Taylor Swift became the youngest person to win the Entertainer of the Year, the final prize given out last night at the 43rd annual Country Music Association Awards. And the restraint she showed on last week’s Saturday Night Live in not making a Kanye West joke went out the window at the CMAs. Which means it’s time to round up the best and the worst moments I saw while watching at home.
Best Musical Performance: Reba McEntire sings her terrific hit “Consider Me Gone” as though it was a ferocious rebuke to all the country-radio and cable-video channels that resist featuring women over 50.
Worst Song Choice: The decision of the otherwise-likable Zac Brown Band to perform “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” This endless story-song was a tedious, show-off-y (look, the fiddler can fiddle really fast!) hit when Charlie Daniels did it in 1979. Brown, giving it the full sweaty-wool-cap treatment, did not improve it. But the ostentatiously sweaty effort got the band a standing ovation anyway.
Best Over-The-Top Moment: Carrie Underwood performing “Cowboy Casanova” in a massive production number that featured a bordello-red backdrop, back-up dancers dressed in black bustiers, and Betty Draper’s fainting-couch from Mad Men. Arising from that sofa was Underwood, who wore a long white peignoir that revealed what looked to like purple sequined hot-pants. To make sure we noticed these, Underwood pushed her pelvis at the camera as though it was a snow-plow:
Best Pure-Country Winner-Quote That Almost Didn’t Make A Lick O’ Sense: Jamey Johnson, accepting the Song of the Year award for “In Color,” growled amiably, “Ah never thought y’all’d let me come to stuff like this.” Aw, shucks, Jamie — the Nashville crowd couldn’t get enough of your ordinary-mountain-man image.
Most Awkward Moment: Sugarland wins Best Duo award and Jennifer Nettles acknowledges what apparently everyone in Nashville believed: That Brooks and Dunn, giving their final CMA performance before retiring, were a lock. Nettles generously invites B&D to come up and “say a few words.” Cut to Brooks and Dunn in their seats. Their gazes say, “We are so over this kind of stuff.” Ronnie Dunn literally waves the camera away from them. Ulp:
Best Kanye West Reference: Co-hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood singing a little tune they liked to call “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Kanye.” If you didn’t see or hear it, you’ll have to trust me; it was cute and funny.
Worst Kanye West Reference: Taylor Swift, accepting Female Vocalist award, said she wanted to thank everyone in the audience “for not running up onstage during this speech.” I tell you, Kanye’s spirit hung in the air, leading to…
Best/Worst Kanye West Reference: Little Jimmy Dickens interrupts Brad and Carrie by strutting onstage to yell, Kanye-style, that “Taylor Swift made the best video ever!” Not funny reading it on a computer screen; kinda funny, however, when seen being delivered by an 88-year-old, four-foot 11-inch man whose biggest hit was “May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.”
Worst Judges’ Decision Of The Night: Awarding Taylor Swift the Best Female Vocal award. Look: I think she’s a terrific songwriter; I even think her all-stops-out stage show earned her the big one, Entertainer of the Year. But her voice is thin, and sometimes as wobbly as a newborn colt. Sorry, Taylor, when placed against the competition in this category — Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Miranda Lambert, and Underwood — you just aren’t the best singer.
I await your agreement and disagreements, below, please.
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For more on the 2009 CMAs: We Live-Blogged It!