CMA Fest ’08: Notes, Thoughts and Impressions

I just sat down to enjoy experience “Country’s Night to Rock” and take notes for Country Universe fans. I know there will be a discussion topic or two in here somewhere! Honestly, could CMA Fest have picked three better representatives of today’s country music community than Taylor Swift, Kellie Pickler and Julianne Hough to host? No seriously, three blondes – one a MySpace guru, one a former American Idol contestant, and the other a pop (okay, dance) crossover star. I’ll keep a tally of how many fit into these categories tonight. Okay, here goes…

In a surprising sparkly mini dress and cowboy boots, Taylor Swift kicked off the evening with her recent hit “Picture to Burn.” The young ladies in the audience went crazy and I have to admit that if you ignore “the voice” and the lyrics, it is an infectious song. (Blonde: √) (MySpace guru: √)

Taylor is followed by Rascal Flatts and the plaid-clad Gary Le Vox singing rapping “Bob That Head.” I would love to get Eminem’s take on this performance. Just look what he started—he’s inspired a whole generation of white rappers.

Side note: Taylor Swift’s song “Change” is playing over an Ugly Betty/Grey’s Anatomy commercial.

Bucky Covington, wow! At first, from a distance, I thought it was Jennifer Nettles, the human jumping bean. Poor guy, they offered him an infomercial on CMA Fest. Actually, it was probably a wise choice, because this song won’t sell him a single album. (Former Reality Show Contestant: √)

Taylor Swift is now introducing the “innovative, genius, creative”….Sugarland! This duo is a lot of fun, but I’m not crazy about the human hamster cages. Oh no, they’re singing the obnoxious “All I Want To Do.” I forgot that this concert was filmed months ago. Too bad they’re not singing something else off their new album. Every other song on that album is better than this one. Anyone have a favorite? (Blonde: √)

Another side note: For all you Jessica Simpson fans out there, she will be on Good Morning America’s Fall Concert Series tomorrow (Tuesday).

Lady Antebellum is up next. This must be quite a thrill for them. They’re still newbies, and they’re getting the opportunity to play for a huge stadium full of people. Lady A’s songs do nothing for me (very borderline country in my opinion), but I will admit that Charles Kelley has a great voice and all three have a nice stage presence. (MySpace gurus: √)

Keith, Keith, KEITH URBAN! He always comes off as the nicest bloke. I’m alone in that I’m not a huge fan of his music, but I’ve seen him in concert, and he is an awesome performer. He’s singing “Better Life” and wielding that guitar like a weapon. It’s too bad that Keith wasn’t around in rock n roll’s heyday. He was meant to play arenas. The Australian Bon Jovi.

Julianne Hough is following in Bucky Covington’s footsteps and doing the CMA Fest infomercial. Actually, it seems more like her own personal commercial. Has anyone had more free exposure than this girl? (Blonde: √) (Crossover Star: √)

Ah, Miranda Lambert’s here to kick a little tail with “Gunpowder and Lead.” She’s such a nice antidote to the perky Julianne. You keep hearing that country is the new rock or classic rock. It has never been more evident. She’s making Metallica look wimpy. (Blonde: √) (Former Reality Show Contestant: √)

Kellie Pickler has borrowed Taylor Swift’s sparkly microphone to sing her latest single “Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful.” I’m enjoying the flowery background on the video screens. Anyone else? (Blonde: √) (Former Reality Show Contestant: √)

Billy Ray Cyrus is singing __________ (fill in the blank). I’m speechless. (Former Reality Show Host: √)

Oh, it’s so nice to see Carrie Underwood after BRC’s performance. You have to admire Carrie for always being able to sound the same live as she does on her albums. Hmm…she’s definitely got some of the most unusual dance moves and walks I’ve ever seen on stage, but you have to give her props. She’s improved dramatically in this area. Watch out, this girl has pipes and she’s not afraid to use them! (Blonde: √) (Former Reality Show Contestant: √)

John Rich is introducing Gretchen Wilson, who is performing … in a bar? The self-proclaimed “Hick Chick” (it’s on her t-shirt) is singing her new single “Don’t Do Me No Good.” I think this setting is benefiting her, but I’m not crazy about the song.

The Rascal Flatts boys are back with “Every Day.” This show is starting to feel long.

Up next, Faith Hill singing “Mississippi Girl.” Whether or not you’re a Faith Hill fan, it’s really nice to see a little maturity on stage. I was starting to feel really old. It sounds like her voice has deepened over the years—anyone else notice? (Blonde: √)

Rodney Atkins in his trusty ball cap is on stage singing “These Are My People.” What’s up with the spotlight?

Massive props to Taylor Swift for signing a million autographs and being so fan friendly. She has the poise of someone decades older. Oh no…the outdoor performance may have been Taylor’s worst live performance ever. I believe she’s singing the recently reviewed “Love Story.” (Check out Kevin’s review.)

AH! I adore Dwight Yoakam. He’s singing one of his classics, “Fast as You.” I don’t know what to say. I love the jean jacket, the cowboy hat (the first tonight?), the whole Dwight persona. The man can still rock.

Jewel is getting her turn to shine. Thankfully, she just slowed down the evening with her second single “I Do.” Has anyone heard that song on the radio? Am I allowed to say that Jewel is coming off as a little too classy for the evening? (Blonde: √) (Crossover Star: √)

Josh Turner is adding to the classy segment of the evening. He’s singing his hit “Firecracker.” I hope he sticks around awhile. He reminds me of a young J_____y C___h. (Am I allowed to say that or is it sacrilegious?)

The new “big man” in country, Trace Adkins, is performing his hit “You’re Gonna Miss This.” With his voice, Trace just has to get up there and sing. He doesn’t need any fancy screens or dance moves. This is really where country just demolishes other genres.

Alan Jackson is closing out the evening with “Good Time.” It’s my bedtime. Comment away!

Final tally:
Blondes: 8
Former Reality Show Contestants/Hosts: 4
MySpace Gurus: 2
Crossover Stars: 2


  1. I really enjoyed Miranda’s performance she’s like a rocker with country lyrics, i like it.
    thought the hosts were so cute a little scripted but cute. I agree very impressive how Carrie has such consistancies with her vocals. It was nice to see Faith out there after so long away boy she can still sing, such a soulful voice. it was a good show and i think it showed off the women in country very well.

  2. I did not like the show at all! Too fast paced and rehearsed! Worst act of the night…Billy Ray Cyrus! Good grief, he’s awful! Why does he sing to the drummer instead of the audience? My favorites were Keith Urban, Miranda, Alan Jackson. Why did RF and Taylor have two songs apiece? I’m starting to not like country music anymore.

  3. I hope you’re kidding, Gail, even just a little.:) Country music is much more than Swift and RF, as I’m sure you know. I understand your frustration though. I never understand why RF seems to get to sing two songs at award shows as well. Like the CMAs where they got to sing two songs and the Hof Fame acknowledgement was reduced to 30 seconds. Okay, I’m still bitter.

  4. I missed the broadcast last night, but I can imagine that the show was as good a representation of country music as Cliffs Notes is to The Old Man and the Sea.

  5. Yeah, I’m kidding Leeann, but I was just so disappointed in that show last night! Taylormania is starting to get to me though! The girl is very sweet and has a great personality, but my goodness she is not the saviour of country music. Her songs are bubblegum cute, but not downright great country songs! I don’t know, I’m just having a bad day I guess! Taylor is out in the forefront and other better singers get nowhere or maybe it just seems like that!

  6. I liked the show! It was a great representation of today’s country music. My favorite performances were Carrie’s (of course!), Lady A’s (love them! i get to meet them on thurs!!), Julianne, Miranda, Josh Turner and Sugarland!

    Great notes by the way! I was cracking up reading it!!!

  7. I was actually at CMA fest and could not sit through and watch this two hour glitz show. The true fun of cmafest is getting close to the artists (somewhat shown here) and the day concerts on the riverfront stage by lower broadway. Also, the best performances and performers were completely left out of the show. I’ll let you know that the loudest singing along in LP Field during the weekend came when Randy Travis did “Forever and Ever, Amen”.

  8. I thought it was pretty boring, to be honest. I only watched the broadcast to watch Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert, but it took me A LOT of will power to not just turn off the television and go to sleep (Seeing as I’m in high school – FINALLY A SENIOR – and I have 0 period, I’m always tired). Let me make some quick comments of my own:

    Billy Ray was just… awful. There are no words to describe how terrible that performance was. Not only that, I almost felt awkward watching it. I can’t explain it, but it was just… appalling.

    Lady Antebellum was a very nice surprise. I was never into their music, but their song last night was fantastic. The lead singer has a pretty strong voice for a male country singer (I’m not a big fan of the male voices in country music – then again, I prefer the voices of the male lead singers of bands like Atreyu, so what do I know?) and the song was pretty catchy. I wish them the best.

    Miranda Lambert was exceptional as usual. I love how edgy she is and even if other people are sick of “Gunpowder and Lead,” I will never tire of it. Fantastic.

    Call it bias, but in all honesty, I think Carrie was the strongest of the night. Her vocal was FLAWLESS which must’ve been difficult considering she was jumping around stage doing “unusual dance moves.” (I totally agree, but I love them.) I have to say that she has gotten much better at interacting with the crowd; her stage presence is growing at a good rate. Excellent job Carrie! Best of the night.

    I turned the television off after Carrie, although I may watch the rest of the performances (I recorded the program) tonight and comment later.

  9. I recorded the show and fast-forwarded a lot of it. My thoughts:

    *”Amen” to all the Billy Ray comments. He was almost as bad here as he was hosting the CMT awards. I think acting may be his forte, and that’s a scary thought.
    *Miranda and Josh were excellent, as usual
    *Trace and Carrie get my vote for best vocals of the night, and Carrie’s hot pants were uh, hot, despite her strange struts.
    *It was GREAT to see Faith and Dwight. My wife says Faith sounds like a smoker these days. She’s still great.
    *Alan was solid, but “Good Time” is kind of like phoning it in for him. Not a memorable song.
    *Taylor is such a fan-friendly, neat young star. But as noted, her live singing is forgettable. She’ll get better as she matures, I think. Pickler is okay. She may have peaked already. Hard to tell.
    *Jewel was classy. Nice to have her doing country music. She’s a better fit, I think, that J. Simpson.
    *A little John Rich goes a long way with me, so I was glad he was introducing Gretchen. If he performed, I zipped past it.
    *Sugarland was okay. That song is infectious/obnoxious. Take your pick.

    Enough. Time to tune in the CMA nominations in the morning.

  10. And I thought last year’s CMA Fest stunk. At least now I know why some of the songs were from months ago. I was impressed by Turner, Jewel(defiantly prefer her over Jessica), Miranda(that girl can rock), Carrie(good performance, bad song) and Pickler(while it was a bubblegum type song, it was way better than many of the other performances of the night.)

    I’m also glad that they brought Faith, Dwight, and Alan on. I was beginning to wonder if I was becoming old(and I’m only 15) They seriously need a balance. Lol, I had a dumb moment when they were describing Jewel before she came on, and I was thinking it was LeAnn Rimes. Onto that first point, where were the other artists. LeAnn, Lee Ann Womack, Sara Evans, Tim McGraw, and many others? I know they are not the new kids on the block, but most of the new kids aren’t that great.

    I will give Taylor props on signing all those autographs, shows that she is a great person, even if she lacks some other skills :P :D

    I’m really hoping next year will see the return of some artists that made the CMA Fest watchable.

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