Country music’s biggest night took center stage last week, hosted by two of the genres most popular stars Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley. In the duo’s sixth year as hosts, their chemistry was unmatched, their jokes about Obamacare and Miley Cyrus’ twerking were relatable, and their skit “Why Can’t We Be Friends” to open the night about feuds in the industry, had millions glued to their television screens watching the CMA’s. Plus, we got to see the two spoof “Blurred Lines” with Nashville’s version “Duck Lines” featuring the cast of Duck Dynasty. Think they know their demographic?
Beyond the impeccable hosting gig, the Country Music Awards were full of memorable performances including Taylor Swift’s “Red”, Tim McGraw’s “Southern Girl”, Luke Bryan’s “Drink a Beer” which was dedicated to his late sister and brother, and Lee Brice’s Song of the Year “I Drive Your Truck” inspired by a fallen soldier’s father who still drives his son’s truck. While the stereotype is that Country music is all about tractors, pick-up trucks, beer, and bad relationships, it was great to see some depth and complexity, especially in the latter two songs. Despite the subject of the song, these two singles were moving and could pull at the heartstrings of even Country’s biggest haters.
Which leads me to all the Taylor Swift haters out there who think that the singer-songwriter is anything but genuine, gracious, or gifted … did you see her sincere reaction to Lennon and Maisy Stella sing a spectacular rendition of “You Belong With Me” to which Swift sang along to and showed her gratitude by embracing the youngest of the Nashville sisters with kisses afterward? Did you watch her reaction as George Strait, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, and Keith Urban stood on stage (all of which Swift opened for on tour at the beginning of her career) to pay tribute to the second-ever Pinnacle Award winner? Did you capture the appreciation on Taylor’s face when A-list celebrities Ellen, Julia Roberts, Justin Timberlake, and Reese Witherspoon congratulated the youngster? Did you hear Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech in which she thanked each individual on stage for everything they had taught her when she was starting out? Did you catch the part that Swift is the most charitable celebrity? This was news to me, and something I found extremely sincere. While she’s giving millions of dollars to causes around the world, she’s is doing so modestly without much media attention for her kindness. At 23 years young, the bona fide superstar is a class act and her honesty was on full display Wednesday night.
Since the 90’s we have witnessed many country artists, like Taylor Swift, experience immense crossover success. Shania Twain and Faith Hill come to mind as pioneers during that decade, then came American Idol winner Carrie Underwood who has mass appeal in both pop and country music, and even more recently with Hunter Hayes and his collaboration with Jason Mraz in “Everybody’s Got Somebody but Me”. With crossover, comes an expanded audience. While it may be hard to believe that Sean Diddy Combs, who presented a CMA award with Kellie Pickler, has always been a Country music fan, the proof is in the numbers. The 2013 CMA Awards drew 16.6 million people, the biggest audience in years.
The benefits of crossover music, is of course the wider appeal and therefore, audiences but also the variety in music produced. One of the biggest stereotypes of country music is that it all sounds the same. But, performances at the CMA’s proved that that just isn’t true. Take for example Eric Church’s act of his new single “The Outsiders”. Combining hard-rock, hip-hop, metal, and southern rock, the 2012 CMA award winner for Album of the Year, welcomed country outsiders to the genre.
CMA’s New Artist of the Year, Kacey Musgraves, has made it a point that she is over songs about trucks. The six-time nominee showed she herself has crossover appeal with her folky “Follow Your Arrow” which shot to No. 1 on the iTunes country albums chart (No. 3 on the all-genre rankings) the morning following the award show. Musgraves told Entertainment Weekly:
“I feel like I make country music for people who like country music, and for people who don’t.”
Not only is Kacey putting out crossover music, but the artist is getting support from mainstream artists like Katy Perry. For Kacey and country music, that means additional curiosity and interest from pop music fans.
The final stereotype of Country music that is being proven false, is that Country singers can’t sing. So you mean to tell me Carrie Underwood doesn’t have one of the strongest voices of any genre? Listen to her belt out a medley of four No. 1 hits from her latest album at the CMA’s following her numerous outfit changes, multiple skits with Paisley earlier in the night, and a two hour-long (plus) hosting gig. This girl can sing with the best of them.
There is no doubt that Country music is becoming more and more popular. New artists are breaking stereotypes proving that Country music does have substance, that some of the best songwriters in the business are country artists, one’s like Swift that have that “uncanny ability to tell stories” and has written every song on every one of her top-charting albums, that not every country song sounds the same, that country artists can sing (and very well at that). The singers are relatable, their songs are relevant; and country music is widening its appeal. Great production and increased access to Country artists isn’t hurting. More than any other category of music, Country artists are at the forefront of putting their fans first – performing for their fans, meeting their fans, being available to their fans. Like Carly Simon said of Taylor, she is special because “she knows how to include her audience in the way she delivers a song”. They are leaders in the community; and like Underwood and Paisley pointed out when thanking Taylor Swift for not gyrating (mocking Miley Cyrus’ twerking at the VMAs), Country artists are not generally wrapped up in much controversy, and are good role models for younger generations.
The CMA’s are a great platform to showcase all that Country music has to offer. While the lines between genres are blending in today’s generation, it would appear that ‘Country’ is most popular of the fields. Or at least when it comes to live concerts. Taking into account every artist of each genre currently on tour or going on tour shortly, Country music tickets are the most expensive on the market.
|Genre of Music||Avg. Price of Concert|
|Rock & Pop||$216.91|
|Latin & Reggaeton||$214.02|
|DJ and Electronic||$209.11|
|Jazz & Blues||$177.58|
|Hip Hop & Reggae||$171.16|
2013 CMA award winners who are currently on tour or have announced a tour include Entertainer of the Year, George Strait, who will begin the final leg of his farewell tour in 2014. Straight will be in good company on the road with opening acts including: Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Sheryl Crow, Ronnie Dunn, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, Female Vocalist of the Year Miranda Lambert, Vocal Group of the Year Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack and Chris Young. Behind Luke Bryan, Strait is the top selling country artist on the resale market. Vocal duo of the year, Florida Georgia Line, is currently in the middle of their first headlining tour in support of their debut album that gave them Single of the Year “Cruise”. FGL Here’s to the Good Times Tour began October 3 and wraps December 14. New Artist of the Year, Kacey Musgraves, will open for Lady’s Antebellum’s Take Me Downtown tour which is set to begin January 10.
|Country Music Concerts||No. of Shows||Avg. Price|
|KMLE 108 Acoustic Christmas||1||$274.54|
|George Jones – The Grand Tour Tribute||1||$250.01|
|Blind Boys of Alabama||1||$248.00|
|99.9 WKIS Kiss Country Stars and Guitars||1||$194.53|
|Bayou Country Superfest||4||$187.54|
|Old Crow Medicine Show||2||$175.37|
|American Country Awards||1||$168.99|
|Zac Brown Band||17||$144.60|
|The Band Perry||6||$134.67|
|Grand Ole Opry||13||$125.55|
|Riders in the Sky||1||$122.67|
|Florida Georgia Line||18||$88.66|
|Country Superstars Tribute||44||$59.07|
|Gaither Vocal Band||1||$51.75|