The real winners were announced last night at the 44th Annual Country Music Association Awards. But here are a few more honors from the telecast that you should feel free to weigh in on:
Best Entrance: I’m going to give this to Alan Jackson, who got applause after he walked through a curtain just in time to sing his part on the Zac Brown Band tune “As She’s Walking Away” – even though (or maybe because?) we were all expecting him to walk through the curtain. He looked a bit awkward not holding his guitar, which could be why George Strait had his strapped on for his performance of “The Breath You Take” even though he didn’t actually need it.
Worst Entrance: I love Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, but the optical-illusion tutu and music-box figure motions during their performance of “Stuck Like Glue” came off kinda… well, crazy. The woman is fearless – see those white leggings she was rockin’ when she stepped out from behind said tutu – but every now and then, she needs to be reined in.
Best confused face: The cut to Gwyneth Paltrow, politely clapping after cohost Brad Paisley brought out Little Jimmy Dickens to inform us that Nashville’s new flood warning system is Dickens yelling when the water reaches his neck.
Worst confused face: At the end of Taylor Swift’s mesmerizing piano-set performance of “Back to December” (some gorgeous snow effects, plus a lower setting on the smoke machine than Dierks Bentley and a great shade of red lipstick), she was shown mouthing “What?” before the curtain came down. It ruined the mood, even if it shouldn’t have: Her rep tells EW she was just excited about the standing ovation (so it was a “What?!”).
Best cover: During their opening, Paisley and cohost Carrie Underwood rewrote the lyrics to The Beverly Hillbillies theme song to reflect the events of 2010. Of course, they kept the line about bubblin’ crude (oil, that is). “Thanks, BP,” Underwood said. “You’re welcome,” Paisley answered. (Honorable mention: Paisley’s brief excerpts of “Paparazzi” and “Alejandro” when telling Lady Gaga they are his favorite band. He was looking at Lady Antebellum.)
Worst cover: Reba McEntire still has attitude, this no one can deny. But I’m not feeling her take on Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy.” They lyrics are just too young for her, and when it comes to the chorus, I want someone to belt it. I kept wishing it was Underwood or Kelly Clarkson singing it. I didn’t think it deserved a standing ovation. Then again, I also didn’t think Gwyneth Paltrow deserved one for performing the title song of her upcoming movie “Country Song” with background vocalist Vince Gill competently. Being competent isn’t extraordinary, and she’s brave, yes, but she’s bravely promoting a film.
Best way to prove country stars are just like us and not “Hollywood”: You let Blake Shelton perform “All About Tonight” in the middle of the audience. (Though next time, stop the douche in the crowd behind him from doing a Gator chomp.)
Worst way to prove country stars are just like us and not “Hollywood”: ABC could’ve exploited Nicole Kidman (wife of Keith Urban) and Katherine Heigl (wife of Josh Kelley, brother of Lady A’s Charles Kelley) more than they did, so we’ll go with Rascal Flatts’ Gary LeVox wearing what looked to be a diamond-banded watch with his cowboy boots for their performance of “Why Wait.”
Best surprise: Loretta Lynn came out to join Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow as they sang “Coal Miner’s Daughter” to honor her 50 years in the business.
Worst surprise: It’s a tie between the director not showing Carrie Underwood trying to exit the stage in the dramatically large gown she chose to wear for her performance of “Mama’s Song” (I wanted to see that), and The Band Perry not getting to perform all of “If I Die Young.” (That song is always on the radio, and yet, I’ll still happily listen to it.)
Best use of fringe: Easy, it’s the layer over the bottom of Miranda Lambert’s dress when she performed “That’s the Way the World goes ‘Round.” (Watch.) It looked cool when she spun.
Worst use of fringe: Kid Rock’s jacket during his performance of “Born Free.” There should be a maximum length on fringe.
Best sleeves: To perform “Hello World,” Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott wore a brown leather jacket with forearm zippers that when open, fanned out to reveal sequined material underneath. Sparkly for the stage, but still something you could wear on the street – well done.
Worst sleeves: Kelly Clarkson joined Jason Aldean to sing their power-ballad duet “Don’t You Want to Stay” off of his new album. She sounded amazing (watch), but her sheer black Stevie Nicks sleeves were so long that one actually got caught on her mic while she was singing. I want to focus on her voice, not her fashion, honest. But she makes it difficult.
Best reasons to have Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood return as cohosts (again): The man loves a dirty joke. He said after the kind of night Miranda Lambert (four wins) and fiancé Blake Shelton (two wins) were having, we should expect a baby in nine months. He and Underwood sang a ditty about 2010 being the year of infidelity that had a hook about Tiger catching some tail. After he and Underwood joked about the small size of Lambert’s diamond, and Underwood clarified that she’d actually been sent a picture of it after the proposal and it was big, beautiful, and perfect, he added, “That’s what she said.” Also, we’d be fine watching Paisley and pal Keith Urban open every country music awards ceremony playing guitar on a Carrie Underwood song.
Worst reasons to have Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood return as cohosts (again): He’s so nice, he won’t mind if you try playing him off during his emotional Entertainer of the Year acceptance speech. Not all of her costume changes are hits (see: that yellow dress).