Country music awards are predictable and flashy

[13 November 2008]

By Erin White

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

The 42nd annual Country Music Association Awards gave country fans plenty of big stars, lots of flash and more Carrie Underwood wardrobe changes than you care to count.

Here’s a look at the highlights.

Don’t quit your day job just yet: Hosts Brad Paisley and Underwood don’t have the ad-libbing skills of, say, Jon Stewart or Ricky Gervais, but aided by edgier-than-expected writing, they managed an easy enough chemistry.

Paisley was painfully wooden at times, but the pair got in a good Dolly Parton laugh within the first few minutes and an off-the-cuff joke about Paisley being unable to find his wife, even though she was sitting in the front row.

Underwood was relaxed and charming, particularly when she told her mama, “It was difficult to sing when you’re sitting in the first row crying.” Paisley, always witty in concert, fared best when he broke from the teleprompter.

Well-done, newbies: Lady Antebellum, a trio up for best new artist, gave a lively performance of “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” with spot-on harmonies by singers Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott. The trio picked up the Horizon (best new artist) award later.

Predictable winners: The CMAs aren’t known for shaking things up when handing out awards, and this year was no exception. Veteran George Strait won for single of the year for “I Saw God Today” and album of the year for “Troubador,” his eighth win in that category. Frequent winners Rascal Flatts won vocal group of the year. Underwood won female vocalist of the year, and Paisley won for male vocalist. Kenny Chesney won entertainer of the year for the third year in a row.

The night belonged to: Sugarland. The song of the year award, typically used to honor unsung songwriters, went to Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles for “Stay.” The duo also won vocal group of the year and turned in the night’s best performance with a dramatic “Love.”

Most out-of-place presenter: Reese Witherspoon makes sense because she’s from Nashville. Nicole Kidman’s got a legit claim since she’s married to Keith Urban. But Hugh Jackman? Did someone confuse the Australian outback with the Wild West?

A little Texas love: Miranda Lambert, whose live performances are usually fiery and energetic, took to the stage with just her guitar to perform “More Like Her”. The honest performance was a tearjerker.

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