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CMA Awards 2009: All the performances, as they happen [UPDATED]


Pop & Hiss brings you instant reviews, typos and all, of all the performances at the Country Music Assn. Awards. It was a big night for Taylor Swift, who won entertainer of the year. She ended a three-year run from Kenny Chesney,

Related: CMA Awards 2009 Scorecard: Complete nominees and winners

Taylor Swift, "Forever & Always." Nashville is going straight to its A-list star, opening the show with pop music's most popular living singer at the moment. She'll have two songs tonight, and first up is "Forever & Always." To sum it up: The 2009 CMA Awards are off and running with a train wreck. The energy and excitement of Swift's MTV Video Music Awards performance, in which she was running through a subway, is completely lost. Beginning with a fake interview with Nancy O'Dell was cute, especially when Swift noted that "If guys don't want me to write bad songs about them, they shouldn't do bad things." But turning her "Forever & Always" into a chair-throwing angsty performance, complete with a stripper --  or fireman’s pole  (depending on your level of innocence) -- was ill-advised. She looked strained in trying to capture the anger of the song, awkwardly rolling on the floor and yanking at her hair. This is a D. But she has another performance in which to redeem herself.


Darius Rucker, "Alright." Performing after Carrie Underwood praised his ability to switch from rock ’n’ roll to country, Rucker unveiled a good-time pop-rock tune that wasn’t all that different from his Hootie and the Blowfish days. Although perhaps the reference to Patsy Cline was more of a nod to Nashville. Rucker, like Swift, sounded a bit off. But if Swift’s performance was oddly bad, this was just predictably bland. Rucker worked the crowd like he’d be selling records in the lobby after the show, running through the audience and high-fiving those in the expensive seats (the CMAs are open to the public). Pop & Hiss would say more about the song, but we’ve forgotten the performance while writing this summary. So a C.

Miranda Lambert, "White Liar." Here we go. Nashville should take note: All country award shows should be opened by Lambert. Though "White Liar" isn't the most fiery song on her recent "Revolution" (Pop & Hiss was pulling for "Sin for a Sin"), there's plenty to like here. Lambert is just the right mix of sweetness and grit, pulling the song to a mischievous stop in its final moments to reveal its lyrical twist. Her band is kickin', and she's on point. A

Brad Paisley, "Welcome to the Future." Songs about nostalgia have become a modern Nashville staple, and Paisley reveals his cute and relatable charm with this tune. Kids and parents unite as Paisley looks back on his days when he longed for a giant coin-op machine and tells us that now he has Pac-Man on his phone. References to video chats and homecoming queens stand side by side. As Paisley wields a sparkly blue guitar, he's a safe and modern star, coming across as the kind of rock 'n' roll heartthrob who isn't afraid to accessorize. B

Zac Brown Band, "Devil Went Down to Georgia." Faithful and crowd-pleasing, Zac Brown Band had the chops and the sharp violins to pull off the cover. But it’s an odd choice, considering this is one of country's most popular young acts and a group that will surely be in contention for best new artist at the Grammy Awards. An original would have been a better choice. We've heard this tune before, but the smokey D&D-like effects were kinda cool. Still, a cover here? D+

George Strait, "Twang." Country, straight-up. Sandwiched in the middle of three performances, Strait didn't get a prime showcase, but there's nothing to dislike here. This is lean-back, kick-up-your boots country, and Strait does it as well as anyone. A-

Lady Antebellum, "Need You Now." With the barren trees of fall and strands of Christmas lights, this backdrop was all elegant holiday loneliness. Hillary Scott isn't the world's most charismatic vocalist, but this ballad suits her just right. It's a gracefully easy melody line, and Lady Antebellum is better when not trying to rock out. Charles Kelley trades off with her, sounding like the completely uninteresting dude next door, but this single belongs to Scott. B

Carrie Underwood, "Cowboy Casanova." So long Nashville, as Underwood's "Cowboy Casanova" carries a slinky groove more fit for a dance club. Underwood's high heels and revealing outfit, as well as her backup singers in cocktail waitress attire, struck a more risque vibe. She could have been [insert pop star here] at your standard MTV award show, sporting a very glam outfit as she strutted and swung across the stage. But a spunky Underwood is better than ballad Underwood, and "Casanova" does a swell job of disguising what is -- for all intents and purposes -- a Top 40 cut with an occasional flash of country guitar notes. B-

Vince Gill and Daughtry, "Tennessee Line." A relatively stark stage kept the emphasis straight on the vocalists here, but there wasn't enough Gill. This seemed more marketing ploy than song, setting up the inevitable future country album from Daughtry. D

Keith Urban, "'Til Summer Comes Around." Urban is channeling the Eagles here, giving a low-key, back-lit performance. The song builds nicely, and Urban shows off some bluesy guitar notes toward the end. Would rather him cut a little loose, as the show needs some fire to get it into its midpoint here, but there's a compelling spookiness to the song that works. It also gives us time to reflect on just how many Fourth of July's the Australian-reared singer has had in his life to reflect upon. B+

Tim McGraw, "Southern Voice." Bringing some fun back into the proceedings, McGraw seemed to stumble over a couple of his own lyrics, but smiled and plowed through it. It's a giant, silly, pop-culture referencing festival, but try not to sing along to "Hank Aaron smacked it, Michael Jordan dunked it." What does it all mean? Who knows, but admit it, you still sing along to "We Didn't Start the Fire" as well. B

Sugarland, "Keep You." This is Sugarland at what the duo does best. Jennifer Nettles stays just out in front of the small violin orchestra, leading the quiet moments to a whisper and not letting the orchestra overtake her as the song builds to a climax. Kristian Bush is a bit in the background here, as the camera keeps tight on Nettles, but she sounds terrific and she could silence the room. B+

Brooks & Dunn with ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, "Honky Tonk Stomp." The duo's final CMA performance, until they're brought back for some sort of tribute years from now. Fast and full of pool-hall charm, they bow out with a loose rock 'n' roll number. B-

Jamey Johnson & Kid Rock, "Between Jennings and Jones."
Going into the performance, it would have been easy to point out that that one thing Johnson doesn't need is Kid Rock. As the song started, and Kid Rock sported his country-via-Hollywood look, that seemed to continue to be the case, but the two played well together. Lyrics were changed and Kid Rock played to the crowd, tossing out a reference to John Rich in the second verse as Kid Rock's savior from jail. B-

Taylor Swift, "Fifteen." Swift is more in her element here, performing amid a circle of her fans. Without the crazy, over-the-top choreography, she sounds significantly better on this performance as well -- or at least charmingly out of tune. But she's the vulnerable teenager, and one of the crowd. She's performed this song at award shows of yore, including with Miley Cyrus at the Grammy Awards, but she isn't sold as something she’s not on her second go-round. A

Jason Aldean, "Big Green Tractor." Billed by Underwood as the "most romantic song" ever written about a tractor ride, we're unsure if that's a compliment or much of a teaser. But Pop & Hiss will disagree with Underwood here, and sub the word "only" for "most." C-

Martina McBride, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool," with George Strait. A classically cool performance, with a soft-rock harmonica that hits just right. McBride brings up Barbara Mandrell -- who was recently inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and made the song famous -- on stage after giving her a fitting tribute. A-

Reba McEntire, "Consider Me Gone." Rocking knee-high boots and a sparkly tank top, McEntire gives the CMAs another solid, stately performance. All told, this is a pretty low-key night and McEntire brings a wise, no-nonsense performance. "If you think you can do better than this, then I guess we’re done," she tosses off, seemingly without effort, and few do it better. A-

Billy Currington, "People Are Crazy." A song about wild and crazy times about talking to a stranger in a bar, ultimately leading to Currington ending up with an inheritance he doesn’t deserve. It’s a short story with a clever twist, and it only works the first time you hear it. C-

Dave Matthews and Kenny Chesney, "I'm Alive." One of the most star-packed crossover performances, the "I'm Alive" duet packs about as much energy as a hammock hanging in a basement.  And it's about as much fun. D

--Todd Martens

[UPDATED NOV. 12 11:36 A.M.] Live blogging is a risky endeavor, and a couple readers were kind enough to point out in the comment section below that I wrote in the wrong Brooks & Dunn title last night. The band did not perform "Boot Scootin’ Boogie’." The correct song was, of course, "Honky Tonk Stomp," the band's new single that actually does feature Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. The post has been updated to reflect the correct title, and the positive grade for the song remains unchanged.

Photos Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. Credits: Reuters

Comments () | Archives (126)

did you notice how after White Liar they showed LeAnn Rimes??

Kenny and Dave Matthews were outstanding....

It would be interesting to have a duet with Jennifer nettles and Taylor Swift to show how awful of a singer Swift really is. Give me a break ....Female vocalist of the Year. Who' been smokin what?

What is the CMA's defination of vocalist? That being said if Taylor Swift got Female Vocalist of the year then somethings clearly wrong! Think about it Female VOCALIST of the Year! What a laugh! Embarassing to say the least!

I guess you never know what the backlash will be from an improper public statement. From being disked by Kanye West to Entertainer of the year SCAREY You know maybe Kanye wasn't too far off. Maybe what he really wanted to say it that THE FIX IS IN!!! And face Taylor is pretty and her videos are sweet but the BEST? NOT EVEN CLOSE The people in power behind the scenes set this up after the disgrace on the MTV awards. You may think Kanye is the bad guy but he just said what everyone know is true. The girl may be able to write a cute song but SHE CAN NOT SING LIVE. It's amazing what can be done in a studio. Even to tuning up an out of tune voice. She can't carry a note live. When Kanye said he would like to do something for Taylor for what he said little did he know that he would give her career the best SYMPATHY VOTE in history. I guess the only thing he could possibly do now would be GET THE GIRL A VOICE INSTRUCTOR maybe Foster could do something with her. But he doesn't usually work with people who can't sing. Oops Did I say that out loud?

I CAN'T BELIEVE that Taylor Swift took any awards home. I think her voice is horrible and she looks like a 12 year old trying to be all grown up. Female vocalist of the year? Over Reba and Martina? It almost makes me not want to watch the CMA 's anymore because I think they must be rigged after tonight. Sickening! And, now entertainer of the year, what a fixed show! It really makes me mad to see this! And.... the ones who deserve these awards such as, Reba, Martina, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney. I can describe tonights show in two words "Wrong & Fixed" Thanks for this opportunity to voice my opinion!

The television audio is usually a separate mix from the house mix (from what I understand) And I have also realized most of the singers who use in-ear monitors sing a little out of pitch to the band. Most performances at awards shows are a tough deal, I thought Miranda Lambert sounded very clean and on pitch. Even King George (Strait) sounded like he was singing ahead of the beat.
I am sure most of the performers on awards shows just shake it off and say "that was painful".

i wish people would stop making excuses for Taylor Swift's horrible voice. if a singer can't perform live and sound good then they are a studio concoction, not a singer. country music is prime live-singing music. can you imagine if george strait, willie nelson, dolly parton, tammy wynette...if they couldnt sing live? would we all be like "oh sometimes (he/she) sings live ok.
As for Carrie, it is a shame that she went from classy and amazingly talented to a Miley Cyrus/Britney Spears joke of a performer. She's much better when she is dressed like a lady and, for the record, that girl can sing LIVE without flaw.
Sugarland---Jennifer Nettles is another one that delivers live. So happy they won but what was with her trying to have Brooks & Dunn come up on stage? Overkill and not actually appropriate at all. I am glad they declined. Came off as a bit smug, even though I am sure she was trying to be respectful. Proper etiquette would have been to graciously accept the award and if she had to mention them, maybe say that they (Sugarland) are huge fans and leave it at that.
Also as for Hootie. Yes, he is Hootie from Hootie and the Blowfish. Hootie was smart enough to make the jump to Country music because its the genre in music right now where people still actually buy CDs and where performers are actually still making money. Way to go Darius ---even though you obviously arent a country singer, you're at least a good businessman and who needs a Blowfish, anyhow?

I'm not sure how the judges can get away with awarding COUNTRY MUSIC Entertainer of the year to a POP star! Poor choice people

I am sorry to say after watching Taylor live in concert,I did not think her singing was that good, if it was not for the back up singers and the music she is terrible.
I think that their were better choices for the entertainer of the year,the only reason she won is because she sold the most concert tickets.In my eyes that is not enough.Teenagers really need to listen to her with out the hupla and then they would see the true Taylor.
Do not get me wrong Taylor Swift is a sweet girl and I do not dislike her,I just think her voice needs to develope more.

rewrite!! brooks and dunn never played boot scoot and boogie, the song is there newest single called honkey tonk stomp!! get it right or don't get it at all!!

CHW is right. Zac Brown Band deserved an A (They got a HUGE standing O), and the vince/daughtry collaboration was awesome. Miranda Lambert gets an A? That performance was not A-worthy. Her accent was even thicker than usual and made the song less pleasing to listen to. That song's annoying.
Jenning & Jones deserved a C or less. That song was forgettable before it even started.

And B&D did NOT sing Boot Scootin' Boogie; they played Honky Tonk Stomp. At least get your facts straight.

Zac Brown Band's performance was incredible...A+....best of the night..........no dancers, fancy outfits...just straight out gettin' it....awesome!!!

i Love taylor swift she is a one of akind my cousin is crazy in love with her he wants to marry her and there the same age and my baby cousin looks up to her. Taylor swift is her idol and shes only 3 years old!! Crazy huh I love you Taylor!!!<33

ZAC BROWN Sizzled that classic! His act was the highlight of the show. He deserves a CMA award JUST for that performance. And...I love Taylor Swift as a songwriter, but seriously...did she hit even ONE note on key?

Congrat's to everyone in country music, the show was great and the winners deserving. I have but one comment for my favorite performer and has been since winning on Idol, Carrie Underwood. Money, fame and loss of direction has hit you. You lost site of what got you where you are today. Your performance last night in my opinion set you back one step. Forget the sexy garb and go back to being the country star you are. You can sing that song without having to sell yourself. Keep it country and be yourself.

Why in the world wasn't Rosanne Cash invited to perform one of the jewels handed down to her by her dad, Johnny Cash (for those who don't know), via "The List" ???

oh, maybe cuz she doesn't wear slutty hooker pole-dancing garb....(could that be short for garbage?)

Daughtry and Vince Gill were AWESOME!!!!

What a travesty for some of the biggest awards. Enough T. Swift. She has a terrible voice. When did CMA start standing for Country Marketing Arm for these performers. Has she even headlined a tour yet. Pick any of the other four and you have a legitimate winner. Who votes for these winners? It has turned into a popularity contest not an award based on talent and earned accomplishments. Glad to hear I am not the only person who turns the radio or TV station if Taylor Swift comes on.

I am a huge country music fan and have even been to Nashville serveral times. I love watching the CMA's every year, but I have to say that I feel some of the sexual comments that are part of the script are obnoxious and disgusting. They not only humiliate our society but they definitely are unacceptable for children to be hearing. Our society has become too free about saying inappropriate things on television and everywhere. How can we expect our children to grow up as well as we did when our society keeps allowing for these types of changes to just become part of the norm. It is wrong and in my eyes it has alot to do with why children are loosing their respect and their way in this world. It also makes the actors and singers on television look ditsy and ignorant. It needs to stop!!!!!!!!!!!!11

Dude what r u smoking, Zac Brown Bands Preformande was insanly AMAZING!!!!! And Vince Gill n Daughtry were really good too. U have no idea what ur talking about.

I don't know when I have been this disappointed in the CMA awrds as I was last night. Swift should get a good SWIFT kick in the --- for trashing up our country music. If she wants to scream, flop on the floor like a fish out of water, dress like trailer trash, then she should go to MTV. Leave our country music alone!!!

I am shocked at how much Taylor Swift dominated the winnings last night. She sings annoying cutsy songs and she is not NEARLY as talented as some of her competiton. Kenny Chesney should have won Entertainer of the year. Hands down. I have seen them both live, and Taylor should not even be in the same category. Plus, her opening performance sucked.

I can't stand seeing Taylor Swift picking up awards that she clearly does not deserve to win. She has nothing on powerhouses like Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood.

I've seen Zac Brown play The Devil Went Down to Georgia a thousand times in my lifetime and anyone who is a fan knows he plays it better than the original...It might as well BE an original for him. Don't hate on him because he can play it better. We get to hear his originals at his concerts and on his CD all the time...this was a chance to show that he can perform other songs EVEN old school covers...and he can still rock the hell out of them.

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