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Reasons to watch the ACM Awards: Miley Cyrus, Carrie Underwood's 'lava' dress and more

April 4, 2009 |  6:15 pm

MILEY_HANNAH_MOVIE_500

Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus will anchor one of country music's two annual award parties Sunday evening. Airing live for the East Coast on CBS at 8 p.m., the Academy of Country Music Awards (ACMs) will have about a seven-month head start on the Country Music Assn. Awards. Paisley leads the nominee field with six, and former Trick Pony vocalist Heidi Newfield is right behind him with five.

Winners and performance reviews will be posted here on Pop & Hiss. In the meantime, here's a few things to look out for:

- Is it time for the country women to take over? There hasn't been much competition when it comes to awarding the top prize at either country award show. At the ACMs, Kenny Chesney has won entertainer of the year four years running and has won the like-minded award at the CMAs for the last four of five years.

But changes seem to be afoot in the country hierarchy. The genre's biggest crossover successes in the past two years were women, namely Swift and Carrie Underwood. As for Underwood, she has a chance to make history. She's nominated as entertainer of the year and is the first female to snare such honors since 2000, when the Dixie Chicks took home the prize.

Betting against Chesney is a risk, but this is the second consecutive year in which entertainer of the year is voted by fans, which just may give Underwood the edge. Chesney is a country workhorse, but Underwood is an "American Idol."

Speaking of Underwood, is her dress really a big deal? Reports out of Las Vegas, where the awards are staged, have Underwood donning an ultra-top-secret dress. The Associated Press writes that the dress was treated as if it "were a matter of national security," noting that reporters had to promise "no photos, no video and no describing the gown" to gain access to rehearsals. In the same article, Underwood compares it to "lava." Good to know that in this depressed climate, our country stars are going the extra mile to relate to the common man. Of course, if the dress actually is like lava, that's pretty cool, and Pop & Hiss will apologize for the snarkiness.

Miley Cyrus ... country? Apparently. Yes, she has Nashville roots, but Cyrus has always belonged more to Hollywood than to Nashville. Nevertheless, her "Hannah Montana: The Movie" sees her making a slight country push, and now she's performing on the ACMs, which has raised some questions in the country community: Is Cyrus actually going to country? Is this just a ratings ploy by CBS? Is her post-"Hannah" career move to go all Taylor Swift?

Our take: Stop complaining and just let the girl sing. Cyrus' "The Climb" is country-pop syrup, but it's country-pop syrup at its absolute best. It's a determined, uplifting ballad, and one of the rare Cyrus slow-dances that's on par with her spunky slices of teen pop. And here's a promise: It'll be better than whatever Lady Antebellum cooks up Sunday night, and if the Grammys are any indication, she'll upstage Swift too. 

The best bet for what everyone will be talking about Monday morning: Miranda Lambert's "Dead Flowers." The country scorcher is using the ACMs to debut a new song (the ACMs themselves are still honoring Lambert's 2007 song "Gunpowder and Lead"). Pop & Hiss hasn't heard it yet, but the name -- "Dead Flowers" -- and the press reports from rehearsals have us psyched. Entertainment Weekly's Whitney Pastorek writes that "this girl is putting a remarkable amount of angst into this song, and she ends with her hand upraised and all her hair in her face. Oh, Miranda. How I love your rage." That's all good news, as Lambert has the potential to be one of the fiercest rock 'n' rollers out there. Oh, and the Tennessean's Peter Cooper has already declared it the show's "highlight." 

A complete list of nominees is here.

--Todd Martens

Photo: Miley Cyrus from "Hannah Montana: The Movie." Credit: Disney

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