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American Country Awards 2012—Recap and Commentary

Watching the 2012 American Country Awards last night on Fox, I have to admit I had some mixed emotions—not about the winners (which we’ll go into below), but mainly about the show itself. After all, there are not one, not two, but three other major awards shows celebrating country music (the ACMs, the CMAs, and the CMTs); do we really need a fourth one?

But then I consider that the ACAs (established by Fox three years ago) are essentially country music’s answer to the People’s Choice Awards or the American Music Awards: the nominees are voted on entirely by country music fans. And since country music is all about the fans…I can’t refute my own argument. If there needs to be any country music awards shows, there needs to be one that expresses the voice of the fans.

That being said, the fans spoke very loudly last night to tell us their favorites, and one artist was apparently favored above the rest. Upstart Luke Bryan (which I named earlier this year on my list of country music “movers and shakers”) walked away with a whopping nine awards last night, including Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Single of the Year, Music Video of the Year, blah blah blah…hell, when you’ve one nine of ‘em, who cares about the categories? Bryan’s young, hip vibe and country/rock sound are obviously resonating with a lot of country fans. Mark my words: Luke Bryan is poised to become the Garth Brooks of our time.

Bryan obviously wasn’t the only big winner at this year’s American Country Awards, although no one else came close to taking nine of them. The moving tribute song “Over You” continues to play well for Miranda Lambert’s career: that one song garnered awards in three categories (Single by a Female Artist, Music Video by a Female Artist, and Most Played Radio Track by a Female Artist). But beyond that, everyone was pretty much relegated to one or two awards. Predictably taking home some of the bigger awards of the night were Carrie Underwood (Female Artist of the Year), Lady Antebellum (Group of the Year), Eric Church (Song of the Year, for “Springsteen”) and Jason Aldean (Touring Artist of the Year).

Perhaps the night’s most pleasant surprise was the New Artist of the Year award, which went to American Idol Season 10 runner-up Lauren Alaina, edging past Hunter Hayes, Pistol Annies, Kip Moore and Jana Kramer. Fittingly, the award was announced and given by none other that Alaina’s buddy and Season 10 winner Scotty McCreary, whose Christmas album just achieved gold record status.

Notably absent from last night’s winners list: Taylor Swift. Despite her runaway record sales with Red, Swift was nominated five times and walked with nothing. It’s pure speculation, of course, but when I reviewed her record, I questioned whether her drift toward pop was going to eventually hurt her with country fans. Perhaps it has, a little.

The one detraction of the night? As much as it pains me to say it—the hosts. I like Trace Adkins (who has hosted the show since it launched); I also like Kristin Chenoweth. But for some reason, I just don’t like them together. Yeah, the size difference between them is kind of funny (and they capitalized on that), but try as they might, they just don’t seem to have the chemistry of a Reba McIntyre/Blake Shelton combo, or a Brad Paisely/Carrie Underwood team. The jokes and gags seemed a bit contrived, and at times even copied (guys—making fun of the “never ever evers” in Taylor Swift’s hit song is so two weeks ago). Even Chenoweth’s lighthearted performance of “What Would Dolly Do?”, which could have been a slam dunk…just wasn’t. Just my opinion.

And so, despite my mixed emotions about a fourth major country awards show, the American Country Awards aptly expressed the will of the fans, coupled, of course, with a lineup of great performances by the likes of Luke Bryan (showoff), Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Lady A, and others. A great night of fun all around.


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About the Author


Music blogger Rob Burkhardt has been a fan of country music since he was a child, cutting his teeth on the sounds of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Reba McIntyre and George Jones. In the words of the now-legendary Barbara Mandrell song, he was "country when country wasn't cool." Nowadays, Rob is both intrigued and excited about the mainstream crossover appeal of modern country, as seen in the success of artists like Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts and Lady Antebellum. Even so, Rob's personal tastes in country music remain "old school," tied to the great legends of country. When he's not blogging about country music, Rob Burkhardt holds a day job as a middle school teacher, and is an avid sports fan. He lives with his wife and two teenage girls in southern Ohio.

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