Someone Like You

I didn’t expect much.

I’ve had the Adele album for a good bit now, and “Someone Like You” is my favorite track on it.  I’d already heard how the song shot to #1 in the U.K. after she performed it on the Brit Awards.

I checked out that performance, and thought it was good. Not great, but good.

So when I heard all the buzz about her performance of the song on Sunday’s MTV Awards, I didn’t rush to check it out, and ended up just watching it last night out of boredom.

I can’t tell if it’s because she was a bit hoarse, or if she was trying to hold back her tears. Either way, it was so stunningly powerful that I was even a bit shaken up by the whole thing.

I know that there’s going to be the inevitable claims of authenticity and real talent and such, which makes sense given the pop landscape that she’s performing in.  But honestly, it’s been a really long time since anything has happened on a country music stage that’s even come close to what Adele pulled off that night.

It reminded me of Reba McEntire’s performance of “For My Broken Heart” on the 1991 CMA Awards.  She’s a seasoned pro who rarely misses a note, but she tears up so much in the final chorus that she can’t get the notes out, and imperfection that makes the performance timelessly perfect:


I can’t find the clip online, but it also reminded me of Vince Gill singing “The Key to Life” on the 1998 show, also breaking down in the final few lines of the song.  I miss moments like this in country music.

No wonder I’m so awfully disinterested in country this year.  Besides the usual mainstream drivel, I’ve also been disappointed by new albums from usually reliable folks like Dolly Parton, Todd Snider, Alison Krauss & Union Station, and even Emmylou Harris.   I’ve taken to pretending that The Civil Wars are somehow country so that I don’t write the genre off completely this year.

The only thing I’ve really loved so far?  Matraca Berg’s The Dreaming Fields.  It’s got that same rawness that must be speaking to me for some reason these days.  There’s no chance of Berg making it back on the radio in 2011, but with all the shameless format-hopping that’s been allowed by country programmers in recent years, maybe we can get them to give a few spins to Adele.


  1. Adele’s performance was flawless. I was shocked to see something as great as this and Bruno Mars’ Amy Winehouse tribute on the otherwise joke that is the VMAs.

    And honestly, Kellie Pickler singing “I Wonder” on the CMAs gets me every time.

  2. At the very least, I’m sure they’d let Adele perform with Jennifer Nettles on the CMA Awards!

    Great post. It also reminded me of when Kellie Pickler teared up singing “I Wonder” on an awards show a while back. I love Adele too. She has a beautiful, powerful voice, and she’s a singer-songwriter who actually has something to say.

    Did you not like the new Alison Krauss + Union Station album? I remember liking it, but it’s been a little while since I’ve last heard it. As for Emmylou, I’ve heard the album a few times, but I still need to dig a little deeper into the lyrics. But I can see where one might be disappointed in Dolly’s new album.

  3. Well, got the first one. But I guess I didn’t get the “Her?”.

    Sorry to everyone else for quickly derailing the comment thread on this great post – my bad. Carry on!

  4. I know it was a bit of a big tear-fest, but I thought Kellie Pickler did a stand-up job preforming I Wonder back in ’07 at the CMA’s.

  5. First off, great post. Any time you can talk about ‘For My Broken Heart’ in any context, it’s going to be a quality conversation. I lived in Syracuse at the time, and there was a big deal made when she came through town two years later. They were about to cancel the show at the State Fair because of rain, but Reba came out and acoustically sang “Sweet Dreams”, which she hadn’t sung since the accident. I met her the following year in Rochester, and it’s probably the one time in my life that I was literally tongue-tied meeting someone.

    I actually liked the Brits performance more than the MTV one, and that may have been because of the context…she had the validation of her countrymen that she had arrived, and they have continued buying that album 30 weeks later. The host of the Brits said afterward “Wow. Wasn’t that amazing? You can have all the dancers, the pyrotechnics, laser shows you want, but if you sound like that, all you need is a piano. Incredible.” James summed up my opinion with that one quote.

    The good news for us? Adele is heading in a country direction with her next album. The bad news? She’s citing Lady Antebellum as an influence. Even though she performed a killer version of “Need You Now” for CMT, I hope her material remains a bit deeper than “We Own the Night.”

  6. I really liked her version of “Need You Now”, but Adele could sing anything and I’d love it. I may give “Dirt Road Anthem” a chance if she sings it.

    Well, maybe not everything.

  7. I actually had three performances come to mind when you mentioned most performances being void of emotion:

    1. Carrie Underwood’s performance of “Just A Dream” at the 2008 CMA’s. Not only does Carrie struggle to finish the song, but it’s obvious she’s honored to sing this song, because of the way she handles it live:

    2. Carrie Underwood “Temporary Home” 2010 ACM’s. Again, it’s obvious Carrie is touched by this song, and she puts her heart into it during every performance. The fact that she co-wrote the song probably helps her connect to it, but she can still deliver a song and make you feel it with every ounce of your heart if she believes in the song:

    3. Another Carrie performance, where she breaks down because she received her first standing ovation during her first major awards show performance:

    Carrie Underwood “How Great Thou Art: Girls Night Out.” Last Carrie video, but if this doesn’t move you to tears, you have no heart. Seriously, I haven’t seen a performer sing with this much raw emotion in a long time. Wow.

    A few others:

    Kellie Pickler “I Wonder” at the 2007 CMA’s:

    And another that just came to mind is Alan Jackson’s first televised performance of “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” right after 9/11.

  8. I liked Brad Paisley’s performance of “Welcome to the Future” at the White House a couple of years back. That was a (rare) cool moment for contemporary/mainstream country music :)

  9. Yea, to what Kevin said, I think for the most part, a talented artist is a talented artist. Clearly she has a keen ear for production and is a good songwriter, so I’d expect for it to still be a good album, regardless of the supposed influences. I had also heard somewhere that she was drawing influences from Delta Blues, which is certainly anything but Lady A or Rascal Flatts.

  10. Adele also cited Patsy Cline as an influence for 21, I believe. I think that she’s more inspired by the “heartbreak” of a song, rather than the sound of it. “Turning Tables” is my favorite song of the year so far.

    Anyway. Anytime someone mentions “For My Broken Heart,” I know that a good conversation is on the way. I absolutely love that song and album. Reba put her heart and soul into it and made her best album yet.

  11. Adele has said in several interviews that Wanda Jackson and Rascal Flatts were her recent influence on 21. She wants to explore the country genre more for her next album.

  12. Great post, K. Agree with Karly that “Stay” at the CMAs a few years ago had a similar effect – as did, Carrie’s “Jesus, Take The Wheel” at the ACMs. Probably my favorite of all her performances for that very reason.

  13. Tara, thanks for the higher-quality video of Carrie’s performance.

    Not only do I disagree that there haven’t been some very emotional performances in country music in the past few years, but showing emotion doesn’t have to mean there are tears streaming down your face, breaking down onstage.

    That’s what’s great about music; different songs and performances touch people for all kinds of different reasons.

    Some others I want to add to my previous picks:

    Carrie Underwood- “Bless The Broken Road,” Stripped Sessions.

    Carrie Underwood- “Praying For Time”

    Carrie Underwood- “I’ll Stand By You”

    Carrie Underwood- “Desperado, 2007 Grammy’s

    Rascal Flatts- “It’s Getting Better All The Time”

  14. Quote by kevin john coyne re. Adele:

    but with all the shameless format-hopping that’s been allowed by country programmers in recent years, maybe we can get them to give a few spins to Adele.

    Only if they give Adele’s songs a country remix with some steel guitar flourishes (IMHO). But I think we ought to wait until after the Grammys, where it’s very likely she’ll abscond with some major hardware.

  15. The last country performance to really move me was Carrie’s How Great Thou Art on the ACM’s Girls Night Out special. Carrie didn’t break down at the end, but there was just something so powerful, moving and surreal in that performance. And who knew that a spiritual song can actually go viral on the internet.

    But otherwise, I agree with you, Adele is really something special. I just wish it wasn’t wasted on a show like the VMAs.

  16. Before Jennifer Nettles’ 2007 CMA performance of “Stay”, I can’t remember anything really wowing me on a country awards show aside from Alan Jackson’s first performance of “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” just weeks after 9/11.

  17. Adele’s entire album, bar none, is amazing.

    As for moving performances, Carrie’s HGTA at the ACM: Girls’ Night Out special was incredible. If there was any sort of Grammy that she was able to be nominated for with that performance, then she should get it. No wonder it blew up all over the internet.

  18. Come to think of it, actually, Carrie’s had a boatload of moving performances! Woah. Putting them in lists like some of y’all did on here really puts it into perspective.

  19. I agree in that I think there’s something missing in today’s music. I heard an angel the other night – her name is Aubree-Anna and she resides in Dallas, TX right now, although I don’t think she’ll be there for long. Although her voice hints Jazz greats, you can tell she loves Country music and performs it like second nature. I think she would be a fresh addition to the Country Pop arena. She debuted a song called “Soon” Written by the legendary Diane Warren whom she had the opportunity to meet and said she was humbled and thankful she was afforded the chance to sing and record this beautiful song. The name Diane Warren probably sounds familiar because she has penned hits for icons such as Faith Hill & Carrie Underwood among countless others. You can check out the music video of the song “Soon” they created of the performance held at Big D Opry here:

    It’s a very sad but beautiful song and her voice is like silk, not to mention she’s just so good lookin’. Please review and leave your comments. I’m trying everything I can to get this girl heard – not to mention I want this song released so I can buy it!!

    music lover

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