Category: ACM Awards

Live from Las Vegas: 45th Academy of Country Music Awards

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Reporting from Las Vegas -- For most people, the 2 a.m. closing-time phone call to an ex- is an act of desperation, but Lady Antebellum turned it into a source of inspiration in their hit “Need You Now,” which brought the Augusta, Ga., trio top awards, including vocal group, single and song of the year Sunday at the 45th Academy of Country Music Awards ceremony here.

The ACM’s reigning entertainer of the year, Carrie Underwood, made it two in a row in something of an upset over country-pop princess Taylor Swift, who outsold every other act in pop music in 2009 and otherwise dominated country and pop, also launching her first headlining arena tour with a slate of sold out shows across the country. Swift gave Underwood a hug as the “American Idol” winner took the stage to accept the award, which was voted on by fans during the show and over the last several weeks.

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Country newcomer Laura Bell Bundy: From Broadway to Nashville

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The world, at least the country music-loving part of it, is about to be hearing and seeing a lot more of Laura Bell Bundy, a Kentucky-bred singer and songwriter whose debut album arrives April 13. But unlike a lot of newcomers, Bundy has a wealth of spotlight time already to her credit.

I had lunch with Bundy today at her hotel in Beverly Hills while she was in town for some promotional activities leading up to the release of “Achin’ and Shakin’.”  It’s an ambitious -- especially for a debut -- effort split into the titular two portions: The first's half made up of moody ballads laced with lots of Southern soul, while the other's a mini romance-novel-in-song loosely tracing the course of a woman who gives the boot to a cheating partner (in her current single and video “Giddy on Up”), goes through the heartbreak, rebound and discovery of a new object for her affections.

She’s slated to sing “Giddy on Up” during the Academy of Country Music Awards show in Las Vegas on April 18, a featured slot she finds doubly ironic. Not only is it rare for a debut artist -- one who isn’t even a nominee -- to be tapped as a performer at any of the major awards ceremonies, but it’s also the polar opposite of her experience at the Tony Awards.

Bundy was a Tony nominee a couple of years ago for her starring role in the Broadway production of   “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” in which she spent nearly two years doing eight performances a week in New York City. (She's also been in productions of "Wicked," "Hairspray" and "Ruthless!") At that time, the Tony committee still had a rule that performances only were granted to actors from shows that were in the running for awards, and that year, “Legally Blonde” itself wasn’t, even though its star was.

“I was the only one in my category who didn’t get to perform,” the 28-year-old singer said between bites of a Caesar salad. “That was the last year they had that rule. CBS does the ACM Awards and they also do the Tony Awards -- I wonder if they’ll remember that?”

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Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert lead ACM nominations

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Lady Antebellum continues its ascent in country music circles, nabbing a field-leading seven nominations for the 45th Academy of Country Music Awards, among them album, single, song and top vocal group.

The Georgia trio is the hottest act in all of pop music at the moment, having sold more than 1 million copies of its sophomore album “Need You Now” in the four weeks since it was released in January. Lady Antebellum just edged out Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert, who scored six nominations each, and Taylor Swift with five nods. It creates a roster of top award contenders heavy on new blood.

Swift, who upset a slate of country veterans at last fall’s Country Music Assn. Awards in being named that organization’s youngest entertainer of the year winner ever, is in the running for the same trophy at this year’s ACMs. The organization expanded the entertainer category to include eight names this year, up from the usual five: the other nominees are Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Keith Urban and the Zac Brown Band.

Voting for entertainer of the year will be open once again to fans, and audience input also will be factored into the award for best new artist. Awards will be handed out April 18 at a ceremony from the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, to be telecast on CBS.

--Randy Lewis

Photo of Lady Antebellum (left to right): Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood. Credit: Miranda Penn Turin

ACM Awards confirm 2010 date

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Will the Taylor Swift reign continue into 2010? One won't have to wait long to find out, with the Grammy Awards on the horizon for Jan. 31 and the Academy of Country Music Awards now set for April 18. The gala will once again be broadcast live from Las Vegas, and tape-delayed for those of us on the West Coast. Country royalty Reba McEntire will host for the 12th time.

The 2009 ACM Awards deviated slightly from the Country Music Television Awards and the Country Music Assn. Awards, giving the entertainer of the year award to Carrie Underwood rather than Swift. The ACM Awards named Julianne Hough, another reality TV-contestant-gone-Nashville, as best new artist.

Country was dominated by women in 2009. Swift and Underwood were among the year's top-selling artists, with Swift selling 4.6 million copies of her combined albums, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the year's second-best selling artist behind Michael Jackson. Underwood finished at No. 9, and racked up 1.9 million in sales.

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They love Strait, and let it show

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Alan Jackson and others honor the country music hit maker, and it all makes for good TV.

Georgestrait3_kk87q6nc Honoring elders always has been a cornerstone of country music, a trait that makes for good TV in "George Strait: ACM Artist of the Decade All-Star Concert," airing tonight on CBS.

The two-hour program, filmed last month in Las Vegas the night after the Academy of Country Music's latest awards ceremony, is packed with current country stars who were in town for that event, among them Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Alan Jackson, Keith Urban, Brooks & Dunn, Miranda Lambert and Toby Keith.

They even roped in Jamie Foxx, introduced as "a man who has won absolutely no Academy of Country Music awards," but who turns out to have been a Strait fan as a kid growing up in Texas.

"Black fans too, George; you got black fans too," Foxx says, addressing the evening's honoree in the side-stage box from which he and his family watch the parade of artists who sing his songs. "I'm from a good old town called Terrell, Texas. . . . You came to Terrell, Texas, one time when I was 14 years old, and I told everybody, I don't care what side of the tracks I gotta go over, I'm going on the other side of the tracks to see George Strait.' I took a big risk that night."

Strait was chosen in part because of his unmatched  to- tal of 57 No. 1 country singles dating back nearly three decades.

The show also includes brief musical salutes to each of the four other acts the ACM similarly recognized: Marty Robbins (1960s), Loretta Lynn (1970s), Alabama (1980s) and Garth Brooks (1990s).

Brooks turns up at the end, not to sing, but to hand Strait his trophy.

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ACMs a ratings high, and you can still watch the night's best performance

MIRANDA_LAMBERT_AP__2 Times don't appear to be tough for music award shows. Two months after the Grammy Awards experienced a much-needed ratings boost, CBS reports that Sunday night's Academy of Country Music Awards had its best ratings in the key 18-49 demographic since 2005.

In early Nielsen data published on TV by the Numbers, the ACMs consistently brought in more than 14 million viewers for its entire three-hour telecast. By comparison, that's a little bit down from the numbers ABC scored with the rival County Music Assn. Awards late last year, but CBS can still boast a 31% increase over last year in the 18-49 demographic.

That should be good news for country artists on next week's Nielsen SoundScan sales chart. Expect boosts for album of the year winner Taylor Swift and entertainer of the year Carrie Underwood. Strong performances from Lee Ann Womack, Kenny Chesney and Blake Shelton should also pay off.

But all were bested by one Miranda Lambert, who used the telecast to unleash a new song, "Dead Flowers," which will hopefully be on her as-yet-untitled album, tentatively due in September.

For now, the clip is on YouTube, and you can watch it below. It's 3½ minutes of spiteful tension. There's a sense that the song is always on the verge of exploding -- and Lambert is one of the fiercest singers in any genre -- but it never does.

It's a kiss-off, but one in which the singer is nearing the point of exhaustion. When the guitars do briefly flare up in the song's final moments, it's only to match Lambert's snarl. The song gets bonus points for its devastatingly depressing imagery of Christmas lights in January, the strongest metaphor for a broken heart heard on the show.

Song after the jump.

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ACM Awards: The real drama wasn't televised

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Post-award show news conferences are typically predictable fare. An artist wins an award, heads backstage, says a few canned quotes and then makes his or her way to some private party. But for two years running now, it seems as if the press room at the Academy of Country Music Awards has been the place to be.

Last year, Kenny Chesney lit into the ACM's recent adoption of fan voting for its top entertainer of the year prize, which this year went to Carrie Underwood, an artist who fares pretty well when the people get to vote. But that was nothin' compared to the scolding Toby Keith gave reporter Peter Cooper of the Tennessean in Nashville. Keith apparently went looking for a fight, telling HitFix's Melinda Newman the night before the awards that he was on the prowl for Cooper.

So the quick recap: Actor Ethan Hawke wrote a piece in Rolling Stone, which is not online, about Kris Kristofferson. In the article, an altercation between Kristofferson and an unnamed country artist is mentioned as having taken place at Willie Nelson's birthday party at Madison Square Garden in 2003, with Kristofferson telling the artist not to perform "any of that lefty [stuff] out there tonight.”

Cooper picked up on the article, and wrote a short piece in the Tennessean on April 3. A clue to the artist is given in Cooper's piece, as it's written that his name rhymes with "Moby Teeth." Keith wasn't pleased, to say the least, when he made his trek to the press room.

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ACM Awards: A big night for Carrie Underwood and Julianne Hough

Underwood takes entertainer of the year; Hough wins best new artist.

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The 44th Academy of Country Music Awards swung political, personal, playful and patriotic on Sunday and ultimately opted for popular in bestowing its top honor on "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood, naming her entertainer of the year over veteran male performers George Strait, Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban.

"I've had a lot of good moments in the past four years," the Oklahoma-born Underwood said at the climax of the three-hour event at the MGM Grand Arena, "but this one takes the cake."

The award was determined for the second year by popular vote during the show at CBS.com instead of being determined as it had been in past years by the performer who sold the most concert tickets during the previous 12 months, which would have given a fifth title to Chesney.

But the ACM, in striving to boost ratings and make the event more interactive for fans, opened the voting for entertainer and new artist to the public. That helped TV-friendly faces such as Underwood and former "Dancing With the Stars"-turned-country singer Julianne Hough, who took home the new artist trophy.

It was a big night as well for Internet-savvy teen phenom Taylor Swift, who sold more albums in 2008 than any other artist in any genre, passing 5 million. Her overwhelming success contributed to her sophomore album, "Fearless," which has topped 3 million since its release in November, being named album of the year.

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Grading the ACMs: Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Miranda Lambert and more. Who got an A?

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Pop & Hiss brought you insta-reviews of all the ACM live performances, typos and all.

1. Brooks & Dunn & Taylor Swift & Sugarland & Carrie Underwood & Rascal Flatts. Here's one for those with short attention spans. Nearly everything the ACMs have to offer in a tidy little seven minutes! Host/country royalty Reba McEntire introduces the show by informing us that duo Brooks & Dunn is one of the most acclaimed acts in the history of the awards, but what follows isn't their time to shine. Instead, Brooks & Dunn become the anchor for whizz-bang medley. Swift rocked out with "Picture to Burn," looking more assured than ever. Underwood showed off her near-perfect vocals with a brief turn at "All-American Girl," Sugarland was delightfully poppy and Rascal Flatts represented some country good ol' boys. "That's what I call a stimulus package," McEntire said. We'd rather have cash, but it was a solid opening. B+

2. Kenny Chesney's "Out Last Night." The lead single from his upcoming greatest hits package is a pleasant enough up-tempo rocker, representing immediately how country award shows are different from the Grammys. Less than 15 minutes in, and we have an ode to being drunk. Rather than approach anything dangerous or reckless, Chesney spins this tale of hangin' at the local bar into a neat little slice of nostalgia. B.

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ACM Awards: Tim McGraw is out*

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Tim McGraw has pulled out of tonight's Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas.The news broke on the Web about an hour before the ACMs were to begin.

An initial call to the ACM press office in Las Vegas netted the response that such a development was "news to us," but an ACM spokeswoman got in touch five minutes before air time to note that McGwaw was indeed out. His spot is not being filled by another artist.

Entertainment Weekly's live coverage of Saturday night's rehearsals noted that McGraw did not rehearse as was planned with his wife, Faith Hill. Additionally, the magazine's website cites two sources who witnessed what was described as "possibly a dispute about [McGraw's] production design." The Tennessean has a similar brief, nothing that the artist walked out of Saturday night's rehearsal. Over at all-things-country 9513, it's noted that McGraw had dropped out due to "major disagreements" over a production design.

McGraw was due to perform with his wife on tonight's telecast.

Pictured above is a shot courtesy of the Associated Press of McGraw at Saturday's rehearsal.

-- Todd Martens

*Update: Pop & Hiss is now told that reports out of rehearsals that McGraw would perform with Hill were incorrect, and Hill was never to appear on the telecast.

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