CMA Awards 2014: What DIDN'T The Show Have?
November 6, 2014
According to ABC-TV, Wednesday night's (11/5) "48th Annual CMA Awards" attracted 16.14 million viewers, which means most of them probably had an opinion on the show.
Because everybody's a critic, right?
Since Country radio is still the best and most utilized delivery vehicle of this music to users, I went to some broadcasters I respect and solicited feedback on the show.
Do you crave musical diversity? Check. The CMAs had it and then some. Genres covered included Classic Rock, Classic Country, Top 40 and mainstream Country. KDXY/Jonesboro, AR OM/Brand Mgr, Christie Matthews was kind enough to translate this into the proper vernacular for this space, calling the show, "A perfect placement of powers and recurrents with just the right touch of a spice category and a gold!â€
Speaking of running the gambit, performers on the CMAs did so generationally, with Little Big Town and 21-year old Ariana Grande teaming on Grande's 2014's mega-Top 40 hit, "Bang Bang" moments before 82-year old icon Loretta Lynn assisted 20-something Kacey Musgraves on Lynn's 43-year-old 1971 standard, "You're Lookin' At Country."
And just to make things interesting, Musgraves was sporting a hairstyle estimated to be late-'60s, early '70's vintage.
While going commando.
The telecast included but was not limited to: Laughter, tears (of joy), one surprise win (Musgraves), a baby gender reveal (apparently, it's boy for Carrie) and possibly the greatest-ever acceptance speech in the history of acceptance (Vince Gill).
But hey, that's what I saw - or at least a part of it. Now to the vast and unpaid research department for their perspective on the awards, conveniently sorted out for you, less than 48 hours after Luke Bryan had two first-evers in the same moment: A CMA win and meeting Garth Brooks.
As always, please feel free to chime in on anything we missed, or just throw in your opinion. You can do so in the comments section below, or hit me on e mail here.
BRAD & CARRIE
Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood hosted for the seventh consecutive year and started with a typical, topical monologue that also meticulously followed the recent award show emcee playbook -- which is to use front-row nominees as name-checks and content fodder.
"Brad and Carrie were funnier than ever," said Joel Raab Associates' Joel Raab. "I like it best when they are politically incorrect."
KEGA/Salt Lake City PD/Morning personality Jon Watkins: "Once again, they had great chemistry and were even edgy at times (black-ish/white-ish), which I liked." Added WPCV/Lakeland Florida PD Mike James, "They were absolutely hilarious."
"There's a reason these two have done this seven years in a row," believes Matthews. "Their comic ability is spot on; I look forward to their musical portions of the monologue. Who else could move so easily from crooning a 'Jolene'/quarantine joke to suggesting that Democrats lost control of the Senate because they don't care about 'post-partum Taylor Swift disorder?' I laughed out loud."
"I'd put it up against any awards show for writing, hosting and performance," said Journal VP/Programming Beverlee Brannigan. "Brad and Carrie get better each year. The writing was great, and their comedic timing is spot on. As a hosting team, their talent makes just about anything possible."
The show opened with a familiar -- and tan -- Kenny Chesney singing his recent #1, "American Kids" amid a backdrop described by Consultant Phil Hunt as, "A set that looked like Dogpatch, meets the Partridge Family, meets Easy Rider."
Matthews loved the set too: "The broken down tie-dyed bus; the Woodstock-inspired backdrop was perfect for Kenny's tune and set the tone for the evening ... let's get this party started! 'Doublewide Quick Stop midnight T-top, Jack in her Cherry Coke town?' Loved it."
Hunt said the song's energy and fun helped set Wednesday's tone: "The final line was the recurring theme throughout the show: 'A little messed up but we're all alright.' 'Cause from that we went into Meghan Trainor/Miranda 'All About That Bass' and I loved it! Facebook quote of the night came from KFIN/Jonesboro morning talent Dingo Crank: "The next time I see Bass in lights I want to see Pro Shop behind it!'"
Watkins, Hunt and Matthews all cited Carrie Underwood belting out "Something In The Water" as a highlight, with Watkins wondering, "Is there a better voice in our format?" and Matthews saying, "Letâ€™s just say it was a spiritual experience."
Raab questioned why certain artists receive more than one performance slot. "Some get to be on twice and even three times. It's their time and that's great, but is that at the expense of other, deserving artists?"
He may have been referring to the Doobie Brothers, who played in mid-show and then closed the telecast. Facebook comments were buzzing about that, but it wasn't an issue for Hunt: "Okay, I'm a child of the '70s and the Doobies have a special place in my heart, but seeing Tommy Johnston, Jennifer Nettles (she killed it) -- Hillary Scott and Hunter Hayes -- that song, too -- was a great backdrop for the night. We are STILL 'Listening to the Music' all the time. Country music is different than it used to be but so is the world."
There was plenty of conversation on social media about Ariana Grande's appearance on the CMAs. Fellow pop princess Meghan Trainor seemed to get a pass from viewers and armchair pundits, most likely because she's considered a part of the Nashville songwriting community. Trainor has two cuts on Rascal Flatts' latest album, "Rewind," and "All About That Bass" emerged as the likeable, ubiquitous song of the summer after its June release. Most of the blowback revolved around Grande; the CMA's decision to include her was polarizing.
"I understand why ABC wanted Ariana Grande to be there, but I'm not sure it was really necessary," said James.
WCTK/Providence PD Bob Walker said via Facebook, "Makes Country music look like it has an inferiority complex; like we have to give out-of-format performers air time while legitimate nominees sit and watch."
In spite of social media sniping, Brannigan and Matthews were fans: "I loved Miranda and Meghan Trainor, and the drum line and LBT and Ariana Grande," said Brannigan, with Matthews adding, "She may have been a little hip for the room, but as a mom of two daughters, weâ€™ve watched [Grande] grow up on NICK and have always talked about how awesome a singer she is."
For me, there's no question that Grande is an absolutely talented and adorable young star who can really sing. That said, she seemed out of context on the CMA show in general, but with Little Big Town specifically. That's the point Jacobs Media Dir. Digital and Social Strategies Lori Lewis made while sharing her observations on the show.
"As an outsider to the format, I really, really love when Country collaborates," said Lewis. "Perhaps that's why it's such a big business. Country is that one format open to collaborating with any one, regardless of genre. I love that openness -- don't lose it. Just pair it better."
I agree. I mean, why not have Trainor, Grande and Miranda team up for one huge, blockbuster number. Country's biggest female star and the two current pop divas. There's your "Bang Bang" right there!
But a larger issue for many after Trainor and Grande were first announced as performers was: What two slots for nominees or emerging female vocalists were taken up by those two ladies, albeit extremely talented ones? How come Best New Artist nominee Brandy Clark didn't perform? Or Kip Moore? Or, for that matter, eventual winner in that category, Brett Eldredge?
Thomas Rhett and Cole Swindell had abbreviated stints, as a vehicle to introduce the abbreviated exposure to Broadcast Award winners (which is an entirely different spot of bother for me, so let's not even go there).
Musgraves had people talking for two reasons. First, hands down, she wins the "Shocker-of-the-night" award, by taking home the CMA Song of the Year trophy for "Follow Your Arrow." As KILT/Houston APD/MD Chris Huff quickly pointed out - and by that I mean within seconds of the win - "Arrow" became the lowest-charting song to ever win a CMA song of the year. Huff quoted a peak of #43 on the Billboard chart, but a look at the Mediabase Country singles chart shows the song topped out at just #49 in January of this year.
"Do you know what this means for Country music?" asked Musgraves, rhetorically when she got onstage to accept. Said Matthews, "I personally LOVE this album ("Same Trailer, Different Park"), but I think Country fans outside the industry are scratching their heads since the song didn't receive a huge amount of airplay. My phone was blowing up asking , 'How? Why?'"
But Musgraves wasn't finished making CMA watchers talk, including Phil Hunt:. "Fresh off her surprising 'Song of the Year' came Kacey performing with Loretta Lynn ... the contrast in dress -- vocal style -- and life story may be different but they both represent what Country was and what Country is now -- but they're BOTH Country. Makes a lot of sense to me why Country 2014 is so exciting! No it's not 1990 anymore and I'm glad! Cassette tapes sucked!"
After the show, Musgraves revealed that a last-minute wardrobe malfunction required her to hit the stage with Loretta Lynn sans underwear, while wearing a very short skirt. Which lead me to wonder, WWLD (What Would Loretta Do?).
Gill was presented the Irving Waugh award, named for influential broadcaster Waugh, who, as Gill pointed out, played a pivotal role in gaining national TV exposure for Country music - including the CMA Awards show.
Gill's acceptance resonated humility and class, but also sounded a unifying tone as well, when he spoke of his admiration for today's Country artists, who display camaraderie Gill envies.
Everyone I spoke to called this the night's greatest moment. "It was Vince's acceptance speech after receiving the Irving Waugh Award of Excellence," said Mike James. "He's such a class act, and his emotional reaction was so pure and heartfelt."
Said Lori Lewis, "He reminded us to always keep our humility about ourselves - always."
Beverlee Brannigan observed, "Safe to say he hasn't lost his touch for memorable ad-libbing," and she wished Gill had also performed. That was echoed by Joel Raab: "I would love to have seen Vince play with other guitar masters like Keith Urban and Brad Paisley."
With all due respect to Carrie and Brad's great material and their execution of it, Gill pulled off the night's best line while providing useful perspective too, sharing something a former Governor of Tennessee told him long ago: "Attendance at your funeral will be largely dependent on the weather."
Finally, this observation from Lewis, of Jacobs Media and a regular contributor to All Access, penning the weekly "Merge" column. The digital realm is her specialty and I found this advice powerful: "After watching Twitter - if there are still folks in Country radio saying, 'My audience doesn't tweet,' they need to stop, seriously."
Continued Lewis, "During the first couple hours of the show, eight of the Top 10 trending topics nationwide always had something to do with the [CMA Awards] show.
"I can't tell you how many Country programmers tell me their fans aren't on Twitter," said Lewis. "It's not good. They've got to get over being the star of their fans' lives and be more of a friend. People are tweeting with or without these stations. Time to jump in!"
Supporting Lewis' assertion, according to stats released by ABC-TV Thursday afternoon, "The 48th Annual CMA Awards" was Wednesday's (11/5) most-social broadcast with 1,043,707 tweets.