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CMA Awards live: All the performances, as they happen


Pop & Hiss brings you instant reviews, typos and all, of all the performances at the Country Music Assn. Awards, for which Kenny Chesney won entertainer of the year for the third year in a row, and the fourth time in five years.

The winners are here, and the reviews are below:

Performance No. 21: The Eagles, "Busy Being Fabulous": The CMAs are building to the anticipation of the entertainer of the year award with some snoozy classic rock. Take off those cowboy boots, throw on your slippers and pull out a cigar for this breezy, boring lullaby. The one and only one of the evening: F

Twentieth performance (20th!): Trace Adkins, "You're Gonna Miss This": Someday, maybe, but not today. Gonna have to take Adkins on his word here, as he sings his heart out on this slow-burner but seems more angry than wistful. C-

Nineteenth performance: Kenny Chesney with the Wailers, "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven" and "Three Little Birds": How long before Chesney and Jimmy Buffet are playing Wrigley Field? The sure-to-be entertainer of the year went all island, but he's better when he's not looking ahead to his retirement. C-

Eighteenth performance: James Otto's "Just Got Started Lovin' You": Otto played the role of salesman, breaking off after the final verse to thank country radio for making it one of the most-played songs of the year. He's clearly a better pitchman than songwriter. This is smooth, comfortable and mainstream country-by-the-numbers: D

Seventeenth performance: Sugarland's "Love": Animated fireworks! Performing in front of a set that Paisley says was left over from the Beijing Olympics, Sugarland's "Love" was built for the closing credits of a big-budget romantic comedy. Kristian Bush adds a bit of gruff to Jennifer Nettles' grand vocals, as the subtle, shifting notes eventually explode into comfort-food balladry. B

Sixteenth performance: Underwood's "Just A Dream": There's no doubt the woman can sing her heart out, and after a moving introduction from one Leslie Ponder, who lost her husband in war, it would seem unfair to criticize the war ballad.  "Now that is what country music is about," Paisley said after Underwood left the stage. Underwood later said she noticed her mom crying as she was singing, and while I didn't really buy a word Underwood said, I'm not grading against a mom's tears. B

Fifteenth performance: Urban's "Sweet Thing": A preview of Urban's as-yet-untitled upcoming album, "Sweet Thing" has a fluid, almost funky groove, as The Times' Randy Lewis earlier pointed out. It flirts with building to full-on, rock 'n' roll finale, but Urban is singing more about anticipation here. B

Fourteenth performance: Paisley's "Waiting On a Woman": Paisley goes all respectable and obedient in this nominated song. Paisley was gentlemanly in his delivery, but the song still has some aw-shucks nervousness to it. His guitar soloing here was more understated and extended naturally from the slide notes. B

Thirteenth performance: Darius Rucker, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It": The Hootie and the Blowfish singer celebrates his successful country makeover. It's as humble and jangly as Rucker's best-known work with the Blowfish, albeit with some country reference points thrown in. Lyrics about whiskey? Check. Slide guitar? Check. C

Twelfth performance: Brooks & Dunn with Reba McEntire, "Cowgirls Don't Cry": A duet at its finest. This slow-dance number became a show-stopper as soon as Reba took the microphone, bringing the song to a near halt, and nearly proving the title false. A-

Eleventh performance: Jason Aldean, "She's Country": OK, the above photograph was sized and placed during this performance, so, admittedly, the song didn't receive full attention. But a preview of Aldean's upcoming album, the singer unveiled the pool-hall rocker "She's Country," which put the genre on equal-footing with religion. But above all, the song's list of "country" attributes seemed to pander rather than celebrate. D

Tenth performance: George Strait, "River of Love": Not the best song from Strait's "Troubadour," but he's as reliable as they come. If Jackson was singing about tossing back a beer, this tune was laid-back and better fit for sipping a margarita. B-

Ninth performance: Kid Rock, "All Summer Long": Since summer is over, can this officially retire the 2008 rock song of the summer? Not so much a song -- just a nod to Skynyrd and cute girls, things that are admittedly hard to dislike. But enough. However, the "Joe the Strummer" shirt on Kid Rock's guitarist was cute. Song: D. Joe the Strummer T-shirt: A

Eighth performance: Taylor Swift, "Love Story": For the latest single from her album -- in stores this week -- Swift went the Disney princess route, sporting a purple dress and glitter-drenched head-wear. At least she's not getting water poured on her. "Love Story" better plays to Swift's thin voice than most (all?) of the singles from her self-titled debut. Vocally, she's not asked to do much, other than be a teenager. And Swift, admittedly, wore me down here, with the verses gradually picking up steam for some Romeo & Juliet-inspired high school hate. B+

Seventh performance: Rodney Atkins, "It's America": A preview of Atkins' upcoming album, "It's America" is all patriotic nostalgia (surprise!), looking back at the high school prom, Bruce Springsteen songs, and other things you've hopefully outgrown. And no hate-filled comments for the Springsteen line in that last sentence. That was a joke. But the song still stinks. D

Sixth performance: Martina McBride, "Ride": Another look into CMA future, with McBride previewing a song from her forthcoming album. With some bad Songwriting 101 metaphors  -- "life is a roller coaster ride" -- McBride looks back to mid-'90s mainstream country here, with a glossy rocker that recalls a time when Shania Twain was the world's biggest pop star. C-

Fifth performance: Lady Antebllum, "Love Don't Live Here": Completely ignorable, yet inoffensively bland. I retract this earlier post. Is there a YouTube clip of Lambert's performance up yet? D

Fourth performance: Miranda Lambert, "More Like Her": After winning the big prize at the ACMs earlier this year, Lambert is back on the award-show circuit to perform a ballad. But maybe we need to add more country award shows? Some BCMs, MCMs, DCMs, HCMs -- whatever it is. We can come up with what the acronyms mean later -- whatever it takes to get Lambert more screen time on national television. With just Lambert and her guitar, she was pure late-night resignation as she opened the song, turning bitterness into pure reflection. A

Third performance: Alan Jackson, "Good Time": The title-track from Jackson's latest, "Good Time," brought out some choreographed line-dancing in the aisles. Jackson added that the "whole country" is in need of some good times as the song came to a close, which might be as close to any sort of topical/political statement as we get tonight. It's a simple ode to downing beer in a can after a day at work, with some sharp guitar pickin' to give listeners a post-last-call boost. B-

Second performance: Kellie Pickler, "Best Days of Your Life": Now Taylor Swift, who co-wrote this number, is bringing her Jonas Brothers-meets-Nashville-pop to former "Idol" contestant Kellie Pickler. Sporting a black leather dress and boots, Pickler tried to bring some bite to this spiteful teenage break-up anthem. But Pickler's better at tearjerkers than she is at shouting kiss-offs to an ex. Her attempts to add grit fell flat, despite the leather. C-

First performance:
Brad Paisley & Keith Urban, "Start a Band": The 42nd annual Country Music Assn. Awards used two of its biggest guitar-slingers to open the awards gala. It immediately set up the more promotional aspect of the show, as "Start a Band" comes from Paisley's "Play," and was not released during the eligibility period for this year's awards. For a song that celebrates music over jock-dom ("I wasn’t gonna get rich throwin’ a football"), and takes a swipe at those smart kids ("It takes too long to get a law degree"), "Start a Band" is a relatively low-key rock 'n' roller -- its grand finale guitar solo is all showboating, and they never really kick the song into a higher gear. But it's got a pleasant, hard-to-hate melody, and goes down easy enough with a bit of Paisley's self-deprecating humor. B-

--Todd Martens

Photo: WireImage

Comments () | Archives (18)

...this reminds me of the GONG SHOW!!

The Eagles did a good performance. unlike many of the other acts their was not partly off a recording.. Ive been to two of their concerts this year and they sound amazing live, the sound was a little messed up because of it being an award show but the song is awesome also... Come on man can't diss on a band like the EAGLES!!!!

How can you give Taylor Swift a B+? She is absolutely horrible. Her voice just makes me cringe. There have been singers who didn't have a range in both pop and country who have been able to pull off a song, but she can't even end a vocal plrase in tune. Last year I was with my family at an outdoor concert waiting for Leann Rhimes to perform. Taylor Swift was third billed, and after 45 minutes of her not even being able to find the correct key of songs she wrote, we went home.

A B+ for the horrible vocal performance Taylor Swift delivered? What kind of spell does she have grown men under? At least she's legal.

I am really disgusted that SugarLand won anything. That woman's whiny voice ranks right up there with nails on a chalk board.

I agree with Toby Keith. He's getting the royal shaft.

Loved the rest of it!!

Hi Darrell & Jason,

I agree -- Taylor Swift is not a very good singer, a bad one, even. I've been harsh on her in the past. With Swift, it's often personality over skill, and I felt like "Love Story" was better suited to her than her past singles. She's not the perfect singer, but she fought herself to stay in control as the song built momentum, and there was an unpolished honesty to Swift that put her in contrast with everyone else.

And when all was said and done, that chorus was still stuck in my head.

I can agree "Love Story" is catchy, but Taylor was so flat as a performer last night that the song didn't have near the energy it does on the radio. And the surprise costume change is a trick she has already done in a performance.

Are you tone deaf? Taylor Swift was horrible! It is time we stop giving a passing grade for being blonde and cute. Taylor Swift was out of key the whole song and it did not pick up at the end. Miss Swift is just another piece of fluff propped up to sell cd's and is a real embarrassment to artist who really earned their position on that stage. Taylor may be a nice and cute girl but a singer she is not. She was as bad as Lady Antebllum who also should have never been on that stage.

DUDE--did you actually watch Kid Rock? I just saw that he brought out freakin' LIL WAYNE during his performance! Um, HELLO?!?! A real, live black man onstage at the CMAs?!?! Tattoos, dreadlocks and everything?!! Wearing a Tennessee Titans jersey?!?!?!

Come on, man. How could you not mention THAT?

For the record, Kid Rock is the truth!

Taylor Swift a b+? I am a huge taylor fan but she was horrible last night, and she's always horrible live. And the whole dancng thing was pretty corny and not needed.

Darius Rucker's performance was beautiful and convinced me to buy the song.

Trace Adkins did a wonderful job performing as always.

MArtina McBride's new song was great and true. And she put on a real show.

Rodney Atkins song was good too.

What are you smoking because you had everything mixed up. At least you gave the eagles a F.

how could you give jason aldean a D. he was 20 times better than taylor swift. she has catchy songs but a horrible performance voice. jason at least knows how to get a crowd going and he sounds just as good, if not better live than on his cds and radio. thats how you know who is a true singer and a good artist

There should be some balance in your reporting/review. How can Taylor Swift, whom is unable to carry a tune receive higher marks than Martina Mcbride - single handidly the greatest singer in a any genre of music over the last 15 years. You have the nerve to rave about Carrie Underwood? I would rate anyone's performance high if they pulled the dirty trick of a soldiers wife introducing them. However, most performers have a sense of boundaries and class - not Underwood who's yet to pay her dues to be performing on the stage with most of these artists. It goes to show that having dirty old men control your career with a lot of money can take you far in the music industry. I am hoping for the blond bimbo trend (Underwood, Swift, Pickler, Sugarland) to come to an end. . .

...And I'm with Tara: Darius Rucker was a very pleasant surprise. That guy is no joke. Great song by a really talented artist. It's not quite the culture shock of Lil Wayne, but it proves that country music has come a long way since the days of Charlie Pride. What's up with Pride these days anyway?

So many people jealous of Carrie Underwood. Her performance last night was by far THE very best of the whole night. No one else could even touch her. The emotion & passion, not to mention the pipes - Carrie delivered a flawless performance. Carrie Underwood is by far the best thing to happen to country music in a very, VERY long time.

And to the jealous Carrie-wanna-be's, CARRIE UNDERWOOD IS GOING TO BE AROUND FOR A VERY LONG TIME. She will be singing her heart out at the Opry (she is a member, ya know) 50 years from now.


Did anyone else notice that the Audio for Video mixing team completely screwed up during the opening number? You could barely, if even at all, hear Keith's guitar solos, so it sounded like a Brad Paisley feature during his solos and then some Brad Paisley rhythm guitar during Keith's solos.

On a show as big budget as that, you would think that they would have hired some sound guys that would do their homework.

....hmm are u kidding.....u nd to review the show tape again and do a retake on yr reviews....some of yr marks are way off base..casin point jason aldean..."she's country.".u may feel that the lyrics and music dont quite "attribute" the country mode but compared to what....?? look again at some of the night's song performances/choices and compare apples to apples........at least his performance was full of energy compared to some others that almost put me to sleep had i not wanted to see the live award results..

Thank you for giving Miranda Lambert the credit she deserves. She is the best young songwriter in country music today and sadly is overshadowed by the less talented, yet more marketable crowd. She is amazing and hopefully she does not fade away anytime soon.

YOU SUCK!!! Are you the worst critic of country music or just stupid? Does anyone fit the bill for you? Seriously go back to your liberal cave and listen to some oingo boingo. This is the worst article I've ever seen written about the CMAs. At least understand the artists and the HUGE fan base before you attempt to analyze their music. Again - YOU SUCK!!!


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