In the Entertainer and Male Vocalist races, I’ve been making the case for fresh blood. In those categories, the routine nominees are mostly past their peaks, and there’s room to let some rising stars in on the action.
Oh, to be able to make the same case for the Female Vocalist race. Let’s take a look at last year’s nominees:
- Miranda Lambert
- Martina McBride
- Reba McEntire
- Taylor Swift
- Carrie Underwood
For the first time in this category’s history, I believe voters are facing a dilemma that plagued the Vocal Duo category for most of the nineties: there just aren’t enough worthy nominees to finish out the category.
Female artists dominated this year’s ACM Awards in a way that would have been unimaginable just five years earlier, with nearly all of the major winners of the evening coming from a female solo artist or a band that prominently features a female vocalist. More significantly, this year’s ACM dissented from the CMA this fall in the marquee categories of Entertainer and Female Vocalist, which makes this fall’s CMA Awards that much more unpredictable.
Here’s my spin on the show’s highlights:
Carrie Underwood wins Entertainer of the Year
Perhaps we should have known not to underestimate the fan base of Ms. Underwood, who helped deliver the singing siren her second consecutive win for Entertainer of the Year. With Taylor Swift dominating the Grammys and CMAs, it was easy to forget that Underwood has continued to do quite well in her own right. Her string of hits at radio – eleven consecutive top two hits, nine of which reached #1 – is unprecedented. She’s also had ten gold singles, three of which have sold platinum or better. Her third album, Play On, has moved her cumulative album sales past eleven million.
I’ve gotten so used to being bored by mainstream country music that listening to “Little White Church” was a bit of a jolt. Thematically, it’s essentially the country spin on “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”, though it could hardly be called derivative.
I’m having trouble singling out what I like about the song the most. First, it’s refreshing to hear those harmonies again, which quite frankly make Lady Antebellum sound like amateurs in comparison. But the instrumentation is just as fresh as the harmonies. They both zig when you expect them to zag. Hand claps appear out of nowhere but don’t sound out of place. There’s a guitar riff before the final verse that just sounds so frickin’ cool, but before you can fully digest it, the vocals are back and suddenly incorporating a dry whisper. It sounds pretty frickin’ cool, too.
The debut country offering by Broadway star Bundy is one of those weird critical anomalies: a single that dares you to hate it, and thereby ends up being – though you’ll never admit it to anyone in person – kind of charming. It wears its campy garishness more boldly than possibly any country release since “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” which isn’t so surprising coming from the former lead of Legally Blonde: The Musical, but is certainly big news in a format as dependent on the tried-and-true as mainstream country.
That’s not to say “Giddy On Up” (commiserate with me for a sec on that title?) is a completely odd duck, since in plot terms, it’s is just another cutesy girl-power kiss-off song, the likes of which have been standard fare since the Shania boom and will probably be for some time to come. This one can stand proudly among the most vacuous of that sub-genre, too, with the only original lyric being a little knock on Bath & Body Works in the second verse.