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Country's biggest night?

Country Standard Time Editorial, November 2008

Country's Biggest Night is how the Country Music Association trademarks its annual awards affair. In some ways, it most definitely was since most of commercial country's royalty - okay no Toby Keith among others - were there. And there were no complaints about who won the various awards. None of them were particularly out of left field. Kenny Chesney may not have won anything else, but he won the big one at the conclusion - entertainer of the year. After all, he does do a good job of that and does his own thing.

But what was troubling about the three-hour event was the music itself. If people were given a blind test (meaning they weren't listening to a "country" radio station or watching the CMAs), how many of those songs would really be considered country? Okay, George Strait certainly would have qualified as would Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson - the protectors of traditional country.

But few other performances fit the bill. Kid Rock played southern rock. Jason Aldean was introduced by co-host Carrie Underwood as truly being country. Somehow his new song, "She's Country," sure didn't strike many country chords to our ears. More like rock. Teen superstar Taylor Swift's rendition of her hit fantasy "Love Song" in by far the worst performance of the evening was pop rock. Ditto for gal pal Kellie Pickler. The Eagles performed again and were cited by co-host Paisley as one of the keystones of country. Funny, but in their heyday, they had a total of three songs even reach the country charts. How times have changed.

During the evening, the CMAs seemed to alternate between a more traditional country sound versus today's country with more of an emphasis on the latter. None of this means these songs or artists are bad or untalented. But it really stretched credulity and ultimately does country music a disservice by classifying these songs as country. Apparently this is what passes for today's very watered down contemporary country.