The 2014 CMA Awards show had more great moments than any telecast in years, pulling off the rare feat of making the genre appear far healthier and more appealing than it actually is! Here is a complete list of winners, followed by a few thoughts on the show itself.
As always, share your own thoughts in the comments!
2014 CMA Winners
Florida Georgia Line
Little Big Town
“Follow Your Arrow”
Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Kacey Musgraves
“We Were Us”
Keith Urban featuring Miranda Lambert
“Drunk on a Plane”
Wes Edwards, Director
Irving Waugh Award of Excellence
A few thoughts:
Some Truly Deserving Victories
Congratulations to Miranda Lambert being the top winner in the year where she made some of her best music. Even better, “Follow Your Arrow” acknowledged that Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Kacey Musgraves are among the best songwriters working today, and showed that the CMA’s can still reward the best, even when it isn’t the biggest.
Wait. Didn’t You Win This Already?
The single best predictor of who would win this year was who won in years past. In all but three relevant categories – Entertainer, Song, and Music Video – the winner had won in the same category before. Miranda Lambert became the first woman in history to win a fifth Female Vocalist trophy. Blake Shelton’s fifth Male Vocalist win tied him with all-time champs Vince Gill and George Strait. Little Big Town won their third Vocal Group trophy, Mac McAnally won his seventh Musician award, and even Keith Urban’s win in Musical Event was #3 for him in that race.
With so many contenders who hadn’t won those big races, it was disappointing to see so many victors repeat. Unlike the Grammys, the CMA’s don’t nominate specific performances in the major races. It seems redundant to keep giving the awards to the same people when there are many who have never won before. It would be nice to see Shelton and Lambert not submit their names for consideration next year, or maybe actively campaign for someone else to be acknowledged.
Entertainer of the Year?
Luke Bryan’s victory was the most disappointing of the night. Look, I think the guy is charming as all get out and it’s hard not to be swept away by his enthusiasm. But if you’re going to overlook a legend like George Strait, it should be for someone who is long overdue and has real artistic clout to go with their popularity. If you’re going to give every other award to Miranda Lambert, who according to voters made the best album and the best single of the year, then it’s hard to understand how Bryan gets this over her.
Collaborating with the Cool Kids
Kudos to Eric Church picking George Strait and Kacey Musgraves picking Loretta Lynn to sing with. Even better, they each collaborated on the legend’s song, using their biggest national audience of the year to pay tribute to an idol, instead of just pushing a track off of their latest record. It was cool.
Less cool? Little Big Town’s performance with Ariana Grande and Lambert’s duet with Meghan Trainor. Yes, the presence of LBT elevated “Bang Bang” and Lambert found new levels of charm in “All About That Bass.” But here’s the thing. If it’s the country acts elevating the song with their presence, that means they’re also lowering themselves by participating in the first place. A CMA performance has always been the ultimate sign that you’ve finally made it to the big leagues of country music. That nominees like Brandy Clark didn’t get to sing a note, but imported pop stars did, cheapened the proceedings for me.
Lesson for next year: Loretta Lynn and George Strait are cooler than whatever cool kids are dominating the pop charts.
A Few More Great Performances
Generally speaking, the night’s best moments came when our best singers took the stage. Carrie Underwood proved, once again, that she’s just as strong live as she is on record. Between her powerhouse performance of her new single and her pure harmonies with Brad Paisley, she was the best singer on the stage that actually sang. (Trisha Yearwood was just a presenter.)
Dierks Bentley’s stage set was awe-inspiring, but even with all those visuals, his magnetism as a performer kept the focus on him. Lambert shined in her pairing with Little Big Town, and even the Band Perry reminded us that there’s some talent under all that hair.
Accepting his achievement award, Gill was as classy and humble as he’s ever been. It was endearing when he burst into tears while listening to words of praise from Merle Haggard. By the time he was center stage, he was balancing humor with gratitude without missing a beat. That being said, I’m sure that when he was wondering aloud if the audience knew who Irving Waugh was, there were probably far too many in the viewing audience wondering who Vince Gill is. The tether connecting today’s country to its history is far too frayed these days.
Florida Georgia Line
I’ll just say this. My colleague thinks that FGL are country music’s ultimate trolls. I think he should leave out the “r.”
I’ll close by noting the night’s oddest moment. Accepting his award for Male Vocalist, Blake Shelton shared that he’d been studying the category’s previous winners and noticed his “all time hero has never won one of these.”
Country legends who were nominated but never won Male Vocalist: Conway Twitty. Willie Nelson. Eddy Arnold. Ray Price. Marty Robbins.
Shelton’s hero? Earl Thomas Conley. Weirdness.