Academy of Country Music Awards review: Lady Antebellum sweeps, Taylor Swift crowd-surfs (sort of), Brooks and Dunn split up (but no one hears it)

Miranda-Lambert-UnderwoodImage Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesIt was a good night for you if you like Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, and exposed midriffs. Not so great if you wanted to actually hear Brooks and Dunn sing. That’s the thing about the Academy of Country Music Awards show, held in Las Vegas on Sunday: It’s frequently more loose and surprising than the other awards show from the Country Music Association.

The country music industry may block Reba McEntire from extensive radio play these days because she’s not young enough (ageism thrives in country as much as it does in other pop genres), but it can’t deny her superior ability to read cue-card jokes with a naturalism that make the yuks seem off-the-cuff. Thus she’s always an excellent awards host; she kept the proceedings moving quickly. In that spirit, I’ll bestow some quick awards myself.

MOST DESERVED WINNERS Miranda Lambert for top female vocalist (everything at the ACMs was “tops”) and Brad Paisley for top male vocalist. Both of them are examples of soulful vocalists lacking any mannerisms or excessive emoting. (I was thrilled that Lambert’s Revolution also won top album.)

BIGGEST WINNER Lady Antebellum won single of the year, song of the year, and top vocal group. Congrats to them; perfectly good group. Not exciting to me, but if we’re going to have a new-ish group that’s going to start winning everything in sight for years to come, it’s better that Lady Antebellum now replaces the hideously mediocre, long-running Rascal Flatts.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A NEW ARTIST A prediction: I think Laura Bell Bundy is going to be one of the most divisive big-new-stars in country music. Purists are going to hold her previous career — Broadway lead in shows like Wicked and Legally Blonde — against her, while her younger fan-base will think it’s cool that she can execute such impeccable choreography as she did this night, sing strongly while wiggling, and fearlessly expose her midriff. (The country audience likes its new artists to be demure before they go sexy — cf. Carrie Underwood.) Anyway, Bundy performing “Giddy On Up” was one of the real hoots of the evening.

WORST NEW AWARDS TREND I’d never say anything against democracy, especially in a country-music review, but… well, the ACMs were democracy run amock this year. Expanding the Entertainer of the Year category to eight nominees and then asking fans, rather than industry peers, to text in a winner? No wonder George Strait stayed home this year; his fan base doesn’t know from texting.

Even sillier: Brooks and Dunn, who apparently can’t split up fast enough even though they keep giving “final” performances (as in tonight’s “final Academy of Country Music performance as a duo”), asked their fans to vote for which song they’d sing. So you know the tune really meant a lot to them. And it turned out to be “My Maria.” Which was sung better by writer B.W. Stevenson the first time it was a hit, in 1973. And Ronnie Dunn’s microphone didn’t kick in til about half-way through the performance. Sheesh.

WORST STUNT I’m tempted to say it was Entertainer of the Year Carrie Underwood’s gigantic dress, under which she could have hidden the entire state of Rhode Island. But I’ll have to go with Taylor Swift’s three-part production: First, suspended over the crowd in a white gown. Next: busting out of the dress to reveal… black pants. Finally, Taylor spreads her arms and swan dives into the audience. By which I mean, she lands in the pre-rehearsed arms of four guys in her retinue. Sorry, I really like Swift, but this does not qualify as crowd-surfing, in my book. Poor kid was shut out of any major award this evening, too. Oh well, she’s already got a slew of trophies and more hit singles than many veteran stars.

BEST PERFORMANCE Brad Paisley executing an intricate guitar solo while walking through the crowd on “Water,” then falling into a tub of water: Corny but fun. Hey, it’s country music: corny-but-fun is an aesthetic principle. Second-best: Jack Ingram, with strong back-up by Dierks Bentley, on  “Barbie Doll.” Snicker if you must, but it’s a catchy-good song, their vocals were strong, and they looked like they were having a really good time.

What were your favorites? Your least-favorites?

Comments (273 total) Add your comment
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  • kt

    I hated the Laura Bell Bundy performance. Just awful…I’m only 22, so I’m not exactly a country music purist in the most traditional sense of the term. However, I know a poser when I see one.

    I LOVED Miranda Lambert’s performance of The House That Built Me. It is such a fabulous song and such a heartfelt vocal. And congrats to her for her big wins tonight!

    • Melissa

      I also loved Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” It is a beautiful song and was a great performance.

      • Donna

        I agree.Miranda Lambert deserved to win.She is a highly talented woman,who has worked hard.Miranda,keep up the great work.We love you.

    • Casey

      I enjoyed Laura’s performance last night – it wasn’t country, but then again, nothing on that show was. I’m young but I stopped listening to mainstream country music years ago. If you hated this show, you should really check out some of the less mainstream acts – some of them are really talented and don’t have Nashville’s inane and shiny gloss of fakeness. Ugh.

    • Jen

      I agree! I thought she was awful…couldn’t understand most of what she was singing. I give her credit for her dancing…but this was, like American Idol…a SINGING competiton, not a dancing one.

      • SoSueMe

        I have to say I thought her perfomance was a lot of fun…country stars have been using dancers for years, but has there ever been a country act who is a dance country-pop artist…I mean a country singer who can actually dance like a bonafide professional…I think Julianne Hough should work this angle as well. If LBB hits, it seems this can birth a whole slew of dance artists (like Madonna, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears) who sing country. A new beast has been born in the country world!

  • jo

    Reba just had her biggest number one of her career. I’m not sure how that’s country blocking her from extensive radio play.

    As far as the show I thought the best performances were Miranda and Carrie both together and separate.

    • UGH

      Garth and Shania ruined Country music years ago! That’s why we’re stuck with over the top no talents like Taylor Swift!
      Also, do we really need 20 country music award shows per year?

      • shannan

        I totally agree and have since day one. Taylor Swift…lovely girl…extremlyyy over rated..not a bad songwriter…but vocally not that good.

      • elr

        Was it an awards show? I could of sworn I was watching a concert. Did anyone count how many muxical numbers there were? I also hated the venue it added to the concert feel. I adore Reba though…she was the only reason I watched. And 8 nominees for Entertainer of the Year! Why do they always include George Strait?

      • aps

        that’s exactly why i enjoy country awards shows. they are traditionally jam packed full of performances. and most are pretty good or at least pretty entertaining.

      • M

        As I was telling my husband last night….in 20 years when Taylor is 40, how can she still sing songs about teenage life and angst?
        Not going to be pretty.

      • JP

        Maybe Taylor Swift’s 15 minutes of fame are up. Can’t stand her!

  • Britt

    It’s Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks, not Ronnie Brooks.

    • kross

      Ken Tucker, you’re an idiot and apparently don’t know anything about country music. I live in Houston and I hear Reba on the radio all the time. Also, before you post make sure you know the names of the people you are reporting about…fyi it’s Ronnie Dunn

    • Wendy Boulter

      Thank you Britt…. If your gonna criticize at least get the name right!!!

    • someone

      REBA ROCKED IT LAST NIGHT!!!!!!! SO DID CARRIE UNDERWOOD!! also in response to what you wrote about her dress; from the way you fred in thy editorial you could probably fit the entire state of rhode island in your gigantic mouth!!!! So back off because she is better than you will ever be at anything!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • someone

      REBA ROCKED IT LAST NIGHT!!!!!!! SO DID CARRIE UNDERWOOD!! also in response to what you wrote about her dress; from the way you fred in thy editorial you could probably fit the entire state of rhode island in your gigantic mouth!!!! So back off because she is better than you will ever be at anything!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(:

  • Eric

    Agree wholeheartedly with your comments on Miranda Lambert and Brad Paisley winning and Rascal Flatts mediocrity (a big part of the reason I’m not the country fan I once was).

    I don’t understand the note on Brooks and Dunn, who have always been very gracious and thankful on stage. For my money I’ll take the Brooks and Dunn version of ‘My Maria’ over the B.W. Stevenson version any day. And by the way, it’s Ronnie DUNN and Kix BROOKS. Just a little FYI.

    Those are my thoughts.

  • flicketyflack

    “The country music industry may block Reba McEntire from extensive radio play these days ”

    HUH?? Consider Me Gone went #1 for a month in January!

    Best performances: The opener with Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood rocking out Travelin Band with Brad Paisley, John Fogerty, and Charlie Daniels, Carrie with Temporary Home, and Miranda with House That Built Me.

    Laura Bell Bundy had the chance to be awesome. She sounded HORRIBLE. The girl’s talented but she messed that mess up bad being so out of breath. It says a lot when you hit more wrong notes than Taylor Swift.

    The sound malfunction during Brooks & Dunn was shameful.

    • aps

      right on with this.
      i swear laura bell bundy was a clone of britney spears from years ago at some awards show performance…i just can’t remember which one. She was…interesting. I was laughing. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but we’ll see. Definitely didn’t sound good though.

  • maddie

    how can you say that laura bell bundy performance was the best??? it was so stupid, i was confused that they actually had HER perform..

  • jaime

    I am so glad @miranda_lambert FINALLY WON these awards she has diserved for so long!!! Her music is REAL country & awesome!!!

    & I am glad she told them off gracefully when she won her 2nd award. “I didnt get to finish last time” or something like that for cutting her off!!!

    I love her~

    • Nathan

      Well deserved, which is why I’m so surprised that she won. I’ve been so used to seeing Swift win everything and undeservedly so, that it was a nice surprise to see real talent get honored. Maybe the Kanye Effect has finally worn off.

  • Amber

    I’m glad Swift didn’t win any awards this year. She seems like a super sweet person but she cannot sing. Period. I want Carrie to win as much as possible but I would rather see Miranda take it away from her than Swift any day. At least Miranda can sing without sounding like she needs an inhaler.

    • fred

      hahaha. Taylor blows Carrie away. Carrie can only shout. Her songs suck. Use your common sense, Taylor won album of the year because her album sold the most, that means the most people like her singing and went and spent money. And live, people CONTINUE to sell out her concerts even after she has performed live many times on these awards shows. SO most think your wrong, you think you right. Good for you. :)

      • TT44

        Taylor Swift couldn’t hit the right key if it hit her in the face.

      • maria

        ummm…..taylor didn’t win album of the year. miranda lambert did.

      • lalalaa

        HAHAHAHA are you ACTUALLY saying taylor swift is a better singer than carrie underwood? taylor didn’t win album of the year, idiot. you know less about amazing talent than taylor swift knows about hitting notes

      • Shana

        Carrie blows Taylor out of the water in terms of vocals

      • Rick

        I took my girls to a Taylor concert. With approx. 16,000 tweeners singing along you can’t tell if she is on key or not.

      • dianne

        my dog sings better than Taylor Swift

      • wake up

        Maria, Taylor won the Grammy’s, so wake the hell up.

      • jaj

        Just because someone sells a lot of albums doesn’t always mean they can sing, ex. Bob Dylan, Neil Young. I happen to think Taylor is overrated in the terms that she is not a strong singer. Her songs reflect her age, a teenage girl singing about boys and teenage views of love. It’s okay for a song or two, but if she doesn’t expand to write about things other than a teenager’s world, she is going to be out of tune quickly. And if you are going to be honest, others sing better, you just happen to like her and her style better.

      • J

        You are a true idiot if you think that taylor swift blows carrie underwood out of the water vocally. That’s your own opinion if you think carrie’s songs “suck” as people are allowed to have different muscial tastes but a lot of people out there disagree with you!

      • Jakie

        Who have you been listening to??? Carrie Underwood’s vocals are a thousand times better than Taylor Swift’s “vocals.” And after Taylor’s spastic performance ending with her fake crowd surfing, it’s safe to say that Underwood is a better performer in general as well.

      • Jakie

        Who have you been listening to??? Carrie Underwood’s vocals are a thousand times better than Taylor Swift’s “vocals.” And after Taylor’s spastic performance ending with her fake crowd surfing, it’s safe to say that Underwood is a better performer in general as well.
        I was so glad Taylor won no awards last night. Congrats to Carrie and Miranda Lambert! Let’s hope country music keeps on phasing her out and the awards keep going to those who deserve them.

      • fred

        Who sells out quicker, Who sells more tickets. These are live shows to see the people SING. Taylor blows Carrie out of the water. Not even close.

      • Kathy

        Taylor is a talented song writer but she should let someone else sing. them. Her singling leaves alot to be desired.

      • AuntieD

        To some posters below:
        There’s no reason to call people names just because their opinion differs from yours. It a waste of time and space, IMO.

      • Laura

        I love Carrie Underwood. She is an INCREDIBLE singer, no doubt has a much stronger voice than Taylor Swift. However, I do believe the EOTY award should have gone to Keith Urban. He deserves more credit than he gets. I hope next year it is not fan voted. Hope this does not turn into a popularity contest. But also, I do not think it’s fair for everyone to bash Taylor Swift and act as if only “older” people listen to country music. I’m 17 and I LOVE country music. I like Taylor Swift but I do think she is more pop than country. I also agree that she isn’t the best singer. But I’ve seen other performances of hers that were actually pretty good. She’s a fantastic song writer though. Uh, other than that, loved Brad Paisley’s performance as well as Carrie’s and Miranda’s. Brad, Carrie, Miranda, and Lady Antebellum were all very deserving of their awards. Still think EOTY should have gone to Keith. He was unbelievably entertaining during his Escape Together World Tour last year. If you don’t believe me, check out his YouTube page.

  • Jackie

    Too bad EW couldn’t get someone to review the show that actually knew something about country music or enjoyed it :(

    Reba was awesome, Miranda’s perf was top notch as was Carrie’s.. overall an enjoyable show.

    “And Ronnie Brooks’ microphone didn’t kick in til… ” after 20 years you don’t even know the guys name — shameful… BTW, B&D’s version is ten times better than BWS’s original and he must be eternally grateful as he reaps in the paychecks for radio play every day!

    • Lorrie

      BWS died in 1988…did you say something about actually knowing something about country music???

      • Russ

        The BWS version peaked at #9 on the Pop charts in 1973. The song didn’t see Country until B&D in 1996.

  • genius

    I really wanted Billy Currington to win.

    • fred

      Definitely deserved to. Like Taylor, he got screwed.

      • maria

        at least billy can sing. taylor couldn’t sing her way out of a paperbag.

      • wake up

        she can just sell millions of albums and her concerts sell out in minutes. now go eat some twinkies fat cow.

  • Debbie

    I loved Reba, as a host and performer. I Thought Miranda and Carrie were good also. Thank goodness no Taylor.

    • wake up

      reba sucks. figures you are a fan.

    • Sheri

      I was thrilled that Taylor didn’t win anything. Bad enough she won album of the year at the Grammys and before winning she laid a big egg TRYING to duet w/ Stevie Nicks. She’s by far the worst singer at every live event. Wish she’d stay home.

  • trisha

    Reba is played on country radio regularly, always has been.

    Miranda is the real deal, so happy for her.

    So glad that all of the winners tonight can sing on key, so glad the off-key singer didn’t win anything tonight, maybe the country awards shows can get back a little credibility.

  • sophie

    I usually agree with your reviews Tucker, but tonight I just want some of what you were smoking.

  • Dan Lasky

    The reviewer is an idiot. Carrie, Miranda, Lady A, Reba, Brad were the highlights of the show, and all were deserving winners, esp. Carrie. She epitomizes country music and has a heart of gold. Why she was not in the by-line is a mystery…..she made history for God’s sake!!!!! As I said, the reviewer is an idiot.

    • Shelly

      Agree!! Ken, you make it quite obvious that you know nothing about country music!! As a matter of fact, I hear Reba on the radio ALL the time!! I even heard “Night the Lights went out in Georgia” today!! Do you even listen to country music??
      I LOVE!!! Carrie Underwood, but I wish she would stop dressing in skimpy or huge dresses, high, high heels and wearing big, gaudy jewelry!! She needs a new stylist. Her voice and music speaks for itself, she doesn’t need all that other stuff!! Too gaudy in my opinion. I like Brooks and Dunn okay, but I am glad they are ending. Maybe it will give Montgomery Gentry a shot at winning something now!! Now those guys ROCK!!!!

  • michael

    Please see Alan Parson’s Project – “Eye in the Sky” if you wonder where Lady Antebellum “found” the chorus for “Need You Now.” It was driving me and my friends crazy because we’d sworn we’d heard this song somewhere before and then one of us remembered where, “Eye in the Sky.” Probably not an intentional lift, but Alan Parson’s would have a case if he ever took it to court.

    • Lola

      Oh my goodness…you’re so right!! I’ve never been overly fond of the song – it’s catchy but what it comes down to is being a song about a drunken booty call. Now I won’t be able to hear it without thinking about “Eye in the Sky.” Too funny. I like Lady A and think they are talented; just don’t care for this song.

    • MultiPass

      LAUGH O L. Good call, dude.

    • Idle

      Thank you! It’s been driving me nuts trying to figure it out.

      • Mark

        Now there are several mashups that alternate LA’s chorus and APP’s chorus — they are nearly note-for-note the same, including the time signature, the key, the meter. Blatant ripoff.

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