Monday, April 4, 2011

Academy of Country Music Awards 2011

What Happens in Nashville Stays in…Vegas

By all accounts, the producers of last night’s Academy of Country Music Awards, held at the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, were anxious about whether first-time co-host Blake Shelton would overstep the family-friendly mark when it came to his trademark quick-mouth humor. They needn’t have worried; Blake and Reba did a fine job of keeping things bouncing merrily along without the need for the 5-second delay.

What they should have been worried about was the ugly mess that nearly bubbled over when two of the night’s presenters took the stage. Consisting almost entirely of plastic, wax, collagen, chemicals, Botox, pleather and sparkles, Naomi and Wynonna Judd, those two artifacts of an ancient era, looked like the strong lights were going to rend them into their liquid parts at any moment. Naomi’s face has been so remodeled that it resembles something produced by the Play-Doh Mc-Factory (squeeze out your own patties and fries!), and Wynonna’s hair surely once saw life as the tail of a giant My Little Pony.

 One looks at Judd the Elder (born 1946) and wonders how it can be possible that she can look so terribly decrepit compared to, say, Reba (born 1955), who seems to look younger every year. Surely Reba is as stuffed full of science and duct tape as her “red-headed” counterpart, but … wow. Their sisters-in-spirit, Marie Osmond (1959) and Donny Osmond (1957), have also clearly morphed into plastic versions of themselves, who are neither a little bit country or a little bit rock and roll, a line worn so thin it has become its own Photoshop filter, a gloss called “crone” (oft mistaken for “Chrome.”)

Seeing as The Inky Jukebox is clearly on a fashion roll, let’s do a little run-down of the night in body upholstery, shall we?

Taylor Swift may have won a little thing called ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR, but what she really won was our admiration with her perfectly exquisite yellow sparkly Elie Saab dress and poise. Taylor always manages to look good, even when kitted out in 1930’s Dustbowl chic, as she was for her performance of “Mean Girls.”

Miranda Lambert may have won just about everything else, but she makes this list based entirely on her shoes, whose diamante-encrusted magnificence bore her aloft so high we nearly overlooked the horror of the rest of her attire. The white toga thingie she donned for the red carpet showed her boobs in their natural state, as if we were on safari (GET A BRA). The hot pink baby-doll tutu deal she wore for the show was an improvement, but only managed to highlight the acres of girl-flesh that needs to be toned up so that it jiggles less. (Miranda, whom I love, really, did score points for returning to stardom with her hair, however.)

Speaking of winning ladies, Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum: where to begin. The Inky Jukebox takes back the kudos it gave for her snazzy bangs, which now just seem to squash her face and emphasize the alarming notion that Girlfriend is headed for the dubious realm of Jenny Craig sponsorship and Celebrity Biggest Loser. The highly tailored black ensemble by George Chakra she was vacuum-pumped into did her NO favors by reminding us that she is bigger than both of her male band mates put together. You could see in too much detail, every single one of her chakras. (And no, Hill; this pose fools no-one that you are cinching your tiny waist.)

Darius Rucker looked snappy in a white suit and mauve shirt on the red carpet, but changed down for his performance which rightly showcased the choir of disabled folks he sang with, proving that Hootie is a genuinely classy guy. And he wears snakeskin boots, y'all. 

Finally, Jennifer Nettles changed out of her sweaty pants, tank top and boots and donned a beautifully flattering black gown, and suave evening wear that set off the shitload of “realistic” hair extensions that took her instantly back to the glory days of a couple or three albums ago, before she was a STAR and started chopping off her locks. It also took years off and gave her back some much-needed glamour. (Grow it out!!)

Is The Inky Jukebox the only entity who cannot understand the appeal of The Band Perry? They’ve had ONE hit, ONE, and are now in The Inky Jukebox’s doghouse for pulling the NEW ARTIST award out of Eric Church’s rightful hands. WTF??? The only explanation must be that Eric Church isn’t really a new artist, having three (count ‘em) hit records already and a well-established and dedicated fan base (who clearly does not vote). But this section is all about superficiality, so instead we will complain about the bedraggled mess this sibling trio presents. They are a bedraggled mess.

When it comes to hair, The Inky Jukebox can’t be the only one that sucks in its breath in anticipation of the full-on assault of Ronnie Dunn’s luxuriant facial pelt. He did not disappoint. The brunette ladies (Sara Evans and Martina McBride) were not served well by the purple lighting which made it look like they had blue Goth-style highlights. It was not Sara’s best night, truth be told (I think she knew it), but hey, she can pull off a size 0 leather pant after having 16 kids, so…well done.

What really shone, though, were the gnashers. Who needs studio lights when all one has to do to turn up the wattage is open one’s mouth? Could anyone else hear the sound of eyeballs shattering whenever Troy and Eddie (Montgomery Gentry) spoke? (They were not the only offenders.)

If Miranda got the footwear right, Karen Fairchild from Little Big Town got it wrong. If you are going to show leg, DO NOT wear bootie heels. They shorten the gams, ladies. Only don these with pants. (Carrie Underwood is a perennial offender.)

We have not yet talked about chapeaux, which, being a Country Music event, cannot go without mention. Jason Aldean wore his trademark burnished straw; Brad paisley wore his trademark white felt; Alan Jackson wore his trademark blonde broad-brim; Eric Church wore his trademark baseball cap; Zac Brown wore his trademark knit cap; and James Taylor also donned a hat.

Now that we’re done dishing the formalwear, let’s turn to the whole point of the night: the live performances. It is worth noting that a full hour of incredible music was delivered before the first award was handed out, which set the tone nicely for what has become Country Music’s Primetime showcase. Although all the individuals put on stellar shows (Sugarland’s “Tonight” was simply incredible, and Keith Urban showed why he is a big star), it was the surprise duets and collaborations which stole the show.

Carrie Underwood was joined spectacularly on stage by a rejuvenated Steven Tyler, who looked thrilled to be performing with an American Idol winner worth her salt; who could not feel their joy as “Undo It” gave way to the opening notes of “Walk This Way”?

Jennifer Nettles and Rhianna’s much-hyped combo provided delicious harmonies.

Brad Paisley kicked off the night with a (not unexpected) visit from the heroes of his new single:

But the Standing O of the night went to the Zac Brown Band singing “Colder Weather” with a nervous and slightly tentative James Taylor (genius pairing!) which would have been enough to bring the house down without the sudden turn into “Sweet Baby James.” Zac Brown knew it was the performance of a lifetime and gave it his full-throated all; it will win them a lot of new fans. )

As for awards: how to choose between the Album of the Year nominations? Hemingway’s Whiskey, Need You Now, Up On The Ridge, You Get What You Give, and The Guitar Song being great records all. The Inky Jukebox would have picked Hemingway’s Whiskey, but we’ll have to leave that for another review.

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