of the artist. Another surprise winner, Randy Travis’ “Three Wooden Crosses.” Even though it was considered a gospel song, radio stations around here did play it a lot throughout the summer.

I’d like to know where they film the commercials for Walmart? Our Walmart is a SuperCenter and it doesn’t look anything like the stores featured in these commercials. Aisles and aisles of DVDs and video games? I think there’s one aisle for these products in our Walmart.

It’s now 9pm, so I’m going to have to switch back and forth between the awards and West Wing. Norah Jones and Dolly Parton came on to perform, so I’m not missing anything. I’ll admit I don’t know anything about Norah Jones, other than she’s the daughter of Ravi Shankar and I get her confused with Michelle Branch.

George Strait performs next, a new song. He is the reigning king of country music. I could listen to him sing the phone book. And the new song, “Honk if You Honky Tonk” is fun.

More back-to-back performances by Terri Clark, who I’ve always liked, and Rascal Flatts. I’m surprised the CMA showed their “controversial” video in the background while they performed. I don’t find any of the three of them particularly attractive and they all have strange hair-dos, especially for country music. And what’s with the ugly fringe shirt/vest the lead singer is wearing?

Finally, an award is presented, this one for Album of the Year. Joe Nichols is my long-shot favorite, but I’m just glad he was nominated. Johnny Cash wins again. I think Toby Keith is getting shafted by the sympathy vote. He probably would have won in the three categories Johnny Cash has taken, but I guess it’s just not meant to be for him this year.

Then Kenny Chesney sings his new single. Is he wearing the same pants as Tim McGraw? Followed by Patty Loveless – I’m glad she’s back and performing on the show. I’ve always like her, too.

The Male Vocalist award is presented next. I think everyone was surprised that Alan Jackson won again. He won 5 awards last year, including this one. He ranks right up there with George Strait and I have all of his albums, so I for one am not disappointed that he won over Toby Keith.

Vince Gill is making fun of his weight again. Had he really gotten that bad? I don’t recall what he looked like at last year’s show.

Now they’re cramming in all the Horizon Award nominees, along with some others. Joe Nichols, a new favorite of mine, although I thought he looked nervous while he was performing. Allison Krauss – I was never a big fan of hers for not particular reason, other than I think she’s really goofy. Blake Shelton, another Horizon Award nominee. This category is really between him and Joe Nichols, who have had the most commercial success in the past year.

Then Vince Gill introduces Shania Twain and makes a funny joke about bellybuttons and she performs her latest single in really ugly shoes/boots. We won’t even get into a discussion of Shania here, but I’ve never really cared for her and never will.

Another Horizon Award nominee, Gary Allen. I don’t like him either, so it’s back over to WW for a couple of minutes. I flip back – did I miss an award? It seems like they haven’t given one out in awhile. Vince is introducing this year’s Hall of Fame inductees, who were way before my time. Plus, Hayley is crying and I have to run upstairs and check on her.

Dierks Bentley takes the show into a commercial break and when they come back, the other two Horizon Award nominees, Darryl Worley and Buddy Jewel, perform. Darryl Worley looks like my brother-in-law, but would someone please tell him that the George-Michael-late-‘80s-two-day-growth beard is way over? Tell Kurt Warner, too, while you’re at it. And I was pleased to see Buddy Jewel get a nomination. I thought Nashville might think he was something of a joke since he’s the one who won the “Nashville Star” competition. But he does need to release another song or else he’s just a one-hit wonder waiting to happen.

Mike O’Malley and Anthony Clark from the CBS show “Yes, Dear” give out the award for Vocal Group of the Year. Why is Mike O’Malley wearing a beret? Is that his dress hat since he couldn’t wear a baseball hat to cover his bald head? Lonestar should have won in this category, considering the number of hits they had this year, but Rascal Flatts wins instead. I really don’t understand their success. Personally, I think they’re a mediocre group. But it was a nice touch that they wanted to “give” their award to Alabama, since this is their last year to be nominated before retiring.

Faith Hill looks very classy as she presents the award for Female Vocalist, which must also be awkward since she’s not nominated this year. But Martina McBride wins for the second year in a row and is very humble. She recognizes each of the other nominees, even goofy Allison Krauss. Then Vince Gill gets his turn to perform, bringing out his daughter to join him on background vocals.

The Horizon Award is presented and the winner is Joe Nichols! I’m so happy I actually let out a little cheer. But then there’s a technical mistake as they flash Blake Shelton’s name on the screen while Joe is giving his speech.

The Radio Stations of the Year for each market are briefly recognized. No one seems to mind that a station in Nashville wins every year for Large Market. Wouldn’t you think they have an unfair advantage?

It’s 10:45 and I’m starting to think this isn’t going to be over by 11pm. They finally do the big “Johnny Cash Tribute.” Why did they wait so late in the show to do this? I’m barely awake. It should have been planted right in the middle for all to see instead of squeezing it in at the end.

Entertainer of the Year is the last award, so maybe we are going to wrap things up by 11pm. George Jones comes out to present. Why they have given this job to him, I do not know. He’s not a smooth presenter and true to form, jumps right into announcing the winner. Was he supposed to read the names of the nominees first? But the winner is Alan Jackson! I think most people are shocked. I won’t argue as to whether or not he deserved this award this year. I love him! Oh, there’s a quick shot of Toby Keith in the audience. So he did stick around – good sport!

Vince Gill comes out to close the show and actually has to stretch it. I think George Jones was supposed to read the names of the nominees and now they’re a couple of minutes short. Not a very smooth ending to the night.