Well, we weren’t successful in helping Keith Urban score Entertainer of the Year at last night’s Academy of Country Music Awards. Kenny Chesney took the title for the fourth year in a row (then complained backstage that the award’s integrity had been compromised because it was now a “sweepstakes” voted on by the fans). Check out all the grateful winners here. Below, some of my favorite moments, with links where available (until Viacom has them yanked off of YouTube).
1. Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley’s tribute to Eddy Arnold: Judging from that clip of Arnold accepting his ACM Pioneer Award in 1984 – in which he tearfully said, “You have to forgive me, but I never want accolades. All I want to do is sing” – their intimate duet of “Make the World Go Away” was the perfect way to honor him. I thought Paisley sounded better here than he did in his earlier performance of “I’m Still a Guy.” Underwood, meanwhile, rocked her solo effort. She opened the show with “Last Name,” wearing an Elvis-inspired, bedazzled white jumpsuit.
2. Sugarland’s “All I Wanna Do”: Is there a more joyful act in country music than Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush? Kudos to J. Net for sporting a black jumpsuit with controversial fringe from the kneecaps down. (I liked it better than Carrie’s.) Also, she gets props for later thanking their record label for having “big ones enough” to release their tearjerker “Stay” to radio when it had no drums.
3. Miranda Lambert’s performance of “Gunpowder & Lead”: The only thing that would have made that better is if those flags had been burnt by the pyrotechnics and fallen to the floor when the gun shot went off. Next time! (Bonus points to her for mouthing “Holy s—” on her way to the stage to accept her award for Album of the Year.)
4. Taylor Swift’s “Should’ve Said No”: Like it or not, the girl went for it. I know it’s a far cry from Britney working the pole, but seeing 17-year-old Swift (pictured) soaked on stage, with a Flashdance-style back light illuminating the water hitting her shoulders and flying from her tousled hair made me a little uncomfortable. Then again, so did her hoodied Avril Lavigne-esque anger. George Strait seemed to dig it. As did Kix Brooks, who said, “Dang, I was wantin’ to get out there in that water. Taylor gets to have all the fun.” (Ronnie Dunn was speechless.)
5. Ten-time host Reba McEntire expounding on the differences between now and the first time she emceed, in 1986: “Back then, Roger Clemens wasn’t even interested in country music.” Uncomfortable laughter from the crowd. “Hey, I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.” She continued: “Back then, neither an African-American nor a woman were considered for President of the United States. Of course, they’re still not nominated for Entertainer of the Year either.” You go, Miss Reba! She also had an irreverent take on Nicole Kidman’s pregnancy: “We all know, by now, that Keith is going to be a dad. Congratulations. I don’t want to go into all the details of how that all happened, but Nicole Kidman is definitely calling him Entertainer of the Year.”
6. Sara Buxton’s “rhythm gasps” to Keith Urban’s “Tu Compania”: I got that technical term from EW’s country music expert Chris Willman. (I didn’t even know that was Sara Buxton.)
7. George Strait’s smile during his “Shiftwork” duet with Kenny Chesney:Watching George smile makes me smile. Speaking of George, another note from Willman: “The funniest thing to me was that he never touched the strings on his guitar once during his ‘I Saw God’ song. Does he just have to have the guitar as a prop because he refuses to sing without it? Or was this one of those pre-recorded backing tracks that filled the night and he refused to strum-synch in protest?”
After the jump, three of my least favorite moments:
addCredit(“Taylor Swift: Kevin Winter/Getty Images”)
1. Rodney Atkins’ pitch-challenged medley: I like “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)” as much as the next person, but I don’t think I’ll be going to see him live anytime soon. Maybe his earpiece went dead? Who’s seen him in concert and can shed some light?
2. Montgomery Gentry. Sorry, I just don’t get ’em.
3. Garth Brooks’ greatest hits medley: As Willman noted, “He might as well have just sung the title of each song, for how short the snippets were.” At least we got to see Brooks take off his hat (gray hair!) and refer to Miss Reba as “Miss Yearwood” by mistake. (I bet the neckline of Trisha’s dress was still on his mind. Damn!)