ABC touted its three-hour CMA Music Festival concert as “Country’s Night to Rock,” and because this special had better sound than other televised music award shows do combined, it actually did. Most everyone was there, from Reba McEntire, who sang “Turn On the Radio”; to Taylor Swift, who worked a sparkly gold fringed dress for “Sparks Fly”; to Jason Aldean, who brought Kelly Clarkson onstage for their duet “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” My favorite crowd reaction shot of the night was the guy rapping along with Aldean during “Dirt Road Anthem.” My favorite artist interview was Lady Antebellum, who revealed they sign a lot of “stinky cowboy boots” and that Dave Haywood sleeps in black crew socks. (“This interview is really awful for my rep, by the way,” he joked.)
It was admittedly tough to watch Sugarland’s performance in light of their stage collapse in Indiana over the weekend. ABC made sure viewers knew the performances of “Find the Beat Again” and “Stuck Like Glue” were recorded on June 10, 2011, but being reminded of how much joy that duo and their fans are capable of made your heart ache because you know they’re feeling the complete opposite now.
My favorite segment was, I’m surprised to admit, the ride-along with American Idol winner Scotty McCreery and runner-up Lauren Alaina. After all these years, I thought I was immune to the “Idol star hits the big time” montage, but Lauren’s nerves as their car approached LP Field were genuine and palpable. “We’re just gonna go up there and sing like we do any other time. Be a’ight,” Scotty told her.
“My whole town would fit in that stadium,” she said. Watch the clip of their day leading up to the show below. It includes Scotty getting a marriage proposal from a fan (“I was just gonna let you know that we’re gonna get married one day,” she says. “Oh, all right. I’ll look forward to it,” he responds), as well as Lauren denying during a radio interview that she and Scotty are dating and beating him in a game of charity softball. Then, watch her perform “Anyway” with Martina McBride in front of close to 70,000 fans and tell me you don’t get a little teary-eyed. McCreery joined Josh Turner to perform “Your Man.” Catch that below as well. Last week it was announced that McCreery will release his debut album, Clear as Day, on Oct. 4, and Alaina’s, titled Wildflower, will follow on Oct. 11.