Gwyneth Paltrow was at the CMA Awards on Wednesday night enduring Coldplay jokes from Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley because she has a movie to plug, the upcoming Country Strong.
But ABC and the CMA producers knew what they were doing when they scheduled Paltrow’s performance near the tail end of the show — there was a curiosity factor at work here: Would Paltrow be able to cut it in front of an audience of country pros sitting in front of her?
Of course she could. Strumming an acoustic guitar, looking a little nervous but singing the movie’s title song in an expressive, surging tone, she didn’t really need the assistance of the wonderful Vince Gill, there to give a polite country-industry imprimatur to Paltrow’s efforts.
Paltrow’s performances on the Country Strong soundtrack album are solid ones. She delivers the songs with a conversational directness in a tuneful voice.
Was she as good as Miranda Lambert singing Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter”? Of course not, but some things are just near-perfection. But Paltrow performed her song as well as any number of other pop-country acts did theirs, if not better than a few of ‘em. (Rascal Flatts, I’m listening at you.)
She’s bound to come in for some ridicule from folks who don’t consider this scion of Los Angeles showbiz royalty “authentic” enough. The entire notion of authenticity in popular music is questionable at best and ludicrous most of the time, and when it comes to country music in particular — well, this sort of cold shoulder extends at least as far back as Olivia Newton-John. In other words, it’s a criticism that is old, tired, and irrelevant.
If Paltrow has a weakness, it’s only in the fact that she tends to approach any role, including that of country singer, with a well-thought-through determination. This can result in a certain self-consciousness — her detractors would say “coldness”; I’d call it braininess. And I find such bright professional strategizing, when it’s executed this energetically, charming.
Did you see/hear Paltrow on the CMAs? What did you think?