45th ACM Awards: Where’s the country?

I am not ashamed to admit my status as a country music purist. I may be 22 years old, but I’ve grown to love all facets of country music. It’s a wonderful genre filled with truth and songs depicting real life. Above all else, the artists are the most genuine people anywhere. The country music community is a giant family, afterall. I credit the Grand Ole Opry for helping to create that sense of community. It gave (and still gives) everyone the chance to come together in celebration for the music. You’ll be hard pressed to find the likes of Kayne West in country music.

While watching the 45th annual Academy of Country Music Awards Sunday (April 18, 2010) I felt a giant shift in the genre. Gone are the days of singers walking on stage, singing songs about real life, and putting heart and emotion into performances.  Country Music has officially lost touch with its roots and I fear there isn’t any turning back. Traditionalists stand little chance of making an impact in the genre in the future.

To categorise the award show as terrible would be putting it mildly. The opening number, a rocking rendition of “Traveling Band” featuring Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, and Charlie Daniels singing with John Fogerty (the original singer of the song) was a mess. The performance was pointless, I cannot recall the last time John Fogerty scored a major country hit or how he is relevant to country music in 2010. The sound was far too loud and drowned out the vocals.

The performances that followed didn’t help matters much, every bad country song from the last year got rolled out one after another. To think that the disastrous “Hillbilly Bone” and beyond mediocre “That’s How Country Boys Roll” even rolled off of some dimwitted Nashville songwriter’s pen let alone topped the Billboard Country charts, gives insight into the intelligence level of the listening audience.

Nashville journalist Chet Flippo  asserted a few weeks ago, that music row is turning out records exces in Nashville don’t care to buy. When are we going to wake up and notice the identity crisis country music finds itself in?

The only link to the past throughout the night came a mere hour and forty some-odd minutes into the show. When Miranda Lambert sang “The House That Built Me,” she gave the kind of performance no one else was capable of giving that night. There wasn’t an electric guitar in sight, nor did Lambert rely on gimmicks  (i.e. gliding above the audience or jumping backwards into a pool of water). She just stood there and sang her song with more sincere conviction than anyone else in the room that night could muster on a dare. Is there even any question as to why she won Top Female Vocalist? Thank you Miranda, for taking three minutes to remind us all why we fell in love with country music all those years (or decades) ago.

The only other performer who justified their worth was Carrie Underwood. Her performance of “Temporary Home” felt awakward; like she rushed the melody a bit but she showcased every reason to rally behind her as the newest top female in country. I take serious issue when recapers refer to her as the newest “queen of country,” seeing as she isn’t in a position to earn that title yet.

The most polarizing moment during the show was Laura Bell Bundy performing “Giddy On Up.” This defines the notion of you either like it or you hate it. While I didn’t outright hate it, it lacked authenticity. Bundy’s theatre background (she was lead on Broadway in Legally Blond) gives her the edge in working an audience and taking control of the stage but the whole performance was contrived and fake. Something was missing in the connection between Bundy and the viewers. I don’t feel like I know her as a person and thus couldn’t find a way of relating to what she was doing. At least it was something different to shake up the night.

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