So Let Me Get This Strait ...
November 7, 2013
That was the first word out of George Strait's mouth onstage Wednesday night (11/6), upon winning the CMA Entertainer of the Year Award, the evening's biggest prize.
Ditto that, George.
And the rest of you? Tell me you didn't think it, too. Tell me you didn't have a joyous, involuntary, audible reaction that perhaps began with the word "holy," and ended with something probably not suitable for print here.
Oh and by the way: Does anybody have a problem with Strait's win?
If the unsolicited reaction and overall scuttlebutt in the immediate hours following this CMA shocker was any indication, the answer is a resounding, unanimous, emphatic, NO.
And make no mistake, as upsets go, this one's a doozy (insert sports analogy warning here).
Think '69 Miracle Mets or Jets Super Bowl win that same year. Think '80 Olympics' "Miracle On Ice" or Buster Douglas KO-ing Mike Tyson in '90.
Too much sports? Okay, think Ken Jennings finally losing on Jeopardy in '04.
I had two different people at separate CMA after parties tell me that Strait "had" to win; that had he not, the mass media would have seized the opportunity to spin it as a cruel and abrupt industry statement about tossing out the established guard for a crop of shiny new objects.
I get that, but I'm not sure I completely agree. Because let's also admit that just seeing Strait among the final nominees was somewhat of a pleasant surprise and I say that with all due respect to The King. But I think it's true. And had any of the other four nominees -- Blake, Taylor, Jason or Luke -- taken home the trophy, who could've argued their worthiness?
But then again, who can argue George's? And even if you're in the teensy-weensy, amoeba-sized minority who believes somebody got screwed, who among you wants to be "that guy" raising his hand objecting to our beloved King being crowned once more by his adoring industry peers?
No, anyone cynical or bitter about this result should simply shut their yapper and remain incognito, lest they be placed in the same, unfortunate category as Richie Incognito, the Miami Dolphins lineman who currently holds the title of "worst person in the world."
There's nothing whatsoever not to like -- make that love -- about Strait winning. He continues to compile a phenomenal catalogue of music. He's never been trendy; sticking with a traditional sound that dominated the '80s, weathered the '90s, and remained steady in the 2000s. He's great-looking, family-oriented, has never been a dick to anybody or had a hint of controversy. Never a heat-seeking missile, Strait was in fact a mystery for many years, fiercely protecting his privacy while creating a mystique in the process, which only made him -- ta-da! -- more popular. And it wasn't a media strategy, it was just Strait being Strait.
So Strait's win is a true win-win. Great for him, for sure. But also, a gigantic statement about the Country format and industry taking care of itself and one of its own; organically and seamlessly managing transition during a time of rapid and seismic musical evolution for the format, while dotting its I's, crossing its T's and putting an exclamation point on Strait's already extraordinary career.
But remember that while Strait will stop touring after his current "Cowboy Rides Away" string of shows is complete, we'll still see new music. UMG Chairman Mike Dungan announced in August that The King will deliver five more albums for MCA Nashville.
Until this Wednesday's Entertainer prize, it had been 23 years (1990!) since Strait's last CMA win in that category. He last won CMA Album of the Year in 2008 for "Troubadour."
Any bets on Strait winning CMA Album of the Year in, say, 2016? He should be about due then.