Hello from Las Vegas, where we’re blogging the Academy of Country Music Awards. We’re backstage, so we’ll be writing about portions of the show that we catch on the monitors or well as filling you in immediately with what the artists who come backstage reveal.
8:00: Carrie Underwood and her awesome legs open the show with her current single, “Good Girl,” from her forthcoming album, out May 1. She”s wearing so short a skirt that she can go from good girl to bad girl with one wrong camera angle. It”s a belter and she’s country music’s strongest belter right now.
8:04: Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton, in their second year of co-hosting, trade fairly funny quips, including Shelton busting McEntire on how old she is–and panning over to KISS, in full make up. Hey, Garth Brooks’ covered “Hard Luck Woman,” so that makes them country by association. The scary thing is it looks like they aren’t even the ones in the room with the most make-up. Shelton and McEntire have an easy chemistry that serves them both well. Between the Shelton/McEntire duo hosting the ACMs and Brad Paisley/Carrie Underwood hosting the CMAs, we’ve got combos that can go for years.
8:05: Chris Young, up for male vocalist of the year, sings “Save Water, Drink Beer.” It”s a typical country rebel rousing, drinking sound that focuses more on the party than showing off Young”s strong voice. Young has had a run of consecutive five No. 1 singles so we imagine there”s been a lot of beer drinking for him lately.
8:15: Zac Brown Band checks in from Mandalay Bay with “Keep It in Mind.” It’s a good performance, but the band doesn’t have time to really show off their musicality and how well they work together live. If you haven’t seen them live, you should.
8:18: Then there’s the Band Perry. So we’re less than 20 minutes in and we’ve had four performances like bullet trains pulling into the station and pulling out as quickly. “Postcard from Paris” will be the last single from The Band Perry’s current album. As impassioned performers as they are, Kimberly sounds scratchy, and, again, the camera men are patrol to make sure they don’t shoot too high since she’s in a very short skirt. I have all kinds of terms that I’m calling this in my head that involve certain furry animals, but I won’t print them here in case there are children reading… or people easily offended.
8:26: LL Cool J, who is just as country as KISS, just said, “Let’s hear it for our country.” What? Now we’re getting a big standing O for the military. This segues into Keith Urban performing “For You,” which he wrote for “Act of Valor.” Country music has always embraced the military when it wasn’t always in fashion, and expect a few other salutes to the military tonight. There’s no doubt the song is heartfelt, but Urban’s voice is ragged and the song is one of his least dynamic… however, there’s no way he’s not getting a standing O… that would be downright unpatriotic and everyone in that audience is a patriot, right?
8:32: Beth Behrs from “2 Broke Girls,” and her annoyingly nasal voice are presenting the first award of the night for Song of the Year.” Our money is on Eli Young Band’s “Crazy Girl.” And the winner is “Crazy Girl,” so we’re 1 for 1 on our predictions. We’ll see how quickly that changes. Each member of the band gets a word in, including songwriters Lee Brice and Liz Rose (best known for co-writing with Taylor Swift before she decided to write solo). The song was an absolute gamechanger for The Eli Young Band.
8:36: “Crazy Girl” was the first televised award presented, but three were given out before the show started: Thompson Square won vocal duo of the year, ending Sugarland’s long reign. Sugarland, as you’ll recall, ended Brooks & Dunn’s long reign. Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson won vocal event of the year for “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” and Toby Keith won video of the year for “Red Solo Cup,” which he’ll perform later on tonight with some surprises guests.
8:42 Shelton performs current hit, “Drink On It,” which is one of those sloping easy going songs that plays on the theme of “Sleep on it,” and it’s a pretty sleepy performance.
8:45: We’re up to album of the year and Miranda Lambert wins for the third year in a row with “Four The Record.” I can’t keep up with my predictions so I’ll quit while I’m 1 for 1. The albums are my babies. They’re what makes me wake up in the morning,” she says from the podium. Truthfully, the press room was pulling for Eric Church and “Chief,” though we’re all Miranda fans…
8:47: Zac Brown and his knit cap introduce Hunter Hayes, whom Brown notes plays on his own records. He looks so young he could be an embryo… he’s 20, but I feel like I could carry him around in my pocket. By the way, I’ll give someone $50 for a photo of Zac Brown without his cap on. What’s going on underneath there? Anyway, Hayes, who performs a short version of “Storm Warning.,” before introducing his new song that he wrote as the theme for the ACMs’ end hunger campaign. He tosses to Little Big Town, country music’s greatest harmonizers, to perform the song, “Here’s Hope,” with blends with “Imagine,” by John Lennon, or John Legend, as Hayes first stumbled. LBT is performing with an adorable children’s choir. I feel like I have a heart of stone that this is not moving me in the least. I’m most obsessed with LBT Kimberly Schlapman’s hair, which is so big and frizzy that Hunter Hayes may be hiding in it.
8:58: Jason Aldean, already a winner tonight, is playing “Fly Over States,” the last single off of his mega-selling “My Kinda Party.” Aldean remains country’s best kept secret in that, even despite the duet with Clarkson and selling more than 2 million copies of “Party,” he hasn’t gotten that much of a following outside of country music yet. We’ve had too many slow or mid-tempo songs in a row. We need an up-tempo sh** kicker, although, given how big Aldean is, we get why he’s opening the second hour no matter what he wanted to sing.
9:01: There’s always a ringer at the awards– one year it was Cher, this year it’s Kiss. My friend saw Paul Stanley taking his kids to see the Easter Bunny at The Grove in Los Angeles last week. He did not have on his make-up. Kiss is presenting band of the year, which goes to Lady Antebellum. Hillary Scott looks a little scared. Weirdest photo op ever.
9:05: Brantley Gilbert who is up for best new artist is singing hit “Country Must Be Country Wide,” in which he name checks Chris LeDoux. If I’m not wrong, the last person to name check LeDoux in his first single was Garth Brooks with “Much Too Young.” Turned out okay for him, didn’t it (Plus, Gilbert’s already well on his way as co-writer of Jason Aldean’s monster hit, “Dirt Road Anthem.”
9:07: From Chris LeDoux to Springsteen, Eric Church is performing “Springsteen.” Coincidentally, my best friend is in Washington, D.C. watching Springsteen perform right now. He’s singing “Does The Bus Stop at 82nd Street,” by the way. He is not singing a song called “Church.”
9:10: Frank Liddell, who produced Lambert’s “Four The Record” is backstage. He’s talking about how surprised he is they won and that they have always concentrated on making albums, not just singles. He was presented the award by Eli Young Band, whom he used to produce and whom he still executive produces: I still work with them as their executive producer,” he says, “which means I’m the guy who cuts up the cocaine.” He’s going to regret saying that the minute he walks out of the room, even though he said, “I’m kidding” a split second later. Liddell is working on a new album with his wife, Lee Ann Womack right now.
9:16: Back to watching the show. Single of the year, presented by Jake Owen and LeAnn Rimes, goes to Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson for “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” Aldean says Clarkson’s name was the first name “he threw out,” when he decided the song needed a female voice on it.
9:19: Lady Antebellum seems to have recovered enough from their moment with Kiss to perform “Dancin’ Away With My Heart.” It’s a lovely wistful performance, but I’m falling asleep.
9:29 “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery, who is 18 going on 48, sings a bit of new single “Water Tower Town,” before intro’ing Brad Paisley, with whom he’s touring. Paisley, dressed all in camouflage is performing “Camouflage.” It’s a bit of a novelty song , but Paisley’s guitar playing is, as always, exemplary. Even if you don’t think you’re a country fan, do yourself a favor and go see Paisley when he comes to town, simply for the guitar playing, if nothing else. Same with Keith Urban. And remember, there’s nothing that doesn’t go with camouflage. Not crazy about the song, but so happy to hear something uptempo.
9:35: Scotty McCreery beats Brantley Gilbert and Hunter Hayes for best new artist. It’s a fan voted award. It really is hard to believe that he is in high school. Eli Young Band just walked in backstage. Bassist Jon Jones jokes that the award is too heavy to wear around his neck. Mike Eli talks about how the band, together for 10 years now, always felt there was something good around the corner, even if it was so incremental no one else would notice, but they never thought it would reach this level. And for those unfamiliar, there is no one names Eli Young in the band. The name comes from Mike Eli and James Young.
9:44: Steve Martin is performing with Rascal Flatts on “Banjo.” We didn’t hear the intro so we don’t know if there was a word or two said about Martin’s hero, Earl Scruggs, who died earlier this week. The pairing seems weird to us, but it’s still a joy to watch Martin play.
9:46: Toby Keith is singing “Red Solo Cup,” surrounded by fans holding, of course, red solo cups. It’s the stupidest songs in ages, but Keith smartly created a video that made the song a viral sensation. It’s Vegas, baby… he’s just been joined by Carrot Top. Now he’s worked his way down to the celeb section and Eric Church is drinking double. The song will never be anything other than a novelty, but it was a fun, spirited performance.
9:50: Sara Evans is singing “My Heart Can’t Tell You No,” originally a hit for Rod Stewart. Surprised no one has thought of doing a country remake before now. Lady Antebellum to the press room. It’s Lady A’s Hillary Scott’s birthday, so it’s not a bad way to celebrate. They admit being mesmerized by Kiss and their 12-inch heels. But the band is looking forward to a date with another rocker: They are playing Hard Rock Calling in the U.K. this summer, immediately before Bruce Springsteen on the bill. “That’s on my bucket list,” Lady A’s Charles Kelley says. I’m seen him several times, every time he comes to Nashville. He’s one of my biggest influences. We’ve covered ‘I’m on Fire’ on tour. I don’t think we’ll be pulling out that cover that night.” We missed Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw’s performance, but we can catch them together out on tour this summer.
10:06: Miranda Lambert just won female vocalist of the year, presented by a cowboy-hat clad Ashton Kutcher. No idea what he said because Scotty McCreery was backstage. He is obviously the only high school kid in America who is going to school Monday through Wednesday and then out on tour with Brad Paisley over the weekend. He said the first week after the tour he came to school in t-shirt, shorts and flip flops because he didn’t want his friends to think he was putting on airs. Remarkably grounded kid. He’s touring the world, and yet, he just said he decided to go to school close to home at NSCU because he’s not ready to move away from home yet.
10:12: Blake Shelton just introduced his wife, “Miranda Lambert Shelton” and her pink microphone. She’s about to get cut off for Toby Keith, who, of course, is holding a red Solo cup, which has his own premium brand of Mezcal in it. Keith says he thought the song was “so stupid, it’s brilliant,” when he first heard it. Co-writers The Warren Brothers thought they were faking shooting the video until the second day of production. “They thought they were being punk’d,” Keith says.
10:49: We just had a little computer glitch, so we’ll try to catch up… Artists are coming in fast and furious to the press room now as the evening draws to a close, so we’re missing most of the performances. We really wish we’d missed Martina McBride and Train’s Pat Monahan performing “Marry Me,” as a couple traded real vows and the song kept being interrupted for the minister’s remarks. They have a sad, yet lovely, story of meeting each other in a grief group after both being widowed, but this is way too sappy.
10:50: Blake Shelton just won male country vocalist, and in a major dis to Taylor Swift, who presented to him, says, “This is a real shock face… “
10:56: Thompson Square is backstage so the sound is down on the monitors, but it looks like Taylor Swift won Entertainer of the year. Can’t hear what she’s saying… Shawna Thompson just teared up bringing up her dad, who recently died… Keifer Thompson admits a lot of folks were looking at them as the underdogs for top duo since Brooks and Dunn and Sugarland are the only duos who have won the award over the last 20 years.
10:58: Lionel Richie and Blake Shelton close the song singing “You Are,” they look totally uncomfortable singing the “you need to know, I love you so” line to each other, those two big old alphamales.
We missed a lot of the actual show after folks started coming backstage, but it seemed to run relatively smoothly if completely unexceptionally. There were no huge upsets, although we think Chesney, who was up for nine wins went home completely emptyhanded, so he’s probably upset…
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading.
What did you think of the ACMs?